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The ABCs of Creativity: Question

child on shoreline

When you were young, you probably asked a lot of questions: Why is the sky blue? Where do babies come from? Why do I have to eat broccoli? Why do bees buzz? Why? Why? But why?

And you were probably met with: Because I said so. Because they do. Because it is. I don’t know. Be quiet. Shut up. Children are best seen and not heard. Stop asking questions. Now is not the time…

It didn’t get better in school – a place you were supposed to be to learn things. Unfortunately, many of the things you were supposed to learn were what the teacher wanted to teach you or, if you were really unlucky, what was required by standardized testing and curriculum. There was a right answer, and it was whatever the teacher said it was. There was no room for deviation or questioning. The best pupils were quiet and accepted what they were told. Questions were unwelcomed because they took time away from the subject at hand and caused other students to question what they were learning, which caused confusion for the less inquisitive.

But ultimately, questioning is a good thing as long as the questions are asked with an honest intent to learn and understand. Questions like “How does a burr attach to clothes?” “How do I improve shoes for athletes?” and “Why isn’t there a place for adults and children to have fun?” have led to multi-billion-dollar companies. Questioning improves creativity through its ability to spark deeper thinking.

The question “Why?” is powerful, but you’ll still be met with resistance. “Why” is often seen as threatening and accusing. Many people will respond with “because it’s always been done that way.” “Why not?” can be just as powerful because it can free you to try something new.

With the Internet, you should be able to find out the answers to many questions, but that’s not enough for creativity. You must make sure the information is accurate and that you didn’t just accept it because of confirmation bias. Then you must assimilate the information and allow it to change your behavior and thoughts. Learning from your questions is only part of becoming more creative, but it’s an important part.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Read how the Internet affected Cathy Cooke’s creativity.

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Instinctive Archery and What It Can Teach about Creativity

Instincive archery Mediterranean draw

When I was learning instinctual archery, it seemed pretty straight forward. Use the correct form and the arrow goes where you look. So, I worked on it:

  • Feet shoulder width apart.
  • Knees slightly bent.
  • Look at your target; both eyes open.
  • Raise your arms; bow slightly canted.
  • Three fingers on the string; index finger above, middle and ring finger below.
  • Pull the string using your back muscles by bring the shoulder blades together; bring the middle finger to the corner of the mouth.
  • Release.

“You dropped your elbow.”

“What?”

“You dropped your elbow. Everything should be in a straight line.”

Again, the elbow dropped. Again and again and again and again. I took video (and posted it on my YouTube channel), so I could see what I was doing. I practiced in the mirror at home without a bow. I practiced on the range. I practiced concentrating on the elbow, then something else would go wrong. My arrows generally made it to the target, some hit the bull’s eye. But it took me a long time to get my form correct, even with Armin Hirmer and Andy Hillsden at Malta Archery coaching me and reminding me about smaller form issues.

It took a lot of practice and patience, and at some point, I learned from my failure and got better at archery. Creativity takes practice, patience and the willingness to continue even after mistakes and failures.

Trust Yourself

As an instructor, I found that most people were afraid to trust that their minds and eyes will work together to get the arrow on the target. There’s no aiming. You simply point and trust yourself that your body knows where to send the arrow. Most people wanted to look at the arrow, but you don’t look at a ball when you throw it. You look at the target.

With instinctual archery, you have trust yourself. You have to trust that your body will do what you want it to do. In creativity, you have to trust your judgement. You have to understand that you know what you want to accomplish and experimenting will get you there as long as you have knowledge in the field or domain. You are creative.

Keep Learning

Sometimes, beginners would come in and just want to shoot the bow the way they wanted to shoot the bow. They saw it on TV or had made their own bow when they were much younger. Some thought the bows were toys, so they didn’t need instruction. Whatever the reason, they didn’t want to learn how to shoot the bow with any form.

People who shot guns also would not want to learn how to shoot a bow. They thought their gun shooting skills would transfer to the bow. Either they shot too high or didn’t get the power out of the bow they should have.

Olympic style archers don’t want to learn instinctive archery. They would come in and shoot in the Olympic style even though the equipment wasn’t made for it. Bows would crash to the floor. Even good archers would miss one out of three arrows. Some were stubborn; some didn’t want to ruin their form.

Instinctive archers using the Mediterranean draw wouldn’t want to learn thumb draw, even when the bow was clearly made for thumb draw. Getting a full pull out of one of these bows required more pull. Instead, the archer was content with getting half as much power and beauty as he or she could have out of the bow. Thumb draw hurts when your thumb isn’t used to it.

The people who enjoyed archery the most were the ones who went in for learning everything and it made them better archers because they could adapt their style to their equipment. That’s true of creativity, too. You need to use the tools you have, and many of your tools will come from what you have learned before. Keep learning and get the most out of your creativity.

For more on creativity, order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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ABCs of Creativity: Mistakes

shoes basketball nike lebron

If you’re doing something that you know how to do, you might make a mistake. It doesn’t matter what the task is or how many times you’ve done it before, being human means that you make mistakes sometimes, even when you’re doing something you’re good at. Professional basketball player J.R. Smith dribbled out a clock when his team needed a score in the playoffs; he’s on a team with Lebron James. Smith made the mistake in spite of being an NBA player who was probably told by his teammates what was going to happen.

Creativity means you’re doing something new to you. If a pro player can make a mistake when he is doing something he’s been doing for years, imagine how much more likely it is that you’ll make a mistake doing something new. It’s going to happen. Accept it and then do something that will set you apart from others, learn from your mistake.

In creativity, mistakes are the stepping stones to better products, better hypotheses, and better results. As long as the mistake leads to learning something, it’s okay. You don’t have to make the same mistake twice, you can make new ones every day! Go try something new, and make your mistake so you can learn.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate: Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Pre-order “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: Lifelong Learning

Professor Penguin studies for greater knowledge.

There are plenty of jobs that require employees to keep up with new developments in the industry. Doctors and nurses are among the people that need to have continuing education credits to keep their licenses. However, lifelong learning should be a part of everyone’s agenda and career development.

Unfortunately, few businesses recognize the importance to creativity of learning something outside of your industry’s best practices. They may offer the opportunity to improve your education in your industry or job field, but they won’t pay for a class in say pottery or ancient history. Still, these types of classes, books, and subjects should be on your list of learning about something new.

Learning new things allows your brain to keep its elasticity and flexibility. The brain is a lot like a muscle. If you keep having the same thoughts and knowing the same thing, your brain runs in those ruts. Just like doing the same exercises for your muscles allows your body to adapt to the activity to make the exercise less efficient for getting fitter.

When you learn things outside of your field, you’re able to “connect the dots” between domains. If you stay within your field, you won’t be able to make the connections that creativity requires.

Lifelong learning helps you improve thinking and seeing. Learning is a skill that needs to be practiced. It keeps thinking fresh and allows you to cultivate the curiosity you need to counteract your natural inclination to ignore everything that doesn’t pertain to your current situation. You’ll be able to see things you never thought were there.

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