They who dream by day are more cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only at night. E.A. Poe*

We have written about dreams before, and for good reason. What else in life can offer so much pleasure and escape from the confines of reality, yet not cost a dime or leave a scar (assuming you don’t identify as a somnambulist.)

In addition to imaginative conjuring during the witching hours, it’s high time to celebrate the brain activity that occurs when eyes are open, yet focus on the external world is relaxed.  We may think daydreaming is a small part of our cognitive motoring, but it actually accounts for up to half of all our waking thoughts.

So rather than spend half your life with your mind-wandering in a state of semi-conscious incapacitation, exercising a bit of discipline on your flights of fancy can  prove most rewarding. “Deliberate daydreaming” is both good fun and 132% necessary to generate ideas that can propel the world forward. Especially as we enter a crucial period where our very lives depend upon solving big issues like economic inequality, climate change and how brick and mortar stores can overcome the amazon death grip.

Constructive daydreaming involves an intentional shift in focus away from whatever is in front of you (computer monitor, packed subway train, half-eaten fruit salad) to the “default mode network” of the brain, which can spark better ways of problem-solving. Pre-loading an area of interest before taking off for la-la land can focus one’s dreaming, making for time spent (somewhat more) wisely.

Of course, some people view daydreaming as a form of procrastination and insist that it’s bad for business.  The suits in corporate are apt to chastise an employee with their feet up, pencil slack, and a thousand mile stare on their face. But don’t let the nabobs of negativism get you down. Instead, hand them this article from a Harvard-branded “strategic facilitator” and tell them to leave you alone for the next several days.

And if you want to increase your Autopilot Cogitation Potential® a hundred fold, we suggest you pack your thoughts and fly to Daydream Island Resort, reopening this month after being whacked by Cyclone Debbie two years ago.

Finally, a word of caution: if you find it difficult to emerge from the spaced-out state once you enter it, you may have developed a condition known as “Maladaptive Daydreaming.” If you’re finding yourself drooling onto your desk, or idling at a green light until the driver behind you knocks on your windshield with a crowbar, there’s help for you here.**

*While some might question the benefits of daydreaming like Mr. Poe, his work was certainly the better for it. 

**Like all addictions, compulsive fantasizing must be self-diagnosed.

 

 

If ever there was a day to consider your quirks, ticks, neuroses, body dysmorphia and secret thoughts to be your most valuable assets, it’s Friday.  So let us help you disengage from the race of the rats for a few moments and celebrate all that is freaky, beginning with the first true oddballs who paved the way for the iconoclasts we rally around today.

While today it can refer to anyone who chooses to take the road least traveled in search of new experiences, ideas or behaviors, the term “freak” originally referred to those with physically deformities or strange diseases. Superstition lead the masses to label these creatures as bad omens up until the 16th Century, when they were brought out of the closet  during the reign of England’s Elizabeth I. Public curiosity led to the development of the “sideshow,” with many of the genetically-challenged agreeing to be publicly displayed in return for a cut of the profits.

Over the centuries, people with physical abnormalities grew into a highly profitable market, specifically in England and the United States, with P.T. Barnum and the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. popularizing the circus sideshow to the delight of ticket-buyers.  In turn, performers of all stripes took this as a cue to develop more outlandish acts in order to shock and titillate audiences who had “seen everything.”

So where do we acquire our current understanding of what “getting your freak on” means? During the early 1960s, former marathon dancing champion Vito Paulekas and his wife Szou established an art studio and boutique in Hollywood that become the epicenter of a new movement combining semi-communal living with free-form dancing. Along with their friends and fellow artists, they called themselves “freaks” or “freakers” and became well known in the area for their unconventional behavior.  Among the musicians and performers of the day who congregated at Paulekas’ place were Frank Zappa, David Crosby, Don Van Vliet, and The GTOs.

It was Zappa, leader of the seminal ‘60s group The Mothers of Invention, who attempted to distance the freaks from being narrowly defined, preferring to champion an aesthetic that eschewed fashion or political leanings in favor of independent thought. He described their behavior like so: “Freaking out is a process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restricted standards of thinking, dress and social etiquette in order to express creatively his relationship to his environment and the social structure as a whole.”  It’s no surprise that Zappa’s first album with the Mothers was entitled “Freak Out.”  Also noteworthy is that it was the first double album debut in history, which was a freaky thing to do.

At the Mothers’ first concerts, audience members were invited to express themselves however they wished, whether shouting, dancing, playing kazoo, or letting a band member spray them with a foreign substance.  Unlike the hippies with their emphasis on drug-taking and socialized protests, a freak could behave in whatever way they deemed creatively satisfying.

Naturally, being freaky and letting one’s freak flag fly was taken up by popular culture to mean any sort of fun, mischief or invention that could be had at the expense of normality. One way Zappa defied even the normality of being a freak was to make friends with the television avatars of pop music, The Monkees.  According to ’60s historian Barry Miles, Zappa was a fan of The Monkees, and actually invited Micky Dolenz to join his band.*  While that didn’t happen, The Monkees got Zappa to appear on their TV show and in their subsequent feature film,  “Head.”  Co-written by Jack Nicholson, Zappa plays “The Critic,” who commandeers a talking bull on a leash.  In his scene, Zappa tells Davy Jones he needs to work on his music because the youth of America is depending on him.

Today, letting your freak flag fly is something anyone can do, even if you spend most of your time behind a computer, inputting code for a social network.  We invite you to get up from your desk, walk into the hallway, and express yourself however you please.  Just make sure no one from Human Resources is nearby; they don’t let their freak flags fly until no one is around.  Then you should see what they’re up to!

*Shown above: Frank Zappa and Mickey Dolenz, both freaks of nature.

 

 

 

Whether it’s writing, painting, or opening a kebab stand, conventional wisdom says that you must “find your own voice.” But is that true? Maybe instead of driving yourself mad chasing after that invisible ghost known as “originality,” you should just lock yourself away for awhile and get busy copying the person you admire most.

That’s what Ray LaMontagne did. Before he was a world famous musician, he was just another schlub working a dead-end job in a Maine shoe factory, with no prospects other than surviving another shift.  Until one morning he awoke to his clock radio playing  Stephen Stills’ “Treetop Flyer.” For reasons known only to the gods, the clock radio and Ray, instead of reporting for work that day, he decided to become a singer-songwriter himself. But how the hell would he do this, with no training up to this point?

With what little money he had, he bought a bunch of old records by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and The Big O, Otis Redding, and began slavishly imitating them. He basically holed up in his apartment for a couple of years and let Redding’s voice be his guide.  By being laser focused on transmitting The King of Soul through his own larynx, he developed his own skill set that eventually lead him to multi-platinum recording success.

Ray found his own voice by borrowing someone else’s. So if you want to make The New York Times bestseller list, quit your job, tell your friends you’ll be unreachable for awhile, and immerse yourself in the works of your favorite writer until you can type them all by memory. You want to be a professional squash champion, start by watching all the video of Mohamed Elshorbagy you can find while glueing a racquet to your hand. Whatever your pursuit, it won’t be long before your mind alters its circuitry based on the information you’re feeding into it.  And yet, you will still be processing it through your own passageways, so what comes out on the other side will be considered “your voice” — unless your goal is to be an Elvis impersonator.

How long with it take for you to hit the big time?  If you’re a fast learner, give it about five years. And then when you become a raging success,* be like Ray and admit your thieving ways without shame. There are no original voices. And isn’t that a relief!

*Notice we didn’t say “if.”  This is SuperOptimism, after all.