Talent Is Never Enough (How to Free Your Mind to do its Best Work)

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” — Vincent Van Gogh

Creativity defines the human species — it underpins our favourite technology, music, arts and every other tool or product we use everyday.

The human mind is naturally creative, constantly looking to make associations and connections between things and ideas. It wants to explore, to discover new aspects of the world, and to invent. Don’t stand in the way of your creativity.

Most people view “creativity” as a talent. But that spark of genius can be nurtured and triggered using a variety of techniques.

In Talent is Overrated, Colvin argues that deliberate, methodical, and sustained practice is the way to achieve true mastery.

“Deliberate practice is hard. It hurts. But it works. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.” Colvin writes.

The biggest difference between you and Picasso or Einstein, or the most creative minds of our time is that they embraced the long road to mastery. They spent more time in front of a canvas, or guitar, or computer, working away at applying their minds and souls to the one thing they wanted to do. Most of what we think of as natural talent is really just the result of having started practice early.

Creativity is a skill that can be learnt just like any other. Whether you’re an artist, writer or an entrepreneur looking for an innovative idea, practice and incorporating creativity into your every day life can help foster new ways of thinking in the search for that elusive Eureka moment.

Lose yourself to find yourself

As children we’re much less self-critical of our creativity. Kids will happily experiment with ideas, pictures, drawings and doodles without any fear that it’s not 100% perfect. Worrying yourself to death or painstakingly creating a concept before abandoning it — even for the smallest fault — can be a paralysing way to work.

Larry Kim explains:

Suni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, notes that some of the greatest thinkers–from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs–used doodling to jump-start creativity. Doodling can enhance recall and activate unique neurological pathways, leading to new insights and cognitive breakthroughs. Some companies even encourage doodling during meetings!

By throwing yourself into every idea, you can work through and find solutions that you wouldn’t necessarily have thought of had you spent days agonising over a concept.

If you can accept some failures and don’t always strive for perfection, you really increase your chances of producing something amazing and will find yourself constantly learning new things.

Being prolific means going in at the deep end. If you refuse to get started before you’ve brainstormed your brainstorms, thinking through an idea from every possible angle, you can end up with nothing at all.

Perfection is your enemy

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it” — Salvador Dali

Perfection is great. But you can’t afford it. Non of us can. Most people can’t show their most amazing work to the rest of us because they fear criticisms. They feel inadequate. They are scared people will think it’s not good enough and not perfect.

Others are living in their comfort zones because of fear. You don’t act because you are afraid of too many things that could go wrong. Don’t be afraid of the unknown, because everything is unknown.

You’ll suck at most things in the beginning. It takes time, persistence, and patience to create your most amazing work. Every magic happens outside your safe zone.

Creativity flourishes when you don’t seek perfection but focus on getting stuff done. What you do matters, not what you think or say or plan. And doesn’t have to be perfect. The real world rewards those who create stuff and get things done. Give yourself space to think and wonder. And don’t be afraid of what might happen.

Creating is the result of thinking like walking. Left foot, problem. Right foot, solution. Repeat until you arrive. Give yourself time in your life to wonder what is possible and to make even the slightest moves in that direction.

Enjoy the process

The only way you can find out if an idea will work is to actually try it out. You can save a lot of time by seeing an idea through early, if only on a provisional basis, to see whether it holds up to your own or a clients brief.

But the greatest impediment to creativity is impatience. The almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something, and make a splash can hurt your creative work.

Want to be more creative? Pick a problem you care about and get to work. Or focus on the one thing that makes you come alive and get started exploring it. If you don’t care about anything, your problem isn’t creativity, it’s apathy.

To master any skill, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.

Assume nothing. Question everything.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. — Albert Einstein

Consume everything. Read, watch films, search for inspiration on the internet. Check out the work of those famous and obscure in your field, and absorb absolutely everything you need to know.

Curiosity builds upon itself, every question leading to the next.

While people can understandably worry that this as a habit could make their work derivative, often-original ideas can be sparked by your unique reaction to the work of others. By being interested and engaged in the world, the chances are that your work will reflect this passion and become more interesting and engaging for other people.

While it’s never a good idea to conduct blatant plagiarism, your great creative idea could be hiding in someone else’s project. Inspiration is often found in the works of others arguably all thought and creative ideas are influenced by others. Where would Plato and Aristotle be without Socrates!

The path to greatness is paved with a thousand tiny rituals

Sleeping in until noon rarely sets you up for the day. Getting up early, finding a routine and setting yourself deadlines will do wonders for your productivity, and will let you create your best work.

Discipline however doesn’t mean working 9 to 5. There are no set rules for being creative or productive. Balzak used to work during the night having consumed 30 cups of coffee.

Mozart meticulously counted out 60 beans for his morning coffee every day. Hemingway rose at 5:30am before working until his midday Martini and writer Tony Schwartz used to set his timer for 90 minutes, focussing intently for an hour and a half before taking a lengthy break.

There is no “right” way to structure your day, but one common thread is that many of the greatest creative minds had strict daily habits. Find what works best for you stick to it.

Take lots of walks

Creative thought activates alpha-brain waves that helps trigger an idea with minimal conscious thought. Professor Jonathan Schooler from the University of California has studied brain wave activity during the creative process. He found that doing something different from sitting at a desk allows these unconscious thoughts to take hold.

Both Beethoven and Tchaikovsy firmly believed that taking a two-hour walk every day helped them with their musical composition. Taking a break from distraction and the constant bleeps, bings and boings from our various devices, can allow our brains to relax and innovation to slowly bubble to the surface.

Give your mind permission to wander

“Every day is an opportunity to be creative — the canvas is your mind, the brushes and colours are your thoughts and feelings, the panorama is your story, the complete picture is a work of art called, ‘my life’. Be careful what you put on the canvas of your mind today — it matters.” — Innerspace

Charles Darwin was reading Thomas Malthus’s Essay on Population for amusement when he was able to crystallise his theory of natural selection.

Dr Rex Jung from the University of New Mexico has also observed that when people are engaged in the creative process, there is a distinct change in the frontal lobes.

When there is less activity in the frontal lobes, it is more likely that you can come up with an original idea. Dr Jung describes the phenomenon as “transient hypofrontality.”

Great discoveries often evolve as slow hunches, maturing and connecting to other ideas over time. And remember, being completely terrible at something is the first step to being pretty darm good at it.

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” — Albert Einstein

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About The Author

Thomas Oppong is the Founding Editor at AllTopStartups. You can connect with him on Twitter, Linkedin or Instagram.