Creativity isn’t magical. It can seem like a lot of luck and random timing, but being creative is less about your “stroke of brilliance” and more about creating an environment where you naturally discover breakthrough solutions that no one else seems to be able to uncover.
What you often label as zany, crazy brilliant, or “out of the box” thinking is really just a handful of things that high performers do religiously. It’s a philosophy. A guidepost to help you navigate challenges.
So why aren’t you already more creative? Why aren’t you already adopting this philosophy that would make you a high performer?
Because being creative comes at a high cost.
It isn’t easy, fast, cheap, or simple to be creative. It’s confusing, sweaty, slow, and emotionally tasking.
To be creative you’ll have to cry, bleed, fight, wander, wonder, and hope. You’ll have to put yourself in positions that aren’t safe or satisfying in the short term.
But if you want it — if you want to blaze trails and light your path on fire — you just need to do a few things. And do them religiously.
1. You have to break a sweat, shout, and get angry.
There is a direct connection between creativity and physical activity. Neuroscientists can detect the early states of problem solving using fMRI scans. Those scans show that working up a sweat is a catalyst for the brain to create solutions faster.
That’s why cursing feels so good after you hit your thumb with a hammer — by getting angry and active you focus your brain on solving the brain that you feel at the moment. The same thing applies to any other problem. To be creative you have to set aside regular time to be active.
Go running. Go to the gym. Go do yoga or pilates or kung fu. If you’re not sweating you’re not as brilliant as you could be.
2. You have to say “I’m Sorry” and keep learning.
Being creative starts with personal honesty. You have to admit when you screw things up, hurt people around you, and don’t achieve the results that you want for you. By apologizing, by admitting that you are human, by learning what you don’t know — by doing those things you create new opportunities for achieving the results that you really want.
Self-delusion isn’t a recipe for breakthrough. Neither is selfishness. High performers practice gratitude and are continuously learning new skills, developing talents, and refining personal behaviors.
If you want to be amazing you might have to admit where you’re not all that good right now.
3. You have to fail, feel bad, and face your fears.
Creativity can look a lot like trial and error. Creative people fail more than everyone else.
It still hurts them like it hurts everyone else, but high performers know that the pain of failing is a prerequisite for the breakthrough that they want. They willing make tough choices that put them in low percentage win scenarios.
In that position they have to be creative in order to find a solution to the scary problem in front of them.
4. You have to care about others more than yourself.
You can’t be stuck on yourself and be good at spotting opportunities around you. The problem with pouting, plotting, or bring petty is that you are so busy thinking about the nonsense in your own life that you don’t notice all the amazing opportunities around you.
High performers care about other people. They don’t just act like they care. They are genuinely concerned about curing the pain they see in the world around them. That quest drives them to think and act and live creatively.
And none of that is fun or fair or fantastical.
It’s scary. And painful. And feels lousy.
But it’s worth it.