In our modern age of robots, machines and computers taking over every task that humans have toiled, we must begin to to ask ourselves … what can humans do that machines cannot? What is the value of humanity?
Victor Frankl says our last human freedom is our ability to choose how we respond to external stimulus. This is something that no person or condition can take away. Not even a Nazi prison camp.
I also say that our last human VALUE is our ability to be creative. This is something that no external mechanism can replace.
I believe that creativity is that last human asset. Creativity in it’s many forms … visual art, dancing, music, theorizing, poetry … is something that transcends logic, linear thinking and potentially even the localized self. No computer can ever create the same way as humans.
Many politicians talk about how we need more jobs; however the jobs of the yore are not coming back. Over a hundred years ago we had the career of the “lamplighters” who lit the kerosene street lamps. But with the advent of new electric lights, this job was quickly made irrelevant. We are seeing the story of the lamplighters being played out across industries today.
This is ultimately a good thing (once again “bad” things being a blessing in disguise) because it forces us to shift towards the last remaining thing that can never be replaced … creativity.
As a successful large-scale steel sculptor, I have learned tools and methods to cultivate creativity. This also includes how to enter the “flow state” which is the present state-of-mind of which insight is spawned.
With the remaining time, I want to cover two broad subjects: How to cultivate creativity and how to be effective in it:
We are all given the paradigms of what the world is and who we are at an early age. We can spend our entire lives trying to overcome these paradigms. Some things people have heard are criticisms of their own creativity which therefore shut down any further expression as well as phrases like the “starving artist” or “you only make money as an artist when you’re dead”. These are toxic concepts which create failure. How do we address these belief systems?
Self-awareness is the flashlight in the darkness of unquestioned paradigms. Prioritizing time throughout the day to become present and observe our reactions to external stimulus as well as watch our own thoughts is key to realizing where these belief systems came from. Once we have identified self-limiting programming we are able to dissolve it with the following…
The power of visualization.
Visualization which is the ability to sense things in our minds … the ability to daydream, recall a musical composition, choreograph dance, see colors on canvas, feel softness of a pet all in the mind. Visualization is the stem cell of creativity. Powerful people from Olympic athletes to CEOs use visualization to see their goals before actually manifesting it in reality. But the kings of visualization are those who use it for creative endeavors. Let me explain one of the most powerful times you can use visualization…
Hypnagogia is the transitory state between wakefulness and sleep. This is a powerful time of visualization because disparate parts of your brain begin talking with each other. Your normal logical mind full of paradigms of what “should be” begins to quiet but is still active enough to consciously guide the other parts of the brain in constructive visualizing. One thing about this hynagogic quasi-dream state is you often forget by the next morning which leads me to the next tool…
The importance of writing.
How many times have you had such a good idea that you didn’t need to write it down because you thought you would remember … and then forgot?
This happens to me all the time and I have learned my lesson … Write down everything.
Let me give a metaphor, your brain is like a small desk which can only have three pieces of paper visible at anytime. If you need to look at anything else, you need to file away one of the papers in order to make room for the other information. Writing allows you to expand your desk so you are able to look at dozens of papers. In essence writing is an extension of the brain. Writing does two things. First our minds often are filled with worries, tasks and thought-loops which bog down our brains and disable us from entering the flow state of creativity. Writing allows our minds to relax from thinking about it by putting these things outside of ourselves onto paper. Secondly, writing coalesces the nebulous, an important element of being effective.
Many creative people have trouble getting past the state of day-dreaming and actually manifesting their dreams in reality. This is where coherence comes in. A 60w lightbulb only dimly lights a room whereas collecting all of those photons into a single laser beam gives enough power to cut through steel. This is what I call “coalescing the nebulous” and is the single most important aspect to becoming effective at turning creative visualizations into reality. Besides writing, we must focus our efforts with perseverance and organization to manifest our creations.
Living a balanced life.
The effective creative person must learn how to balance themselves. The past is what we evolve from, the present is where we create and the future is what we plan. Many of us tend to focus on one of these more than the other. Having an imbalance here leads to stagnation and spinning one’s wheels. Likewise it is important to balance productivity versus production capability. In other words, taking time from work to sharpen the saw … but also not perpetually “sharpening the saw” either.
Ritual and routine.
One of the ways to actually bring these diverse tools practically in our life is to create daily rituals preferable in the morning and at night. For example writing three pages of anything and everything that comes to mind first thing in the morning will go a long way to resulting in a more focused day. Taking time to intentionally visualize right before sleep can result in the answers you have been looking for. Going for a daily walk as a form of meditation is another way of which to derive creative sustenance and self-awareness.
Meaning and authenticity.
Your creative endeavors should come a place of authenticity. Not so much thinking of what is commercially viable but rather what feels right to you. Remove all restrictions from creative endeavors and that is how you find new solutions, genres, and concepts to make a better world.