Creative Confidence by David & Tom Kelly

Unleashing the creative potential within us all

This is probably the best book I’ve read which deals with breaking myths about creativity — that either you were born a creative or not. Here’s my take on a not-so-quick summary of the book!

Shout out to Jonathan Courtney from AJ&Smart for the book recommendation!

Creativity — The Heart of Innovation

I never expected that creativity is almost synonymous with innovation. I’ve always had this general understanding that innovation comes from scientists at research & design labs. But what is innovation, really? Innovation is not a product nor a technical breakthrough. Innovation is a phenomenon; it is when you have contributed a behavioral change in society. It is when you have influenced and changed the way people live in a much better way.

But who are these individuals capable of creating a dent in the universe? Were they just born this way? Did they possess some kind of “creativity” gene? And is everybody really the creative type?

The invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenburg sparked the printing revolution and laid the foundation for a knowledge-based economy during the Renaissance period. (I mean, I could put Steve Jobs and the iPhone here — but everybody knows that. lol🤣)

But what about creative confidence? Initially, I thought it was some measure of how innately artsy you are. Or maybe, how much natural talent you possess. But Tom defined it in a much different way — It’s the ability to come up with new ideas with the courage to try them out. And that it is simply a way of experimenting with the world, to generate new approaches & solutions.

Flip: From Design Thinking to Creative Confidence

There are 3 main factors that is needed to balance in every innovation act:

“Illustration by Beau Bergeron” Excerpt From: Tom Kelley. “Creative Confidence.” iBooks.

Desirability — Do people want it? Does it give them value?

Viability — Will people pay for it? Can we sustain building it?

Feasibility — Can we build it with the current technology we have?

One of the most important traits a designer should develop is empathy. An empathetic approach to designing solutions reminds us that we are designing for real people, not just ‘users’. That we design with purpose.

Design thinking is a human-centered design research while balancing on viability and feasibility.


One of the nice traits that I admire from creatives is their sense of “intentionality”. And you could see it with how they live. From the clothes they where, the objects they curate and the music they listen — everything is intentional. Almost everything they do or have has a story, a purpose or meaning.

See how intentional Clint selects the stickers he puts on this machine 💻Btw — he’s also a great designer, you should follow him:

A Growth State of Mind

There will be times when you feel that your skills are worthless or that you’re just not that good enough. And that’s okay, it happens to every expert out there when they were just starting out. But what you do need to realize, is that your skill level is just a temporary state in time. Instead of comparing yourself to other people and feeling undervalued, you should probably compare with the version of who you were yesterday and evaluate if you have gotten any better.

Ursa didn’t know his true potential, not until he hit the later stages of the game 🤣

Adapt a growth mindset. Believe that your true potential is unknown — that you are not limited to only what you have been able to do before.

Dare: From Fear to Courage

The Failure Paradox

There is this myth that creative geniuses rarely fail. Like they have some sort of super power inside them. But they do fail, probably more than we think. And they don’t let it stop them.

“The only way out is through”
— Robert Frost

When I was a kid, failure was frowned upon in school. Failure is bad. And I failed a lot in some of the different aspects in my life. And failure sucks, but it surely instructs.

The Failure Paradox — Shira Myrow at TEDxCulverCity

Embracing Failures

Failure has lots of meanings. But failure just becomes failure if it is repeating and if you don’t try to own it. It’s not about blindly failing with the same attempt everytime, you gotta figure out what went wrong so you could adjust your course and do better.

People are having Failure Conferences in the Bay Area. Aside from the normal portfolio most VC firms have to celebrate success, some very successful ones are also having an ‘anti-portfolio’ like this from BVP. Educators like Tina Seelig encourages her students to write Failure Resumes to allow them to learn what really makes you succeed.

Video from Pinkcast 1.12: Why you should write a failure resume.

Let Go of Comparison

Why do we compare? What is this that makes us feel inadequate to whatever we do? That we’re just not that ‘good enough’?

“When our self-worth isn’t on the line, we are far more willing to be courageous and risk sharing our raw talents and gifts.”
— Brené Brown

Which is probably why you still have 10 drafts of medium articles you haven’t published yet. Or the dribble shots you haven’t posted yet and kept hidden. The insecurity of thinking what all the experts (and trolls) in the internet might say.

So let go of comparison — you’ll be better off focusing on doing good work rather than being distracted with what others might think. 🙂

Drawing Confidence

People who identify themselves as ‘non-creatives’, commonly insist that, “I can’t draw.” It’s like they see drawing as the deciding factor if you’re creative or not. The truth is, drawing is a skill that you can learn and improve through practice and good mentorship. The same goes for other things you want to pursue out there.

“Courage is only the accumulation of small steps”
— Gyorgy Konrad

From Fear To Joy

Have you ever done something important in your life for the first time? I’m sure you felt nervous & maybe a bit scared. But once you have broken through and emerged safely to the other side, you’ll feel the exhilaration. You will feel like doing it again. Just like a kid’s first time to go down a slide. Or maybe do a random skydive like this guy:

Spark: From Blank Page to Insight

Cultivate A Creative Spark

Where do innovative ideas & creative solutions come from? Is it something you’re born with already? Well, it’s definitely something that one could develop & cultivate over time. And here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Choose Creativity 
    First, one has to be conscious of deciding that you want to be creative. And please stop saying “I dunno man, I’m just not the creative type”.
  2. Think Like A Traveller
    Observe and be curious. Ask questions like a kid. Look with a pair of fresh eyes on the places you pass by. Always adapt a beginner’s mindset in everything you do.
  3. Engage Relaxed Attention
    When we daydream, we’re in a state of rest where we are temporarily detached from our current surroundings. It is interesting to think that what we experience is just painted from our imagination. The brain sparks great ideas when it is not stressed. Which is why when you’re stuck on solving a problem, you tend to take a step back and come back with a fresher perspective.
  4. Empathize With Your End Users
    By putting yourself in your users shoes, you now have a better perspective of what they’re thinking & feeling. And this would greatly help you in the design decisions you make.
  5. Do Observations In The Field
    You can invite all experts in a room and each of them will always have a say. What you think is true and what is actually true is something you need to define. And a validated observation trumps over an expert opinion.
  6. Ask Questions, Starting With ‘Why’
    When you ask why — you are able to understand the deep-seated reasoning behind the intentionality of the way things are. Why is it designed that way? Why do people behave that way?
  7. Reframe Challenges
    Sometimes, we’re too focused on giving the perfect answers when all we need to actually do is ask the right questions.
  8. Build A Creative Support Network
    Its becomes a lot easier when you also surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Get out. Join meetups. Attend creative conferences and workshops.
After following the tips above, you should be getting creative sparks in your mind by now 💥

Leap: From Planning to Action

The “Do Something Mindset”

People who possess creative confidence are individuals who live in an active voice. They do not just free flow and say “that’s just how things are” or “that’s just the way it is”. They question and think in statements of “How might we”. They know the perfect plan does not exist so they do with whatever resources they currently have, build MVPs and quickly validate their assumptions. Their assumption may not always be correct, but at least they are optimistic enough of their ability to experiment and push even further.

Stop Planning And Start Acting

It’s hard to be the ‘best’ right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements. Small iterative changes make huge impacts over time. So try not to be perfect; rather, be consistent.

Art & Fear

If you want to make something great, you just need to start making. Don’t let your inner perfectionist slow you down. Don’t get ready, get started. Procrastination = Resistance. If you have trouble getting started you can:

  1. Get Help
  2. Create Peer Pressure
  3. Gather an Audience
  4. Do a bad job
  5. Lower the stakes

User Constraint to Fuel Creative Action

Creative constraints

  1. Tackle a ‘doable’ piece of the problem
  2. Narrow the goal
  3. Create a milestone

Seek: From Duty To Passion

Look for your ‘flow’ that creative state in which time seems to slip away and you are completely immersed in an activity for its own sake.

Make A Change

Think aloud the overlaps between your personal passion & workplace options. Learn new skills.

Teams: Creatively Confident Groups

Once you’ve unlocked your very own creative confidence you might be ready to take on some challenges in the world. But a huge scale mission might require a collective effort.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The Design Team @ Symph 🔥

Next: Embrace Creative Confidence

Now that you’ve reached this part of the article, it’s time to get out there and apply what you’ve read. Being normal is overrated. Tap on your inner creativity and become extraordinary. The best way to exercise your creative muscle is through small actions at a time. It all starts with you.

“Through effort, practice, and continuous learning, you too can reimagine your life and career once you embrace creative confidence”
— Tom & David Kelley

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, you might wanna check out my other book reports lol. 👾