Creativity and Risk Taking

Being creative requires taking some risks. Sometimes it’s the risks that hold us back from moving forward and being creative. Learn about two types of risks, what it really means to step out of your comfort zone, and how to test assumptions you might have about your fears.

How do you think you’d do getting out of your comfort zone? As a test, try my Creativity Tip below. First, think of a question that is a problem needing to be solved. Then, tackle tip #23. As an added challenge, try coming up with 100 ideas (one or two words or short phrases) in 10 minutes.

Creativity Tip #23: Warp Speed Thinking – Come up with as many one or two-word ideas as you can in 5 minutes.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

Death Resides in an Upstairs Room

Sometimes death takes on different forms for different people. This is a tale about one of those times.

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.

There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. — Author Unknown

Excuse me a moment. Believe someone’s at the door.

(Hears knocking.) Hmmm, sounds like from upstairs but I don’t have an upstairs.

(Door sounds, squeakily opens.)

“Pam?” I ask. No response.

“Pam?” I ask again. 

“I can’t come out but you can come in,” she intones.

“I hear your voice but can’t see you. If this is what I think it is, I can’t come up there now. It’s not yet my time,” I say.

Then slowly I hear a squeaky door closing. 

“Pam?”, I ask. No response. Then again; nothing.

Then, faintly, as if In the distance, I hear a door close.

I stand there, frozen and jarred by the experience.

News Bulletin from the Interdimensional News Agency:

Did this really happen? Does life exist that close to another dimension? Does just a door we cannot see separate us from the hereafter? Who knows!

Perhaps in the Twilight Zone it does, but this is not the TZ. Or is it?

Perhaps it’s simply a page-turn at the chapter’s end in the multidimensional book of life and death.

“Pam? . . . Pam?”. . . Fade to black . . .

That was over a year ago and nothing like that has reoccurred. I think back on that evening from time to time wondering if it did, in fact, happen or was I just dreaming.

This particular evening was quiet and I found myself curled up in my easy chair with a good book. I had just come to a stopping point and started to head off to bed when I heard what I thought was a very squeaky door slowly opening. Thinking to myself it came from next door, I went off to bed.

“Joe?” the voice intoned in what was more like a low whisper.

“Joe?” the voice asked again.

I froze. I just stood there, saying and doing nothing.

“Who’s there?,” I asked, not really expecting a reply.

“I can’t come out but you can come in,” the voice replied softly.

Not again, I thought. This can’t be happening.

“Joe?,” said the voice again. “Please come up and join me. I miss you!” she said .

Playing along, I said “Who is this and what do you want?”

“It’s me, Pam. Please join me upstairs.”

“I don’t have an upstairs and you can’t be Pam. My wife died over a year ago,” I said.

“If this is some sort of sick, perverted joke, I don’t appreciate it!,” I stressed.

“It’s no joke, Joe,” the voice said softly. “It is me, Pam, and you do have an upstairs, just not like you know it to be.”

Then, for some strange reason, I turned around and looked back toward the living room and kitchen area. There was a cloud-like haze inside the apartment, almost like a cloud had seeped inside hugging just below the ceiling.

I heard what sounded like a door slowly rocking back and forth on its hinges. I stood there in awe of what I thought I saw.

What was this sight I was seeing. Could it be an actual cloud? No, that’s impossible, I thought. Another dimension?

Then the voice again, “Joe, come join me. I miss you.” This time the voice was much clearer and louder, but not yelling. “There’s a room that’s been made ready for you. It’s right next to mine. Won’t you please join us?” she asked.

“Us?” I said. “Who’s us,” I asked.

No answer. Silence. Utter stillness.

Yet, the “cloud” remained. Was it an entrance to another dimension? Was this voice talking and beckoning to me really Pam? I didn’t know. I just know that during this time the hairs on the back of my heard were still at attention and I was quite uneasy.

Meanwhile, that slow rhythmical squeaking of a door rocking back and forth on its hinges was the only sound I heard.

Until I didn’t. Then the door closed shut, rather startlingly.

“Pam? . . . Pam?” I called out.

Silence.

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Creative Confidence – Is it in You?

Is your school or workplace divided between the “creatives” versus the “practical” people? Yet surely, David Kelley suggests, creativity is not the domain of only a chosen few. Telling stories from his legendary design career and his own life, he offers ways to build the confidence to create.

As for building confidence, afraid of snakes? This may help.

David Kelley’s company IDEO helped create many icons of the digital generation — but what matters even more to him is unlocking the creative potential of people and organizations to innovate routinely.

So give it a listen. I think you’ll be glad you did.

David Kelley giving his TED Talk

Creativity Tip #4: Trying to satisfy everybody never got anybody anywhere. Focus on what’s important, then do it.



Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

How Creative Are You? Take the Creativity Test.

Do you think you’re creative? Let’s find out, shall we. According to researchers from McGill, Harvard, and the University of Melbourne, a quick test could reveal how much creative potential lies within. A recent article by Connie Lin in Fast Company magazine explores an interesting take on a creativity test.

Creativity has long been considered tough to quantify. But an international cohort of researchers from McGill University, Harvard University, and the University of Melbourne are tackling that challenge with a recent study that claims a four-minute test could reveal how much creative potential lies within.

HubSpot Blog

Here’s how it works: 1) Take a seat. 2) Think of 10 words that are as wildly unrelated—in definition, category, or concept—as possible. 3) Input here.

That’s it—the rest is algorithmic magic. The test, which is called the Divergent Association Task, then employs a computational program that measures the “semantic distance” between the words. For example: The words “cat” and “dog,” which are different but somewhat related, would have a shorter semantic distance than the words “cat” and “tunnel,” which bear fewer links.

According to researchers, people who can conjure up words with greater semantic distance might objectively be more creative. So if your words were “green,” “blue,” and “purple,” you might be deemed less creative than if your words were “sashay,” “gumption,” and “leaf.”

Results of the Divergent Association Task (DAT) appeared to match results that study participants received from two other well-established creativity barometers (the Alternative Uses Task and the Bridge-the-Associative Gap Task), suggesting it’s at least as effective.

The DAT, however, does not divine creativity in umbrella terms, but rather tests one specific type of creativity: divergent thinking, which is the capacity to generate an array of diverse solutions to an open-ended problem.

According to Jay Olson, the creator of the DAT, that’s just a “sliver”—but it’s the first step toward understanding creativity more broadly, and how it might be cultivated in the minds of the next generation.

“Creativity is fundamental to human life,” said Olson, who is a doctoral graduate of McGill’s Department of Psychiatry and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. “The more we understand its complexity, the better we can foster creativity in all its forms.”

The study is in National Academy of Sciences Proceedings.

So, how creative are you?

Creativity Tip #26: Everyone needs a Creativity Survival Kit. What is that, you ask? It’s any sort of container that holds items that make you feel or be creative.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

Pamela’s Lantern

A short tale of life and the somewhat perversely humorous after life.

The lantern stands guard over Pamela’s cremated remains until one day magically transforms another living being into the remains the lantern is guarding so that Pamela takes new life in the other living being’s body.

The lantern stands guard constantly overlooking the ornate, Chinese red urn containing Pamela’s remains. Almost like a person, the lantern is always looking from an angle, never taking its stare away from the urn. Its duty is to protect, watch over and remain a reminder that all is calm, peaceful, okay – A little like the eternal flame at JFK’S grave site.

By all appearances the lantern is normal looking, what one might expect at seeing a candle perched inside a window-latticed, red-lacquered, nautically designed portable lamp.

It’s normal looking and serves its purpose as a lamp overlooking Pam’s oriental urn. That is, except for when it decides to act independently and transform a living body’s substance into cremated remains and then swap them out with Pamela’s.

Admittedly a neat trick that not every lantern is capable of doing. Why it performs this rather perverse ritual, if one wants to call it that, is unknown at this juncture. It just does it. Randomly. It’s as if the lantern has a sixth sense about the person with whom it selects to interact.

You might be asking yourself how I know this happens at all. Have I witnessed this rather profane exercise in transformation? Has it happened to me? It has not. Yet! Though I wonder what type of emotional ties does the lantern have with its “subjects”. I sense it wants what’s best for Pam, to bring her joy and comfort in some very strange and weird way.

Assuming this to be true, I’d surmise that my transformation would be soon to come. I am, after all, Pam’s widower.

Can a lantern get jealous?, I asked myself one day. How can it?; it’s not a living being, I reasoned. It’s more of an entity, a thing that lights up. But it’s an entity that keeps watch over a very important vase, one in which my wife’s ashes are kept. Somehow, I think it knows that. It’s seen me take them out of the vase since they’re contained in a large plastic bag within the vase. It’s watched me handle them with utmost care. It knows of their importance.

On the other side of Pam’s urn is a cute little stuffed raccoon I gave her years ago. The raccoon, nicknamed Lil’ Rocky, also stands guard. Pamela is well protected should anything bad befall her.

11:48 pm – that’s when the lantern turns itself on every night. When that happens, it casts an entirely different light on its shelf. Though it doesn’t cast that much illumination on Pamela’s urn, it does cast a lovely glow that brings about a peaceful setting in the darkness.

Every time I get up during the night, I look over to notice the lamp and to make sure all is okay. This night was no exception. The lantern automatically turns off at about 4:15 am and all is dark in the living room. I go back to bed and wake up after the sun’s up.

One morning as I was walking through the room heading to the kitchen to make some coffee, I looked over at Pam’s urn and wished her good morning, just like I always do. After I made my coffee, I started walking back into the bedroom but paused my stride and turned back to glance in the direction of Pam and the lantern.

Everything looked the same but I stood there wondering why I had stopped to glance her way. I even walked up a few steps to get a closer look but nothing appeared out of the ordinary. I just thought I was still asleep since I hadn’t even taken sip number one of my coffee.

I didn’t realize at the time I wasn’t the only one wondering if something was amiss.

As I returned to my work area later that day, I noticed nothing odd at all. I didn’t give it another thought, so to work I went. Towards the end of this day as I was winding down, I went through my routine of shutting things off and getting ready for bed. Upon leaving my study, I glanced up to Pam’s area to bid her goodnight and I noticed something was different, if ever so slightly.

Both the lantern and the Chinese urn were exactly the same but the little raccoon was different; she was now turned to a position where she was looking down at me, where I usually work. I kind of shook my head thinking I was viewing this in a bit of a haze. Upon another gaze, I realized I was seeing things correctly. The raccoon had definitely changed positions. How? I didn’t have the foggiest idea!

I just stood there, staring up at the bookshelf where I had placed her. Without thinking, I reached up and turned her back into her original position at a slight angle, looking more at the Chinese urn than in my direction below. After doing that, I turned around and marched off to bed, turning off lights as I went.

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Quotes of Historical Perspective

From Steinem to Van Gogh to Serling and more, these quotes cover a multitude of personalities and perspectives. Enjoy as you read through the history makers, some of our time, some not.

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem

You cannot rely upon what you have been taught. All you have learned from history is old ways of making mistakes. There is nothing that history can tell you about what we must do tomorrow. Only what we must not do. Edwin H. Land

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? Vincent Van Gogh

It isn’t enough for a sole voice of reason to exist. In this time of uncertainty we’re so sure that villains lurk around every corner that we will create them ourselves if we can’t find them. For while fear may keep us vigilant, it’s also fear that tears us apart. Rod Serling

Rod Serling

An important idea not communicated persuasively is like having no idea at all. William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

In writing advertising it must always be kept in mind that the customer often knows more about the goods than the advertising writers because they have had experience in buying them, and any seeming deception in a statement is costly, not only in the expense of the advertising but in the detrimental effect produced upon the customer, who believes she has been misled. John Wanamaker, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it at the bud.  Alex Osborn, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Good advertising is written from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions, it rarely moves anyone.  Fairfax M. Cone, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

The scientist has marched in and taken the place of the poet. But one day somebody will find the solution to the problems of the world and remember, it will be a poet, not a scientist. Frank Lloyd Wright

Creativity Tip #36: If you can’t explain your idea to an 8-year old, it’s too complicated.



Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

Your Creative Juices Not Flowing Due to Uncertainty?

Having trouble getting your creativity loaded? Those creative juices simply not flowing for ‘ya? “Creativity block” is something akin to writer’s block. It’s a difficult stage to get through and at times can last longer than we’d like. It’s been especially difficult developing new ideas, creating new products and launching new services in the chaotic reality of this pandemic.

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Do times of uncertainty cause a decline in creativity and innovation? That’s not exactly a slam dunk of a “yes”. History tells us that innovation and creativity thrive even in periods of uncertainty and chaos.

Many successful companies like Airbnb and Uber, for example, were founded during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. General Electric was established and grew during the massive economic downturn in America, also known as “The Panic of 1893.”

According to this Harvard Business School article on innovation, the Great Depression of the 1930s was one of the most innovative decades in the last century. A proliferation of new technologies, exceptional innovations and inventions that pushed the world forward were conceived and created during that time period.

Inventions such as the jet engine and the helicopter were created, followed by the FM radio, sunglasses, copiers, nylons, ballpoint pens, electric razors, car radios and much more.

Accessing the mindset of creativity and innovation in times of uncertainty is not easy. When we feel as if we are losing control over our external circumstances, we start telling ourselves there is no point in starting the creative process, as nothing we do will succeed. Nothing like shooting ourselves in our creative feet before we begin!

Uncertain times are the norm. It’s always been that way. We can’t predict the future and the only thing we can control is us. We’re the source of creativity, innovation and inspiration. Nothing new there.

The stability and certainty we need to support our creative process comes from within. How can we tap into that? As I touched upon in another blog post, we need to find an inner calm so that we may better conjure up the spark to our creativity. It’s there in all of us. We just need to find that which can ignite the spark.

Hemingway ignited the spark when he had trouble getting started on writing, by writing one declarative sentence . . . the rest, he said, will start to come naturally. You’ve got to “prime the pump,” so to speak. Even the artist needs to take a brush or a pen and just start doodling, anything that will stimulate the mind.

When we find our inner calm, alongside our commitment to continue the creative process no matter what, we’ll also find the right mindset for stepping up and making progress. The more we detach ourselves from the external madness, the more we can engage the creative process. We need to “catch the wave” before we can ride it.

Recession, chaos, uncertainty, and, yes, even a pandemic or two go hand in hand with creativity and innovation. Uncertainty surrounds us whether we like it or not. So, let’s deal with it in some way, shape or form. Start creating, inventing, solving problems and adding value. You do that by thinking clearly, calmly and intuitively. Concentrate on what you can control. The rest usually takes care of itself.

This post was contributed, in part, from an article by Nili Peretz, Forbes Councils Member.

Creativity Tip #27: Never fall in love with your idea; there’s always a better one around the corner.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

 

Quotes (since it’s been awhile)

As it has been some time since a post was published with nothing but quotes, I thought we’d resurrect the form. Whereas in previous posts there has been a variety of authors quoting something not necessarily pertaining to advertising or the industry. This time, however, I thought we go with an emphasis on advertising, at least from people from within the ad biz. Enjoy!

When we are too timid to risk failure, we reduce the opportunities to succeed. And we eliminate the chance to learn. Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Remove advertising, disable a person or firm from proclaiming its wares and their merits, and the whole of society and of the economy is transformed. The enemies of advertising are the enemies of freedom. David Ogilvy, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Creative imagination — the lamp that lit the world — can light our lives. Alex F. Osborn, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Let us blaze new trails. Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art and good writing can be good selling. William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one. Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

An important idea not communicated persuasively is like having no idea at all. William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

When we are too timid to risk failure, we reduce the opportunities to succeed. And we eliminate the chance to learn. Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Creativity is no longer about grabbing attention or raising consumer awareness. Its goal is to remind consumers about what is fundamental and gratifying about a brand. Peter A. Georgescu, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Rules are for people who don’t know what to do. AND I don’t like closed doors. Creativity flourishes best in an environment of open doors and open minds. Keith Reinhard, Advertising Hall of Fame

Rod Serling on Writing and Creativity

To sleep. Perchance to dream. To dream. Perchance to imagine. To imagine. Perchance to create. To create. Perchance to write; perchance to make a difference. Mr. Rod Serling definitely made a difference and impacted society with his unique form and brand of creativity in his writing.

One could not watch an episode of either the Twilight Zone or Night Gallery and not be moved in some way. His genius and commentary were not limited to “inside” the story lines, but could also be found in his opening and closing narration.

Take the following, for example:

Then there’s this gem on creativity (circa 1971):

Quoting from the book “As I knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling,” by Anne Serling, (wonderful read, by the way) “In what was to be my father’s final interview, he was asked what he wanted people to say about him a hundred years from then. He responded, ‘I don’t care that they’re not able to quote any single line that I’ve written. But just that they can say, ‘Oh, he was a writer.’ That’s sufficiently an honored position for me.'”

As creativity goes, he was a master. As a writer, he was unsurpassed in this genre of storytelling. Oh sure, you have Mark Twain, Hemingway, Poe, Dickens, and Stephen King to name a few. But they were different; they each had their own style. Serling was also of another generation.

I often wonder what great works he would have produced should he have lived beyond 50 years. If King was or is the master of horror, then Serling, surely, was the master of the macabre for his generation, just as Edgar Allan Poe was for his. Not surprisingly, Poe was a great influence on Serling.

One thing to keep in mind, no matter who is or has influenced you as a creative person or a writer in particular, don’t be afraid to extend your limits, your boundaries. If you don’t think you can design it, write it or overcome it, try creating it anyway. Get to work even if you’re doing it in small, baby steps.

Even Hemingway wrote in a one sentence at a time mindset. Serling, being aware of his capacities, didn’t limit himself to actual writing of words. His generation of technology at least afforded him the dicta-phone so he could keep pace with his mind.

Write on, Rod!