Most of the designs we sell were conceptualized while buzzed on alcohol. I usually prefer red wine or vodka soda to be specific. 1-3 drinks, to be specific-er. 4+ drinks kick me out of the creative flow state most of the time, so there's a sweet spot. There’s also less editing to do the next day when writing in the 1-3 drink window, in my experience. Being very drunk doesn't work for me.
Most designs we launch are successful, but some flops have been created while on the devil's juice, and while sober to be honest. What I have found is that ideas flow freely with a buzz on. Freely, as in no constraints and of varying quality. That's expected when brainstorming, and at that moment, most of them seem fantastic. That's why we need to write them down and look over them carefully the next day, sober. The problem is, sometimes we feel so convinced that the idea is impressive that we make an irreversible decision while buzzed. I don't recommend this. It's almost always better to sleep on it and exercise some discipline and patience. I've made some dumb business decisions while drinking over the years: nothing catastrophic, but things like over-promising something in the moment that stresses me out the next day. I've also ordered way too many T-shirts to sell on an unproven design, so they sit on the shelves, not making revenue. I've also agreed to do projects I don't want to or have the time to tackle. You know the routine.
Can alcohol improve your mental processing and lead to better business ideas? Yes. It also depends on the type of task we ask our brains to do.
You may have heard the quote, "Write drunk, edit sober." People often think Hemingway said it, but he didn't. The writer Peter De Vries did, and it makes total sense because we can see snippets of our past played out in this context.
The publication Science and Cognition has a nice writeup on several studies examining the effects of mild alcohol intoxication on creativity. The studies found that mild intoxication improved creative problem solving but did not affect divergent thinking and reduced executive control, go figure.
In a nutshell, alcohol improves creativity by suppressing our working memory. It reduces our inhibitions, allowing us more space to work creatively with less speed bumps getting in the way worrying about “what others might think.” It also decreases our analytical ability. Think less left brain and more right brain. You can geek out on the terminology and details HERE.
"Research has shown that the more working memory people have at their disposal, the better they perform on all sorts of analytical tasks that pop up at school and work. But, interestingly, wielding more working memory may hinder performance whenever thinking creatively or 'outside the box is necessary." - Psychology Today
So armed with this knowledge, can it be used to accomplish key tasks and responsibilities? I think so. Here's what I have done.
Disclaimer: First, you need to be of legal drinking age. What I'm sharing here is not advice, so don't do this. I'm simply telling you what I do at times.
If I need to create a new design and I'm really struggling, I set that task aside and get back on it with 1-3 glasses of wine, no more. I work on the big picture of the design, usually in Adobe illustrator, but sometimes I simply rough sketch the idea on paper or whiteboard until my mind starts to get lazy and I feel a noticeable drop in creative energy. At this point, I save the work for later. The nice thing is if the idea the next day still seems fantastic, I can work on it without the alcohol, which is nice because I hate hangovers, even mild ones. I also do not commit to the design by ordering a bunch of products while buzzed. That is risky. I only do that after sober reflection, and if it's a new design or concept that you're not sure folks will like, go lighter on the order/commitment.
Write your ideas down, especially when buzzed. You'll likely find that there are some hilariously stupid ideas there, but also some serious winners. I use the notes app on my iPhone because I am terrible at notebooks and remembering where I put them. Better yet, get some cool points and use a bar napkin to write your idea down. Just remember to fold it up and put it in your pocket. The next day you might pull out a life-changing concept.
Founder, Thirty Seconds Out