Hi my name is Michael and I am creative director at a leading marketing firm.
It’s 6am and I am watching the sunrise at the waterfront on the beach with my laptop wide open and a blank page staring back at me. I feel inspired but not sure what to write about. I am on a fact finding mission to understand two different consumer groups on behalf of the organization I work with. With the information I collect, we will be able to generate insights that we we use to develop creative strategies for our clients. This is what sets us apart as one of Africa’s fastest growing below the line agencies. Personally I can’t help feeling lucky and undeserving because deep down I know that anyone can do the job that I am about to do.
Some people are born artistic; that I totally agree. But the notion that some people are born creative is the thing that I will never concur with. I believe that everyone has the ability to be creative and I also believe that regardless of what profession or walks of life we come from, we all need creativity because it’s what sets us apart in everything that we do.
Growing up, I loved drawing and painting and one of my greatest influences of my life was my mother. You see, when I first showed her something I had drawn, she immediately told be it was the best drawing she’d seen in her life. That made me very happy and I can only remember that from then on drawing became my oxygen. I’d draw everyday and everywhere just so I could make people happy. Looking back, I think the first drawing I showed my mom was the most horrible sketch ever. She just happened to know the secret of inspiring talent. She knew that her response should ignite a spark that in turn would open up a world of possibilities for me. And that is exactly what happened.
As I grew up I realized that the world was flooded with artists and good ones at that. In my three decades, I have seen amazing talent often unsung and appreciated. You will always find them in art centers and street corners, broke, spiritual, conscious and unmotivated. In the art circles we are always joking that an artist only becomes rich and famous when they die. Ironically this is true most of the time. As painful as it sounds, the world really doesn’t need art if it [art] doesn’t address any challenge. So art without purpose just breeds artists. Art with purpose gives rise to creatives and problem solvers.
When I was 18, I decided I would be a graphic designer. Upon trying it out I realized that it was harder than I had earlier imagined. The responses to my work were more brutal and hardly encouraging. This is because design is all about addressing challenges. I discovered that being good in art wouldn’t just cut it if no one saw it’s usefulness. The world wanted something that addressed ITS challenges. I was used to making art straight out of my heart and this was new ground; I had to create art that needed to address the needs of others. To save my budding career now under threat, I decided I would try to understand what it is that successful designers did different.
I discovered that successful designers had one thing in common. They were always seeking to understand the dynamics. I realized that all along I had been seeking to understand myself and that is why I produced work that only made me happy and thus ended up seeking only positive encouragement from others. This was my eureka moment that changed everything.
Nowadays I get offended when someone calls me an artist because I don’t make art, I solve problems. I am a creative.
To harness creativity, I learnt that I needed to absorb knowledge from the environment. Yes, it was as basic as reading the paper everyday or asking everyone the most awkward questions; always seeking to understand who everyone else was and what they needed. I noticed the change immediately as I started realizing how the world is overwhelmingly filled with opportunity.
I’d passed by the shoe shiner’s everyday just so he could tell me what was going on in the city. The newspaper vendor always knew the politics of the day and what was going to happen tomorrow. I discovered our teal lady at the office always had an opinion on the challenges women were going through and all this information just opened up my eyes to a world I had been blind to since birth. I began to understand why companies and brands were going down while others succeeded within the same environment. It became my purpose to always seek information. It changed my paradigm and made my work better and as a designer. I had started making real impact.
I realized that as a creative designer, my work determined the bottomline for the organization I worked with and also the value of the brands I worked on. As a result I firmly believe that in creativity, knowledge is power. The key to creativity is understanding the dynamics of the situation in question in great detail and using this information to produce fresh, exciting and impactful solutions. This realization has been my lifestyle since then.
I believe that regardless of what your profession is, creativity can give you positive results and lasting impact. Whether you are a brand manager, accountant, actuarial scientist, doctor, janitor you name it. The principles of creativity work in the same way. Everyone has the ability to be creative. First get to understand the dynamics well, then ask yourself how you can do it bigger, better, different and with a more lasting impact. Creativity expands the playing ground and increases opportunity. With creativity you have competitive advantage and an improved bottom line. To be effective, creativity needs to be part of our daily life. Creativity is not rocket science but rather a power that is within reach to all of us. Creativity makes what we do enjoyable because it fuels passion.
So everything you have put down on your to do list today is essentially an opportunity to tap into your creative potential. That my friends is creativity lesson 101.
Next time I will write about how we can inspire creativity in organizations for better performance.
I’ve talked to many people but sadly most of them don’t seem to know their purpose and what they want from life. I too have struggled with this question all my life and I still am. I hate that it has become the monkey on my back and I hate that I have to wake up everyday to look for myself. I can’t concentrate at anything I do and I have turned into a hopeless scatter brain. I feel like time is running out and the prospect of growing old and miserable, haunted by dreams that never materialized scares me. It makes me go into panic; a miserable state that can be observed by looking at how many things I’ve tried in my life.
I have tried starting my own business more than once and I have tried going up the ladder in my career and still, there is this nagging feeling that I am just not where I want to be.
When I’m at work I find my mind wandering to distant places and I am fearful that maybe those places are where I should be instead. I observe other people and suddenly it looks like everyone is getting onto their path. They seem happy and everything they do looks deliberate and based on a well defined purpose.
So is it that I have failed in finding my path or am I expecting [unrealistically] too much from life? Do I have the wrong paradigm of how life works? Is my purpose locked in this ‘uneventful’ job that I don’t seem to give the appreciation it deserves? Am I part of those who will never amount to anything? Is that my destiny?
On the other hand I also see many people who are like me. People who don’t have a clear plan of what they would do if they won a million dollars today. People who procrastinate and are always anxious because they are not sure of the future. One day you are excited about this new idea you’re pursuing and the next day you’re not sure if it is what you want. Your life goes in phases that come and end as fast as a flame on a matchstick. First there is the ‘I need to buy land phase’, then comes the ‘I need to start saving phase’ and today you’re on the ‘I need to start a business’ phase and the cycle never ends.
I’ve heard people say that you are always in the path that God wants you to be but I am beginning to doubt that. Why? because if this is where He wanted me to be, why am I not happy? Why do I feel like I am in limbo?
I have seen many of our parents live their lives in simplicity and mediocrity; retiring at sixty five and immediately going into the last phase of life where they miserably wait for their sunset. Somehow it has always felt wrong because [I believe] life is not meant to be a mere existence and a process that is predictable as to how it ends. What happened to dreams? At what point do dreams die? Is it to late for my parents to start dreaming all over again? Why I’m I getting sucked into the same cycle of broken dreams and surrendering without a fight? Why is this the more comfortable path to follow?
I’ve had a good career so far; it would be ungrateful for me to ignore that. Learning new things has been the best part of it all. Being challenged to do the impossible has kept my adrenaline pumping and like a junkie, I want more. I want more because there is this strong unshakable urge inside me that tells me I have a higher purpose. Something I can write my name on. That THING that I can do for free and not worry where money will come from because it will be automatic. That purpose that will make my life count for something. I want to be remembered for something great!
I have looked for it everywhere and I am willing to do everything to know why I am here. Sometimes I wish God would use my friends, family or even a stranger to tell me what is it that I am good at so I can dive into it NOW. Or maybe that’s not the way He speaks, maybe it is. But at the end of the day I just want a nudge in the right direction. Or maybe I have already been nudged but was too distracted to feel it? Where is that ONE clear hint that will show me which door to knock? Or maybe a hint is not supposed to be clear after all?
Whatever and wherever my purpose is, I have decided I’d rather die trying to find it. I can no longer sail blind in this darkness. I need to find a beacon and I need to find it sooner than later. I hate losing sleep over things I can’t decipher. I hate to be a person who always changes his dreams because he doesn’t know where he is going. One thing I am sure though, is that I am here for a purpose. What it is, I don’t know. So I’m going to start my search and I will hunt down my purpose to the ends of the earth if need be.
Last week I decided I will put all my dreams on paper because I had a feeling they will lead me to my purpose. It was a challenging experience to decide on what I want for my future, but it’s a start. After pasting cut-out pictures of what I want in life on a white page, I am starting to have this strange experience that I like. For some reason, I feel like I am on to something good and long term. For once I am pretty clear on my dreams and when I would want to achieve them. How I am going to achieve this is the billion dollar question. Whether this yields anything only time can tell, but I can’t shake off the conviction that this is probably what I should have done years ago.
You see when I was young, my mother taught me this trick and it got me my first car. She told me to write down what I wanted in future and keep it where I could see it every day. I bought a car a few days to my twenty fourth birthday -which is the date I had written down. When you are a child belief is raw and unadulterated, but as you grow older logic gnaws at your dreams and suddenly they become fantasies. I guess somewhere along the way I forgot the basics; that you have to visualize what you want because it’s the first sign that you can and will most likely get it.
It’s time I started all over again. After all, maybe life isn’t about finding yourself but creating yourself.
I’d like you to take a moment and ask yourself this simple question. Have I found myself?