Creativity: The #1 Skill of the 21st Century

idea

When a historian was recently asked on the NBC Nightly News what would define success in the 21st Century, he responded:

“Success in the 19th Century was defined by who had the biggest farm.
Success in the 20th Century was defined by who had the biggest factory.
Success in the 21st Century will be defined by who has the best ideas.”

Psychology Today published an article back in 2011 titled, “Is Creativity the #1 Skill for the 21st Century?”  The conclusion was, “Against a backdrop of uncertainty, economic turmoil and unprecedented change a new picture is emerging of the skills and traits for success (and perhaps even simply survival) in the modern era.  At the heart of this essential skill set for the future lies… creativity.”  (See full article at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/working-creativity/201102/is-creativity-the-number-1-skill-the-21st-century)

In my ten minute presentation, “The Creative Process,” I put out the following challenge to help spark creativity:

Commit to Five Steps for One Month

  1. Engage in a New Experience
  2. Capture Your Ideas
  3. Develop Idea(s)
  4. Get Feedback
  5. Publish Idea(s)

More Resources on Creativity

For those of you interested in more resources on creativity, the following are recommended:

Video

Blog Articles

Books

Here’s to the creativity in each of you!

Feel free to leave any comments or questions below, thank you.

 

Sarah Yang is a Project Manager/Business Analyst at Cisco. While attending UC Berkeley, she wrote and produced a sitcom pilot. She is also an award-winning filmmaker, author, and co-producer of a music album. Sarah and painter/muralist, David Nyquist, co-developed and co-taught a 12 week course on creative thinking called Emerge.

Justin Brady is a writer and speaker focused on cultivating creativity. He founded the Iowa Creativity Summit and lives in Des Moines, where he owns Test of Time Design. Find him on Twitter @justinbrady – See more at: http://www.creativitypost.com/technology/the_best_creative_ideas_arent_that_creative#sthash.L0a5TLDR.dpuf

The Creative Process by Sarah Yang

Video

A ten minute presentation on the importance of creativity, how we are all creative, and practical steps to getting back to our native way of thinking. Recorded at Cisco’s Corporate Affairs Q4 FY14 All Hands.

Feel free to share and leave feedback. Here’s to the creativity in each of you!

 

Sarah Yang is a Project Manager/Business Analyst at Cisco. While attending UC Berkeley, she wrote and produced a sitcom pilot. She is also an award-winning filmmaker, author, and co-producer of a music album. Sarah and painter/muralist, David Nyquist, co-developed and co-taught a 12 week course on creative thinking called Emerge.

Anne Lamott on Grief

I’m currently reading Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott and her commentary on grief is spot on.  Anyone who has suffered deep loss or heartbreak will probably say, “Me, too” a couple times as you read through this excerpt:

“Grief, as I read somewhere once, is a lazy Susan. One day it is heavy and underwater, and the next day it spins and stops at loud and rageful, and the next day at wounded keening, and the next day numbness, silence. I was hoarse for the first six weeks after Pammy died and my romance ended, from shouting in the car and crying, and I had blisters on the palm of one hand from hitting the bed with my tennis racket, bellowing in pain and anger.

…I am no longer convinced that you’re supposed to get over the death of certain people, but little by little, pale and swollen around the eyes, I began to feel a sense of reception, that I was beginning to receive the fact of Pammy’s death, the finality. I let it enter me.

I was terribly erratic: feeling so holy and serene some moments that I was sure I was going to end up dating the Dalai Lama. Then the grief and craziness would hit again, and I would be in Broken Mind, back in the howl.

The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it, like a nicotine craving, I would discover that it hadn’t washed me away. After a while it was like an inside shower, washing off some of the rust and calcification in my pipes. It was like giving a dry garden a good watering. Don’t get me wrong: grief sucks; it really does.

Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit. Mostly I have tried to avoid it by staying very busy, working too hard, trying to achieve as much as possible. You can often avoid the pain by trying to fix other people; shopping helps in a pinch, as does romantic obsession. Martyrdom can’t be beat. While too much exercise works for many people, it doesn’t for me, but I have found that a stack of magazines can be numbing and even mood altering.

But the bad news is that whatever you use to keep the pain at bay robs you of the flecks and nuggets of gold that feeling grief will give you. A fixation can keep you nicely defined and give you the illusion that your life has not fallen apart. But since your life may indeed have fallen apart, the illusion won’t hold up forever, and if you are lucky and brave, you will be willing to bear disillusion. You begin to cry and writhe and yell and then to keep on crying; and then, finally, grief ends up giving you the two best things; softness and illumination.”

I can especially relate to the retail therapy, “helping” others, and becoming a workaholic to avoid the pain.  

After reading this, I realized that I was not a freak of nature because I felt like I was trapped in a jar of blackstrap molasses.  I was simply grieving and needed to face the losses head on.  So I cried… a lot.  And exactly as Anne said, “the flecks and nuggets of gold” in life starting washing ashore in the tears of my grief.  It’s true that the only way out of pain and suffering is through it.  There is no way around it.  How have you dealt with grief?

Learning Moments

“Authenticity is the greatest form of communication.” – Mike Frank

In my department at Cisco, The Bureau, we’ve been swapping stories on our greatest “learning moments.”  By “learning moments” we mean those experiences that constantly replay in our minds because we cannot bear repeating them again in real life.

My most memorable “learning moment” occurred in June 2006 when I started traveling as a conference speaker in Singapore.  At that point I hadn’t traveled much outside of the US.  You could say that I was still getting acclimated to new cultures and climates.

After one speaking engagement I was invited to high tea at Cova Cafe.  I immediately translated that in my California brain to mean, “Wanna grab coffee?”  Given that it was 110 degrees with 70% humidity outside, I couldn’t wait to get out of my speaking clothes: black slacks and a long sleeve button-down shirt.  I kindly asked the people inviting me if I could meet them at the cafe because I wanted to change into something more comfortable.  They looked at me funny but given that I was a guest, they were polite and said, “Sure.”

I threw on my typical California summer wear, a tank top, shorts and flip-flops then hopped into a cab and said, “Cova Cafe, please.”  It was the first time a taxi driver ever rolled their eyes at me but I assumed it was because of my American accent (Singapore was once a British settlement.)  We pull up to Cova Cafe and let me tell you it was not a “cafe.”  It was more like a 5 star restaurant.  I walked in and saw the photo below:

Image

Now just imagine all those chairs being full and bustling with Singaporeans dressed in business formal wear.  Now imagine all those Singaporeans staring at the clueless young American girl who just walked into this fine establishment wearing the new hip get up from American Eagle’s summer catalog.  Yeah, bad.

Just as my face turned tomato red and my palms got clammy, I saw someone waving me to their table.  It was in the back, of course.  Though I tried to discreetly ninja walk my way to the table, a few stares accompanied by whispers and giggles still found me.

As soon as I sat down I turned the neatly folded napkin in front of me into a makeshift white skirt hoping it would bump me up to business casual on the wardrobe scale.  Alas, I wasn’t fooling anyone.

Today, whenever I hear or see the words, “high tea” or “American Eagle” mentioned it sends shivers down my spine.  What about you?  What’s your favorite learning moment?  Please feel free to share in the comment section below…

Enter Stage Right

I’m reading best-selling author Steven Pressfield’s book called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.  Its totally kicking my butt.  Here’s a few excerpts:

Most of us have two lives.  The life we live, and the unlived life within us.  Between the two stands Resistance.

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet.  It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction.

How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to?

If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step towards pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business.  Prisons would stand empty.  The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom.  Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and dandruff.

You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist.  At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study.  He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture.  Ever see one of his paintings?  Neither have I.  Resistance beat him.  Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square canvas. 

Pressfield goes on to share how he confronts Resistance in a practical and consistent way as a writer:

I get up, take a shower, have breakfast.  I read the paper, brush my teeth.  If I have phone calls to make, I make them…  It’s about ten-thirty now.  I sit down and plunge in.  When I start making typos, I know I’m getting tired.  That’s four hours or so.  I’ve hit the point of diminishing returns.  I wrap up for the way and power down.  It’s three, three-thirty.  The office is closed.  How many pages have I produced?  I don’t care.  Are they any good?  I don’t even think about it.  All that matters is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard.  What’s hard is sitting down to write. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After reading that, I know Resistance has kept me from becoming who I really am and what I’m called to do.  Every time I sit down to write, a flood of pressing and “altruistic” activities that I “must” tend to suddenly rush into my mind.  It all sounds so right and holy, too.  “She really needs my advice in this area and I’m the only one with enough experience and expertise to give it to her.”  “What would Jesus do?”  “I haven’t hung out with him for awhile, I don’t want him to think I’m ignoring him because there’s a slight possibility he might be my future husband.”  “I need to go on a run right now, I had that extra helping of salmon last night.”  You know what I’m talking about.

But there’s no greater and selfless gift that I can give to the world than being who I am created to be and do what I’m created to do.  You know, that thing within us that whispers to us, “I am meant for greatness.  I was born to do something that’s never been done before and will never be done again because only I can do it.  I exist to change the world.”

Before I started this book, I thought I was doing a great job confronting Resistance.  After all, I:

1) overcame my recent addictions: Halo & MW3, TV, Half & Half honey boba (still working on the FB one)

2) revolutionized my health/diet regimen: lost 30 pounds, workout three times a week, eat like a rabbit, and possess tighter abs

3) had an “extreme” makeover in changing my appearance, demeanor, and personality

4) learned how to do make up, curl my hair, and dated guys after a 10 year draught

5) got my finances in order and actually have a semblance of a budget  (OK, well I keep track of it in my mind but at least its a start)

6) graduated from a good college with a 3.3 GPA.  It would’ve been a 3.6 had I not failed Greek.  There’s a reason that language is dead  -_-

7) taken many principled stands in the face of adversity whether in private or before stadiums & the California Senate

8) done what I can to help others in need

So I’ve confronted a lot of demons in my time on earth.  But I’ve realized that I have been running from the biggest one.  The Resistance to me being who I am created to be.

Sure, I have had the courage to shed off much of what wasn’t me but its easier to take off costumes and masks that I hide behind to play whatever role I’ve been assigned in life’s dramas.  The kicker is actually coming back on to the world’s stage without all the fluff & fanfare and facing the scrutiny knowing that the audience is no longer criticizing or judging a fabrication of myself but the real me.  In light of that, I’ve been cowering and procrastinating backstage for a long time.

Did you know that Henry Fonda threw up before each stage performance even when he was seventy-five?  Resistance might not ever leave your side.  But I know one thing, you can force him to go on stage with you which will annoy the hell out of him.

So are you ready to enter stage right?

I will by pushing the “publish” button

right…

now…