For today’s aspiring entrepreneur, exploring avenues of creativity to find your passion is likely the quickest route to increase your chances of launching a successful business. Where to start? Here, five exercises to help you uncover your passion.
Exercise 1 – Revisit your childhood. What did you love to do? “It’s amazing how disconnected we become to the things that brought us the most joy in favor of what’s practical,” says Rob Levit, an Annapolis, Md.-based creativity expert, speaker and business consultant.
Levit suggests making a list of all the things you remember enjoying as a child. Would you enjoy that activity now? For example, Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s greatest architect, played with wooden blocks all through childhood and perhaps well past it.
“Research shows that there is much to be discovered in play, even as adults,” Levit says.
Revisit some of the positive activities, foods and events of childhood. Levit suggests asking yourself these questions to get started: What can be translated and added into your life now? How can those past experiences shape your career choices now?
Exercise 2 – Make a “creativity board.” Start by taking a large poster board, put the words “New Business” in the center and create a collage of images, sayings, articles, poems and other inspirations, suggests Michael Michalko, a creativity expert based in Rochester, N.Y., and Naples, Fla., and author of creativity books and tools, including ThinkPak (Ten Speed Press, 2006).
“The idea behind this is that when you surround yourself with images of your intention — who you want to become or what you want to create — your awareness and passion will grow,” Michalko says. As your board evolves and becomes more focused, you will begin to recognize what is missing and imagine ways to fill the blanks and realize your vision.
Exercise 3 – Make a list of people who are where you want to be. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Study people who have been successful in the area you want to pursue.
For example, during the recession, many people shied away from the real estate market because they thought it was a dead end. Levit believes that’s the perfect time to jump in — when most others are bailing out — because no matter the business, there are people who are successful in it. Study them, figure out how and why they are able to remain successful when everyone else is folding and then set up structures to emulate them.
“If you want to be creative, create a rigorous and formal plan,” Levit says. “It’s not the plan that is creative; it’s the process that you go through that opens up so many possibilities.”
Exercise 4 – Start doing what you love, even without a business plan A lot of people wait until they have an extensive business plan written down, along with angel investors wanting to throw cash at them — and their ideas never see the light of day, according to Cath Duncan, a Calgary, Canada-based creativity expert and life coach who works with entrepreneurs and other professionals.
She recommends doing what you enjoy — even if you haven’t yet figured out how to monetize it. Test what it might be like to work in an area you’re passionate about, build your business network and ask for feedback that will help you develop and refine a business plan.
It’s a way to not only show the value you would bring, but you can also get testimonials that will help launch your business when you’re ready to make it official.
“Perhaps most importantly, though, it’ll shift you out of paralysis and fear,” Cath says, “and the joy of seeing the difference your contribution makes will fuel your creativity.”
Exercise 5 – Take a break from business thinking. While it might feel uncomfortable to step outside of business mode, the mind sometimes needs a rest from such bottom-line thinking, says Levit, who has recently taken up Japanese haiku, a form of poetry. Maybe for you, it will be creative writing, painting, running or even gardening.
After you take a mental vacation indulging in something you’re passionate about, Levit suggests coming back to a journal and writing down any business ideas that come to mind.
“You’ll be amazed at how refreshed your ideas are,” he says. “Looking at beautiful things – art and nature – creates connections that we often neglect to notice. Notice them capture, them in writing and use them.”
reblogged from Entreprenuer.com
#1 Be Spontaneous:
The idea of spontaneity often gets the same reactions as creativity – people immediately reject it by saying things like “oh, im not spontaneous. Im not the kind of person to just hop on a plane somewhere.”.
Well, what would your life be like if for one day you did exactly what you pleased, took off your filters, said what you thought? Spend a few minutes daydreaming about this and write down what you come up with. What does this say about your inner desires and the life you are living?
If you are really feeling bold, try actually living one day this way.
#2 Take yourself out of your element:
I was recently at a party where everyone, literally everyone there was a parent of a young child. Well, everyone except me. It made me really look at the way that I am used to being social because everything was turned on its head by the children running through (literally) every conversation I was having. I got to see myself in a new light and find new ways to interact.
Put yourself in a social experiment by taking a class or going to a party that is outside your normal social group or striking up conversation with someone you would not usually speak with.
Bonus points if the group or person you choose speaks a different language.
#3 Be Ridiculous:
If you tend toward taking things too seriously, make sure you are doing at least one silly, playful thing a day. Play and creativity are certainly linked and silliness helps to leave “right way/wrong way” thinking behind. Dance like your favorite animal, make up a rhyming song about your day or wear a stupid hat.
Bonus points if you do this in front of someone you are worried will judge you for it.
#4 Make A Mess:
When is the last time you got good and dirty? Try fingerpaints or pastels with your whole hand (arms, feet!) , dig up some dirt and rub it all over yourself, jump in a puddle without your rain boots. That does it feel like?
Bonus points for running errands around town while in this disheveled state.
#5 Enter The Void:
Write down a list of as many things as possible that you believe to be true about yourself. Write down what you look like, things you like and don’t like, what you have done in your life, etc. Read your completed list. Now imagine that NONE of what you wrote is true. Who would you be then? Can you spend entire minute reflecting on yourself this way? A whole day?
Magical powers activated according to the duration that you can suspend these beliefs.
K is a multi-media painter who exhibited and published work internationally. She lives in AS220, an arts community in downtown, Providence RI and works as an Associate Coach and business manager for Dr. Kate Inc.
According to Adapt, “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.” To prove his point, Harford cites compelling examples innovation by trial-and-error from visionaries as varied as choreographer Twyla Tharp and US Forces Commander David Petraeus.
I interviewed Harford over email to dig deeper into the counter-intuitive lessons of Adapt. What follows is a series of key takeaways on the psychology of failure and adaptation, combining insights from our conversation and the book itself.
The Wrong Way To React To Failure
When it comes to failing, our egos are our own worst enemies. As soon as things start going wrong, our defense mechanisms kick in, tempting us to do what we can to save face. Yet, these very normal reactions — denial, chasing your losses, and hedonic editing — wreak havoc on our ability to adapt.
“It seems to be the hardest thing in the world to admit we’ve made a mistake and try to put it right. It requires you to challenge a status quo of your own making.”
Chasing your losses.
We’re so anxious not to “draw a line under a decision we regret” that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it. For example, poker players who’ve just lost some money are primed to make riskier bets than they’d normally take, in a hasty attempt to win the lost money back and “erase” the mistake.
When we engage in “hedonic editing,” we try to convince ourselves that the mistake doesn’t matter, bundling our losses with our gains or finding some way to reinterpret our failures as successes. We’re so anxious not to “draw a line under a decision we regret” that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it.
The Recipe for Successful Adaptation
At the crux of Adapt lies this conviction: In a complex world, we must use an adaptive, experimental approach to succeed. Harford argues, “the more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes.” We can’t begin to predict whether our “great idea” will actually sink or swim once it’s out there.Harford outlines three principles for failing productively: You have to cast a wide net, “practice failing” in a safe space, and be primed to let go of your idea if you’ve missed the mark.
Try new things.
“Expose yourself to lots of different ideas and try lots of different approaches, on the grounds that failure is common.”
Experiment where failure is survivable.
“Look for experimental approaches where there’s lots to learn – projects with small downsides but bigger upsides. Too often we take on projects where the cost of failure is prohibitive, and just hope for the best.”
Recognize when you haven’t succeeded.
“The third principle is the easiest to state and the hardest to stick to: know when you’ve failed.” The more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes.
How To Recognize Failure
This is the hard part. We’ve been trained that “persistence pays off,” so it feels wrong to cut our losses and label an idea a failure. But if you’re truly self-aware and listening closely after a “release” of your idea, you can’t go wrong. Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.
“Above all, feedback is essential for determining which experiments have succeeded and which have failed. Get advice, not just from one person, but from several.” Some professions have build-in feedback: reviews if you’re in the arts, sales and analytics if you release a web product, comments if you’re a blogger. If the feedback is harsh, be objective, “take the venom out,” and dig out the real advice.
Remove emotions from the equation.
“It’s important to be dispassionate: forget whether you’re ahead or behind, and try to look at the likely costs and benefits of continuing from when you are.” Don’t get too attached to your plan.
“There’s nothing wrong with a plan, but remember Von Moltke’s famous dictum that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. The danger is a plan that seduces us into thinking failure is impossible and adaptation is unnecessary – a kind of ‘Titanic’ plan, unsinkable (until it hits the iceberg).” Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.
Creating Safe Spaces to Fail
Twyla Tharp says, “The best failures are the private ones you commit in the confines of your own room, with no strangers watching.” She rises as 5:30 AM and videotapes herself freestyling for 3 hours each morning, happy if she extracts just 30 seconds of usable material from the whole tape. This is a great example of a “safe space to fail.” But many of us don’t have this luxury of time or freedom. So how do we create this space?
Practice disciplined pluralism.
Markets work by this process, encouraging the exploration of many new ideas as well as the ruthless weeding out of the ones that fall short. “Pluralism works because life is not worth living without new experiences.” Try a lot of things, and commit only to what’s working. Finding “a safe space to fail is a state of mind.”
Assuming that you don’t operate a nuclear power plant for a living, you can probably infuse a bit more freedom and flexibility into your workday. Give yourself permission to test out a few off-the-wall ideas mixed in with the by-the-book ideas.
Imitate the college experience.
“College is an amazing safe space to fail. We are experimenting with new friends, a new city, new hobbies and new ideas – and we’ll often mess up academically and socially as a result. But we know that as long as we don’t screw up too dramatically, we’ll finish college, graduate, and move on – that mix of risk and safety is intoxicating. Yet somehow as we grow older we lose it.”
Sarah Rapp writes for 99u, a creative resource for making ideas happen.
Whether you are an artist or an entrepreneur, it can be easy to fall into a groove and forget to play, explore and push your own edges. When this happens things tend to go a bit flat and we become bored, frustrated or half-hearted in our efforts. We loose the creativity and spontaneity that fosters success.
So when things get a bit grey, here are a few simple practices to inject some beauty and wonder into your life. You might be amazed at how taking the time to do one or more of these will allow you to return to your work with more focus, love and genius.
1. Take a walk. Look for new streets to go down. Extra points if it is dawn, dusk or late at night or if there is inclement weather. Go farther then you expected and suddenly your muse may join you. Listen to her conversation in the patterns of your thoughts and the things you notice as you go.
2. Leave an offering. A bottle cap with an owl on it, a human figure built of out twist ties, a flower, a quartz point, a scrap of paper that says “Please visit, I miss you.” Leave your offering somewhere where you know your muse likes to hang out when she is playing hooky from your studio or office.
3. Read poetry out loud. My favorites include “Demasiado Nombres” by Pablo Neruda and “Sunflower Sutra” by Ginsberg, but you know what your muse likes.
4. Set the mood. Sweep the floor, clear your work area and light some incense or a candle. Let your muse know you are expecting her.
5. Be unpredictable. Change up the hours you are working, stay later then you normally do or start at dawn. Surprise her by being there when she least expects it – it seems to please her.