If you have made it to this page, you are a creative professional.
Does that sound weird? Are you used to thinking of “creative professionals” as designers, writers, architects, etc.?
Well the truth is that you are just as creative as any of those guys…
IF, of course, you’re doing your job right.
I’m always telling you that your top duties as an entrepreneur are marketing, selling, and leadership. Well, if you want to excel in all three of those areas then you need a lot of creativity.
And again, I want to really be clear about what I mean when I say “creative.” See, there are a lot stereotypes surrounding the idea of creativity. A lot of people want you to believe that anyone who is creative is automatically an artist, and that you can’t be creative if you’re not an artist.
This is a lie. I’ll give you the true definition of creativity right here:
Creativity is finding elegant solutions to serious problems. Creativity is finding connections between things that don’t seem related. Creativity is taking the boring and difficult parts of life and making them fun and easy.
Now with that definition, think about all the people who have found massive success in the worlds of business. And I don’t mean the people who lucked out and accidentally landed in positions of power, I mean the true entrepreneurs who built something amazing using their own vision and leadership.
See how these people made a habit of solving problems? See how they were able to combine things that nobody else thought to combine? See how they turned “boring and difficult” into “fun and easy”?
Here, let me show you an example. (If you want to just skip right to my tips, scroll down until you see a picture of a window.)
Obviously, this example hits close to home for me as a lifelong fitness professional, but the image I’m about to show you will probably look familiar to anyone who as a set of eyeballs. It’s just that iconic.
Ah, yes, “The Insult That Made a Man Out of ‘Mac’.” Even if you don’t recognize this exact image, you probably have seen one of the dozens of parodies that have turned up over the years. It’s a legendary piece of marketing, and it’s become thoroughly stuck in our cultural memory.
Now, to really understand why this image is important I’ll need to break down the history surrounding it.
The ad, of course, was created by Charles Atlas. He was a marketer, bodybuilder, and public figure who had his heyday in the 1920s. He was also a fine example of the Immigrant Edge, by the way, since he originally came from Italy.
Obviously, bodybuilding had existed in one form or another for centuries before Atlas came along. However, it had always been a niche culture. For example, “musclemen” lifting huge weights were popular in the 1800s, but they were usually included alongside the freak show. Audiences were fascinated, but they didn’t daydream about looking like musclemen themselves.
Charles Atlas changed that completely. In fact, a lot of experts credit him as the grandfather of the modern bodybuilding industry. Why?
Because his ads created an EXPLOSION of interest in personal fitness. What was once a niche rapidly became a booming industry, with thousands of newcomers clamoring to snatch up every piece of workout advice Atlas could sell them.
Even athletes, who had mostly stuck to their own world and their own specialized training, started showing up to bodybuilding competitions.
Now here’s the funny thing…a lot of people look at Charles Atlas ads now and say that they’re “cheesy” or that they are “painfully obvious.”
And that leads me to an important insight about creativity: truly groundbreaking creativity only looks “obvious” after the fact. Until someone puts in the hard work, careful thought, and leadership to create something important, the next great innovation is a total mystery.
It’s easy for us to look back on Charles Atlas now and see his work as an “obvious success.” But that’s only because we weren’t there for the many painstaking hours he and his team put into researching people’s problems, building those into a compelling story, and drawing those eye-catching comics.
So if you’re already daydreaming about Charles Atlas levels of success, then start thinking like he did: look for problems to solve, try combining existing solutions, and make your work FUN for you and others.
In other words, GET CREATIVE! These tips will help you get started:
Tip #1 – Work in Front of a Window
This may not seem like a big deal to you right now, but try split testing it. Spend one day working in front of a wall and another day working in front of a big, clear window.
What you should notice, according to research (not to mention my personal experience), is that you work faster, think more clearly, and come up with better ideas in front of the window.
Weird, isn’t it?
It has to do with psychological framing. When you have a window in front of you, you can see the open sky. That means you’re getting a ton of the color blue (which is a very creative color) AND you are constantly visualizing a wide open space.
Visualizing an open space gives your mind room to have BIG thoughts and explore many different possibilities, which is exactly what you need for creative thinking.
Now obviously, you don’t need to spend every second of your day in front of a window. That would be silly. But do keep the window trick in mind for when you get writer’s block on your sales copy, or you just can’t quite picture how you want your logo to look. The window might give you the extra space you need to get the idea stream flowing again.
And of course, if you can’t find a window to work with, you can substitute it for a large, well-lit room with blue walls. Same effect.
Tip #2 – Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
People get so weird about sleep. I see so many ambitious people trying to get by with 4-6 hours of sleep per night. That’s silly enough to begin with, but then they try to wear it as a badge of honor and say “Look at how hard I’m working! I barely ever sleep!”
Guess what? If you spend all your extra waking hours doing sloppy work, you aren’t productive. In fact, odds are you’re way less productive than the people who sleep reasonably.
Because here’s the tricky thing about sleep deprivation: the first things it takes away from you are the exact things you MUST HAVE to do great creative work. These include patience, focus, a stable mood, and alertness.
So get your sleep. 7 hours is good; 8 hours is better. Every night, preferably at the same time (this helps you get a better rest and have more energy during the day).
Tip #3 – Write Out Your Bad Ideas
This is good for when you’re really stumped on a particular problem.
How often have you found yourself grasping for a solution to a problem in your life, and you’re sitting there fidgeting because your head is swarming with obviously wrong answers and you’re just waiting for the right answer to rise to the top?
Happens pretty often, doesn’t it?
When that happens, just write out or doodle all the wrong answers until you’ve listed them all. Seriously, take a second to not care about being right and jot down EVERYTHING.
This exercise will almost literally clear the bad ideas out of your head and make room for good ones. Or, you might notice unexpected connections between bad ideas that actually morph them into good ideas.
Tip #4 – Get Curious About Art
Part of your job as an entrepreneur is to know a little bit about everything.
So while you’re at it, why not learn a little about the arts?
Sure, your top priorities in your reading time should always be business, sales, and leadership, but make some room for the artistic classics too. Literature, poetry (a favorite of Tom Hopkins, by the way), paintings, sculpture, music – take your pick.
I say “classic” because you don’t want to waste your time on mediocre art. There’s not a lot for you to learn there. The classics are usually a safe bet, but really, any piece of art that jumps out at you and sticks in your memory is worth a closer look.
All artists are, on a really deep level, problem solvers. Just like you. If you take a close look at their process, it’s really a series of careful decisions that all center around the basic problem of “How can I make this thing say what I’m trying to say?”
So keep an eye out for hints about the way great artists think. There’s a lot for you to learn there.
Tip #5 – Rest Actively
Some of our best ideas come to us while at rest. Esteemed geniuses in business, the arts, and the sciences will often admit that their best ideas came to them in the shower.
Of course, the kind of rest matters quite a bit…
If you really want to open your mind to new ideas, steer towards “active” forms of rest.
This can include thrilling activities like surfing, which I know from experience creates a helpful blast of dopamine and lets me release a lot of muscle tension.
This can also include slow, repetitive movements like nature walks, meditation, or yoga.
The point is to hit that sweet spot where you have just enough activity to keep your brain going, but not enough activity to keep it distracted. That’s when the best ideas, and the best connections between ideas, really have room to grow.
There you go! Now go out there and get creative!
Committed to your success,