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Killing Creativity

By Scott Jeffrey
Posted Sunday, October 3, 2004

There is a phrase in the English language so deadly it contains a force powerful enough to swiftly eradicate all constructive thinking instantaneously. This phrase is so treacherous that it kills new ideas before they have an opportunity to give birth.

This life-draining phrase is: “I don’t know.”

The real danger lies in the subtleness of this phrase. We tend to say it subconsciously, not realizing the full impact on our decision-making ability.

“I don’t know” shuts down your brain’s creative and intuitive thinking process. Internally driven questions where you do not require outside information to answer, like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or even “What do you want for dinner?” must never be followed by “I don’t know.”

Saying “I don’t know” is like throwing flame-tipped darts at a priceless Picasso painting -- nothing good can come from this act, and in the end, something brilliant is lost forever. When you respond, “I don’t know,” you send a message to your brain that says, “Don’t even bother spending time and exerting energy trying to come up with an answer -- it can’t be done.” And the idea generation process ends there.

The fact is, you do know. The answer is within you. You possess the internal references and experiences to decide what it is you want -- to decide what is “right” for you. Without a sense of clarity and “knowing,” you can’t fully embrace your adventure -- you can’t point the way.

Why do we frequently turn off our brains? The answer is simple: Thinking is hard. Most people don’t like to think unless it’s absolutely critical. Thomas Edison, a person who rarely chose to kill a creative thought, but who was aware of other people’s tendency to do so said, “There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the real labor of thinking.”

The good news is we can condition ourselves to eradicate the “I don’t know” syndrome to greatly enhance our thought development process. Next time someone asks you an internally driven question, and you feel the “I don’t know” creeping up, say to yourself, “Hmmm, what if I did know the answer?” When you make this ‘question reversal’ in a playful frame of mind, you delve into the unknown abyss of uncertainty to pull out a creative thought -- an answer that may surprise you.

Adopt the belief that you really do know the answer. When you do, you’ll find yourself saying that devious little phrase much less frequently.

Be conscious of this concept over the next few days, using the question reversal strategy as often as you can. Measure the difference it has made on your life.

About the Author

Scott Jeffrey may be contacted at (

SCOTT JEFFREY coaches entrepreneurs, speakers, entertainers, and leaders in all areas of life toward achieving better results in less time with greater fulfillment. He is the author of "Journey to the Impossible: Designing an Extraordinary Life," a book filled with powerful ideas and strategies for getting what you want. Scott is the master strategist behind The Scott Jeffrey Companies, a world-class strategic coaching enterprise. Sign up for Scott's FREE Impossible Journeys newsletter at (


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