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Director Taika Waititi Talks Creativity at TedxDoha

New Zealand Director Taika Waititi gave a short talk about creativity at TedxDoha. While his talk may seem like rambling, his insights into creativity are priceless – if you can find them. Creativity lies in the combination of seemingly unrelated, or never related before, subjects. It also lies in the absurd. The talk is about 18 minutes. Three highlights are below the video.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Risk

Being creative means taking risks. When you’re doing something new, that no one’s ever done before, or that you haven’t done before, you’re taking a risk. It may be a small risk; no one will see you mess up a canvas or write a sentence incorrectly. Or it may be a big risk: taking on an assignment at work that could decided the fate of the company. There are a lot of different kinds of risk in between.

When you stood up for the first time, you were taking a risk. You might lose your balance and fall. Of course, your baby mind didn’t really think of it like that. When you fell down, you probably cried and were comforted by your parent(s) or guardian. Then you got up and tried it again. Then maybe you took the next step, literally, after standing. That probably resulted in falling down to.

As a baby, you were used to taking those risks. If you were in diapers, it didn’t hurt a lot. Even if it did hurt, you didn’t mind after a while. You saw everyone else standing and walking, and you wanted to get there, too.

You probably continued to take risks growing up. Raising your hand to answer a question was a risk: if you got it right, kids might think you’re a know-it-all; get it wrong and the teacher might think you’re dumb. You probably learned that answering the question wasn’t worth it.

As an adult, if you suggested something new at work, you were probably met with objections and derision. That risk was bad enough. In some places, a creative person is seen as a threat.

But people are meant to be creative. If you want to become, if you want a happier overall life, if you want to make something, you’ve got to take the risk. You may fail, you may make mistakes, but if you do it right, you’ll have fun and learn more about who you are.

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

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One episode in: ‘Mars’ Proves We’re Not Ready to Be a Two Planet Species

Mars Rover

National Geographic’s “Mars” interchanges documentary footage with interviews from 2016 of the people trying to get there and scientists and authors who theorize what it’ll take with a science fiction story set in 2033 about the first manned mission to Mars. It’s a creative and ambitious attempt to get people interested in space travel again.

In the present day, the series focuses on SpaceX’s rocket building and failures. Interviews with Elon Musk are cut with scenes of rockets exploding and the SpaceX team reacting to the failures. Neil de Grasse Tyson has a small segment, and the author of “How We’ll Live on Mars” Stephen Petranek also makes his suggestions for successful colonization.

‘Mars’ celebrates humanity’s reaching for the stars while exposing everything that people will face, including the unknown, as they head to Mars. Humans are still in the infant stage of rocket control and production, even though rockets for transportation to space have been around since 1957’s Sputnik.

Sputnik, instead of inspiring an international cooperative effort, sparked a space race that sent Americans to the moon. It’s the international collective in “Mars” that’s still missing in real life. It exists in “Mars,” but in reality, the collective has yet to emerge. So, humanity is relying on Elon Musk, his SpaceX program and his ability to build a viable company in a capitalist society to send people to Mars.

SpaceX has already faced numerous failures, which is a part of the creative and innovation processes. They are attempting to do something no one has ever done. The failures and mistakes should be celebrated and learned from. They are the stepping stones to Mars. But what happens if SpaceX fails as a company? Who gets those records? Who will learn from the failures? If they stay with Musk or get lost in the dissolution of the company, those mistakes and failures are for nothing.

The 2033 depictions are entertaining, but given what we know now, 2033 is too ambitious of a deadline. With only 14 years left to get there and no infrastructure in place, the deadline will need to be pushed further into the future. At least, if we can judge by one episode.

Going to Mars is going to take more resources than one man has. Musk has the right intentions. He has the goal. The real question is how long his fortune can hold out while he pays people for failure after failure, and how much tie he’s willing to wait for success. At age 47, he’s got another 30 years or so left assuming an average life span. It may not be enough to get to the red planet. And the last unknown for Musk could doom SpaceX long before it gets to the end of its proposed road.

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A Hard Row to Hoe: Cautionary Tales in Creativity

eiffel tower during daytime

Ignaz Semmelweis could be seen as a cautionary tale for creatives. In 1846, he advocated for washing hands before delivering babies, and Vienna General saw an increase in mother and new born survival rates in the clinic where he worked. However, because he didn’t know why handwashing worked, he was derided by the medical and scientific community. He lost his job and his life because the establishment didn’t accept what he saw as common sense. “My way saves lives; of course, everyone should adopt it, even if we don’t know why.”

He was dealing with saving people’s lives and the scientific community. Rather than someone jumping in to test Semmelweis’ theories and find out why it worked or if it was a fluke, Semmelweis’ doctors and colleagues continuously found fault with his idea, even when they didn’t do any experimentation of their own. Not only did Semmelweis end up losing his life, but thousands of women and children died because he couldn’t defend his hypothesis and no one else wanted to check it out to see what the hospital was doing differently. Semmelweis isn’t the only cautionary tale that creatives should think about.

According to Kevin Ashton in “How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery,” Gaston Hervieu tested his parachute in 1909 by throwing a 160-pound dummy off the Eiffel Tower. The dummy floated down to safety. Franz Reichelt was not impressed. Reichelt was working on his own parachute and called Hervieu’s test a sham because he used a dummy. In 1912, Reichelt showed up at the Eiffel Tower, press in tow; he was ready to show off his own parachute, which he was going to test on himself.

Hervieu showed up at the Eiffel Tower to stop Reichelt. Hervieu said the parachute wouldn’t work for technical reasons. Reichelt went up the Eiffel Tower anyway. Experts at the Aero-Club de France had previously told Reichelt his parachute wouldn’t work. Previous experiments that Reichelt did with his parachute had ended in failure; he had broken his leg in one failed attempt to deploy the parachute. Reichelt didn’t listen to his rejectors, which are common when any new idea is presented, and he didn’t learn from his failures. He stuck with the same design and jumped from the Eiffel Tower to plummet to his death.

While Semmelweis would have been well-served if he could’ve ignored the slings and arrows of the ignorant medical community experts of his time and continued with his crusade to persuade them as to the efficacy of handwashing, Reichelt would’ve been better off listening to the critics of his invention and heeding his own failed experiments. Failure and rejection aren’t necessarily bad if we can learn the right lessons from them.

In these cases, one lesson would be to persist in the face of rejection, but learn from it. If Semmelweis had been able to get past his belief that common sense would prevail and started conducting experiments, he may have discovered the germ theory of illness before Pasteur. Another lesson would be to pay attention to your failures. If Reichelt had accepted the reality of failures, he may have been able to make a parachute that would’ve been better than Hervieu’s. Instead, both creators’ deaths can be linked to their innovations.

Being creative isn’t easy. You will be ridiculed. You will be rejected. You just need to keep going and change with every lesson that is dealt to you.

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

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The ABCs of Creativity: Failure

foul ball failure

“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that” – Walt Disney.

As students, we grow up learning that failure is bad. A big red “F” accompanied by red marks on the page looks like spilled blood and marks an academic death. Too many failures, and you won’t get into the right college, you won’t get the right job, and you won’t make any money. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.

As an employee, failure is never applauded and often leads to your boss directing stern words (if not outright yelling) at you or dismissing you from the job entirely. Failure isn’t seen as the stepping stone it can be, but rather as the end of the journey. It doesn’t have to be that way.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison.

Failure is not only important for creativity. It’s inevitable. Any time you’re doing something new, you’re going to fail. Your first ideas won’t necessarily be the best, and they won’t necessarily work. They may even cause more problems than they solve. Whatever happens, if you’re trying something new, you will fail unless you get lucky.

The most successful sports figures fail all the time. Ted Williams had an on base percentage (OBP) of less than 50 percent. He failed to get on base more than half the time he was at bat, and he has the best all-time OBP in the MLB. NBA player DeAndre Jordan hits a little more than 2/3 of his shots from the field and has the highest shooting percentage in NBA history (so far). If in-game shooting were a test in school, he’d only score a “D.” NFL Quarterback Drew Brees is in a slightly better position with his over 67 percent completion rate, but in school it would come down to being the same grade. Other than Ted Williams, who was happy with $30,000 a year, these guys are making millions of dollars and failing a lot on a very public stage.

The important thing about failure is to learn from it. Failing without learning doesn’t help anyone. Most people learn more from their failures than their successes. When you fail, find out what you missed and what went wrong. You’ll find yourself set up for greater success as you harness the power of creativity and learn lessons from failing.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Become more creative for a better life and world.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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The Seven Secrets of Creativity

Penguinate creativity book

You are innately creative. It’s in your genetic coding. Schools, systems, jobs and fear may have burned a lot of your creative ability out of you, but you can get it back. Here are the seven secrets of creativity:

  1. Exercise Imagination: Gene Wilder sang it best – “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you’ll be free if you truly wish to be.” Stop the video games, shut off the TV, get rid of Netflix. To exercise your imagination, you need to create the story yourself. Read a book. Have a tea party with dolls. Avoid the hot lava monster. If you have children, play with them and let them be right. Study how they use their imagination. Add to the play with “Yes and…” Join an improv comedy troop. Free paint, free write, keep an imagination journal. Ignore your internal editor; Elly Brown says to “Fire that guy.”
  2. Play: Go outside and be a kid again. Play on the playground. Find an old game you loved and a couple of friends to join you. Make a tough job into a game. Have a playful attitude. Make all the dad jokes. See how you can manipulate word through puns and imagery.
  3. Think Deeply: Learn about a new subject. Don’t just spend 20 minutes researching it on the Internet. Go deeper. Examine a TV episode or movie. Think all the thoughts about it. Start with whether or not you enjoyed it. Why? What was the director trying to say? Was there a star who stood out? Was there a quote that touched you as truth? Was there a fact that you thought wasn’t right? What surprised you? Research those things.
  4. Make Connections: Creativity happens at the intersection. Steve Jobs said that creative people weren’t smarter, they just had more dots to connect. Each of those dots was an experience that the person had and thought deeply about. Combine things that may seem absurd and see what you can make from them.
  5. Embrace Failure: When you’re doing something new, you will fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not doing something that is creative. It’s okay to fail. Embrace it and learn from it.
  6. Learn from Mistakes: A mistake can be a valuable lesson if you learn from it. Don’t make the same mistake twice, make new ones every day. If you make a mistake, laugh at it and move on, or figure out how to profit from the mistake.
  7. Take Action: You might be the most creative person in the world, but until you make something it won’t matter. Take action on your ideas and move forward with it. The world needs you and your positive creativity. Paint, write, sing, do science, whatever it is that helps you be more creative.

Creativity is the essence of humanity. It is tempered by fear and the need for safety. Through of the shackles that fear provides and create. The more you do, the easier it’ll get. If you need a creative mascot, get one of our handmade penguins!

Want to learn more about creativity and improve your creative process? Get a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Try “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Or just check out these links to articles on my blog.