Bruce Heavin, The Thinkable Presentation
Join Bruce Heavin, cofounder of lynda.com, as he explains the thinkable—a method of approaching life with curiosity and willingness to learn from our failures. In this presentation, illustrated in Bruce's signature style, he shares his philosophy of putting passion first, mixing work with play, and seeing "no" as a blessing. Watch as Bruce explains how creativity and productivity can flourish in the face of barriers, limits, and constraints.
- [Voiceover] Hello, I'm Bruce Haven, and today, we're gonna talk about the Thinkable, as in the doable. And thinking always about boxes, wonderful, glorious boxes. But we'll get back to that part later. So, in summary, curiosity leads to why, why leads to learning, learning leads to experiences, and experiences compose who we are. Wisdom is your collection of failures and successes. Barriers focus us, and through this wisdom, you grow and think.
Learning is lifelong, so let's begin. Now, as people, one thing we could do as humans, is we could bridge this gap between fantasy and reality. We can take our dreams and make 'em real. And, I saw my first evidence of this in a report card from my third grade teacher, saying I can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and I often daydream during class. And this is Miss Spit. And I learned of this, but I think, we see the connection with children between reality and fantasy at a young age, and it begins when a lucid thought, or an idea or a dream, is actually put to paper.
It physically attaches that aspect to paper. And they can communicate in a way they've never done before. And this is a great way that we start. And this is a great thing that defines us as humans, is that ability to go from something that was in our heads, to a physical form. And we strive to be like our grand exemplars. We try, and we desire to be like them, like a Thomas Edison, a Bill Gates, the Albert Einstein, Nicola Tesla, or Steve Jobs.
Well, that isn't going to happen here today, nor will it ever, because Steve Jobs isn't a mint-able commodity. These people are here, and then they're gone. And you need to better know your heart. You just need to be the best you that you can be, to know where your heart wants to go. You may not know where your true direction is today. It may take you years to find within yourself. But that pursuit is the one you must not give up on.
So curiosity, curiosity is the gateway drug to learning. How does this tie into the presentation? Curiosity is all about learning. So, learning quenches the thirst of curiosity. Curiosity is infectious. It tickles the brain, it ignites the imagination, it begs the question, why? As kids we are all born curious.
It all starts from one question. And with kids, we hear this a lot. It's a good and healthy thing. It's the day they stop that you should really fear. Why ask why? The curious quest to learn is born within us all. Why puts learning into context. We need to put context into why. Why fuels the desire to learn. Why comes straight out of one's curiosity.
But when it comes to learning, failure is the best option. So, go go go go go go go go go go go go go, just go already and fail, fail, fail, fail. Crash and fail, fail. Just keep goin' at it, fail. Don't give up, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, and fail.
Fail fast, fail often, and learn from your failures. Avoid failing the same way twice, because if you don't learn from this, you're gonna be doomed to repeat your failure again and again. But, don't stop trying. Because fear of failure leads to the biggest failure of all, failure to even try. Our successes are built upon mountains of failures. It's through the learnings of everything we do that we come around and we actually succeed.
And the stairs of success have a grand mound of failure. It is really the base that it is all built upon. So occasionally celebrate your successes, and always learn from your failures. Don't forget them, they're what gonna bring you your successes in the future. And as much as it pains you, you need to allow the ones that you love to fail, and not take the lessons of failure away. Much like thinking it might be a noble cause to help a bird out of its shell, it actually does it more harm than good, and have potentially grave consequences as the struggle to get out of the shell actually strengthens the wings and the muscles of the baby bird.
And if we help it out, it could actually cause something more damaging than we have ever intended. So let's look at learning through the eyes of how we learned to ride a bike. So of course, we start with a bicycle, and we have training wheels. This is good, but the other kids don't, so we don't want the training wheels. So we take 'em off, and we fall. And we fail, and we crash, and we, we crash, and we fall, and we fall, and we fall, and we crash.
We fall over, but eventually, we make our first successful straight line. And this is remarkable, we get a little, wee bit of confidence here. And eventually, we get our first non-wobbly ride. We're getting our sense of balance down, and this is great. And eventually, we're gonna have our first successful turn, and it might only be left hand turns at first, but this is remarkable. We'll get the right hand turns later. But then we'll be doin' crazy turns. And after much practice, we're gonna doin' curb jumps, and wheelies, and our confidence is gonna really start going up, and our crashes go down, and perhaps we get a little bit too much overconfidence, and do stupid things, and crash again.
But eventually, something miraculous happens. We have our first ride off of our own block. And why is this amazing? Because we're no longer thinkin' about how not to be wobbly. We're not thinkin' about making a left or right hand turn, and we're not thinkin' about breaking. We're not thinking about falling over. We're thinking about navigation. We learned this through much practice, and now we could move forward and look to where we wanna go, and think of a higher level objective. And then we're gonna have our first ride across town.
And as kids, it's probably secretly to the candy shop, or our parents didn't know we were going. In our new found freedom, we are now navigating. We're dealing with stop lights, we're dealing with crosswalks, but we're going across town, and we're gonna get that candy. And this is how we learn, by doing things again and again and again, and failing our way through it, but eventually succeeding. And upon all those failures and successes, we now have the ability to just pick up a bike and go. We've learned how to ride a bike. We don't really have to learn it, or think about all those things the next time we hop on.
So my learning story, or how I learned to draw, or tricked into drawing, and liking it. So, when I was young, I would go visit my doctor, my pediatrician. And we'd have the all so dreaded blood test, we'd have the urine test, and of course, the all so important drawing test, which I believe now was to keep me occupied. But it result in this lollipop. The lollipop, in my flavor of any color I wanted, and it was a glorious thing, it drove me to wanna do this.
So every year, I would submit a drawing sample, and it got to the point where I knew I was going to the doctor's office, so I started practicing before I came in, so I could do a better drawing sample. And as the years went by, I'd actually find myself drawing throughout the year, thinking, I could really get this better and better. And this was great, and the years rolled on. And eventually, at a certain age, my doctor turned around and stapled together a book of all the drawings I have made. And he showed me how I've improved over the years.
He showed me direct evidence that my drawings got better, that I was able to actually improve. I was actually being observant. And this little bit of encouragement that he gave me was monumental, it made me feel strong and confident. It sparked my imagination, and it encouraged me to further my drawing skills.
So devices, computers, humans. Are we born with an operating system? A horse can stand moments after birth, let alone run. Same with a calf or a baby deer. A fish can swim, insects or ants, they can be ants on day one. But us humans, we're totally helpless. We don't have control of our legs, or of our arms. We could feed, and we're pretty much little warm little pooping machines.
But we're not really capable of functioning. And if we were able to get up and run on day one, we'd probably give our parents a heart attack. They wouldn't know what to do with us. But we don't have that in us, we don't really have that part of the operating system. And I believe we're more like sponges. And when I say that, what I mean is, we absorb. We absorb everything, we absorb the experiences. We absorb our parents, the love they provide us, or reject us. We absorb everything, our surroundings, our environment, the people.
We absorb language, and we're much like computers, in the fact that it's more like garbage in, garbage out. So if we have great parenting, we learn those things. And if we have bad parents, well, we learn those things too. So let's go look at barriers. So some barriers are easy, we could just, well, go around them. Or, take a more difficult task, and climb over them. Sometimes we could be discouraged by them. Some barriers are different than others, and we find new and interesting ways around them.
But no barrier is more powerful than the barrier of no, and as kids, it's usually around peas. The rejection of peas. But kids have no problem saying no. Very black and white, no, no, no, no, no! But no is a powerful word. Used out of love, used out of fear, used to keep kids in line, and used by kids to break down parents. No is often seen as a negative, however, as disappointing as it may be to hear the word, it is one of the biggest blessings you can give and/or receive.
No is used to deny, no is dodging a bullet, no is passing an opportunity for the right one to show up. No is best reversed to on, as in, the opportunity is on. And stubbornness that flies in the face of no defines either brilliance, stupidity, or outright luck. No changes outcomes. No can test you to see if you have it in you to continue on or change course. No is a barrier that can either defeat you or engage you to find a way around it.
By saying no, you define and learn new things about yourself, because saying no defines you. No is never the dead end it appears to be. So through barriers, through constraints, through limits, these all create hardness. It's a crucible, it could make a diamond out of your idea. Or, it could blow it all to dust, it could all fall apart. But limits are a good thing. And creativity flourishes under constraints, and businesses can flourish under constraints.
And that is because they create focus, and focus is what's needed sometimes to get things done, to know what you need to do. And focus provides power. So, thinking outside the box. Now, we've all been there, in a meeting, and we're dead plumb out of ideas, no one knows what to do. And then someone just brilliantly exclaims, "I know what we need to do, "we need to think outside the box." And they say, "Yes, yes, yes! "Outside the box, that's a great idea." So we get this box, and we wanna look outside 'a this box.
What are we gonna find outside of here? There's gotta be something, some low hanging fruit, something just waiting for us. You look everywhere, it's gotta be there, but we find nothing, nothing at all. But has anyone ever looked inside the box? What's in the box? "Are you curious?" says the bear. "Wait, doesn't curiosity kill cats?" "Are you curious?" "Why, yes!" "Okay." So, what is in the box? The box is loaded with experiences.
So for this cat, it's gonna be of a spider, of a bicycle, of a mouse, of love, of death, of yarn, of a fish it got the other day, of sleeping, of the monkey, of ideas, or just a really good book. So it's a cat box, it's thinking in the cat box.
But the idea here is, you are the box. The box is you, and the box is what composes you. And it's everything that comes together. It's how your parents raised you, it's your environment, it's your friends, it's the shows you watch, the things you do, the activities that you do, the movies you see. Everything that comes together are these experiences, and these experiences, in this box, compose who you are. And this is the well that you have to draw from.
This is your schooling, your high school, your college. And this is what makes you. Luck, we all think of it as a symbol. Pot 'a gold, or a rainbow, or a shoe. Shooting star, a good deck of cards, a roll of the dice, a lucky cat, a unicorn, crossed fingers, a lucky penny, a Magic 8-Ball, or just a lucky rabbit's foot. But luck is really where preparation meets opportunity. So you need to better learn how to stack the deck, load the dice, and practice.
Because, luck always favors the prepared. So when we go back to experiences, it's really about loading up those experiences to prepare you for things, so you can be lucky. So, great minds think, great minds think despite, average minds think alike. The opposite of work is boredom. 'Cause work is best when it's mixed with play. If you enjoy what you do, and you're in it, and you're passionate about it, you're gonna know it better, and you're gonna better know your subject, and you're actually gonna enjoy what you do.
Every journey starts with an initial direction. Then a first step. So, you need to understand how to orient your compass, and orient your compass to your heart. So in conclusion, you need to find your spark, you need to ignite your flame, you need to do what you love. And if you don't love Mondays, you're doing it wrong. Because you're not passionate about what you do, and you're not gonna do well at it, and you're gonna regret it. So, if this happens too long, look for a new course, and find your passion.
Orient your compass to your heart, and follow your heart. If I did not say that enough, follow your heart. Because it's gonna lead to something that you're gonna be passionate about. And eat, drink, play, read, and study, and breathe that thing you love. Because you need to put that thing first and foremost in the center of your life, and surrender to that love. And find your tribe within your passion, the people that are around it, that are supportive of it, that want to be there, and people that you're gonna grow from.
And be prepared, and be prepared to make your own luck so you can be lucky, because making luck is about having those experiences, and knowing what you're dealing with before you get involved. So stay curious, and become an agent of curiosity, so that you could spark this in others. Question everything, keep growing. Learning is lifelong. And load your box with the right experiences.
And be the best box that you can be. And you will better be able to do the thinkable.
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