Gemba Book Club: Creative Confidence by Tom & David Kelley

How do you feel about books? Are you in favor? Because we are. Here at Gemba, we’re book-learnin’ folk. We read Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley, an inspiring guide to harnessing your inner creativity. And here’s what we got out of it:

CreativeConfidence_FearThat ever-present downer is what keeps most great ideas from ever getting off the ground. Tom and David Kelley mentioned that, in Juggling for the Complete Klutz by John Cassidy, he suggests throwing the balls up in the air a few times and just letting them drop until you’re numb to that knee-jerk twinge of panic.

CreativeConfidence-UrgentOptimismUrgent optimism is “the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, motivated by the belief that you have a reasonable hope of success.” According to game designer Jane McGonigal (and my own shameless Peggle-addicted self), the euphoria of beating one level sparks its own form of creative confidence and leads to further triumphs.

CreativeConfidence-AntiPortfolioA venture capital firm called Bessemer Venture Partners has an anti-portfolio alongside their case studies—in their words, they have a “long and storied history” which has given them “an unparalleled number of opportunities to completely screw up.” Creativity isn’t all about successes; it includes a lot of trial and error.

CreativeConfidence_ThoughtSometimes all you need to do is defocus the mind. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” I mean, the man was famous for having a lot of thoughts; he probably knew what he was talking about.

CreativeConfidence-WorldviewYou don’t know everything there is to know, and don’t trick yourself into thinking you do! Accept that you’re still learning, which is awesome, because that means there’s room to change and grow.

CreativeConfidence_ChanceThere are lots of famous people who changed the course of history with their sudden epiphanies. Archimedes figured out the law of buoyancy when he realized his body was displacing water while he was taking a bath. Isaac Newton saw an apple fall from a tree and suddenly realized what was up with gravity. But as the brothers Kelley explain, Louis Pasteur (who said the above quote) probably meant something more like “Chance favors people who do lots of experiments and then pay very close attention when something unexpected happens.”

CreativeConfidence-ProcrastinationProcrastination, as a word, flat-out sucks. In The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, he strips “procrastination” of its negative connotation by instead calling it “resistance.”

CreativeConfidence_BuildMomentumTackle a doable part of the problem first. Create a to-do list with easily accomplished goals. The rest will come in time.

CreativeConfidence-JudgementIn the book, they frequently refer to “karaoke confidence,” which “depends on an absence of fear of failure and judgment” but doesn’t necessarily require innate talent or immediate success. In their words: “Keep your sense of humor, build on the energy of others, minimize hierarchy, value team camaraderie and trust, defer judgment—at least temporarily.”

CreativeConfidence-ICouldIfReframing it this way takes an insurmountable brick wall of a problem and makes it climbable.

CreativeConfidence-LostIdeasLastly, the biggest thing you can do is to always stay on your creative toes. Keep a notebook with you to get down ideas when they come. Scribble freely when they don’t. Open your mind to the possibility that you are creative, because once you do that, you will be. “Most people,” Tom and David tell us, “are vastly more creative and capable than they know.”


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