Warning! This post is going to be a little different.

creative-entrepreneur-confessions
Photo credit: Ryan McGuire of Gratisography

I hope by now you don't get the mistaken idea that I have all the answers..

While I'm doing the best to share what I've been learning about creativity and its relation to being an entrepreneur, I'll admit that I still struggle myself with not only learning these lessons but more importantly living them.

Over the years I've helped entrepreneurs and wannabe's with everything from simply getting started to taking their first baby steps - to building teams and social media and even ultimately selling their businesses.

The only rule is that there really are no rules - or let's put it another way. What works in one set of conditions won't necessarily work - even when everything seems the same.

As much as I believe in always doing what we can to learn from "failures," sometimes you just salvage what you can out of a situation and walk away with that box of unused file folders and highlighters that might come in handy.

More recently, I've been experimenting with writing / blogging and posting on social media while testing online chats like Hangouts on Air and even Meerkat, Periscope and now Blab.im -

Why am I doing this? With the limited success of past launches I'm working to build a deeper relation with my audience - my 1000 True Fans.

Meanwhile, on the more "creative" side of the spectrum I'm working on some fiction and interactive media including a Twine game.

It's not easy to do these things while doing freelance work and earning whatever income I can to keep food on the table. Nope, sorry - no rich spinster playing sugar momma to this creative.

Recently, I've been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic where she shares how she did what she could to keep writing.

"I wrote my first book while I was a diner waitress. I wrote my second book while I was a diner waitress and a bartender. I wrote my third book while I was a bartender who also worked in a bookstore and who also worked as a journalist. When EAT PRAY LOVE (my fourth book) came out, I was still working at a flea market on weekends. If it wasn't for the bananas success of EAT PRAY LOVE, I would still be doing other jobs."

Gilbert implores us not to depend on our art to pay the bills - until it does.

In other words, as she puts it - “To yell at your creativity saying ‘You must earn money for me!’ is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”

So, while I'm saying that creative entrepreneurs need to play it safe - in fact, I've been thinking about the advice that Jim Carrey gave at commencement speech. Like the best poker players make sure the odds are your in favor, but don't play with your rent money!

 

Nothing like graduation.. and in the commencement speech the mayor of your city confuses the name of your engineering college for that tech school. You know the one that airs those cheesy commercials in the middle of the day..

Yeah, to this day I don't remember anything else the mayor said but I still remember the collective groan and wave of cringes that echoed in that auditorium.

I don't know about you but these are the commencement speeches that I wish I had heard before going out into that big wide world after college..

First up, of course, is the one and only Steve Jobs addressing the Stanford graduating class of 2005 who shares his journey as a creative entrepreneur and how "you can't connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back.."

Next is author / artist Neil Gaiman who I recently learned about from his relation to Amanda Palmer and got highlighted on Brain Pickings -

Last but not least is comedian Jim Carrey who shares the tragedy of his own father's dream that got left behind in choosing the safer route -

So, what I find the most inspiring is the advice that no one really knows anything, and you need to do what you can to practice your art - your craft. Most of all you have to be willing to fight for that right because no one else will do it for you.

Which commencement speeches have you found to be most inspiring for creative entrepreneurs? What do you wish someone had told you as you graduated?

Making our way through the pile of chairs in the narrow hallway hours before lunch service began, the worker finally pointed to the makeshift shack hidden behind the restaurant. I thanked him and knocked on the door. It all felt like some Prohibition era speakeasy.

creativity-cup
photo: Blue Bottle Coffee

A bright-eyed man with glasses invited me in. He looked like one of those musicians who you couldn’t tell their age because of the gray hair and youthful features.

“What would you like?” he asked.

“I don’t know - what do you suggest?”

“Well, if this is your first time, I’d recommend the Guatemalan medium roast. You can’t go wrong.” He hands a brown paper bag to his partner.

“Sounds good,” I replied.

This was the early days of Blue Bottle. A coffee roaster filled up the room barely the size of a single car garage. From these modest beginnings grew a caffeinated empire that now spans across the Pacific.

In February of this year they opened their first store in Japan to lines around the block. Only a few months later they began a second store. Meanwhile, in June they raised $70 million in funding.

What struck me about Blue Bottle from that first bag to the last drop I've enjoyed so far is the attention to detail and quality. You known when you drink a cup that this ain't your neighborhood Starbucks.

At the center of this is James Freeman who started what some have called the “Apple of the coffee industry.”

“I think Apple has been really influenced by the very rigorous simplicity of a lot of Japanese design elements and their focus on simplicity and quality. I'm obviously very influenced by those things too. Apple's doing it for the world; we're doing it in twenty stores. Lessons are lessons,” says Freeman.

Freedom to Take Creative Risks

While it’s easy to point to success and oversimplify the process of getting there, Freeman was well aware of the risks and went into this with eyes wide open.

“If we were going to make a big mistake, I wanted it to be my big mistake, not anybody else's big mistake. I wanted to be more responsible for all the details and I knew there would be more risk because we might have gotten it wrong—and that's expensive,” he said.

Finding the Right Creative Team

For the missing pieces of the business DNA that Freeman felt they needed, Blue Bottle acquired several key players including San Francisco bakery Tartine.

“If you could have the world's best croissants, why not? I've known Chad (Robertson) for a long time. He's been wanting to grow, but he hadn't found the right team. Then he was here when we opened. The first week, he saw how well the team here was working with this launch, as well as the incredible demand, and that's when he said he found the team that he wanted to work with.."

"So much is about the team," Freeman says, "because these are people I’ve got to see every day or every week—so it has to feel like it's a natural fit. It's not just about how much money we're going to make, or real estate or anything like that.. It's all about who we want to work with.”

Be Willing to Play the Long Game

Although Freeman wants to expand more quickly, he realizes that quality takes time. Blue Bottle now has twenty stores with ten more coming. "We're getting better and better at it," he says.

"The store feels a certain way because we really care about things; like how the doorknob feels when you walk in, as well as what you see, and how the light shines in the pastry kitchen. It takes a lot of time to do that."

I love a nice latte for a bit of liquid inspiration, but these are just some other bits of creativity that you might find in your next cup.

Quotes are from Toyokeizai -
http://toyokeizai.net/articles/-/73851 (Part 1)
http://toyokeizai.net/articles/-/73869 (Part 2)

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.

creative-grateful-aikido
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.

more-creativity
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.

wander-creativity
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?

curiosity-breeds-creativity
"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?

Even though flow comes a lot easier these days, I still have moments.. you know, those times when things seem bleak.

creative-funk
Creative Funk photo: Ryan McGuire of Gratisography

Okay, maybe not full on “dark nights of the soul” moments - but just general bleh that you’d rather move on. I’ve already shared some of my top tips for avoiding writer’s block.

So, here are my top 10 ways of kicking that creative funk outta bed and moving on to more awesome sauce:

1. Go for a walk - besides getting away from your physical place of “stuckness” you’ll have your heart pumping and oxygen flowing through your veins. Once those endorphins kick in, it’s a natural high with no side effects or calories - and best of all it’s 100% legal.

2. Take a nap - sometimes you gotta go the other way. I used to feel guilty - like a good for nothing coconut for sleeping in the middle of the day.. until I saw Don Draper taking naps and realized there must be something to these siestas!

3. Watch engaging show or movie - speaking of which, I like Mad Men.. ok, I’ve come to love the show. Although television can be some major time suckage, great shows with cool stories can also be a source of inspiration. Use in moderation!

4. Shop & cook a meal - okay, I often go the quick, cheap route of fast food.. probably much more than I care to admit. The Slow Food Movement has grown out of realizing that maybe our parents did get something right.. try it and see how you like it.

5. Explore & find a cafe - besides a nice cuppa latte and that bohemian vibe, just getting out of your element and shaking it up a bit, you’ll benefit from a new environment that‘ll help get those creative juices flowing again.

6. Read in library or bookstore - even with more information available at our fingertips these days, there is still nothing like being in these hallowed halls filled with humankind’s collective wisdom and knowledge. If this doesn’t stir something in you, check your pulse!

7. Play a video game - I know, kinda childish right? That’s exactly the point. As a kid, we lacked inhibitions. And that, my friend is the greatest killer of inspiration and creativity - fear. So, even if World of Tanks or Poker isn’t your thing, there are tons of game apps these days. Find one that appeals to your inner child and PLAY!

8. Write about something you’re passionate about - if you’re a blogger or content marketer, it’s so easy to see writing as a grind. But sometimes it’s great to let the words flow, and write for the joy, not because you need to write something. Again, writers write. Get back in touch with associating positive, happy vibes to your craft.

9. Have mind blowing sex - well, it takes two to tango so maybe this one’s not entirely in your control. But hey if someone’s game.. another option is to actually dance orgasmic tango. Some folks have shared how tango “highs” can sometimes be better than sex. If this is also beyond you, find a way to dance - feel the music and lose yourself.

10. Help & take care of others - probably the best way to get out of a creative funk is to focus on someone else. More than likely you’ve been so wrapped up in your own worries that you just need some distance. Taking care of someone - whether it's a friend, neighbor, pet or even a complete stranger - will help put things in perspective. And again it's been shown scientifically that selfish altruism has health benefits.

So, these are my top 10 tips for getting out of a creative funk. I’d love to hear what you do when you feel stuck. What gets your creative juices flowing again?

 

What happened when a bankrupt artist moved to Hollywood with a suitcase full of clothes? Well, it turns out that he started a creative media empire that has touched the lives of millions in so many ways.

disney-creativity-courage
Walt Disney on courage and creative dreams.

Years ago Mom packed three kids into a copper Gremlin and drove us all down to “Wallyworld.”  On many hot summer days in Jersey City she would park us in the cool air-conditioned theater to watch double-features like Herbie Rides Again with Cinderella.

On Sunday nights our family tuned into the weekly Wonderful World of Disney movie. Years later I took my own kids to visit Disneyland and saw the magic in their eyes.

The Disney creative history reads like some biblical lineage - Disney begot John Lasseter who begot Pixar who begot Edward Catmull who begot Brad Bird. And so on..

Is it any wonder this company is currently valued at $120 billion with over 180,000 employees?

..or that they jealously guard their trademark? Woe be those who would think of painting Disney characters on a daycare nursery wall without the approval of their attorneys!

Where did it all start? How did a man and a mouse come to create this entertainment empire?

“I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse.” - Walt Disney

Dare to Be Curious

It takes courage to ask questions. Disney inspired web designer Rogie King says.. “Curiosity is key..” He says that Disney has always been an inspiration in everything he does - commitment to quality, theme, environment and storytelling.
Innovation takes this combination of courage and curiosity. Disney was the first to use sound for animation, then the first to use color. He received more Academy Awards than any other artist in his lifetime.

It Takes Three to Tango

In his first volume of Strategies of Genius NLP pioneer Robert Dilts talks about Disney’s creativity strategy as being three roles - dreamer, realist, and critic

Dreamer - give ourselves room to roam.. to explore and not limit ourselves. Too often we’re self-editing before we’ve given our creativity a chance to breathe. It’s playing with the wide-eyed energy of a child.

Realist - dreaming is great, but the realist rolls up their sleeves and gets to work, putting a plan into practice. While it’s great to visit the worlds of fantasy, we live in this world, and the value of visions is in making them real. Timelines and milestones measure our progress.

Critic - finally, test & test again. Taking in feedback and choosing your response is not the end. Failures disguised as mistakes are really opportunities to learn and adapt. As someone said, “You’ve paid for lesson.. so you might as well benefit from the lessons!”

Test your plan, look for problems, difficulties and unintended consequences. Evaluate them. Ask yourself "What could go wrong?" Think of what is missing, what is surplus, what the spins-offs will be. Define the context in which your plan is workable and problematic.

We tend to think of creativity as some wild, untamed animal. Disney showed how you can create systems that allow artists to be more creative.

How has Disney touched your own life? What ways has this inspired your creativity?

150 ft.. 100.. 50.. WHAM!

"I have the controls!" said my instructor pilot (IP,) as we bounced back into the air. We had come down so hard with my attempt at a landing that we went airborne again.

"You have the controls," I replied.

 

Watching the stick and throttle take a life of its own, it looked like some phantom pilot had now taken over the cockpit. In reality it was the instructor sitting in the rear, making adjustments to settle the T-34C down until we rolled off the runway.

We taxied to our parking spot with barely a word.

Trying to lighten the mood, the IP asked if I was okay. Dejected I muttered something about being fine - with a "sir," of course.

Back in maintenance control, we signed in our bird. The lieutenant made a few comments about things going well overall. It was my first flight and my first attempt at a landing.

I'm not sure what came over me, but as I entered our flight data, I asked the IP, "Sir, should I count that as one landing or two?" He look surprised and chuckled, "Let's go with two - we'll each get one a piece!"

Creativity is about taking risks. Although we try to push ourselves - grow in our comfort zone of the risks we're willing to take - at some point we just need to really stretch.

I often refer to the model the Heath brothers talk about in Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (affiliate link - thanks for your support!) that we must master this dance between our emotional side the "Elephant" and our rational side the "Rider."

Although the Rider is greater at figuring out where we need to go, if we fail to appreciate the power of the much larger Elephant, the Rider is going to lose.

Rider1 Rider2

As a creative entrepreneur, this means you need to lower the bar and "Break down the change until it no longer spooks the Elephant.” How can you do this? Find the one thing you can do today towards progress.

How to Stretch Your Comfort Zone as a Creative Entrepreneur

Got a business idea for a new book?  Brainstorm questions and an outline. Thinking about making a video? Write out a rough draft. Picturing a new design for your product line? Sketch out the key elements. Start there.

Take action. Then do it again. Build on this until it becomes a habit that's second nature.  As you progress, surround yourself with those who not only support you but encourage and lift you up. Success breeds success. The more momentum you build, the more it impossible it will be to fail.

Surviving that first landing allowed me to finally push my limit. As I connected with my fellow student pilots, we shared everything from study tricks to "gouge" on each instructor. I learned to build my confidence and face my fears each step of the way.

Similarly I've learned to surround myself with other creative entrepreneurs. By watching and sharing I've gained more confidence in many areas - from building a website to create animated videos and even graphic design.

How do you stretch your own comfort zone? What inspires you to go further each day?