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.
Few people on this earth are as creative, and different, as David Lynch.
I've always been drawn to him for both his work and his unique personality, the way he sees the world.
Lynch values intuition highly. He sees good intuition as that perfect balance between logic and imagination.
"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.
Life is full of choices and abstractions. Life is complicated. Intuition exists as a mental shortcut to guide us.
There are of course areas where intuition isn't such a great idea: I'd rather not have someone intuit flying an aeroplane or conduct brain surgery.
But there are many areas where intuition is a powerful tool. Endeavours such as art and sport is where intuition is demanded, where the mind and body draws from the subconscious and brings something extra into reality.
Learning craft is about equipping yourself to intuit faster.
Mastering a craft means decisions become automatic - like hitting a tennis ball. Overthinking when in the process of doing can be disastrous.
Roger Federer simply does not have the time to mentally calculate the ball speed and trajectory, where to place his feet, decided on his hand grip, identify where the opponent is moving, and where to aim the ball. But he manages it, thanks to intuition (It took me longer to write that sentence than the time he has to return a ball).
While writing, if your mind is hamstrung by choosing adjectives or adverbs, you'll find it difficult to conjure ideas and write in a way that feels natural.
Most writing guides are incredibly dull. They teach you how to build a strong, straight wall, but most fail to get into the weeds about how the most beautiful buildings are made.
They give technically correct descriptions that might work for a computer, but not so well for us humans.
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.
Thinking like an expert
It's also where the experts come to the fore.
Experts are able to quickly respond to a question or a problem because they can quickly go through a checklist of things to watch out for.
One could look at a website and, through experience, have a mental list of five or ten key elements to look out for. These elements may not be verbalised in any formal way - if asked the person may struggle to give you a list of things to watch out for right away. But they'll quickly intuit if something isn't right.
It's through observing patterns that they have formed a mental framework of understanding what a good website should be - or at least what it shouldn't be.
This can be seen in many areas of life.
Chess grandmasters tend to identify the likely best move within five seconds, and four out of five times this will be the move they will ultimately take.
"When I make a move, it is partly subconscious. There will be a decision-making process in my mind, and suddenly I make a move and I don't know why I did it." - Magnus Carlsen, Chess Grandmaster
Intuition, then, is mightily important.
This means it's something we first must be conscious of, and something we look after to ensure it works for us and not against us.
This can be done by working on your craft, like a tennis player hitting 10,000 forehands until it no longer has to be thought about.
It can also be done by creating different mental models. These are mental checklists that on the one hand help you make good decisions, and on the other at least stop you making stupid decisions.
Next time you observe yourself or other making good or bad choices, question what in the process could have led there. Making note of the assumptions and intuitions you made leading up to a decision can reveal a lot.
And consider how you are feeding and training your brain, because that is what is being filed away on the shelf labelled 'intuition'. What goes in will come out, consciously or not.
"Life is filled with abstractions and the only way we make heads or tails of it is through intuition. Intuition is seeing the solution. It's emotion and intellect going together... There's an ocean of consciousness inside each of us and it's an ocean of solutions. When you dive into that ocean, that consciousness you enliven it, it grows." - David Lynch