Maria Popova: On Learning Creatively

August 19 - On The Dot
It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: Celebrating Education

So, you graduated from college and started a “real” job. Do you ever have a moment when you wish you could drop the job and just go back to school? I have, but then I remember all those tests and late-night studying, and I’m like, no thanks!

But we don’t stop the craving for new knowledge once we leave high school or college. We educate ourselves every day, but since that info doesn’t come from a 10-pound textbook, we might not think much about it.

Whether it’s figuring out how much a 15 percent tip is or listening to On the Dot every morning, there’s always an opportunity to learn something new. What do you want to learn today?


Just because we are learning something, like say, a grueling table formula in Excel, doesn’t mean we’re enjoying it. Work is a lot like school in that regard! We often get our creativity and imagination stamped out once we join the workforce. Not everyone is so lucky to get their dream job.

At about 5 years old, we use 80 percent of our creative potential. By the time we’re 12 years old, our creative potential is at a heartbreaking 2 percent. We think that fitting in is what makes us successful. But an IBM survey conducted of 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries, found that, in fact, creativity was the most crucial factor for future success.

So, don’t box up your creativity at work today. Embrace it and see where your innovation takes you!

WOMAN TO WATCH: Maria Popova, Creator of Brain Pickings

So, how do we boost that creativity? One way is to check out Maria Popova’s website, Brain Pickings. It is a read-supported site that’s ad-free and includes articles to get your creative juices flowing on themes like art, history, science, psychology, politics, anthropology and design.

One of my favorite pieces on Maria’s site is titled “How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love,” featuring seven different viewpoints. One notable perspective is from cartoonist Hugh MacLeod, who urges readers to “draw the red line” to separate what you want to do from what you don’t. Philosopher Alain de Botton suggests we make sure our ideas of success are our own, not just what society has told us they should be.

Maria is a former recreational bodybuilder from Bulgaria, no kidding, and now lives in New York City. She has written for the best of the best, like The Atlantic, Wired UK, The New York Times and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. She’s an MIT Futures of Entertainment fellow and when you check out Brain Pickings, you’ll know why.

Maria’s changing the way we absorb education by making it inviting, easy to understand and meaningful. During college in Pennsylvania, she worked part time at an ad agency, where a colleague sent around an email with a rival ad agency’s work. Maria thought that was an unproductive way to inspire employees, so, she started Brain Pickings in 2006 as a weekly email to her colleagues and friends.

It caught on like wildfire, with Maria eventually bringing her musings online. Now, the site is even included in the Library of Congress’ permanent web archive, and 500,000 visitors browse her blog every month and her newsletter has 150,000 subscribers, folks who realize that by filling our heads with more than dreaded Excel spreadsheets, we will be more likely to create imaginative things.

Maria’s Brain Pickings gives readers the ability to open up a web page and find a world of fascination from something unexpected. How cool is that?


Perhaps honored most for his array of knowledge, physicist Albert Einstein knew the value of real imagination. He said:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

Get On The Dot in your inbox each day.
Copyright 2018 © On The Dot Woman - All Rights Reserved Privacy Policy