The world is rich with examples
of originality. Original means independent and creative
in thought and action. Nowadays, we call it thinking
outside the box, a phrase supposedly derived from
a puzzle created by an early 20th-century British
mathematician. Whatever you call it, it very often
means going against the tide, which may not be the
easiest way to go. But sometimes the easiest way is also
the mediocre way, and that’s OK if that’s your standard.
But it isn’t mine, and it most likely isn’t yours either if
you’re taking the time to read this.
When I was starting out in real estate, my father thought
I was nuts to want to build in Manhattan. It was going
against the tide, and I knew
I was up against some pretty
big odds, but I wanted to
carve my own niche. I had
my own ideas and knew I’d
have to be independent as
well as creative to see them
happen. I’m certainly happy
I decided to take the chance and to go for it. It would have
been easier for me to just stay with the family business and
leave it at that.
Fortunately, I had a good education and experience
behind me. I always warn people not to jump into
anything unprepared. It’s that old fine line between
bravery and stupidity. Know the tides before you dive in.
There’s always a certain amount of danger, danger meaning
the unknown, even in shallow waters. Riptides and sharks
exist. Sometimes you don’t see them until it’s too late. Keep
that in mind no matter how sensational or fool-proof you
think your idea might be.
mind requires a variety of thoughts and impulses to keep it well occupied.
Charles de Gaulle is a figure of historic importance,
especially as it pertains to World War II, and he came
from a family of historians and writers. In fact, his father
taught literature and philosophy. But the young Charles de
Gaulle had a passionate interest in military matters, and
he was determined in every respect to pursue this unexpected
passion. He was a force in world history known
for his extraordinary stubbornness. He became known
as “the man who said no” when he refused to accept the
terms of the armistice with Nazi Germany. When he
said no, he meant it. There was no equivocating. I don’t
know all the details of his early life, but I can imagine a
boy from a family of intellectuals might have experienced
some scrutiny when he displayed an intense interest in all
things military. But he knew what he wanted to do, and he
followed his own path.
It’s a good idea to take your own pulse once in a while,
instead of just focusing on what the masses are doing.
Take a break from expectations, from the media, and plug
into yourself. You might find that your electricity is better suited
to another socket. You might have to exert yourself, but look at the
alternatives that remain. Get out of your so-called comfort zone.
I call it complacency, and it’s a good way to get nowhere….
People often talk about something new being “innovative.” Most of
the time, it’s simply putting together existing elements to create what
appears to be new. I was touted as being innovative when I came up
with the mixed-use condominium and hotel tower, which I did with
the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City. Since then,
the concept has been copied (by myself and others) and it has proven
to be tremendously successful, nationally and internationally.
To me, the idea was common sense, and I didn’t think I
was being particularly creative. When I look back,
maybe I was. But when I read subsequent articles
about innovation and certain inventors, it got me
thinking about how one might become an innovator,
which is something I think is important for
students to think about.
I remember reading about a composer named
Steve Reich who came up with a new idea called
phasing, which is like windshield wipers going
in and out of synch. Apparently, he was caught in
a traffic jam one rainy day and the rhythm of the
windshield wipers caught his attention, and he
applied what he heard to his musical compositions.
He has had a significant influence on contemporary
music, and I think he’s a great example of an innovator.
Sometimes new ideas can come from something as mundane
and functional as your windshield wipers. The key is to pay attention
and keep your brain and senses open to new stimuli.
It also helps to be able to think of two things at once—multilevel
focusing is what I call it. Innovation follows the intersection of
ideas—thinking in musical terms while listening to your windshield
wipers; or thinking of a hotel tower and condominiums at one time;
or maybe watching a stone roll and imagining a wheel. Who knows
what will result? Sometimes it will be fantastic and other times it
won’t, but it gets the mind working in new dimensions that can
sometimes prove fruitful.
This can also happen without deliberately attempting to be innovative,
so the other technique to employ—consciously and unconsciously—
is to keep an open mind. That’s very important in business
as well as in the creative arts. Don’t limit yourself to staid thinking
because you want to excel in business. My first book was called The
Art of the Deal because I view business deals as an art form. Maybe
that’s why I’ve been a successful deal-maker. I employ both sides of
my brain when I’m thinking and working.
You may be aware of the numeric value phi, which has an astonishing
history. It’s been employed by people from Pythagoras to da
Vinci, and most likely the builders of the pyramids used it as well. It’s
been around for a long time, and the number itself is 1.6180339887.
It’s called the golden ratio, and if you want to know more specifics,
you can read The Golden Ratio by Mario Livio, who goes into great
detail about it. My point is that it appears that some people use the
number deliberately, and other people know it subconsciously and
it can appear in their work with or without intention. But it can be
used intentionally, and very often is. It’s very mysterious, as this ratio
appears in unrelated works and natural phenomena, from the chambered
nautilus to galaxies to artwork and architecture. It can make
your innovative attempts a little easier when you make an effort to
understand that there are mysteries in life and to be open to them.
I’m not advising you to dwell on the mysterious—a successful life
requires common sense and hard work—but to be aware
of things that are sometimes inexplicable because they
can be a big step toward innovation. We don’t really
create, but we assemble what has been created for us.
Be a great assembler—no matter what your interests
may be—and you’ll be on your way to inventiveness.
A big mind requires a variety of thoughts and impulses to
keep it well occupied, so make sure you keep your mind
engaged in the best ways possible. It could very well be
your calling card for success.
From the book Think Like a Champion by Donald J. Trump.
Excerpted by arrangement with Vanguard Press, a member of the
Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2009.
Donald Trump also serves on the board of SUCCESS Foundation.