Original Thinking is a Weird Cocktail of Doubt, Fear, and Procrastination.

How do doubt, fear, and procrastination fuel original thinkers?

Chirag Malik
3 min readFeb 24, 2024
Image Source: AdamGrant.Net

I recently saw a TED talk by Adam Grant. He is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author who explores the science of motivation, generosity, rethinking, and potential.

In his TED talk, he told a story about how his perception of original thinkers changed and how it will transform your point of view too.

Seven years ago, a student approached him with a bold proposition — to invest in a company set to disrupt an industry by selling products online. The student confidently declared, “I’m working with three friends, and we’re going to try to disrupt an industry by selling stuff online.” Intrigued but cautious, he delved deeper into their venture.

Upon inquiring about their dedication, the student revealed a surprising truth — they hadn’t dedicated their entire summer to the project. Instead, they took internships, just in case things didn’t pan out. Pushing further, he asked if they planned to commit full-time after graduation, only to learn they all had backup jobs lined up. Skepticism settled in as he realized the day before the company launch that there was no functioning website, a critical component for a business rooted entirely in the online realm.

Confronted with the reality that the entire company was essentially a website, he made a pivotal decision — he declined to invest. Little did he know, the company he passed on would go on to become Warby Parker, recognized as the world’s most innovative company with a valuation exceeding a billion dollars. Reflecting on this missed opportunity, he embarked on a journey to understand the characteristics of those he calls “originals.”

In his exploration, he discovered a paradox about the pace of getting things off the ground. While he identified as a pre-crastinator, one who tackles tasks ahead of time, he recognized the value of procrastination in the creative process.

Through experiments, he found that moderate procrastinators were 16 percent more creative than their counterparts. Procrastination, rather than being a hindrance, offered the opportunity to produce ideas, fostering divergent thinking and unexpected leaps.

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

This revelation led him to a personal experiment while writing a book on Originals. He intentionally embraced procrastination, allowing himself to incubate ideas over time. The results were transformative, with a flood of new ideas emerging when he revisited his work after a pause.

The story delves into the dynamics of doubt — both self-doubt and idea doubt. While self-doubt can be paralyzing, idea doubt is depicted as energizing. Instead of declaring oneself inadequate, embracing the idea that initial drafts are inherently imperfect allows for continuous refinement.

A fascinating twist in the narrative introduces the relevance of internet browsers as a metaphor for approaching challenges. Users of Firefox and Chrome, who actively sought alternatives, were found to outperform those who stuck with default options like Internet Explorer or Safari. Doubting the default and actively seeking alternatives, he argues, is a trait that fosters originality.

The concept of vuja de — a fresh perspective on the familiar — is presented as a powerful tool in the creative arsenal. Embracing doubt and fear becomes a pivotal element in the journey toward originality. Originals, it turns out, are not immune to fear and doubt; they navigate these emotions differently, leveraging them to motivate experimentation and refinement.

Being original is challenging but undeniably the most impactful way to enhance the world. It encourages readers not to dismiss those who embody characteristics of originality and, more importantly, not to discount themselves. The acknowledgment that the path to creativity is paved with bad ideas underscores the importance of perseverance and resilience in the pursuit of innovation.

That’s it from my side. Feel free to share the article with your friends to help them become more creative and enhance original thought.

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Chirag Malik

Top writer on Medium, in Books, Social Media, Reading, Self Improvement, & Productivity. 90k+ Followers On Instagram. Mails At: booksmyrefuge101@gmail.com