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Following our passion or chasing the money seems to be the classic dilemma of life - especially for creative entrepreneurs.

passion-vs-money
picture: Pixabay by ejaugsburg

Sure, we all know those who are not only passionate about their work but also incredibly successful. So even though this four minute mile has long been broken, we seem to believe that it’s reserved for the few and fortunate to achieve “the dream.”

Yet, when we look at 1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly, he basically breaks down how success is very attainable to those of us without a Lady Gaga following.

My friend August gives some good advice on how to pay attention to your passions. She recommends taking time to meditate and to write down ideas.

I’m a big fan of both of these ideas. For a long time I resisted meditation - believing this to be too “passive” or just plain waste of time. In reality it is essential to creativity.

There’s been studies that one of the key reasons why we sleep is to “empty the cup.” Our brains literally need to dump their buffers filled with stuff that accumulates throughout day. According to this video and referenced study, it’s one or the other.. operating or flushing wastes..

On the other hand Mike Rowe shares why he says we shouldn’t follow our passions - he shares how his passion was to be a tradesman, but was told by his grandfather that life would be a lot more satisfying and productive if I got myself a different kind of toolbox.

That was a tough and bitter pill to swallow, but Rowe says, “I remember a very successful septic tank cleaner who told me his secret of success. ‘I looked around to see where everyone else was headed, and then I went the opposite way,’ he said. ‘Then I got good at my work. Then I found a way to love it. Then I got rich.’”

So, how can we “turn pro” as creative entrepreneurs?

While you’re building your bridge to creative life, invest in side projects. These will often be the building blocks to your future success. Felicia Day found that different skills like craft paid off when she needed to everything from graphics for her videos to promotional flyers.

Steve Jobs discovered that his passion for calligraphy helped Apple to find its niche with desktop publishers and graphic designers.

Surround yourself with creative entrepreneurs - especially those who are just a little ahead of you on the path you want to go down.

Whether it’s the new wave of film makers like George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, or the Paris writers during the 1920s like Hemingway, you will find not only inspiration and encouragement but connections for funding or work.

Our school systems still teach the pass / fail mentality of the Industrial Age. Instead, choose to think in terms of only success and lessons. We’ve definitely talked about how fear is the death of creativity.

As Thomas A. Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10000 ways that won't work."

Your creative business is a lot like tango. When I teach a class, I point out how students often get in their own way by being afraid to try a step. Being relaxed and open to possibilities allows your creativity to flow.

So where do you stand on this debate? How you feel about this decision?

"Onegaishimasu." [for what we're about to receive] This Japanese expression always makes me think about AC/DC - "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You"." It's the way to invite your partner to practice with you in aikido.

Finding Creative Flow

We bowed respectfully to each other and began practicing the technique that Michael Gelb has just demonstrated.. although I was familiar with this waza (skill,) somehow I never saw it the same again.

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photo credit: hoangp via Foter

Gelb had explained how the core movement was a helix & tied it to DNA - I'd learned later on that he's a management consultant specializing in helping executives think creatively..

At the time I was still working on my MBA, and ironically we ended up using his book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci as a text book in our entrepreneur class.

Creativity and the Law of Attraction

Some folks may think of the whole Law of Attraction thing as a bit too "woo woo".. but if we take it on the general dynamics of this, it's the difference between being attractive vs repulsive..

Just ask any boy who grew up here in the states about the story of Tom Sawyer and he'll know how Tom enticed the neighborhood kids into painting the fence for him. Instead of chasing after others to help (being repulsive) he made them curious and ultimately the task irresistible to the others.

Seems a bit fanciful? Well, for years Cellspace weekly dances has been run on volunteer efforts.. while other tango events involved paid help, individuals came together and volunteered their time to teach classes, DJ, even set up and clean.

Inviting MORE of What We Want

But what about our personal lives? How does being grateful invite in MORE - more fun, more joy, more creativity?

I've shared before how Julia Cameron's Artists Way is a chance to explore and to be curious. Hidden within the DNA of her method is gratitude..

  • Taking walks - appreciation and gratitude for nature
  • Morning pages - 3 daily meditations on what we're grateful
  • Artist's dates - enjoying what we have and again being grateful

Today I make it a daily routine to meditate. I've resisted this for a L-O-N-G time.. but finally I realized I needed to "empty the cup" - both mentally and spiritually. Only then do we have room to invite more of what we want - not only be affirming and visualizing, but with a sense of GRATITUDE.

Without gratitude we focus on the negative. We invite into our lives more of what we DON'T want that way.

Henry Ford said

whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right" Thoughts are energy.

Whatever we put our energy into we get more of.. That's just a basic law of the universe - energy is neither created nor destroyed. So, when we talk about what we put our energy into, this is what we mean.

For the longest time I've known this but didn't fully appreciate the meaning. Reading this core message of Napolean Hill's classic Think & Grow Rich (get your free copy), I didn't fully appreciate the depth of its meaning.

What the Greatest Businessman You've Never Heard Of Taught Me about Gratitude and Success

A wise friend reminded me how "you know, John, the problem is that it's too simple. People naturally want to complicate it." He passed away a few years ago, but this friend died a rich man in my book surrounded by a thriving family and those who will always remember his generous spirit of service.

The one thing that struck me about this creative entrepreneur was how grateful he was. From the first time that I bought him a cup of coffee at Starbucks (our default meeting place) to the birthday wishes, this friend always expressed a sincere gratitude for even the smallest gesture.

When Dave started out as an entrepreneur, he would camp along the beach with his son out of the delivery van used to deliver books to stores. Although his business was just starting out, Dave was always grateful for time spent with his family, and he said that was why he went into business.

Years later, even having grown from boot strapping into operating from a warehouse and serving clients around the world, Dave said that he still appreciated those humble beginnings.

So, I suppose that's my takeaway. We may aspire to be like the rockstars of the world or indie moguls of our industry, but to live the simple life of a humble man that valued a truly rich life with freedom and passion - that's my goal as a creative entrepreneur.

Here's to you, Dave. I'm grateful for the moments we were able to share together.

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photo credit: unsplash

 

Opening up my oversized Chicagoland map, Andy and I looked worse than a couple of tourists. Picture two Asian dudes in a pretty white bread part of town - with not a scrap of rye in sight!

My travel buddy took a look. “Guess we're hoofing it from here.” We had taken the “L” train as far as it went. This was before I had the luxury of having a car on campus, so we relied on public transportation to get anywhere.

Even though Andy and I planned on different engineering tracks - aerospace for me, civil for him, we took a lot of the same core courses starting out. But while I expected a lot of what came with these demanding majors, I didn’t anticipate how much creativity was needed. Engineering is supposed to be a left-brained logical field, or so I thought.

Question: “If a thousand angels can dance on a pinhead, what is the average angle of inflection if their energy was released from a train going 70 mph?” Err.. let me get back to you on that.

Human Hearts, Paper Cranes and Space Telescopes

If you haven’t heard of Robert Lang, you’re probably benefiting from his work without realizing it. This NASA engineer grew up obsessed with origami, shared Jeremy Gutsche in Better and Faster, and this fascination didn’t slow down with age.

In fact, Lang took the work of “dead people” as he puts it and applied it to this ancient art. He found ways to use math to find ways to fold creatures and objects never before imagined. While this earned him recognition in the underworld of competitive origami (yeah, I didn’t know there was such a thing either..) Lang didn’t stop there.

When NASA needed a way to fold telescopes, they sought him out. Then doctors asked him to solve ways to create stents that could pass through the narrowest arteries and blockages before deploying. Even car manufacturers consulted with him to figure out ways to design better airbags.

Lang observed, “almost all innovation happens by making connections between fields that other people don’t realize.” Indeed what started out as his hobby became much more than fun and games - it turned out to be just the formula for creative innovation.

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photo credit - Unsplash


Creativity and Connecting the Dots

In his now famous speech to the 1985 Stanford graduating class Steve Jobs shared his journey from college dropout to discovering a passion for calligraphy.

“Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on..” Jobs said. Indeed would Apple have been a leader in personal computing without his insights into the use of fonts?

Jobs said in his interview for Wired magazine in 1995, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.”


We Can't Connect the Dots Looking Forward - We Can Only Connect Them Looking Back - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

This is why I tell entrepreneurs that Paulo’s Cuelho’s The Alchemist is required reading for any business library.

Thinking Like Leonardo

Maybe the best example of how curious minds have benefited the world is a 16th century Renaissance man. Inventor, architect, artist are just a few simple labels for this complex man who achieved more in one lifetime than others have in multiple lives.

Perhaps the key to his genius was Leonardo’s curiosity. Michael Gelb shares in How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci how the maestro wrote -

“I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand... Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it, and why immediately on its creation the lightning becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel... These questions and other strange phenomena engage my thought throughout my life.”

Unfortunately, most of his ideas and inventions were never realized. Today we are only able to have a glimpse of this creative genius because of the many notebooks that surfaced after his death.

So, how can we be more like these creative minds?

First, be curious - willingness to ask questions involve a mix of childlike wonder and a bit of courage. Shedding the fixed mindsets of “adults” isn’t easy, but it’s also not fatal. We’ve talked about how fear gets in the way of creativity.

Be observant - of course, with this curiosity there is little chance of noticing the clues to new connections. But even simply paying attention isn’t enough. Taking notes, reflecting and processing our observations allows our creative juices to ferment.

..and that leads to having the real fun - allowing yourself to roam opens up all the possibilities around us. When you give yourself permission to explore, you’re seeing the world with fresh eyes. It may just be the reset button you needed.

Recently, I revived the weekly ritual that Julia Cameron calls the Artist's Date. Another friend has officially declared it Creative Friday. Whether you take a few hours or all day, the point is to allow yourself the space and freedom to explore. You creativity is waiting.

Where will your creativity take you this week?

I was always a curious kid and asked all kinds of questions.. Things like.. Why can’t I get up on stage and start singing, too? Who’s that lady holding my hand? Where did my mom go now? When will I finally get to drive a real car? How come that farmer got mad at me for doing a dance on his hat?

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"Pantaloons" photo courtesy of Brian Trendler

Well, in time we learned that some questions are more “acceptable” than others. Slowly but surely society teaches us to color between the lines. Unfortunately, this not only shapes our curiosity but also limits our creativity and imagination.

We often talk about thinking outside the box, and I’ve discussed creativity inside the box. But what happens when we keep shrinking the box?

How Curiosity Inspires Creative Works

Producer Brian Grazer is known for a diverse body of work. His films have covered almost every genre, and Grazer credits his creative success to curiosity. In fact, Grazer turned his curiosity into a series conversations with anyone that he was interested in learning more about. Not only did these inspire ideas and give insights, it allowed Grazer to grow his own curiosity muscle and gain insight into how creativity and curiosity are really twin siblings.

"Curiosity is the tool that sparks creativity.. questions create a mind-set of innovation & creativity,” says Grazer. “..curiosity allows possibility that the way we're doing it now isn’t the only way, or even the best way."

Indeed we get in our own way of seeing possibilities if we’re not willing to be curious and simply ask questions. It’s when we assume that we have all the answers or that there’s nothing to learn that we’re really hearing the death knell of creativity.

How Curiosity Turned Barren Land into the Happiest Place on Earth

Walt Disney was known for both his creativity and his insatiable curiosity. He often went incognito and toured the grounds. No matter what aspect of the business Disney wanted to learn more about it. This was “management by wondering around” long before this became popular with the business guru’s.

Imagineer Bob Gurr who designed many of the attractions said, "Walt had a unique way of drawing out your creativity and poking holes in your assumptions. He wouldn’t push you - he would pull you.. lead you through new ideas. He would get you to ask, "What if?"

When Disney was designing the EPCOT center, he surrounded himself with books on urban planning - even experts in many fields. So many of his innovations came from his willingness to explore & experiment. Disney was one of the first to embrace sound in his films, then color - even combining live action w/ animation. His commitment to quality was amplified by his constant curiosity. Disney had no problem asking even a janitor or 19 yr old jungle cruise ride operator about how to "plus the Disney experience" - how to deliver always more than expected.

How Curiosity Finds New Opportunities

You must shed the habits of farmers - complacent, repetitive, protective - and adopt the instincts of hunters - insatiable, curious, willing to destroy, says Jeremy Gutsche in Better and Faster. Ironically, one hunter that Gutsche highlights is actually a farmer.

Ron Finley grew up in south central LA and became a player in urban fashion through his curiosity. In high school he argued his way into home economics by pointing out how most chefs were male. Eventually, he turned this willingness to question the status quo when he noticed that he lived in a “food desert.”

Finley decided to do something about it. He asked what if these 26 square miles of vacant lots were turned into urban gardens. Soon others joined him, but it wasn’t long before complaints came in. This didn’t deter Finley and his group, LA Green Grounds. Getting signatures for their petition, they eventually got the support of the city.

“Why wouldn’t they be happy,” joked Finley. “Growing your own food is like printing money.”

He goes on to say, “..just like graffiti artists, where they beautify walls - me, I beautify lawns, parkways.”

I’ve shared how curiosity is the most important skill in business. So how do we actually nurture curiosity so that it grows into creative energy?

First, be open to exploring. Instead of worrying whether something is going to be a waste of time, consider that there are only discoveries and lessons - rather than “successes” or “failures.” There is nothing more destructive to creativity or curiosity than fear. But like our muscles tackling big stretches can pull something if we push too much before we’re ready.

Create the space. Your environment to be curious requires time and opportunity. Set aside the time to wander. We feel deprived - bombarded by demands. Unless we see ourselves as worth it, no one else will.

Connect with like minds. Another key part of environment is finding your tribe - those people who not only inspire and support you but lift you up. Throughout history “movements” have started with groups of artists and entrepreneurs being “curious” together - the Impressionists, the Classic period of music, the writers of the 1920s.

So how has your curiosity nurtured your creativity? or for that matter how are you nurturing your curiosity?