Recently I had the privilege of volunteering with a major charity organization, creating life-size board games for underprivileged children. It was fun and rewarding.
Along with 15-20 of my co-workers, we worked on the projects for several hours. I was taken back by the mood of the group. People I had known for years, silent desk jockey types, were interacting in a joyful way I had never seen before. Ideas were flying and the engagement level was off the charts. There was an unquestioned sense of purpose and excitement in doing something that was impactful, as opposed to our daily tasks back at the office.
I watched creativeness come alive.
One guy was drawing animals identical to the sketch on his phone. Another guy was mixing paints like Picasso. Both work as tax accountants.
In that fleeting moment, it was like they were kids again – painting, drawing, dreaming. On this day we were allowed to tap into our creative side, and I watched hidden talents come alive. This volunteer experience got me thinking about creativity, how it is non-existent in most adults.
Think of some of the people you know – friends, family, and co-workers. How many of them seem uninteresting? Most of the people I know qualify. But in a different era, I’m almost certain this would not be the case. Creativeness had been beaten out of us due to the current technologically driven work environment.
There is a systematic process in place that destroys creative thought.
The death of creativity and original thought begins in our preteen years. Risk taking becomes a “bad thing.”
We begin to be reprimanded for taking risks and thinking “outside the box.1” As we get older, we are indirectly taught conformity and social conditioning also continues to buzz along. The “system” is designed to churn out an army of educated and obedient workers for the American corporate complex. Kids are brainwashed to believe that there is only one road to success and happiness, through college of course. Alternative options are met with criticism and skepticism.
Creativity = Original ideas that have value
In 2006, British educator Ken Robinson gave a TED talk titled:
“Do Schools Kill Creativity?”
With over 40+ million total views, this is the most viewed TED talk ever. It’s a must watch.
Check out a passage from his speech below:
What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.
Later in the talk:
Suddenly, degrees aren’t worth anything. Isn’t that true? When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn’t have a job, it’s because you didn’t want one. And I didn’t want one, frankly. (Laughter) But now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence.
Robinson explains how the school system strips us of creative thought by encouraging us not to take risks. This has devastating consequences. If we never take a risk, we can never fail which means we will never even attempt to do something original in thought or action.
He goes on to discuss how college degrees are becoming increasingly watered down. A BA is now the equivalent to a high school diploma. A masters degree has replaced a BA as a prerequisite to many low level corporate jobs, and even the once vaunted Ph.D. is needed to break through the glass ceiling in some fields. “Academic inflation,” as Robinson describes.
This TED talk sheds light on a cold, hard truth; We are experiencing the death of creativity, and have been for many years.
We graduate into a mountain of debt and a stagnant wage environment. Most of us have no emotional connection to our 9-5 job, it is a means to an end, a way to pay off student loans and recurring bills. If offered an alternative, almost everyone I know would jump for it.
A select few are lucky enough to be in a field where their talents and strengths are used, but for most, we are peg-holed into a lifeless entry-level position completely dearth of any original thought.
Repetition becomes our best friend.
We are taught a proprietary software system or how to sell a product, learning a rudimentary skill set that lacks any wiggle room for originality or input. We are given a series of tasks, singular in nature, and expected to complete everything during the arbitrary 8 hour work day. These low-level admin-type tasks usually recur on a periodic basis such as daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Original thought is an after-thought.
Our work becomes our lives, as we are taught to devote ourselves entirely; the scarcity mentality is championed, as we work to one-up our co-workers to be noticed and in turn, be paid more money.
Being wrong about something becomes our biggest fear.
“Don’t mess up, mistakes are bad and show a poor attention to detail!”
The more you achieve, the more that is expected. Higher output leads to higher corporate demands. As you can imagine (and have experienced), it’s seldom a winning situation. After so many years in this environment, laziness and complacency sets in, and most people live out their entire lives working for a paycheck, and little else.
Unhappiness and stress are commonplace. Status becomes our #1 obsession, a sick game of trying to impress our peers and superiors. We become power hungry.
The irony is that we are in fact powerless, because we have given up our one true power, the power over ourselves.
Our health also suffers, but worse of all, we lose our sense of identity, the characteristics that once defined us as children due to our creative minds. The worldwide cultivation of mindless workers has been devastating and the death of creativity continues to be fostered in modern workplace.
So what is the answer?
How to you stay creative in a world that is designed to take it away from you?
10 Ways to Cultivate a Creative Mind
- Side Projects: You should always be working on 1-2 goals, hobbies or passions besides your 9-5 job. You need to find consistent daily time to do this. Once you get rolling you will be surprised with how much creative energy you will begin to exhibit. I can speak firsthand to this. I began a few side projects, including this blog, and now have an improved outlook and thought process. My mind has adapted, becoming more skeptical and creative. I now seek out questions and answers from all the things around me.
- Networking: Find others who share your interests. If you live in a big city, this is easy. Use Google. Find events and gatherings that catered to the things you are passionate about. You will be in the presence of other like-minded individuals, which will lead to more happiness and excitement.
- Embrace nature: Get away from the computer. Going outside and forgetting the world around you will be beneficial, including enhanced mental health, sharper focus, and decreased depression, among other things. You enter a relaxed, mindless state – no distractions in the form of smart phones, TV, or the internet.
- Vacations: Use your time off wisely. Get away from the ordinary and familiar and explore places you have never seen before. Vacations help you recharge but can also help plant a thought or an idea you would have never thought of during your normal routine.
- Take Stock of Your Life: Make sure you are 100% aware of where you stand in life. Stop telling yourself lies. Be honest about your career, relationships, financial position, etc. Don’t sell yourself a false narrative. If you uncover any issues, move to plug them and work on improvement. The biggest issue we face is naive and unrealistic outlooks on life.
- Read: Shocker, I suggest reading once again. Reading has immense benefits, but especially helps foster the growth of creativity. Read across a wide spectrum of topics and issues, and through this learning, you will unlock new thoughts and beliefs.
- Write: Write as often as possible. Carry a notebook or paper at all times. Write your thoughts in the morning. Start a blog where you can right your ideas and opinions. Nothing sparks the brain more than creative writing, something we never do at most 9-5 jobs.
- Music: Spend some time each week searching for new music in your favorite genres. Music helps me think clearly and takes my mind to new places.
- Find Yourself: Learn to rely on yourself for your happiness. Shun external validation. It’s hard, I know. Social media, friends, family, and significant others – all have a place in your life, but should never govern your life, and especially, your happiness.
- FAIL: Do things you will be bad at. You will never get ahead without failing at something and suffering setbacks. I tried skiing for the first time last winter. I was terrible and spent 3 hours falling on the ground. I was embarrassed and frustrated. Now, I cannot wait for the winter months, as skiing is something I want to incorporate into my life.
That’s all for now guys. Hopeful I provided you with some actionable advice on how to unlock your creative mind.
Share your experiences with me below. Are you lucky enough to do creative work every day? Let me know!
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