I wish someone would have pulled me aside when I was 20 years old and took the time to tell me that:
1. My problems aren’t unique.
That problem it’s nothing new. Your challenge, someone already beat it. So ask some questions, read some books, talk to someone who is seasoned and figure out how to apply others solutions to your situation. You are special but your problems are not special…they are common and you will beat them.
2. Look Beyond.
Don’t worry about what others think. Be adventures and trust your gut. Look at your current situation and ask what advice you would give to your best friend if they had your situation. Problem solving is a creative exercise. Embrace it.
3. Ask more questions and keep your mouth shut.
You will learn so much more listening than you will by talking. If you have to talk, let it be to ask questions. Shhhh…It will make more sense.
4. Refuse Excuses.
They are energy suckers. The amount of time we spend creating them delays us from doing our best work. Not only that, they rob us the opportunity to build amazing trust equity by owning our mistakes. We don’t learn from success, we learn from massive, ugly, grand failure.
5.Look For Solutions Not Just Problems.
Problems are everywhere. Solutions are to, but most people don’t want to find them. They would much rather complain about the problems. There is a premium found in problem solvers.
6.Manage Moral More Than Risk.
Attitude matters. If we worry more about moral then we do risk, we will never have to worry about risk because we will build cultures that feel they can accomplish ANYTHING! Vision creates amazing moral and moral fuels us to do the impossible.
7. Continually Collect Data.
Early on I was afraid of data. I was afraid it would show everyone I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Then I learned that no one does so data is just a roadmap for us to identify what works best where we are. Data is our friend, when we ignore it we cost ourselves more than we could help! Learn to embrace data, collect it relentlessly, and use it to make our best art.
8. Find Community.
We are better with it. More artists give us more leverage and better ideas. Community will be the best thing that ever happens to us and will hurt us only to build us up again. Life is better when we are in community.
9. Remember Who You Are.
Who you are is not what you make, what you achieve, what ideas you have, or how people respond to what you do. Who you are is exactly the person God made you and who he intended you to be. Be comfortable in that unique place.
I am trying to learn how to transition as a creative person into a creative leader.
It’s not easy.
Moving from being the person who “does” to the person who “leads” takes a shift in mindset, approach, and confidence.
I even had a friend of mine explain the process to me this way: ”You have to redefine what success looks like” in order to grow.
While it is uncomfortable, it is amazingly rewarding finding new ways to empower people to do their best work every day. You watch them grow, develop, contribute and be consumed with their opportunities.
I recently was reading an interesting article by Jordan Cohen about the power of empowering people to do their best work. Cohen’s main thesis included a simple truth that can change everything when working with artists.
When we tell people what to do, most of the time, the will do it. And likely that is all they will do.
But when we tell people, especially creative people, what we are trying to achieve it changes everything. Telling people what we are trying to achieve empowers them to be creative, use their skills, develop amazing solutions, innovate new ideas, and ultimately be amazingly fulfilled by their work.
But that takes trust. Rarely do trust and control live together.
Explaining the outcome is exciting, empowering and inclusive. When we tell people what to do, especially people who are creative, leaders or driven, we actually forfeit their ability to do their best work. Sure, they will do what they are told for a season, but they become disengaged, removed, bored, and start to look for new challenges.
It’s natural to fight this I think, we empower people…they don’t do what we think they should do or do not produce the results we think should be produced and we lean in. We manage harder and more directly. And what we don’t realize is that as leaders we are costing ourselves long-term success with short term gain. If we want the best we have to trust OUR best to create THEIR best.
Again, this is not easy. But I am thankful to be learning this lesson. Leadership is not about what I want; leadership is about what is best.
So the next time things don’t go the way we want, rather than reacting, we need to respond by reframing the results we desire from the process.
Creative meetings don’t work.
We put a lot of pressure on these meetings. We schedule a time where all the ideas are supposed to show up and “WOW” everyone. But the truth of the matter is if we are not intentional, creative meetings don’t work.
I know this from experience. As leaders, it’s our job to host creative meetings that have a chance at producing returns. So why are our meetings not working?
- Not prepared in advance – The ideas can’t show up when we get there. For a creative meeting to produce anything of value, each member has to do the work in advance of the meeting. Make sure as a leader to give as much information as possible on the topic as early as possible and then give attendees a chance to collect, review, and prepare. Very rarely does a creative meeting produce anything of value if those in the meeting are not equipped early and encouraged to bring the ideas, inspiration, and concepts they have collected over the course of time.
- Not building the right environment – Environment matters. If we’re not creating a mood that enhances creativity, we can’t expect the results necessary to make this meeting matter. Think about lighting, music, location, and activities for attendees. Without an environment that can inspire, we risk the time even being worth it.
- Leaders talk too much – Leaders set tone. With that in mind, it’s important that people feel empowered to speak freely. When leaders inject their opinion early, they taint the natural direction of the creative process. It’s important to learn the discipline of going last and allowing the amazing members of our teams to speak freely, first, and openly about their ideas. When they feel empowered to go first, it allows fresh and new ideas with a completely unique perspective.
- No direction – If a creative team does not have a moderator leading the meeting, it can’t succeed. There’s a theory that organization stifles creativity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Order helps create intentionality and boundaries for great ideas to thrive. Have a moderator with a plan and an itinerary. Stay on task and respect the time of those attending.
- Wrong People – Who should be invited to a creative meeting? Everyone. Anyone. Diversity is key and good ideas can come from anywhere. Staff, volunteers, people who are in and out of your organization. People who have nothing to do with what you do. Get unique voices so you get unique perspective.
- Create space for all ideas and edit later – Creative meetings make the most sense when we get our best ideas verbalized. Creative meetings should be safe environments where anyone can say anything without the fear of criticism. Collect all these ideas and encourage them. Never say no or bad. Editing happens later. If we want creative meetings to matter, allow them to be idea incubators.
So the next time you’re tasked to host a creative meeting, learn from mistakes I’ve lived through so you don’t have to! Creative meetings can be great when they are done well and with purpose.
We have all felt the tension. We make something then we get to that moment where others are going to see it and we want to grab it, run away, and never let anyone see it. Ever. No because we are not proud of our creations or afraid we have not done the work…but because we are scared.
As a creative community we have a responsibility to share our creations. I mean, honestly, we are not just creating art for ourselves. Part of the process is sharing it and having it consumed by others. This is not easy and it takes a brave person.
Unlike any other department, our department lives in the crosshairs of evaluation. Our successes and our failures play out publicly for all to see, judge, and consume. It takes courage to share new things because sharing new things is an uphill climb.
People are creatures of habit. It is safer and more comfortable to accept the status quo and not like things that are “new”. But without anything new there is never progress or development. As artists, we have to believe in the art we are creating, the new thing, to a level greater than the negativity we will face when we start to share. It takes thick skin and a commitment to follow the process.
Think about it for a minute. We are criticized, challenged, and often judged in real time on work that is subjective at best. Art is judged by opinions. “Because” and “I don’t like it” are not concrete positions, they are someone’s personal preference. They do not make what you are creating right or wrong.
After a few bad experiences it is easy to wither and slip into the trap of playing it safe.
But safe doesn’t make an impact or change the world.
We need you to be creative.
We need your best and we need your dangerous.
We need those thoughts that scare you to share because without them we don’t have a chance to grow, develop, and create the new norms.
We need you feeling safe enough to take some chances and brave enough to go with your gut. When you are brave we are better…so please be brave.
Don’t back down.
Don’t be scared.
Create with passion.
And refuse to play it safe.
It is not easy to stay creative. We get busy. We have responsibilities. Life gets fast and intense. We want to create our best stuff, all the time, but it is not easy. Sometimes we need a little jump-start. Other times, we need to intentionally create just to stay fresh. Here are a few FREE ways to keep you creative:
- Stay alert – Look for creative inspiration. Look for things that spark an idea or your imagination. They may be anywhere. When we stay alert we identify the hidden nuggets of creative inspiration in the world around us.
- Write something down – Daily. Write down an idea or a thought, maybe a picture. Write it down and save it. If we don’t write ideas down we risk losing them. Are you willing to lose a unicorn if you could capture one?
- Take a picture – Every day. Take a picture of something. Taking pictures forces us to frame our world. It forces us to look at one area not the entire panoramic. Taking pictures gives us a lesson in composition of the world around us.
- Have a conversation – Talk to someone who agrees with you, someone who will disagree. Someone who challenges you and someone you can encourage. Conversations build community and community builds great art.
- Change positions – Find a different place or angle to work. New canvases create new opportunities for ideas.
- Use your device – Load an app and explore Pinterest, Flipboard, Twitter or Stumble Upon. Find something new that can challenge you.
- Get alone – Sometimes we have to get alone. Block out the noise and the distractions. Turn off email and twitter. Avoid Instagram. Find the screaming ideas that are hiding in the silence.
- Listen to something new/ different – Music we love can inspire us but so can music we don’t know. Change the soundtrack and adapt it to the mood you are in or the mood you need to get into.
- Watch – A movie, a play, or a documentary. Challenge yourself with the art.
- Don’t settle – Look at art you have created and find adjustments. What can you make better?
- Don’t quit – Ever. It is the only thing that will keep you from being your creative best. Quitting is the end goal of the resistance…don’t fall victim. Failure and setbacks can make you better. Tomorrow is only a day away…unless you quit.
Warren Buffett once said that ”the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” -
We always have a reason to look back. But often times looking back can be a trap.
It can be a trap because our success can make us comfortable and our failure can freeze us in fear.
As a creative community we have to learn to keep our eyes forward.
Repeating our successes won’t help us create anything new while fearing our failures, or that we might repeat our failures, paralyzes our creativity.
We are not defined by our success or our failure.
You are an artist. You were created by the creator of the universe to create and to see the world differently. You have a gift that takes courage to use and most people are not courageous enough to engage that gift.
Lean into that truth today and not the lie that you have done your best work or that your failure limits your ability.
I really believe that everyone is creative. Some of us have done a lot of work to fight for and exercise our creative muscle while others have chosen a respectable, but different alternative. While we’re all creative, there are some natural talents and gifts given to people and it’s up to the artist what they do with these gifts. Some of the common traits of successful creative people include:
- Imagination Orientation – Full of ideas and playful. Often drift between reality and fiction but have the ability to be committed.
- Desperate to be Original – Does not want to be “bound”. Seeks to stretch the limits and withers when micro-managed. Want to do things that no one else has done and is driven by the risk of going first.
- Motivated – Loves a challenge. Is innovative even in his/her attitude. Has the ability to work hard because of the passion to complete and achieve. Is very goal oriented.
- Ambitions – Never satisfied. Ever. But does work that attracts attention.
- Flexible – Problems don’t scare them because they see them as opportunity. These are problem solvers. They see things different and come up with amazing solutions.
- Emotionally Charged – They are connected to what they create. They live in the emotion of what they make. One day they will be up. Another, down. But the messier they are, the better work they do. Most good art is created out of angst. Having the ability to find those “places” helps artists do their work, but also leaves them unstable from time to time. The emotional charge also leaves them struggling with security.
- High Belief – Amazing belief in why they do what they do, and often too much belief in themselves. It’s an interesting balance of insecurity and confidence that creates a pallet for good work to be done.
Some of these traits are more flattering than others. Norwegian psychologist Øyvind L. Martinsen, when talking about how the minds of creative people work, makes this observation “creative people are not always equally practical and performance oriented.” As creative professionals, we have a responsibility to be both creative and professional.
Some of these traits make us our best creatively and others emphasis where we need to work to be more professional. In my experience, it’s far easier to be creative than it is to be professional. As artists, we feel people don’t get us or that we are entitled to being moody or temperamental. The truth is, we have to lean in to the stuff that makes us better – the stuff that we do that others won’t or are afraid to do, but resist the urge to be…well, a jerk.
Organizations will put up with moody talent for a while. And talent can permission artists to act out, but eventually, the cost of morale, management, time, and the frustration of dealing with a ”moody artist” just isn’t worth it and the organization will decide to move on.
“…analogies, it is true, decide nothing, but they can make one feel more at home.” – Sigmund Freud
There’s amazing power inside of a good analogy. Good analogies provide the ability to relate and understand, much like a decoder ring. I have found that analogies can help creative people relate to problems, strategy, and concepts better than just rolling out raw data or information. But what makes a good analogy? Here are some common traits:
- Tell Stories – Good analogies create pictures. They take information and put a skin of story around them.
- Transfer Data – Analogies remove emotion and opinion because the good ones just transfer data from boring to practical. When we remove the emotions and opinions, we’re left with only the necessary information that can translate into an analogy. A good analogy makes the exact same point as the raw information, just in a unique and creative way.
- Makes it simple – Don’t chase rabbit trails. Before using an analogy, think it through. Make sure that it’s simple. The art is in the simplicity. Tell more with less…it matters.
- Reframes the issue – The beauty of an analogy is that it allows us to reframe any issue. Reframing provides the ability to translate data into a language we can use. It makes the information relatable.
- Drives home a point – An analogy with no point or a weak point only creates confusion.
Analogies help us solve problems and think more strategically while applying a creative lens to our situations. They help us understand a little better and give our best problem solvers a chance to uncover solutions that aren’t always easy to identify. Do you use analogies? Have you found they help?