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5 Episodes in: ‘Instant Hotel,’ Criticism and Creativity

australia traveling travelling travel

By the time the fifth episode has rolled around, everyone has drawn lines. It’s the fussy couple vs. the mother-daughter team. Who will win is really beside the point. Throughout the course of “Instant Hotel,” each team has received criticism about their hotel, and each has acted predictably. Criticism makes people defensive. It hurts even when it comes from a place of love, and it rarely makes people think about the actual problem.

It’s difficult to hear when people are raising valid concerns about the results of your passion, and it’s harder to tell the difference between genuine criticism and jealousy or gamesmanship. So, when the teams are facing the Instant Hotel owners, a lot of the criticisms are dismissed.

Some of the criticism deserves to be dismissed. A difference in taste or opinion is no reason for someone to change something. If the hotel is designed for quiet contemplation, and that’s not someone’s idea of a good time, then that hotel isn’t for him or her. It doesn’t mean the owner should change the hotel; it just means that the hotel needs to be marketed to those looking for that type of vacation.

However, there are other concerns that are justified. If the criticism is that there are no curtains on the bathroom windows, that probably needs to be taken care of. If people don’t like the number of mosquitoes, you should at least try to come up with a solution (citronella candles, bug killing light) because sometimes trying is more important than succeeding. If, instead, you decide that people are telling you these things so they can deduct points from your score and don’t take them as valid, then your real guests are going to have to face the issues, and probably won’t say anything.

“Instant Hotel” provides us all with a way to think about how we can deal better with criticism by taking what’s valid for us and using it to our advantage, even if it is said with malice, and leaving behind what won’t serve us or our vision. As a creative person, it’s the same thing. If someone doesn’t like your book because its science fiction and they don’t like westerns, well, you know, whatever. However, when they tell you about the typos they spotted or ask about a plot hole, it may be time to revisit the writing.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Is the Creative Personality a Result of Genetic Predisposition for Needing Newness and Needing Stability?

Let your dreams be bigger than your fears

Csikszentmihalyi says that the creative personality is made up of seemingly opposite character traits. Creative people are extroverted and introverted. They are energetic and restful. They are smart and naïve. In all, he lists 10 different pairs of personality traits that many people would consider contradictory. Creative people have access to these modes of being and use them when the situation calls for it.

It is possible that these diametrically opposed traits come from the underlying genetic predisposition homo sapiens have regarding creativity. Human beings want safety and security; most of the population avoids risk taking. However, people also need to engage in finding the new and creating. It’s how the human race has survived. Taking risks is an important part of creating something, but the wrong risks could threaten your tribe’s existence.

It’s this constant push and pull that creative people face. Business say they want creativity, but they ignore new ideas and promote those who maintain the status quo. The give resources to the old products and leave research and development to flounder. When someone comes up with a way to change the corporate culture for greater profitability, the risk is seen as too great and that person is often ridiculed, especially if the change would’ve resulted in people losing their jobs or having to change their skills.

Even people who are interested in creativity will choose what they know over what they don’t. It takes a concerted effort or an ironclad argument to get people to change. When facing the effort it takes to introduce new patterns or changes that could fail to an organization and the associated risks, many people would rather hide their ideas and continue as if nothing will be different. Creative people would rather control the direction of the change, even if that means they aren’t really in control of what happens.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Positive Creativity.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Exterior and trouble accepting new ideas

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

In a story about Ignaz Semmelweis, the survival rate of children and their mothers, and handwashing included in his book “How to Fly a Horse,” Kevin Ashton points out that even in a “field as empirical and scientific as medicine… Creation is seldom welcome” (74 – 76). People need creativity and change, and they resist it at the same time. It’s part of the dichotomy of being human.

When Walt Disney wanted his imagineers to envision and create a haunted house for his theme park, they all came up with the same idea: a decrepit, run-down building that had ghosts. Walt didn’t like it. He didn’t want a run-down building ruining his pristine park.

According to Sam Gennawey’s “The Disneyland Story,” Ken Anderson, the original lead on the Haunted Mansion as we now know it, wanted to hide the run-down mansion behind trees native to Louisiana. Walt didn’t go for it.

Harriet Burns built three models for Walt to choose from. The imagineers put the pristine building behind the other two decrepit versions. Walt chose the beautiful building every time. He wanted guests to feel welcome in his park; that meant everything had to be clean and in good repair, even the haunted mansion.

Walt was working with some of the most creative people in the planet. Imagineers knew Walt, had experienced his success and demeanor first hand. Even when he told them, “We’ll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside” (Surrell, Jason, “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic,” p. 13), they insisted on trying to convince him that a haunted house needed to look a certain way.

“Everyone expects a residence for ghosts to be run-down. But Walt was always looking for the unexpected,” (Genneway, p. 180) said Claude Coats.

When those who consider themselves creative and create for a living have trouble accepting new ideas and ways of doing things, everyone else has even greater problems to accept the changes that come with innovations. It’s okay. We just need to realize that creativity is just as necessary for the advancement of humanity as being wary of the change that it brings is. As soon as we can embrace our seemingly opposed sides, we can see they are working together to make us more successful, as long as we don’t let one win over the other all the time.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company” officially releasing on April 14, 2019.

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Old Creativity and New Creativity collide in ‘Happy Feet’

In “Happy Feet,” every penguin has a heart song that he or she uses to find a mate. If the songs work together, the penguins marry and have eggs. The heart song is so important that a penguin isn’t a penguin without it. When Mumble is hatched with feet that compel him to dance, his father is worried and upset. He admonishes his son to keep his feet still; he knows other penguins wouldn’t understand.

Time proves his father right. His dancing is seen as an afront to the Great ‘Guin, and Mumble gets blamed for the lack of fish. Mumble doesn’t think that the accusation makes any sense. Mumble is ultimately banished from the penguin community. He goes to find the real culprit responsible for the missing fish – people. In the end, it’s Mumble’s happy feet that save the penguin community from starving as humans take an interest in the him, and after he teaches his penguin community to dance, the penguin colony on the ice.

Singing and dancing are creative acts, but if a person or penguin keep singing the same song, the act loses its creativity. Creativity must be something new. In the case of “Happy Feet,” it’s the dancing that is creative, and because it’s new, it threatens the status quo. Mumble, its initiator, gets punished for his creativity. When he returns to the community, his new creative act saves the penguins.

People rely on creativity to continue to adapt and grow, as a species and as individuals; people are also threatened by anything that’s new. It’s the paradox of creativity: human beings need it to survive and embrace it in words, but fear the change that comes with it and reject it out of hand. Creativity can be great and terrible. It’s up to us to embrace the innovations that will solve current problems and to encourage those creative acts that bring more beauty and true enjoyment, like dancing and singing, to life.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Handwashing, Change and the New

mother and child washing hands

According to Kevin Ashton’s “How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery,” Ignaz Semmelweis was a doctor at Vienna General in 1846, and the medical community was mired in 2,000-year-old the belief that the body’s health was based on a balance of four fluids: Black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. Vienna General had two maternity clinics. In one, women gave birth with the help of midwives, and both mother and child survived at normal rates for the time. In the other, women gave birth with the help of doctors, and women and children died in droves from puerperal fever. The maternity mortality rate was so high, women were better off giving birth in the street.

The doctors would often go from dissecting cadavers to delivering babies. Semmelweis thought the fever might be transferred from the corpses to the women. He convinced the other doctors to wash their hands, and the deaths in the clinic dropped from 18 percent to two percent, the same percentage as in the clinic with the midwives. In some months, the death rate was zero percent during the two years that Semmelweis was practicing at Vienna General.

In spite of the overwhelming circumstantial evidence and the approximately 500 women, and who knows how many children, whose lives Semmelweis saved through handwashing, his views were rejected. His detractors questioned his scientific method; Semmelweis didn’t run any experiments. They said he didn’t put forth a clear theory; he didn’t know what was responsible for the transfer of disease, he suggested it was some sort of organic material. One American doctor claimed that “A gentleman’s hands are clean” (p. 73) and couldn’t carry disease.

Semmelweis expected common sense to prevail, but at the cost of thousands of women’s and children’s lives, the medical establishment refused to implement handwashing as a standard procedure. The change that Semmelweis proposed challenged the underlying beliefs of the establishment, and those beliefs were too sacred to challenge by a demonstrably better way to do things.

Semmelweis ended up losing job, “being lured to an asylum” and beaten. He died two weeks later, and Vienna General’s doctors stopped washing their hands. Mother and child mortality rates rose by 600 percent.

Semmelweis’ handwashing challenged ingrained and incorrect ideas about the body and health. It challenged ingrained ideas of identity. It challenged the status quo. Semmelweis wasn’t the only one who challenged the establishment, but his story is illustrative of what can happen when people put forth an idea that disturbs the everyday workings of an industry, government or other established organization.

If you still don’t think it’s difficult to change people and culture, many men today don’t wash their hands after using the toilet or urinal in public places where peer pressure should be in effect. They spread disease because they don’t believe germs affect them (and some don’t believe germs are real).

New ideas aren’t readily accepted by anyone, including creators themselves. People always say they want change, but they choose what’s familiar. If you put forth a new idea, be prepared to fight for it and for yourself. Creativity needs fortitude, strength and a healthy dose of wisdom.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improving Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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What to Do when Old Goals No Longer Serve You

Professor Penguin studies for greater knowledge.

[Author’s note: If you want to get the short notes on this story of discovery, look for the list of three steps below. It should be easy to find.] I have always heard that as a writer, I should read voraciously. I just couldn’t find a lot of time to do so. I had heard about presidents who would read an amazing number of books. Teddy Roosevelt read a book a day at least, in addition to magazines and newspapers. Even at my best, when I had nothing to do but read and no desire to do anything else (the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school), I could only read about 100 pages a day unless it were a particularly good fantasy novel.

As I got older, I tried to find a speed reading book that would help me read faster. That didn’t work. So, I decided to go about it the old-fashioned way. I was going to set a goal and achieve it. In 2010, I decided to read a book a week. The only parameter I set was that it had to be a book. Magazines and newspapers didn’t count, and while I tracked my audio books, they didn’t count as reading either.

I accomplished my goal, reading 52 books with an average page count of 221. The longest book I read was 1099 pages, and the shortest was 28. I also listened to 18 audio books, but those would fall by the way side in later years. These numbers gave me a baseline, and so every year thereafter, I kept upping the ante. In 2011, the books averaged 222 pages each. In 2012, the average didn’t change, but I read 16 more pages than the year before. In 2015, I fell short of my goal by four books, but I made up for it in 2016 by reading additional books. In 2018, I read 58 books.

So, this year, I set my sights on 52 books with an average page count of 255, but 10 books in and I find that the unintended consequence of this goal is that I don’t read magazines, and I avoid lower page count books because they would make the average that I have to read in the future go up. The dilemma is that I have several books that have fewer pages than 255 that I need to read for research, and I have a couple of magazines that I need to read sooner rather than later because of the opportunities they hold.

While it’s still early in the year, it’s clear that my goal is hampering my progress rather than helping. It’s done this before, but I just ignored the implications and bulled my way through the process. Now, the situation seems different. It’s time to change the goal.

The process for doing so must look something like this:

  1. Recognize the goal no longer serves you; you are serving it.
  2. Decide what you really wanted from the goal in the first place.
  3. Set a modified or new goal that enhances your ability to achieve what you really need to achieve.

The original purpose of the goal was for me to be able to say I read a book a week and know they weren’t all children’s books. I didn’t exclude children’s books outright because there are a lot of good children’s books out there, and they typically make the best way to learn the basics about some subjects quickly. For example, children’s book on Ancient Egypt presents a starting point for the subject matter that is easy to follow, generally accurate, and provides enough information that the adult (or child) reader can find out what specific aspect about the subject matter he or she wanted to learn and move on to more adult books about that part of the subject. (Also, I was studying to be an early childhood education teacher at the time.) By setting up a tracking system and breaking it down into number of pages read, I stayed motivated and kept myself on track. There was always an end of the year blitz, but some of that had to do with holidays as well as motivation.

At this point, for this particular goal, I think I need to modify the page count, or at least not worry about it. I might not be able to read a book a week while I am in research mode, but that shouldn’t dissuade me from catching up at the end of the year. As long as I maintain my reading on the subject matters at hand – Disney, creativity and online marketing, in the early part of the year, and the Twilight Zone, creativity and online marketing in the latter part of the year followed by a holiday blitz for the final month – I should be okay. If not, I should be able to forgive myself and realize the goal is only as good as the benefits I get from it. In this case, it is the benefit of education and the growth of vocabulary and literary styles.