Olivia Fox Cabane | The Science of Creativity and Genius (Episode 395)

We can induce creativity, innovation, and genius from our minds.

“We are a vast magma of instincts and emotions with a thin veneer of civilization on top.” -Olivia Fox Cabane

The Cheat Sheet:

  • What is a metaphorical insight and how can you use it?
  • The Thin Air Myth: what is it and why is it a myth?
  • What James Watt and Phineas Gage have taught us about the brain.
  • This is one of the biggest blocks to your genius ideas: what is it?
  • What high performance athletes do differently from other athletes.
  • And so much more…


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Have you ever had a eureka moment? A split second flash of genius? Whether you have or not, there’s now a way to create that experience on demand. And here to tell us more is Olivia Fox Cabane.

Olivia is the author of The Charisma Myth and joins us to discuss the fascinating science of creativity and genius on today’s show. Listen in for all of that and more on episode 395 of The Art of Charm.

More About This Show:

Olivia Fox Cabane is known as an expert on behavioral science, and applying it to everyday life to become more productive, more effective and create more breakthroughs. Currently she is the Director of Innovation at Stanford’s StartX program and has two additional books about to be published.

On today’s show we discuss why breakthroughs are not accidental, what we’ve learned about the neuroscience behind epiphanies as well as ways you can realize more of your mind’s insights and genius ideas.

One of the most fascinating topics we dive is the different modes of the brain. The default mode network is your brain’s network composed of 10-13 different areas that are responsible for the creative, innovation and genius.

Another mode your brain has is executive mode. Executive mode is just what it sounds like: that part of your brain that makes decisions, executes and puts plans into actions.

But here’s the kicker: only one part of your brain can be in charge at a time. So if your executive mode is always on your default mode network (or DMN) cannot be running the show. That means if you are constantly engaging your decision-making mind and are in executive mode, your genius ideas have no way to come through.

Turning off executive mode is simple: do repetitive tasks that are basically mindless. Like showering or washing the dishes or driving: these are things you already do the executive mode of your brain doesn’t need to be engaged in for you to complete them. And that means your DMN can kick in.

You can do what high caliber professional athletes do and create little rituals to tell your brain it’s time to ramp up or ramp down. Think of baseball players and their rituals: some brush off their shoes in the batter’s box and then tap home plate between pitches. They are telling their brains to power on into high performance mode, and slow down.

On this episode Olivia and I also discuss the roles uncertainty and shame play in our creative capacities, what we can do to overcome our innate fear of both and why choice minimal lifestyle can be so liberating and freeing for our DMN! You’ll want to give this one your full attention, enjoy.


Resources from this episode:

The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1132 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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