When you were a kid, what did you love to build?
When Frank Yang was eight, he dreamt of building all kinds of things. One of his first creative concepts was a dog food dispenser with a timer that could feed house pets on demand. Yang used to tell people he wanted to be an inventor, but the adults in his life said he should be an accountant or an attorney instead.
Today, Yang is the founder and CEO of Simplehuman, a privately-owned company that designs and manufactures kitchen, bath, and beauty tools. Simplehuman is devoted to finding ways to streamline daily tasks for efficient living, including touch-free soap pumps, sensor-activated vanity mirrors, and automated trash cans.
Last year Yang’s love for building practical “problem solvers” grew Simplehuman’s revenues by $15% to more than $200 million. Yang says he continues to find joy in the dreaming:
“Even though I’m the CEO of Simplehuman, I spend about 60% of my time on [Research and Development], because that’s what I love – I think about it all day,” said Yang.
Maximize Mental Energy Through Your Weekly Routine
What fuels your inspiration?
Though your job may be full of many “ordinary” tasks, how can you keep creativity alive each day?
Some experts believe grounding yourself in daily rituals can be a foundation for success. In his book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey writes about the habits, routines, and rituals of hundreds of artists, including Frederic Chopin, Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, and Ernest Hemingway. Even though their routines varied wildly, each individual had steps they followed to put them in an optimal state of mind. Currey came to this conclusion:
“In the right hands, [a routine] can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism. A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”
Rituals you might include to fuel your creativity could consist of things like:
- Rising early
- Making coffee or making your bed
- Morning runs or daily stretching
- Prayer, breathing exercises, personal affirmations, or journaling
- Lunchtime yoga or sports commitments
- 10 minutes of browsing Pinterest or your favorite design publications
- Accessible scratch pads in your car, office, or house (for random idea bursts)
- Regular times spent visualizing success, writing goals, or brainstorming for future projects
- Weekly lunch gatherings with friends who inspire you
- Writing tomorrow’s goals at the end of each workday
- Wind-down routines like space tidying, piano playing, evening walks, light reading, or “brain dumps” in a journal
Finding Solutions in Unlikely Places
Yang says that, though he has many responsibilities as CEO, he likes to stay focused on his primary passion, which is creating and developing.
And when he’s stuck in a rut, he goes back to simple pleasures:
“I really believe that my mind and body work together. We have a basketball court in the office, and if there’s a problem my team and I can’t solve, we’ll go there and shoot around . . . I [also] love cycling. I have three bikes in my office, and when I need a break, I ride around the parking lot for 15 minutes. I get this sense of freedom when I ride, but I also love the mechanical aspect of bikes, the way the gears shift, the way the frame is made, the geometry of the design. That inspires me.”
What is the “bicycle” in your life? Sometimes taking your mind in a different direction can help you find solutions when you are stuck!