The next time you have an idea shot down by your boss, or someone tells you “it’ll never work”, take a deep breath, close your eyes and take inspiration from some of history’s great losers, like Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Edison, Beethoven, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Steve Jobs. Sorry, did you say ‘losers’? Surely these are some of the greatest creative thinkers ever whose ideas have changed the world, defined mankind and brought pleasure and inspiration to millions? Well, it depends who you listen to. Let’s look at the facts:
Steve Jobs was the son of single mother, put up for adoption as a child on the proviso that he gets sent to one of the best schools in the country. His adoptive parents scraped together all they could afford to send him to college, only for Jobs to drop out half way through. When he approached Hewlett Packard for funding to build a personal computer he was told he didn’t even have a college education and knew nothing about technology. He was advised to go back to college and come back when he had a degree. So he built a PC in his own garage and the rest is history.
Leonardo DaVinci was also the son of single parent and therefore banned from going to university. Because he was self-taught he didn’t learn in subject blocks, he just absorbed knowledge from different sources and blended science, art, philosophy, language, numbers to produce amazing ideas. Thomas Edison said his greatest blessing in life was a lack of an education, because if he’d been to school he would’ve been taught that what he wanted to do was impossible. He came up with 3,000 ideas for the electric light before selecting the best one. The other 2,999, he said, were not failures, just ideas that didn’t work.
Albert Einstein’s parents were told he was mentally retarded. He was thrown out of school for being a negative influence on the serious students. Beethoven’s parents were told he was too stupid to be a composer. Isaac Newton’s teachers said he was the most unlikely academic they’d ever seen. Walt Disney was fired from his first job on a newspaper for ‘lack of imagination’.
You see, adversity taught these people to think differently. They weren’t ‘special’ in any way other than that they refused to be negative. Creative thinkers have what creative guru Michael Michalko describes as a “tolerance for ambiguity”. For them, nothing is black or white. They suspend their judgement. People all too readily equate negativity with intelligence – if I can knock your idea back it makes me look more intelligent, or more experienced. It’s why creativity struggles to surface in the workplace. Michalko says: “It’s easier to think of reasons why things can’t work. It’s the way we’re taught at school, we’re taught to be judgemental. Our first thought is ‘what’s wrong with it?’. The only difference between a creative person and one who is not is belief. If you believe you are creative you define yourself as a creative person. It’s easier to say you’re not creative because then you won’t have to come up with ideas.”
So, following on from yesterday’s post, let’s try and nail this myth about creativity. There’s far too much negativity about nowadays as it is. Fighting it starts in the mind. To quote Michael Michalko again: “Your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your character and your character determines your destiny.”