How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton

Possibly the biggest difference between most Hollywood blockbuster movies and most European films [that I have seen] is that the blockbusters leave an impression like success, discoveries, scientific breakthroughs, creation of art – everything happens in a heartbeat. One day comes the idea and the next the execution. One day a man meets a woman and the next they are magically together. We only get to see the glory of the success, but rarely how they managed it. European films, however, more often depict the struggle, the how something was achieved.

How to Fly a Horse among other non-fiction books is like a European film mid blockbusters. It answers the questions at least I so long have pondered about. It removes the magic and tells how things really are – that all creators were, are and have always been regular people. Perhaps only defying the expectations or looking and seeing without wearing the glasses of paradigm or dogma.

We can all create. Geniuses don’t exist and as cited studies show, a person with high intelligence is not necessarily creative. All creation requires is hard work and focus in improving something step by step, seeing problems in solutions of problems in solutions of problems, diving into it without an ego or predefined knowledge of one’s capabilities. We don’t know what we are capable of until we try.

Kevin has done the hard work unveiling us, in good pace through remarkable stories of the history of creation, how to create anything. It tells us the stories of struggle, the stories of how many great people discovered or created the entities they left their mark in this world for.

The stories are well connected like a natural thread of thought, coming back from examples of sub-points to the main point coherently, connecting the dots and answering the arising questions on the right moment.

The worst book is the one you never wrote

It doesn’t sound like a self help book telling you what to do in order to get your life right. It just tells how ordinary people have focussed and worked hard to solve some problems they mostly felt connected to. It throws an ice bucket on us in our sleep to wake us up to reality. And seeing the reality creates a fizzy itch to get up and work on something.

Fuck the rewards

According to the examples brought in the book, receiving acknowledgements generally marks the beginning of decadence of the creator. As if their life work was accomplished – now it’s time to rest. Perhaps that’s the speculated reason why DiCaprio never receiving an Oscar is a good thing. Many who did, continued with poor performance, however Leonardo keeps surprising us. Same goes for those who begin creation with rewards in front of their eyes. As several studies confirmed, having an incentive to create something resulted in a less creative creation. Of course we can dispute over how did they assess creativity, but people tend to either give up when working for a reward because the end doesn’t seem close enough, or end with an average or poor result.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

As Kevin concludes, creation is in all of us. Creation has allowed us to exist and to create more. A flying horse is merely a plane. Just like a faster horse is a car. Metaphors and patterns of similar solutions on different fields are what seem like leaps, but truly are just logical small steps that lead to innovation. Like the sewing machine inspired moving pictures, Uber and Airbnb inspire many arising startups.

This book is for everyone to read, especially the crowd who is either depressed that they aren’t capable of much or pissed that their governments don’t care about them.  It is for schoolchildren to see, like Carol Dweck explains in her TED talk The power of believing that you can improve”, that the effort, not the intelligence, is what needs praise. Who you are or what you are capable of has nothing to do with what you can create, especially if you don’t create anything. Creativity can be learned, intelligence improved. Every skill can be acquired with enough practice.

Read it, enjoy it, digest it, get your feet from underneath your arse and get to work.

How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery

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