Here at Business & Arts NL, we like to have interesting conversations with interesting people – about how to tap into your inner creativity, find your voice, and the importance of doing work that matters.
In October, we hosted one of our biggest events yet with internationally acclaimed author, entrepreneur and teacher Seth Godin (via satellite from New York). Business & Arts board member Kevin Casey (of Cal LeGrow) interviewed Godin in front of an audience gathered at the Emera Innovation Exchange at Signal Hill Campus (while others joined online). Following Godin’s half-hour long talk, a panel discussion was held with three local entrepreneurs/leaders about how they implement creativity in their work, including Adam Keating, Co-Founder and CEO of CoLab; Raïsa Mirza, Founder of WabiSabiJetty and Director of Innovation at One Drop Foundation; and Dean MacDonald of Deacon Investments and Deacon Sports and Entertainment.
Below, we’re sharing just a few of Seth’s nuggets of wisdom in the hope that they might help inspire you, too.
On creativity and art, and why some people don’t feel they’re creative
“Every single infant I’ve ever met is unable to walk or talk…if you look at a toddler, from the very name toddler, is that toddlers toddle. They don’t walk very well. They learn to walk by failing, and then they walk better. And the same thing is true with the way we string together sentences…Well, creativity is exactly the same thing. Walking and talking are skills. If you are lucky enough to have a fairly healthy constitution you can walk and talk, and you can be creative. And so what it means to be creative is pretty simple – solve interesting problems with generosity, solve interesting problems for other people. ‘Solve interesting problems’ means do something that might not work, because if all I have to do is pull down a file from the internet, well then I don’t need you to help me. If I need you, it’s because I’m facing a problem that I don’t know the solution to and you could figure it out. And that is what it means to be creative. So if you’ve been brainwashed into accepting that you are not creative…if you want to keep telling yourself that, it’s going to be hard to talk yourself out of it.”
On hobbies, and when hobbies start to become work
I love hobbies… I would never do (them) for money. Woodworking is my hobby. I was in a canoe that I built today out on the Hudson, that’s my hobby. Please don’t pay me to be in a canoe, because the minute you do, I’m doing it for you. I’m doing my hobby for me. And so what it means to turn your hobby into your work is, please be prepared to give up doing it for you, because you’re not allowed to anymore, And when we make art for other people, we are showing up even when we don’t feel like it, to keep a promise.
On the “lizard brain” and how to tame it
It’s a metaphor. I am not an anatomical biologist, but let’s think about wild animals. A wild fox, or even a moose – they don’t have a lot of internal narrative going on, a lot of discussion about whether they’re going to get a raise or what’s gonna happen with climate change. They only have the brain of a wild animal. And wild animal brains worry about revenge and fear and reproduction and that’s all. We have one of those brains too. And we have also grown around it, the other brain, the chattering brain, the monkey brain, the one that’s filled with discussions and every once in a while, can write a sonnet. But when we are confronted with something that we have been trained to be afraid of, it’s the lizard brain that speaks up. It’s closer to our spinal cord, it can release more chemicals, and it paralyzes us in fear. This is why we’ve invented writer’s block, which didn’t used to exist, and which doesn’t really exist. If you say, ‘I have writer’s block,’ that’s resistance talking. That’s your brain coming up with any excuse it can to not raise its hand and ask a question, or to not speak a truth or not to write something that needs to be written. But it’s not real. What’s real are the chemicals coursing through our brain. And you have to decide, if you want to be a professional, are you ready to sign up to do the hard work – emotional labor as Arlie Hochschild would say – of confronting something you might not feel like.
On ideas, and waiting for divine intervention before you implement them
So, I graduated from business school in 1983. And someone I went to business school with is still waiting for his big idea. And, you know, I’ve had 3,000, 4,000 ideas, and almost all of them have failed. If you’re not prepared to have ideas that don’t work, please don’t be prepared to have ideas that do. And ideas don’t come to you, you go find them.
On criticism – when do we ignore it, and when is it helpful
Anonymous criticism from people who don’t get the joke is completely unhelpful. Criticism from people who weren’t going to be your customer, your client, your fan anyway is completely unhelpful. Criticism that is meant to hurt your feelings or separate you from the person who’s giving you feedback is unhelpful. Criticism that reflects the hurt feelings of somebody whose dreams did not come true is not helpful. The criticism that is helpful is when someone who understands the genre, someone who is a professional at some level, someone who gets the joke, someone who’s on the journey that you are on, takes the time to give you advice – to not give you ‘feedback,’ but to actually say, ‘Have you thought of this? Did you notice that?’ That must not be ignored, because that’s gold. That is somebody who is hard to find, who is doing the emotional labour of generously leaning in and risking your relationship with them to help make your work better. So, I seek that out. I have a shortage of it. But I don’t need to see what anonymous people think about something that they didn’t understand.
Our next event, “In Conversation with Rick Mercer” will take place on February 17. Stay tuned to our website for details!