🧠 Invert, Always Invert

A Counterintuitive Business and Innovation Strategy used by Elite Entrepreneurs and Creative Geniuses
🧠 Invert, Always Invert
Jake McNeill
October 21, 2021
5 min read
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The human brain is fucking amazing.

One of its many talents is the ability to spot patterns in life and business. We can interrupt these patterns to disrupt industries.

This is what the Elon Musks, Steve Jobs and Albert Einsteins of this world do/ did.

Or we can connect disparate patterns to create innovative patterns that give us a competitive advantage.

They also do/ did this as well.

In the 19th century, the German mathematician Carl Jacobi made a number of important contributions to science during his career.

He was, however, well known for his ability to solve extremely complex problems by following a simple strategy of “man muss immer umkehren” or, roughly translated, “invert, always invert.”


In the early 1980’s Cirque de Soleil was one of the hundreds of traveling circuses that needed to make more money in a declining market.

They created a challenge. “How might we change the circus experience from something cheap to entertain kids, to a high end event for adults?”

First, they wrote out common complaints about the standard circus experience.

Circuses are famous or infamous for the following:

  • Cheap, often tacky entertainment for kids
  • All circus shows followed the same format
  • They used unknown performers
  • Terrible animal welfare

Cirque de Soleil wanted to stand out and make a racket so they inverted the circus experience and did the opposite.

  • High-end circus entertainment for adults
  • Every touring show would use a different format
  • They would employ world-renowned performers
  • No animals

The previous market leaders, The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circuses stopped trading a few years ago after over a century in the circus business.

Cirque de Soleil is now a world-famous billion-dollar entertainment company.

Invert, or die.


What is 7% of 50? Don’t ask yourself this. It’s hard. Simplify it by inverting the question.

Ask yourself what is 50% of 7. It’s 3.5, of course. It’s the same answer, with a simpler question.

What is 12% of 25? Is a hard question.

What is 25% of 12 is a lot easier. Both methods will give you the same answer.

Invert, and simplify.


Want to create iconic art that stands out and gets noticed?

Andy Warhol inverted colour to iconic shots to create art. He took famous images and thought about how to make them different.

The best way to do that is to break art into components and invert an aspect that retains the iconic aesthetic but transforms it into some new and fresh.

Banksy inverts the items to create thought-provoking paradoxes that stand out and gets attention.

Invert, and create


As a younger man, I suffered from anxiety.

I was a control freak. On a subconscious level, l thought by controlling everything I was protecting myself from anxiety.

This is a common but poor strategy.

Control freaks aren’t protecting themselves from anxiety, their control freakery is creating it.

Most things in life and business are uncontrollable and our futile attempts of trying and failing to control them actually create anxiety, not protect us from it.

Roman and Greek philosophers worked this out thousands of years ago.

The dichotomy of control is a Stoic practice that basically states some things are within our control and others are not. It provides us a framework to be effective at solving problems by dividing them into segments. Things we can control, and things we can’t.

Invert, and find peace of mind.



Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger are billionaire business partners.

They are contrarian investors. Unlike the crowd, they don’t find safety in following the herd. The crowd is terrible investors.

Buffet and Munger do the opposite. This is their investment strategy.

“We simply try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful” — Warren Buffet

When the crowd sells; they buy. When the crowd buys; they don’t.

Invert, and make better investments.


The Navy Seals have a training test called ‘drown proofing’ where they tie cadets’ hands behind their backs and through them into the deep end of a pool.

The cadet's natural reaction is to thrash about in an attempt to free their hands and keep their head above the water.

These cadets would drown if assistance wasn’t available to them.  

The more the cadets struggle to keep their heads above the water the deeper they are dragged down.

Cadets need to relax and their natural buoyancy will see them float safely on the water.

Cadets have to fight their survival instinct in order to live.

Invert, and live

Elite sports

As a young man in the UK, Ian Wright dreamt of becoming a professional football (soccer) player. He was extremely talented but failed to perform well under pressure.

He tried everything but failed trial after trial with 4 different professional football clubs.

In his early twenties, Ian got married and had a child. He gave up on his dream and got a job in a factory to pay the bills.

He continued to play amateur football on Sundays. A coach from Crystal Palace happened to spot him and invited him for a trial.

Ian declined, initially, but showed the letter to his boss at the factory. His boss convinced him to take his full two weeks holiday entitlement and go and enjoy himself.

Ian knew he wouldn’t get signed so he went and treated it like a football holiday safe in the knowledge he would return to the factory and could pay his bills.

Without the pressure on himself, he played brilliantly and Crystal Palace signed him.

He became their record top scorer. Arsenal, one of the UK’s biggest teams, signed Ian where he went on to the club’s top scorer and won the following:

Premier League title

The FA Cup twice

The League Cup

The European Cup Winners Cup.

In 2005, Ian Wright was voted into the English footballs Hall of Fame.

Ian learned to stop trying too hard and just enjoy himself. Relax and let your talent flow.

Invert, and perform better.


The British philosopher Alan Watts talked about backward law.

“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float’ and that ‘insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.” — Alan Watts

The more we try and be something the less likely we are to achieve it.

Unhappiness is the result of trying too hard to be happy. Failure is the result of trying too hard to be successful.

Humans get in their own way. Relax, enjoy the process, and what will be…will be.


If you have a problem try inverting it. More often than not it will provide a solution.

Everyone follows the crowd. This is generally a terrible strategy. If you want to stand out and make a fucking racket in a crowded market, think differently.

Disruptive Creative Thinking is a process anyone can learn.

You need to lead and not follow if you want to disrupt markets.

Talking of disruptors…👇

Greenhaas Plugin by Multi-platinum genius producer, mixer, and all-round top human, Ken Lewis

For the musicians and producers amongst us, do yourself a solid and check out Ken’s new plugin


It is getting rave reviews!

I’m not an affiliate for this, just a friend who recognises creative geniuses who put their balls on the line to push the boundaries and disrupt markets with heart and innovation.

Peace out ✌️

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