Outgrowing Your Inner Black Sheep: A Tragedy of Adulthood
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Oct
08

Outgrowing Your Inner Black Sheep: A Tragedy of Adulthood


It seems like we never stop hearing about how creative children are. We marvel at their “unexpected” clothing choices; we’re charmed by their nontraditional blanket forts. We fight back laughter when an incredibly unconventional fib puts the blame for the missing cookies on an unlikely scapegoat.

Tragically, though, the average grown-up does not think him or herself capable of creativity. This elusive quality seems somehow no longer applicable to our current, adult selves.

WHAT HAPPENED, selves? Did we outgrow it, like stirrup pants and footy pajamas? Did it leak out our ears while we slept? Or perhaps it disappeared suddenly, chased away by all the newer things that came with puberty. Yes, the majority of us seem to believe that creativity was left lying out on the curb, cushioned by a pile of outgrown training bras and superhero underpants, never to be seen again.

To use the words of Paul Arden:

“Nonsense. Creativity is imagination, and imagination is for everyone.”

“Creative” is not, then, a derivative of artistic talent, nor a type of person, nor a relic of childhood. It is simply a universal trait we’ve forgotten to use — mostly because we’ve (wrongly) convinced ourselves that we don’t need it.

The truth is that if you THINK, you require CREATIVITY. If you have problems to solve and people to manage and products to market and systems to improve upon, you must think creatively. Otherwise, things will never be any different — any better — than they already are.
Albert Einstein may have been a physicist governed by the laws of, well, physics, but he derived formulas out of sheer entropy. He had to think about physics unlike anyone had ever thought about physics — that is to say, he had to think creatively.

Behind every scientific advance, patent, trademark, breakthrough management style or new business, there stands a person with a new idea. A Creative Person with Imagination.

But if you’re not in the habit of thinking creatively, how do you do it?

Take a cue from your kid.
Nathan Martin describes it like this: “If you look at things based on what you know them to be, and the rules that you know to restrict them, then you will always create the same thing that’s been created before… So think like an amateur…This amateur gives you the ability to think like a child, to play with new things. THAT is being fearless. If you can look at something and ignore that you’re not supposed to use it in a certain way, ignore what you’ve been taught is the way to behave and think more like an amateur, you’ll be able to innovate.”

As we grow up, we streamline our life processes. We develop habits, and these habits help us function efficiently. We do the same things in the same order when we get up in the morning; we buy the same products at the grocery store. Routines allow us to function rather mindlessly, and in the case of creative thinking, that’s what we’re trying to avoid. If you’re trying to solve a problem creatively, don’t allow your mind to travel down the same paths. Start again and channel your former self, that adorable little rebel.

Desire a creative solution.
Sometimes it’s that simple, folks. There are improvements to be made to most anything you do or see in a day. Decide you will look for those improvement opportunities, and then look for their solutions. Ask yourself, “Why do I do it this way?” If the answer is “because it’s the best way,” then by all means carry on. If the answer is “because that’s how I’ve always done it,” look at improving it. Did you know you can roll up the cord to a hair dryer twice as fast if you fold it in half first instead of starting with the plug? Little things, people. Little things.

Give your brain a break.
We like to tell ourselves that we don’t need to rest. “I’m as smart now as I was when I started this project 14 hours ago, and dadgummit this campaign HAS TO GET DONE NOW.”

No matter how much we hate to admit it, our creative abilities DO suffer from overload.  So suck it up and take fifteen minutes to go do anything else.

Put good stuff in, get good stuff out.
Right now we’re more aware than ever that “creative” people need to have intellectual variety — occasional breaks, exercise, stimulating input. Enough sleep. Those high-maintenance creative folks.

Hello, it’s not just “creatives.” EVERYONE needs variety, free time and stimulation to be really good at what they do. Your mind is most open when you’re feeding it interesting things and letting it relax occasionally. So go for a walk or seek someone else’s input. Maybe take a longer-than-usual shower and don’t wash your hair first. You know, really shake things up.

Think logically. Then revolt.
A large part of creativity is simply doing or showing something in an unexpected way. Think of the most obvious way. Then do something that ISN’T THAT.

In conclusion:

1) You are a creative person.

2) Creativity is useful everywhere, all the time, in all things, by everyone.

3) Numbers and creativity are not diametrically opposed, neither is an engineer the antithesis of a designer. Stop making excuses for being stuck in a rut or bad at math.

4) Return to your youthful roots and think like a child. Below is a child’s drawing of a house. There is an alpaca in the master bedroom. Why? Because he likes alpacas. And he isn’t limited by habits, rules, livestock laws and the judgments of others.


Outgrowing Your Inner Black Sheep: A Tragedy of Adulthood

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