post by Colleen Mallett

Creative thoughts led Albert Einstein to develop the general theory of relativity. Einstein was passionate about honing creative skills to increase pleasure and enable professional problem solving and innovation.



Young Albert was known to daydream which frustrated his teachers to no end.  At age 16 he imagined that he was travelling on a beam of light.  Continually returning to this daydream paved the way for many of his innovative theoretical discoveries.  “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales,” he said.  “Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the world.”

photo: Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images



The very talented and creative Hollywood fashion designer Irene Saltern was inspired by Einstein.  When she was a teenager in Germany Albert Einstein was her neighbour and he used to take her out sailing on his boat.  During their conversations Einstein offered Irene important tips about living a creative life one being “Keep something to write with (and on) by your bedside.”

Scientific research tell us that moments before we fall asleep when we are deeply relaxed our brain waves enter the Theta state.  It’s almost like dreaming when you’re still awake and creativity is increased.  Vivid imagery, new ideas and absorption of the days learning can all happen in this Zen like state.




Einstein loved sailing and did lots of it.  “The natural counterplay of wind and water delighted him most”, said Dr Gustav Buckey, friend and sailing partner.  He sailed like he lived life; absentmindedly.  He liked to take chances with his boat when the sea was rough and tease his fellow passengers with his dangerous navigation skills.  But he also loved it when the sea was calm and quiet. Einstein would sit and think while listening to the gentle waves lapping endlessly against the side of the boat.  He found inspiration in his boat and was never without his notepad onboard to record his thoughts.

photo: -/AFP/Getty Images



“Personally, I experience the greatest degree of pleasure in having contact with works of art,” Einstein said.  They furnish me with happy feelings of intensity that I cannot derive from other sources.”  Einstein was passionate about music.  He had many violins over the years and named them all Lina.  Both his sister Maja and later his son Hans would recount how he would take refuge in music when trying to resolve a difficult problem.  After playing his violin or piano he would suddenly stop and recount “There now, I’ve got it!”



Einstein never learned to drive a car; he preferred to walk.  He spent the last 22 years of his life at Princeton University and walked to and from his office every day.  If he walked alone he would often get lost. “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”   Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz from Stanford ran a study that confirmed the theory that walking helps in creative thinking, “We found that simply walking actually does improve creativity for everyone.” 



Another tip for creativity Einstein passed on to his protégé Irene was to collect interesting friends which he had many of.  Being a film buff when Einstein had the opportunity to first visit California he made it known that he wanted to meet with Charlie Chaplin.  The two curious minds of different genius became fast friends.  In the Spring of 1939 when Einstein was in Southold New York for some sailing he went looking for a pair of sandals at the Rothman’s Department store.  His thick German accent made it sound to David Rothman that he was looking for “sundials” which they did not sell but offered to give Einstein the one he had in his backyard.  After an amusing exchange Einstein finally got his sandals and the two became friends for life. 


“Compassionate people are geniuses in the art of living, more necessary to the dignity, security, and joy of humanity than the discoverers of knowledge.” 


Albert Einstein