Creativity

Amateurs Add, Professionals Edit

Constraints make creativity valuable.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark


Some would argue that creativity is best when there are no constraints and the artist or business is free to do whatever they like. I disagree – constraints are what make creativity valuable.

It's easy to be creative if your client has a multi-million dollar budget. It's much less so if that budget is only a few thousand dollars. A professional can hone their creativity and deliver something beautiful regardless of the financial constraints.

Amateurs add, professionals edit. The best restaurants have fewer menu options, not more. The best magazines and blogs are the ones that curate their content and don't settle for information (or inspiration) overload. The best photographers are the ones who can capture myriad emotions in a single image. The best designers are the ones who keep deleting ideas until the product is so simple you think you could have created it yourself.

Constraints and editing require clarity of thought and vision. Constraints require someone to truly know their craft. These things make a business more valuable, not less.
 


Originally published November 2010

What You Gain From Not Paying Attention To Your Frienemies

Party by    Todd Events   , photo by    Cameron Clark   .

Party by Todd Events, photo by Cameron Clark.


One of the most toxic things you can do is try to justify or minimize another person's success. Just do your thing and let them do theirs.

Justifying or minimizing someone else's success often comes in the form of a statement like, "Jane can accomplish that because she has X, Y, and Z – whereas I only have Y and Z.” This way of thinking and living is debilitating. 

What could you accomplish if you channeled even a fraction of the energy you spend on being bitter towards someone else because they were seemingly dealt a better hand, or because others, "Don't know what Jane is really like?"

Spending 15 minutes per day – ten minutes here, five minutes there – hate-following someone on Instagram or Facebook adds up to 91 hours per year.

That's more than two 40-hour work weeks spent focusing on the negative. Over two weeks of creativity lost because of misplaced focus. And if we're honest, many of us spend much more than fifteen minutes per day focusing on competitors or frienemies.

What could you create with even just 10% of that energy and time if it were focused on making YOU better?

If you can't ever seem to find time to exercise, how would your health change if you committed to just fifteen minutes instead of the desired-but-never-happening hour-long session?

What new product or service could you launch if you had two extra work weeks in the year?

You have more time than you think.
 


The original version of this post was published June 2009

How To Be Inspired By Social Media (Instead of Drained)


It’s been said we’re the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. This can be transferred to who we "hang out" with online, as well.

It's easy (and trendy) to blame social media for our problems, but that blame is misplaced. Social media is like money in that it's amoral. It can be used for good or evil (or just to further lazy complacency), depending on how we choose to use it.

If you "learn nothing" from social media, that's on you. Take stock of who and what you allow to shape your thoughts, and raise the bar where necessary. 

If you listen to podcasts or watch educational videos, listen to ones hosted by people who talk about ideas from a point of both expertise and curiosity and who bring a thoughtful perspective to the table. I love On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett. The Stanford Graduate School of Business also puts many of their guest lectures and interviews on YouTube, as do other business schools. On the occasion I listen to podcasts from a business consultant, it is by consultants that I would hire for myself.

If you’re taking an online course, consider taking a free one through MIT, Harvard, Columbia, etc through EdX. They have over a thousand free classes covering multiple areas of interest, including first-rate business courses ranging from Business 101 to marketing to finance to supply chains. 

Follow artists on Instagram who have nothing to do with your field so that you can train yourself to see inspiration everywhere and learn from someone else's very different creative process. 

The purpose of Twitter is mindshare, which is why it is the preferred social media platform for so many leaders. Follow people who talk about things that cause you to think about topics from a different angle. Twitter has evolved, so if you haven't been on it in a few years, treat it as a listening tool for a while so you can learn how it's used differently now than it was in the past. 

Social and online media is a great way to gain exposure to new people and ideas that sharpen you, force you to examine long-held beliefs you may have never questioned, and spark your creativity. This is especially true if you work from home and don't have the same in-person interactions that a standard corporate office has.

If you leave social media feeling more drained than inspired, change who you follow. You are the sum of who you surround yourself with, online and off. 
 


Originally published March 2017