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Einstein’s 5 Maxims for Creative Excellence

posted by admin on October 10th, 2008

1. Imagination is more important than knowledge.

What it means: Don’t let ignorance hold you back! What the beginner might lack in knowledge she makes up for with a lack of preconceived notions. Learn as you go and don’t be afraid to question the status quo.

2. Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.

What it means: Don’t spend all your time reading the thoughts of others. You’ll learn more and become more creative by creating for yourself.

3. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.

What it means: Be curious, playful, whimsical. The world is a fascinating place. Don’t get bogged down by the details of daily life.

4. The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

What it means: Follow your curiosity wherever it leads. Don’t be afraid of the unknown, rather embarrass the magical excitement of mystery.

5. The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.

What it means: Take inspiration and make it your own. Don’t steal the work of others, but don’t be afraid to use their best ideas to enhance your own creativity.

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  • Ross

    Hi there – I like the statement at number 3 – The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

    I find it’s great to have this approach with a lot of things in life, kind of a healthy skepticism! Thanks for the post

  • Heather C.

    “Don’t be afraid of the unknown, rather embarrass the magical excitement of mystery.” Should we embrace mystery instead? Excellent dialogue regarding the danger of spell checking.

  • Elaine B.

    I don`t think that is what number 5 means. Sources of inspiration, when shared, produce work that is very similar even when the artists have not “shared” what they planned to do. I know a bunch of companies that use the same clipart company, only to quarrel over originality. Don`t share your sources, or you will have 15 others copying you.

  • Hosting Reviews

    I appreciated the bit about letting preconceived notions thwart creativity. If you think about it the very essence of creativity is completely congruent with being open minded. The two work hand in hand really.

  • yorgo

    I never knew Einstein was a programmer.

  • rem

    Is it really Einstein saying all these fancy things? So many sayings are attributed to Einstein that the validity is questionable. Would like to know the source.

  • Octopus

    Gee that’s great. You’ve explained Einstein’s brilliant words with your own dumb ones. Maybe somebody else should blog this and try to explain what your “what it means” means. I thought the quotes were obvious enough. Why dumbify them?

  • John

    @rem the quotes come from several different quotation sites like BrainyQuote and ThinkExist. You are right that there is a possibility they are wrongly attributed.

  • John

    @Octopus – as dumb as I am, it is obvious you are a pathetically insecure person. Go away and don’t come back until you have something constructive to post.

  • Jones

    Octopus is right. John, your writing doesn’t contribute anything to the words of Einstein. You arrogantly add ‘WHAT IT MEANS’ like you truly understand Einstein. Basically, you want to compare yourself to his genius. And, I must say that you have shown a good comparisson. Although, I can’t say it’s in your favour.

  • Bobby


  • Billy Bussey

    I think both of you are wrong on #5

    It means that people don’t actually create things. They see other things and copy them. One can seem creative if he hides his source of inspiration and only show it’s result. like an artist painting a scene from nature.

  • web

    Great collection of Einstein creativity quotes!

  • Pajero

    I like number two – it makes a lot of sense, though I wouldn’t have thought of it myself!

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  • J

    Congratulations! Your post will appear in the Mole Day edition of the Carnival of Education. You can view the CoE here – – on 10/22 when the link goes live. Thank you in advance for any publicity plugs that you offer on your site.

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  • JuanS

    Number 5 sounds like stealing!

  • D$

    I would have to say i disagree on your guys’ interpretatoins of #5. It doesn’t have to do with “stealing” ideas, but more the surpassing of them. Of course, most if not all of your ideas stem from the previous ihoughts you have encountered, but to be truly creative you must develop something further, something which surpasses those ideas. So, if you are to create a truly novel idea (in the field of science, for example), you must take into account the ideas of those that have come before you but you must also subdue them in creating and presenting a new, more powerful concept.

  • D$

    p.s. i’m drunk.

  • D$


  • D$

    but i still think it’s a good comment.

  • D$

    .p.s. –to elaine B.: why would einstein be concerned with a competitive advantage?

  • Peter

    On an aside, I’d like to extend mad kudos to D$ for being online commenting on Einstein quotes at 4am, drunk. That’s admirable.

  • axel g

    Really inspiring +_+

    I like his approach +_+

  • cribcat

    This is embarrassing, or embracing But good post anyway. Positive messages are great!

  • Beixin Qiao

    I like No.3 best, curiocity –> desire to know more. As to reading, I would think reading is better than not reading at all. You can always carry on a dialogue or conversation with the authors, if you can engage in active reading.

  • Bad Economy

    I like number 3 best too.

  • Gabriel

    mmm this is very old now, but I’d like to add something… the way I interpret number 5 is this: if no one can tell what your influences are, then you have made something creative enough, no matter if you started over other people’s shoulders.

  • JoanL

    If Einstein really said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning,” before he added, “Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” he misspoke. That’s because the second sentence shows that what Einstein reallly meant was, “The important thing is to “not stop questioning.” There’s an important difference. He could have avoided the misstep by saying, “The important thing is to never stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”