In Ed Catmull's new book Creativity, Inc. there's a whole chapter on the "Unmade Future". In it there a great way to look at elements hidden“On one side is everything we see and know—the world as we understand it. On the other side is everything we can’t see and don’t know—unsolved problems, unexpressed emotions, unrealized possibilities so innumerable that imagining them is inconceivable. This side, then, is not an alternate reality but something even harder to fathom: that which has not yet been created.

The goal is to place one foot on either side of the door—one grounded in what we know, what we are confident about, our areas of expertise, the people and processes we can count on—and the other in the unknown, where things are murky, unseen, or uncreated.

Many fear this side of the door. We crave stability and certainty, so we keep both feet rooted in what we know, believing that if we repeat ourselves or repeat what is known to work, we will be safe. This feels like a rational view. Just as we know that the rule of law leads to healthier, more productive societies or that practice makes perfect or that the planets orbit the sun, we all need things that we can count on. But no matter how intensely we desire certainty[…]”

This way of looking at opportunity is furthered by Catmull in what has helped me stay leveled during these past few weeks concerning my financial situation. 

 “Alan Kay—Apple’s chief scientist and the man who introduced me to Steve Jobs—expressed it well when he said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

This sounds like the kind of slogan you’d see on a bumper sticker, but it contains hidden depths. Invention, after all, is an active process that results from decisions we make; to change the world, we must bring new things into being. But how do we go about creating the unmade future? I believe that all we can do is foster the optimal conditions in which it—whatever “it” is—can emerge and flourish. This is where real confidence comes in. Not the confidence that we know exactly what to do at all times but the confidence that, together, we will figure it out.

That uncertainty can make us uncomfortable. We humans like to know where we are headed, but creativity demands that we travel paths that lead to who-knows-where. That requires us to step up to the boundary of what we know and what we don’t know. While we all have the potential to be creative, some people hang back, while others forge ahead. What are the tools they use that lead them toward the new? Those with superior talent and the ability to marshal the energies of others have learned from experience that there is a sweet spot between the known and the unknown where originality happens; the key is to be able to linger there without panicking. And that, according to the people who make films at Pixar and Disney Animation, means developing a mental model that sustains you. It might sound silly or woo-woo, this kind of visualization, but I believe it’s crucial. Sometimes—especially at the beginning of a daunting project—our mental models are all we’ve got.”

Excerpts From: Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace. “Creativity, Inc.” Random House, 2014-04-08. iBooks. 

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