Thinking is a mysterious process, but that doesn’t necessarily curb our ability to use it effectively. While we may not fully understand the mechanics of thought, we can still recognize that it involves taking in input and turning it into output – ideas. When you’re working in a creative field, it’s common to come up with many ideas on a daily basis, but not all of them can be put into practice.
However, the ones that go unused can still occupy our thoughts and generate a sense of satisfaction or “high.” This can lead to the fallacy of sunk cost, where we continue to invest time and energy in an idea that ultimately proves flawed or impractical — while still being in our heads.
To avoid this trap, John Carmack suggests adopting an “antifragile” approach to idea generation. This involves subjecting ideas to self-criticism and testing as soon as possible, rather than allowing them to fester in the mind and become emotionally attached. By constantly questioning and challenging our ideas, we can refine them and increase their chances of success.
This process also helps to build a new reward mechanism, as the sense of accomplishment comes from seeing an idea survive scrutiny rather than simply thinking about it. Additionally, this approach frees up the mental capacity for generating even more ideas, as we’re able to close the “open loops” of unfinished thoughts.
With practice, you’ll not only have more polished ideas, but you’ve built in yourself a new reward mechanism. The idea “high” is now the “survival test” high.
Plus, this approach frees up your mental capacity to generate even more ideas, because you can close the “open loops” of unfinished thoughts.