How to Become a Creative Badass

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Want to be more creative? This free book lays out an easy-to-implement 9-step guide towards mastering the creative process. Ignite your creative performance and innovative potential. Become a Creative Badass Download the full (and still free) copy at


  • 1. How to Become aCreative BadassA 9-Step Guide to Masteringthe Creative Process

2. i 2014, CreateLearnLive.comPlease feel free to pass this (free)book around the web to your family andyour friendseven your enemies... but please dont alter any of its contentswhen you do. Thanks! 3. What isCreativityAnyways? 4. Without creativity, it would be difficultiiito distinguish humans from apes. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discoverand Invention 5. Lets face it feeling like an ape is no fun. We all want to be more creative. Regardlessof our profession or situation, we all strive to enrich our lives and our work throughbringing forth unique value to the world.Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most things that are important,interesting, and human are the results of creativity. When we are involved in thecreative process, we get a sense of engagement and excitement that surpasses the usualmoments that occur in our lives. We feel alive and invigorated.ivBut you probably already know this. 6. vWhat you might not already know, however, is that your own creativity can becultivated.In other words, you can learn how to be more creative in your life and work. 7. Creativity is not just a rare talent that only the worlds greatest geniuses can wield. Itdoesnt only happen spontaneously or out of ones control. One does not need to beslightly mentally unstable to create. And you dont have to be on magic mushrooms tovirealize your creative potential.There is a process you can learn and master that (if implemented into your dailylife and practiced regularly) will transform you into a true Creative Badass. 8. Researchers have been scientifically studying creativity since 1950 when J.P. Guilford,viithe American Psychological Association president at the time, strongly urgedscientists to focus their efforts on understanding the creative process and what makessome people creative.Luckily, many of them listened. Thanks to six decades of solid scientific work fromsome of the worlds most brilliant researchers, we now have a pretty good idea of whatit takes to think and act like a creative badass.And what is even more importantwe know that anyone can adopt these ways ofthinking and acting into their own lives in order to take their creativity to new heights. 9. viiiIn this (free)book, I will walk you through the 9-step process that will transform youfrom beingto...This guy... This guy. 10. ixAfter reading the easy to implement advice found within these pages, you will go frombeingto...This guy... This guy.Sound good? OK, lets do this. 11. xPop QuizQ1: Whats more important for becoming aCreative Badass?A. Being Really, Really Good atSolving ProblemsB. Being Really, Really Good atFinding ProblemsC. Being Really, Really Good-LookingCheck AnswerQ2: What skill is most critical for unleashing thehighest levels of creativity and innovation?A. Coming up with Good AnswersB. Coming up with Good QuestionsCheck Answer 12. Step 1AskBetterQuestionsTo Find the Right Problem or Opportunity 13. If you answered, being really, really good at finding problems, and comingup with good questions in the pop quiz, then congratulations, you are veryawesome. Being really, really good-looking has not, to my knowledge, beenscientifically linked with being a creative badass.Solving problems is relatively easy compared to finding them. When you arein problem-solving mode, you typically have a decent idea what informationyou need to use, what parameters or constraints you are operating within,and what your end goal is. All it takes is some time and effort and poof your problem is solved.Finding the right problems and opportunities to devote your energy towards,however, is a whole other beast. Just as Einstein alludes to in the quote tothe left, true innovation occurs when one leverages the power of raising newquestions and looking at things from completely different angles. For thisreason, being good at finding the right problems is even more importantthan being able to solve problems.Decades ago, my advisor, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (just call him Mikeif you ever see him) and a team of researchers from the University of Chicagoset out to answer the questions, How do creative works come into being?and What makes some creative works more creative than others?QUOTE FROM ACREATIVE BADASSThe formulation of a problem isoften more essential than itssolution. To raise newquestions, new possibilities, toregard old problems from a newangle, requires creativeimagination and marks realadvances in science.For the detective the crime isgiven. The scientist mustcommit his own crime as well ascarry out the investigation. Albert Einstein 14. To answer these questions, Mike and his team recruited about 30 student artists to participate in anacademic study. In this study, the artists were asked to first examine a table full of various objects andthen were asked to create a piece of artwork based on these objects as the researchers observed theircreative process.From the observations, it became quite clear that the student artists either approached their creativework with either a problem-solving style or a problem-finding style.The artists who approached their work in a problem-solving style took about 5 minutes to select a fewobjects, and then right away they began getting to work on their artwork spending most of their timerefining and adding details to their piece. Their approach was to quickly formulate a visual problem, andthen focus their effort on solving this problem.The second group of artists took quite a different approach to their creative work. In this group, theartists spent a great deal of time arranging and rearranging the objects on the table, making choices andchanging their mind often. They started their artwork, but then often would completely erase their workand start over from scratch. These artists would spend up to one hour formulating and reformulatingtheir ideas, and then would complete their piece in about ten minutes. Contrary to the first group ofartists, who took a problem-solving approach, this group spent much more time simply finding the rightproblem or opportunity to work with.13 15. So which group produced the most creative pieces of art?14 16. From the title of this section, it is probably obvious that the problem-finding group consistentlyproduced art that was judged by expert artists as being more creative compared to the problem-solvingartists works.But what might not be so obvious is that the long-term career success of these artists could also bepredicted by which style they used. Those artists who took more time to ask themselves better questionsabout how to proceed in their work actually had more successful careers in the art world, were morerespected by art critics, and had more paintings in reputable art galleries compared to those artists usingthe problem-solving approach.The essence of this first step is quite simple: creative badasses ask questions that no one hasever thought of before or questions that no one has yet seriously considered. They take time tomake sure that they are working on the right opportunity, and they spend time reformulating andadjusting their problem before getting down to the problem-solving work.15 17. How to Ask Better QuestionsThe first and most important step of becoming a creative badass is to start off by choosingthe right problems to devote your time and attention towards, and this stems from beingable to ask the right questions. Without identifying the right problems or opportunities,you likely will end up doing things that are not very creative.Here are five strategies that will help you ask better questions: 18. 1 ReflectFirst and foremost, it is imperative to dedicate time to just pause and ask yourself(and others) questions.When you do pause to reflect, ask lots and lots of questions! The more questions youask, the higher the probability that you will find the right one. 19. 2 EvaluateWhen you are reflecting, ask yourself questions like:Is what I am doing working?How and in what ways can I make improvements?Am I even working towards the right goals?Am I excited about the direction I am taking? 20. 3 ReinterpretTry to view your problem and what you are hoping to achieve from completelydifferent angles.How might someone else approach this problem? What if I did _____ instead?What would it look like if I decided to do the opposite?Even ask yourself really, really bad questions. Often a string of absurd, ridiculousquestions can spark a more creative reinterpretation of what you are working on. 21. 4 Challenge AssumptionsWhat assumptions or biases might I have that may be potentially holding my creativityback?What if anything were possible?Am I assuming that just because something hasnt been done before, that it can neverbe done?Try using the George Costanza approach:What might happen if I believed the exact opposite of my normal beliefs? 22. 5 Time TravelGo to the future.What does the creative realization of my goal look like? What exists then thatdoesnt now?Now go back to the past.Did the problem or opportunity even exist in the past? Why or why not? What wasdifferent back then? 23. Step 2Go BeyondWhat isComfortableBreak Free from Your Safe Zone 24. Do you ever get that anxious feeling in your stomach when you are about todo something a little bit risky? When you are just not quite sure if you willsucceed or fail miserably at something?If so, you are on the right track to becoming a true creative badass. If youcant empathize with what I am talking about, then it is time to really peelthat safety blanket away, pull your thumb outta your mouth, and get your assoutside of your comfort zone.NOW. OR ELSE.I am serious. I will find you and I will yell at you.QUOTE FROM ACREATIVE BADASSFor some reason, that I cantreally explain, at the beginningof Radiolab, it always felt likelife or death. Even though itwas just a radio show. Eventhough no one was listening.And I am not quite sure whybut it may have to do with thatradical uncertainty you feelwhen you are trying to workwithout a template.-Jad Abumrad, co-creator ofRadiolab, and MacArthur Fellow 25. How to Go Beyond What isComfortable 26. 1 Deliberate PracticeCreative geniuses notice when they are getting a bit bored with their current knowledge or skill level.When they find themselves facing complacency, they are quick to ramp up the challenges that they take on.They push themselves by seeking out challenges that stretch their current knowledge and skills. Whiletheir less creative peers spend a lot of time practicing enjoyable, somewhat easy to achieve activities,creative badasses deliberately spend their time working on the things in which they are inadequate.About 5 years ago when I was running the website, a great studio guitarist told me,If you arent sucking and sounding awful, you arent really practicing. He knew that in order to continuetaking his playing to new creative levels, he had to deliberately practice the things at which he might suckat. If he just played the things he already sounded good doing (like most guitarists do), he would never gobeyond what was comfortable and reach creative badass status. 27. 2 Feed Your BrainYour brain is a baby goat at the petting zoo. You must feed your baby goat little baby goat pelletsfor it to survive. But it is also a lot of fun to sneak-feed the baby goat potato chips, candy bars,and chocolate chip cookies, too. The goat pellets represent the things that you must feed yourbrain that are directly related to your area of expertise. Baby goats need a lot of goat pellets inorder to grow and thrive, and your brain needs to consume lots and lots of domain-specificknowledge in order to become expert-level and reach that 10,000 hour mark.But those candy bars, potato chips, and cookies represent the knowledge outside of your domainof expertise. You dont necessarily need it, but it just spices things up a bit and makes life morefun. You must also feed your brain with information from other professional disciplines,cultures, and the arts in order to develop a unique perspective that can be applied to your life andwork. 28. This concept of having deep expertise in one or a small number of domains, yet broad exposureto many, is what some creativity experts refer to as being a T-Person. The T represents asingular depth of expertise and broad, yet shallow, exposure to many types of knowledge. T-personsare often more creative than those with either no depth or no breadth of expertise, asthey are able to draw insights from many different domains and experiences in order tocombine them with their deep-level expertise in ways that others cannot.27 29. 3 Embrace Your CuriositiesThe essence of embracing your curiosity is novelty-seeking. There may be something outin the world that intrigues you, yet you do not know much about it yet.To embrace your curiosity is to be ok with the possibility that nothing will ever come ofpursuing that with which you are curious. You may waste your time, or it may turn outto be the spark that ignites your creative fire.Embracing curiosity is a risky, but necessary business towards going beyond what iscomfortable and innovating. Often, doing so will lead to opportunities that you couldnever have foreseen! 30. 4 Move Towards the RadicalUncertaintyJad Abumrads quote at the beginning of the section sums this principle up best.Are you doing anything in your life where you are working without a template? If not,then it might be time for you to take on something radically uncertainsomething youare curious about or that you have always wanted to do but havent had the chance to yet.It is often in these radically uncertain episodes that we find the freedom and opportunityto truly create something unique and meaningful for ourselves and others. 31. Step 3TakeNoticeHeighten Your Awareness for Creative Insights andOpportunities 32. Creative people are extremely good at finding exactly what they need to seeto take the next creative step forward. As they go about their daily business,whether they are reading, watching TV, or just doing the grocery shopping,creative badasses seem to always be prepared to notice potential solutions oropportunities everywhere they look.Taking notice is all about finding inspiration in your surroundings. It isabout finding those missing pieces to the puzzles you are trying to solve inunexpected places.So how can we take notice more effectively? Its easy!QUOTE FROM ACREATIVE BADASSIn the beginners mind thereare many possibilities; in theexperts mind there are few.-Shunryu Suzuki, Zen monkMindfulness is simply the processof noticing new thingsTo be atrue artist it to be mindful.-Ellen Langer, psychologist andauthor of the book Mindfulness 33. 32How to Take Notice and FindInspiration in All that is Around You 34. 1 Operate with a BeginnersMindIn Zen Buddhism there is the concept of living life with a beginners mind in order toremain open, curious, and aware of opportunities.One potential trap of becoming an expert in any domain is simply becoming too rigid inones methods and beliefs. As a beginner, there are endless opportunities and anunlimited number of potential pathways one can go. Your assumptions, beliefs, androutines have not yet solidified. It may take deliberate practice to operate with abeginners mind, but it is a practice worth developing as you strive to become a creativebadass. Think back to the types of questions you asked yourself in step 1, and see howyou can incorporate a beginners mind into your daily routine. 35. 2 Practice MindfulnessMindfulness, in essence, is a state of active observation. It is being actively aware of all that isgoing on around you: the sights, the smells, the tastes, the sounds. Unfortunately, throughoutthe day, we humans primarily operate in a mode of mindlessness. But by deliberately bringingour attention into a state of conscious awareness, we become more mindful of what is happeningto us in the now.Becoming mindful, like any skill worth developing, takes time and deliberate practice to cultivate.A great way to boost your mindfulness is to begin bringing meditation into your life. There aremany forms of meditation, but two forms of meditation may be best equipped to develop yourattention and noticing skills. Get in touch with me to learn more about these forms of meditationto take your creative badassness to new heights. 36. 3 Take Notes Keep an IdeaJournalA large part of taking notice is to also take notice of your own ideas as they pop into your headthroughout the day. One of the easiest (and most impactful) things that you can start doingtoday is to simply write down your ideas as they come to you.I write emails to myself using my smartphone or laptop and tag them as Creative Insights in mygmail so that I can easily go back and search through them and evaluate them at a later point intime. I want to just get them down somewhere; I can decide on my next action steps towardsdeveloping them later.If I revisit an idea in my creative insight file that sucks, I simply flag it and archive it in my Whatthe F*#! was I Thinking? file. No harm done if I have a few crappy ideas here and there. Bigharm done if I miss out on the one great idea that could lead me towards creative badassness. 37. 4 Switch PerspectivesOne of the simplest things you can do to notice different patterns or sources ofinspiration around you is to switch your perspective.What would I do, say, or think in my current situation if I were somebody else? Whatwould be most interesting or useful to me if I were a completely different person?A fun exercise is to pretend you are your different creative heroes as you go about yourdaily business. Try to embody their personalities and ways of thinking.What would I notice in this situation if I were Jimi Hendrix? Hilary Clinton? Oprah?Bill Gates? Stevie Wonder? Sigmund Freud? 38. 5 Leverage TechnologyWhy not use technology to help you take notice? Set up some Google Alerts of your favoritetopics, companies, industries, hobbies, magazines, etc. Pick a few things and let Google deliverpotential sources of inspiration to your e-mail box.My primary stream of academic research is centered around the theme of technology-facilitatedmindfulness. In other words, I am exploring the ways in which we can positively leveragepersonal technology to become more mindful, creative, and effective. Contrary to the opinionthat personal technology is making us more mindless and worse human beings, I believe that wejust need to learn how to use it for good. One simple thing that we can do is to simply use oursmartphones to randomly ping us throughout the day to remind us to take notice, be mindful ofour surroundings, get curious, and even shift perspectives. 39. If this is something you would like to explore further, please get in touch with me and letschat! I love talking about this stuff and helping people set up their own personally meaningfultechnology-facilitated mindfulness apps.38 40. Step 4Play Likea KidUnleash Your Imagination and Have Some Fun 41. Ok enough of all the deliberate practice and hard work. Its time to havesome fun! In fact, having fun and unleashing your inner child is vital fornourishing the creative genius inside of you.But why is play so good for our creative juices?Play calls forth the imagination. While in play, we might envisionalternate realities where we are gifted with superpowers, carry aroundancient ninja swords, and fight bad guys who are holding our beautifullovers hostage. (Man that is one cool alternate reality).Play helps us work with constraints in creative ways. Remember when youonly had a wrapping paper tube, a few rubber bands, and a couple ofpillowcases to play with? If we were given these items now and told to havefun with them, we might think, Yeah right, this is lame as hell. But whenwe were children, it was so easy to transform the wrapping paper tubes intoswords, the rubber bands into magic bracelets that give you special cloakingpowers, and the pillowcases into capes that grant you the ability fly. 42. You may be thinking to yourself, Man, I used to pretend to do that all the time when I was young! Butnow I have serious responsibilities and cant do that anymore.This trap is easy for us to fall into, but the worlds most creatively talented people have mastered the artof play, even within their serious lives, in order to imagine and envision novel possibilities andinnovations.We might not have the freedom to engage in play whenever and however we want to anymore, but it isabsolutely imperative that we deliberately take time to add elements of fun, playfulness, and humor intoour daily lives and work. It is one of the best ways to engage our imaginations, fantasize about thingsthat do not exist yet (but should), and help us transform the constraints of our situations intoopportunities for creativity.It feels a bit silly to recommend ways for you to go out and play. You know how to have fun. You canremember back to when you were a kid and what you did to spark your imagination. The bottom-line isto take time to have fun, to use your imagination and think of wild ideas, and to look for creative ways totransform and leverage any constraints in your environment into opportunities to exercise yourbadassness.41 43. Step 5JustRelax!Let Your Mind Incubate Your Ideas and Do the WorkFor You 44. The primary purpose of finding time to relax is to take breaksfrom your creative work and simply allow your mind towander.These moments of relaxation and distancing yourself from your problemencourages incubation, a cognitive state where your mind is free toprocess the enormous amounts of information that you have been feedingit. When the mind is relaxed and free to unconsciously process everything,it can lead to abrupt moments of insight, just as Archimedes had whentaking a break to bathe.Incubation has been scientifically shown to work in terms of eliciting thesenovel insights because: a) it gives peoples minds a rest, b) it provides anopportunity to become less fixated on incorrect solutions and approachestowards solving a problem, c) it provides time for spreading activation inthe unconscious mind, and d) it provides opportunities for opportunisticassimilation as you go about your day, you may randomly noticesomething that is related to your problem and use it to your advantage.EVER HEARD THESTORY OFARCHIMEDES?Archimedes, a famous Greekmathematician, was tasked by hiscousin, King Hiero of Syracuse tosolve a problem. King Hiero wassuspicious that his new crown(which was supposed to be madeof gold) might actually justmainly consist of cheaper metaland a gold coating. Naturally, hewanted Archimedes to get to thebottom of it.Archimedes couldnt ruin thecrown by cutting it open toexamine the metallurgy, but heknew that silver weighed morethan gold.After many attempts at solvingthe problem, he became stumpedand decided to just take a bath.As he stepped in to the bathtub,he noticed that the water levelrose. Eureka! he shouted,realizing that heavier objectswould displace more water. Hefound a solution to the crownproblem, when he least expectedit, by simply taking time to relax. 45. How to Relax for Higher Creativity44 46. Hey$there!$$$$I$hope$you$are$enjoying$this$(free)book$that$I$put$together.$$$To$read$the$rest$of$it,$please$click$on$the$following$link$to$sign$up$for$my$newsle@er$and$receive$your$full$free$copy$of$How$to$Become$a$Crea-ve$Badass.$$Click&Here&to&Get&Your&Full&Copy&$