Sketchnotes Of Adam Grant’s “The Surprising Habits Of Original Thinkers” (TED Talk)

Source: The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers

Materials: Moleskine Notebook (Squared) & Pentel Energel Pen (0.5)

Purpose: Develop the habits that lead to original thought and apply those thoughts to my work here (this site), here, here and here.

Process: Mind mapping.


The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers (1) - Adam Grant TED Talk - Doug Neill Sketchnotes

The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers (2) - Adam Grant TED Talk - Doug Neill Sketchnotes


As I look back at these notes and think about what ideas I’d like to act on, my first question is this: where does my desire to be original come from?

I think I’ve got two answers to that question.

The first is that I want to provide original and useful resources for those learning how to take visual notes (that’s what Verbal To Visual is all about) and for those sharing their skill development online (that’s what Learn In Public is all about).

The second is that I want to approach online education as a whole in an original and useful way. Both Verbal To Visual and Learn In Public are online learning platforms, and my goal is to leverage the tools on the internet while losing as little as possible from the in-person educational experience that I was trained in (high school math, science, and ESL).

With that, here’s what stood out to me from Grant’s talk:

1) Originals are quick to start, slow to finish

I feel like this is the story of all of my projects. I start them almost on a whim, explore them for a bit to see whether or not there’s long-term potential, and in the case that there is I slowly chip away at it.

I now feel pretty darn good about the combination of projects I’m working on. I don’t plan on adding any more any time soon because right now I’ve got just enough time and energy to be able to bounce from one to another (which is often energization) and keep each moving forward at least a little bit each day, each week, or each month.

2) Recognize the difference between idea-doubt and self-doubt

When my life in general is going good, this comes naturally. But if my personal life isn’t going so well this becomes harder.

The idea that I’d like to remember most is not letting “this is crap” turn to “I am crap”, no matter what else is going on in my life. I also resonate deeply with the idea that the fear of failing is far less powerful than the fear of failing to try. Keep it that way. Keep trying. Keep failing. Keep going.

3) Originals have lots of bad ideas

To have lots of bad ideas (and the eventual good ones) you first need lots of ideas. For all of my projects I have recurring things to make and share: here it’s visual notes; at Verbal To Visual and Learn In Public it’s short video lessons, full-fledged courses, and an interactive community; at it’s anything goes (lately there’s a lot of #vanlife going on).


The ideas from Grant’s talk were mostly a confirmation that I’m approaching my work in a way that might lead to something original. So if anything this talk gives me the confidence to simply keep moving forward, while keeping these ideas in mind.

So that’s what I plan to do.

-Doug Neill

August 24th, 2016