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Many people view creativity as belonging to the ultra-gifted: the J.K. Rowlings and Steve Jobs of our world who achieved success through some combination of magical abilities and unreachable talent.
According to Allen Gannett, who published “The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea at the Right Time,” this viewpoint, while understandable, is untrue. “We're conditioned based on the narratives around creativity to think of it as a divine thing,” he says.
In actuality, creativity is achievable and sustainable by most (if not all) of us. During a recent episode of the B2B Tonight Show, Gannett explains the social conditioning that causes many of us to doubt our creative abilities, the scientific research that debunks those beliefs, and how to embrace creativity—both within a community and on your own.
Creativity Blocks and Myths
The most explicit reason that people view themselves as uncreative, says Gannett, is because of the narrative that society builds around creatively successful people. Stories about Mozart, for example, often portray him as a musical genius at age three. In fact, Mozart didn’t compose his first original work until age 16 or 17. Dovetailing with this narrative is the idea that if you’re not ultra-famous and successful, you’ll fail completely. “We talk about creativity as a way to be poor,” says Gannett, referencing as an example the connection often made between earning an English degree and working as a barista.
Lastly, many people have at least one experience that makes this narrative explicit in their own life. Perhaps a 3rd-grade teacher said a student couldn’t write or a parent refusing to pay for guitar lessons. Whatever the case, these societal narratives can cause people to believe that they lack the creative potential necessary for success.
Another main reason people don’t believe in their creative potential is more subtle, yet just as psychological. It’s easier and more convenient to think of creativity as magical, says Gannett, because otherwise, the reality becomes one of having to put in a lot of work. Research shows that there’s a human instinct bent towards homeostasis or not pushing too hard. This instinct, combined with societal narratives, can cause many never to push the envelope of their creative potential.
Why Your Creative Potential is Likely the Same as Mozart’s
According to Gannett, the good news is that there’s not only a place for creativity in society but that it’s totally feasible to actualize your creative potential without being a prodigy or genius. To the first point: Gannett cites the advancement of technology (such as A.I.) as an opportunity for people to more fully leverage their creative skills as the counterbalance to those automated processes. And for the second point? Gannett points towards what he calls the “Threshold theory.”
“When you look at IQ and creative potential,” says Gannett, “what you find is that past a relatively average IQ threshold, people all have the same creative potential.” It doesn’t matter if one person’s IQ is 110, and another person’s is160: both hold the same creativity capacity. That means that anyone with a slightly above average intelligence has the same chances of creative success as someone much more intelligent. The implications of this threshold theory mean that “billions and billions and billions of people” can access their creative potential and thrive off it, says Gannett. Creative success isn’t the exception—it could be the norm.
Fostering Your Creativity: Pro Tips
Because there’s so much societal dialogue that discourages creativity, it’s essential to foster a mindset that supports creative expression. Here are practical tips for ensuring you’re set up to flourish:
- Don’t engage in negative self-talk: Most of us have too much exposure to limiting beliefs around creativity and not enough experience with supportive ones. Identify what myths you’ve bought into, and work to dismantle them and replace them with more positive affirmations.
- Set up sustainable creativity habits: Someone who has never worked out before yet vows to hit the gym seven days a week will probably crash and burn on day three. The same logic applies to creative work habits. Replace overly ambitious goals (i.e., I’ll write a novel in six months!”) with small, sustainable ones. (“I’ll set aside one-half hour three times a week to write.”). You’ll also want to find out what schedule works best for you to tap into that creative potential. Do mornings allow you to turn off the rest of the world and focus on your craft? Or are you a night owl? Figure out what works best, and stick to it.
- Consume what you want to put out: Just as novelists read books and musicians listen to music, SDRs should fill their well by taking in content. Learn everything you can about your vertical, and make sure your approach isn’t overtired, says Gannett. This is how you can cut through the noise to get a prospect’s attention. World-class professionals might spend 3-4 hours a day consuming relevant content. While you probably won’t take such a robust approach (see the above point), see if you can dedicate an hour a day.
- Create the right headspace for creativity: Science shows that a meditative mindset allows your brain to connect the dots between all that content you’ve consumed and how you’re going to make it your own. Without that headspace, you’ll be hard-pressed to create. Get quiet with yourself, says Gannett. Go on a run or a walk. Meditate, turn off your phone, take a long bath, or do whatever helps your mind relax while staying alert.
- Find support in a creative community: Contrary to artist-in-the-attic stereotypes; creativity flourishes best when a community supports it. This can manifest as emotional support (including friendly competition), mental support (having someone to bounce ideas with), and leadership support (someone who’s been down the road you’re walking and can offer advice and insight). Find your community, and work with it.
Creativity results in things that are both novel and valuable, says Gannett. But don’t let the product distract you from the process; as many successful creatives have discovered, the journey is just as important as the destination. Take your time, find your people, have fun with it, and continue to engage with sources of support—including, say, a blog post like this one.
If you want to hear more from Allen about how to access your creativity, you can check out his website www.allen.xyz, as well as give him a follow on LinkedIn.