Syzygy #5: Mario music, imposter syndrome, & intuition
4 min read

Syzygy #5: Mario music, imposter syndrome, & intuition

I'm now publishing my bi-weekly newsletter, which I've decided to name syzygy which is an actual word that kind of means 'when planets align', on my website.


8-bit tunes: thinking inside the box

As a Nintendo geek, I've been waiting to write this story for a while...

Koji Kondo is not a household name but his work is legendary.

Back in the early 1980s, soundtracks for video games were mostly nothing more than regular bleeps and fuzzy explosions.

But when young Koji Kondo was hired to create a soundtrack for a new game called Super Mario Bros., he had other ideas.

Kondo had four sound channels to work with, two for melody, one for bass, and one for percussion. That isn't very much...

Today, albums generally have around 10 - 120 channels with layers upon layers of sounds. It was like coming up against an orchestra with a whistle.

Despite only having four basic channels, Kondo had a compositional vision: catchy music is nice but it should also match the mood of the game and the experience of the player. Music should strive to move people, no matter what.

What he created was not only revolutionary, it also teaches us about how we can be at our bests creatively when we work inside the box.

“People sometimes think, ‘well, we’ve got all of this.’ So rather than having to create something that’s really great, they … rely heavily on technology, or say, the instrumentation.” - Koji Kondo

That's where a theory called Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) comes in.

One part of it states that once a problem is defined, the problem solver knows that the solution is right there in front of her.

They simply have to reorganise and play with what is already there.

No searching for outside inputs. No Googling new systems and trends. You just have to stick with what you have.

This, say researchers, pushes you to be even more creative and innovative than you otherwise would have been.

And, that's exactly what Kondo did.

So next time you hit a problem, consider what Koji Kondo managed to achieve with some simple bleeps and buzzes.

Simple solutions are acts of strong creativity.

The full story:

Little big ideas: Welcome imposter syndrome

I'm working on something right now that's making me extremely uncomfortable, but in a good way. Whenever that happens, it means I'm pushing myself.

Part of the process of doing and creating something new will often bring up a series of statements in my mind such as:

  • This is stupid
  • It's not good enough
  • People are going to laugh at you
  • Simon, you're an idiot. Go back and hide under a box.

Not the most pleasant comments, but absolutely normal. Almost everybody, I'm told, gets hassled by such mental attacks and it's called imposter syndrome.

This is probably the number one reason for not getting stuff done.

The people who do get stuff done are the ones who are able to ignore those questions and push on ahead.

So, next time you create something, get ready for those unhelpful comments to come, and get ready to bat them away. Keep in mind, everyone gets them and we just have to work at facing those comments down.

"If you don't feel like an imposter, either you're a sociopath, or you're not trying hard enough." - Seth Godin

Diving into your intuition

"Intuition is the key to everything, in painting, filmmaking, business - everything. I think you could have an intellectual ability, but if you can sharpen your intuition, which they say is emotion and intellect joining together, then a knowingness occurs." - David Lynch.

Intuition is a powerful thing, but it's not magic. It's something that can be sharpened to make us better at what we do, and to stop us from making the wrong choices.

The human brain is often compared to a computer, but that's misleading.

Our brains are a lot more weird and wonderful. There's no 'if this happens then that' system in the brain - our logic is very different.

Instead, the brain learns through pattern recognition.

Our monkey brains learn through observing and imitating, and building upon what it learns.

And this isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's a very good thing much of the time.

"Fortunately, most children learn to walk before they can be told how to by their parents.” - W. Timothy Gallwey - The Inner Game of Tennis

It's where the magic can happen. It's where ideas spring forth and start to connect with logic become born into reality.

Intuition is something we must be conscious of, and something we look after to ensure it works for us and not against us.

Next time you observe yourself or others making good or bad choices, question what in the process could have led to that point.

Making note of the assumptions and intuitions you made leading up to a decision can reveal a lot.

Consider how you are feeding and training your brain, because that is what is being filed away on the mental shelf labelled 'intuition'. What goes in will come out, consciously or not.

The full story:

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