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Man pleasantly surprised looking at smartphone - "Brain bottle opener" exercise

The following has been excerpted from Let Me Out: Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life, through which rock-musician-turned-creativity-consultant Peter Himmelman aims to teach others how to stop making excuses and unlock their own creative potential. 

Front cover of book - "Brain bottle opener" exercise

The smartphone controversy

Hardly a day goes by without hearing that the iPhone (and all the other smartphones in the world) are destroying our humanity, our ability to communicate, to bond with others, and even our ability to think. I may be a lone voice out there but I beg to differ. I offer this: The smartphone is the most connective and most humanizing device ever created. Like every piece of technology from the knife to the violin, the way we use it determines whether it delivers pleasure or pain.

Do you have three spare minutes?

I want you to take THREE MINUTES to write a text or an email on your smartphone to someone you love. Someone who’s been a mentor, a guide, a positive force in your life. Do it right now. Tell them everything you’d want them to know, as if their survival into the next day were an uncertainty…

Now SEND!

That’s right: Take your index finger and hit send.

Writing the smartphone letter and hitting send are actions of course, but they are also powerful metaphors. You took a nascent idea (your love for the person you wrote to) and brought it through “the pin-hole” as my friend and filmmaker Jim Hershleder likes to say.

In that special moment while you were writing, your thoughts became transmuted into reality. They became a written depiction of your feelings and took on a new, more genuine dimension. By hitting send you drew that idea one step further into reality through the act of sharing.

It actually works—a real-life example

I recently received an email from a participant in one of my Big Muse workshops, Brad G., a successful Chicago businessman, in which he described how this particular BBO [Brain Bottle Opener] changed his life. Brad told me that he and his 88-year-old father always had a somewhat distant relationship, that he’d never once heard his father say, “I’m proud of you” or “I love you.” Then he went on to tell me that he sent his father a text during one of my seminars that said simply:

“Dad, I don’t think I’ve ever told you this, but I really love you.”

Within minutes he received two text messages, each from a different sister.

“OMG, Brad are you going down in a plane crash?”

“Brad, are you OK, did you just get a terminal diagnosis?”

Then came the response that Brad had been waiting all his life to hear:

“Brad, I love you too, and I’ve always been so proud of you. I’m so sorry this has always been so difficult for me to say.”

The post-script to this story is that since the Smartphone Letter Brad sent to his dad, his whole family has been communicating on a deeper level, with more frequent calls and more exchanges of real affection.

Like a “Swiss Army Knife”: More real-world applications

In many ways this BBO is like the Swiss Army Knife of Brain Bottle Openers. It is a powerful, all-purpose technique of reducing anxiety. Let’s say, for example, that you’ve been tasked with writing a long and complicated legal brief. The weight of the effort is looming over you. The due date is causing you tremendous anxiety and you feel like you’d do anything to stave it off for later. Know that this is a perfect time for the Smartphone Letter. There is a fear-reducing aspect to this BBO that often makes mountains shrink immediately into molehills.

Now you may be saying, how can I write something “heartfelt” on command? How can doing something for the sake of an exercise, particularly one that’s designed to help me with a mundane business task, ever be real—or moral for that matter? The magic of the BBO is that in spite of what you’re thinking before you commence to write to a loved one, when you actually start the Smartphone Letter, you will be doing it from a place of truth. You will go from an intellectual process, directly into an emotional one, and the fact that you go from one to the other in seconds makes no difference at all. This is all about “doing.” Your mere thoughts about how it won’t work are just that, thoughts. Once you begin to act, in this case to write, everything changes. Try it and you’ll see.

Read more about how mobile phones can transform lives in GLOBAL INCLUSION: Mobile phones drive growth in developing economies»

Peter Himmelman is an award-winning, Emmy and Grammy-nominated musician and the founder of Big Muse, a company that teaches creative thinking, leadership skills, and deeper levels of communication in all facets of life—from personal to professional. As Big Muse has grown in popularity over the last four years, Peter has come to share his program with thousands of individuals, including academic institutions like The Wharton School, UCLA, and the Ross School of Business, and international brands such as McDonald’s, Adobe, and Gap Inc. He has an Advanced Management Certificate from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Excerpted from LET ME OUT: Unlock Your Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life by Peter Himmelman. © 2016 by Peter Himmelman. TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
image: a hip young black guy via Shutterstock

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