Back to the Future Movie Shows how to Connect Your Flux Capacitor & Find Your Jiggawat Jackpot

Annette Moser-Wellman, in her book, The Five Faces of Genius: The Skills to Master Ideas at Work, identifies five creative thinking styles or processes of ideation. The metaphors she uses to describe these creative tools are the Seer, the Observer, the Alchemist, the Fool and the Sage. Wellman shares a story about Albert Einstein to explain the importance of the creative face she calls the Seer.

Seers pay attention to the pictures in their mind’s eye. Albert Einstein’s radical, new theory of relativity began as an image he had as a young man when he pondered the picture of someone riding on a wave of light. He wondered, “What would the landscape look like as the person traveled through space?” Einstein paid attention to his new image of space and time. Pondered it. Cherished it. The 1985 Steven Spielberg movie, Back to the Future, is an allegorical story that alludes to Albert Einstein’s light-speed vision that occurred in the moments when he was riding in a streetcar and looked back at Bern’s clock tower. Einstein had moved to Bern, Switzerland in 1902 at the age of 22 from his hometown in Germany, carrying all his worldly belongings in a single suitcase.

Applying his new theory Einstein decided the clock would appear to him to have stopped, while the watch in his pocket also traveling at the speed of light would continue to run at the same time. This confirmed his idea that time is not the same for all observers when objects approach the speed of light.

Spielberg’s movie highlights the Seer’s creative ability. As Wellman explains it, the creative genius of the Seer breaks through by staying focused on their image. In Einstein’s case, he allowed himself to stay obsessed with the image of traveling at the speed of light.

Back to the Future both entertains and enlightens. It’s a modern-day parable about the cycle of time and clearing away negativity from the past can lead to a better future. It takes place in the small, modern town of Hill Valley. The Mayor, with the help of the local preservation society, wants to replace the clock in the town’s clock tower, which stopped almost 30 years ago when it was hit by lightening. Michael J. Fox’s character, Marty McFly, is a Teenager from Hill Valley whose parents are caricatures of low self-esteem. His father is so timid he can barely communicate, and his mother makes herself oblivious with alcohol.

Marty hangs out with a reclusive scientist named Doc Emit Brown, whom his high school principal says Marty should stay away from, or he’ll turn out to be a loser just like his father. Doc Brown is conducting a temporal experiment involving sending his dog, Einstein, on a journey through time in the Delorean with a clock attached to his collar. The Delorean is a sports car Brown has turned into a time travel machine. When the Delorean (operated by remote control) reaches the speed of 88 miles per hour it enters hyperspace, and Einstein, the dog, instantaneously becomes the world’s first time traveler. One minute later the Delorean returns and amazingly Einstein’s clock hasn’t changed! The heart of Doc’s vision, the Flux Capacitor, is what makes time travel in the Delorean possible. Brown’s challenge, however, is that the Delorean needs plutonium to run – or 121 jigawatts of electricity!

Where does he find the needed plutonium? Libyan Nationalists (terrorists) who later shoot Doc Brown because they want their plutonium back! But don’t worry, in the story Marty uses a small remaining supply of plutonium to go back in time to save Brown’s life by warning him just minutes ahead of time. In doing so Marty returns to an earlier Hill Valley and he meets his parents when they were teenagers. While he’s there he intervenes in their lives and changes their future, and thus his own.

After this Marty is able to return to his own time, even though he is out of plutonium, with the help of a younger Doc Brown who harnesses the power of lightening, which Marty knows will hit the Hill Valley Clock Tower at exactly 2 minutes after midnight. This provides enough energy (121 jiggawatts of electricity) to kick-start the Delorean into hyperspace. Finally, Marty returns in triumph to the Hill Valley of the present to find that Doc Brown has been saved by a precautionary, bullet-proof vest and Marty’s parents are now confident, successful people.

Doc Brown’s creative skill as a Seer and the dream he had thirty years ago made all this possible. He was standing on the edge of the toilet hanging a clock in the bathroom, when he slipped, fell and hit his head on the sink. When he came to, he had a revelation – A Vision: The Flux capacitor, which is the heart of his creative invention and what makes time travel possible. It took him almost 30 years to realize the vision of that day. This happened because, like Albert Einstein, he stayed focused on his image and allowed it to live into the future.

This charming allegorical story is a modern day parable of dreams and the amazing power they have to lead us into the future. Doc Brown dreamed of a kind of heart (The Flux Capacitor) that would allow energy to flow past time barriers! The hidden message here is that we too can choose to open our hearts and minds to a new world of exciting possibilities. Like Marty, this intra-personal connectivity has a way of grounding us and clearing away negativity so we can receive the power of love to breakthrough to our own Jiggawatt Jackpot!