The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry



Many people assume that creativity is something that only few are capable of. However, by building the right habits into our daily lives, we can work more effectively and come up with innovative solutions to challenging problems.

12 lessons

The Accidental Creative

– by Todd Henry –

1) Comfort is the enemy of creativity

When we default to comfort out of fear of the unknown, we often ignore the paths that may change our life. Taking small steps to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations is one way of interrupting the comfort-seeking pattern.

2) Be purposeful about the stimuli in your environment

With ever-expanding access to entertainment and news, it can be tempting to snack on information all day indiscriminately, but if you want to be sharp and do your best work, you must become more purposeful about what you are putting into your mind.

3) Manage your energy

Our brains are wonderfully efficient systems, but they require tremendous amounts of energy to forge ideas, memories, and thoughts. When we are tired, our mind is less capable of functioning at its maximum potential. We are less likely in these times to forge connections and experience conceptual breakthroughs simply because our brain doesn’t have the basic energy required to perform the complex tasks required to generate ideas.

4) Being humble is not a sign of weakness

People often believe that to submit to authority or to closely follow the advice of others, especially when it goes against our instincts, is a form of weakness. Contrary to this cultural belief, to remain humble and curious and to bend our life to the advice of those further along the journey is actually a sign of strength.

5) Don’t underestimate the importance of relationships

When you neglect your relationships, you limit yourself to your own experiences. But when you approach your relationships with purpose, you will be able to draw on many lifetimes’ worth of experience for insight and inspiration.

6) Embrace simplicity and fundamentals

We often reject ideas that seem too simple or too obvious out of habit. If something is simple, the thinking goes, it must be ineffective. But the greatest performers across a wide spectrum of fields understand that the most basic and fundamental practices ultimately lay the foundation for brilliant results.

7) Work hard but with direction

Hard work is an absolute necessity if you want to do anything worthwhile. But what you must avoid is the kind of frenetic activity that seems like productivity but is really more about the appearance of being busy than the actual accomplishment of effective work. You want to work strategically, not desperately. When it comes to your effectiveness, fake work is often more dangerous than no work at all.

8) Execute and ship your product

Many creatives have a lot of great ideas but are ineffective at execution. They never ‘ship’ because they are too busy obsessively perfecting and tweaking their ideas. To be prolific means that you not only have great ideas, but that you actually do something with them. You can’t be bound by insecurity and neurosis. You must ship if you want to thrive.

9) Don’t try to measure up to other peoples’ successes

The more we try to force a successful (and derivative) result, the less likely we are to see true breakthrough. It’s only when we are free to abandon our need to measure up and instead simply trust our abilities that we will begin to see real creative brilliance emerge.

10) Focus your efforts

There is so much ineffective work because there is often a lack of clarity around what we’re really trying to do. In order to create effectively, you need a clear and concrete understanding of your objectives. Learn how to weed out urgent but unimportant activities, and how to direct your efforts toward only those things that will increase your level of creative engagement.

11) Teams are often more powerful than individuals

As much as we may venerate the ideal of the lone innovator, slaving away in the garage or studio to bring a vision to life, the reality is that most of the time brilliant creations are the result of teams of people stumbling awkwardly into the unknown. In most work, a well-organized team of creatives – even if they are not highly skilled – will produce exponentially more and better results than a lone genius.

12) Don’t let fear hold you back from taking risks

It’s often the case that because of a fear of what might happen if they make a mistake, creatives play it safe. They elevate the potential consequences of making a mistake to unhealthy (and unrealistic) levels and, in order to avoid those consequences, do mediocre work. More often than not, we simply don’t want to stand out, whether positively or negatively, because of the fear of being ostracized by our peers or managers. A lifetime of mediocrity is a high price to pay for safety.