14 Commonalities of Creative People

“30 Days of Genius” in review

A few months ago, I stumbled upon the Youtube series “30 Days of Genius.” Immediately I became hooked, and it required true grit and willpower not to binge watch all 30 episodes at once. Throughout the series, Chase Jarvis, founder of Creative Live, interviews 30 different well-renowned entrepreneurs, creatives, and thought leaders to provide actionable insights to assist others in unlocking their own creative potential with career, hobby and life. While every person of the “genius crew” is unique in their accomplishments, there were a number of common patterns that emerged across the board. Read on for the top 14. 

  1. They are resilient

    What we see as success is often only the tip of the iceberg. If not for resilience–the ability to persist and rise again after falling–not one of the genius crew members would be there in the studio with Chase . Seth Godin,  now a best-selling author and business owner, once received 800, yes eight-hundred, rejection letters between publications. He kept going; this group seems to view failure through a different lens. According to Sir Richard Branson, of Virgin airlines, “You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Traditional failures are merely learning experiences. The only true failure is the one of inaction, of not taking the risk, or not going after what you want. 

2. They  never stop learning

 There is a popular myth about successful creatives: that they produce work from a bubble of isolated inspiration, and nothing could be further from the truth. They are ever learning open systems. They gather a wealth of information and mix their own originality with a global network of other great thinkers of the past and present. Connecting dots and gleaning wisdom, they make references to books, commencement speeches, essays, fairy tales, blogs, and each other.

3. They take care of themselves

 The physical, emotional, and intellectual aspects of a person are inextricably connected–and the genius crew gets this. Whether intermittent fasting, mood boosting freezing cold showers, buttery coffee, meditation, or sleeping on a “chilly mat” for a deeper slumber, each person experimented their way to a personalized peak performance protocol in order to live and think at their best.

4. They show up and hustle

They understand the value, beyond a financial result, in the mastery of a craft earned with hard work and the honest hustle.  While they are passionate and inspired, they do not “wait for inspiration” to find them. They make things happen by showing up again and again.

5. They keep their day job

The idea of stereotypical “poor starving artist” paints an overly romanticized picture that distorts the sad reality of poverty and destitution. Playfulness and experimentation rarely thrive in an environment of scarcity, or fear of survival. Thus the common consensus is to find the means to support oneself, but consistently make time to do that important thing. One day the side project might grow big enough to become the primary means of support, but until then–they advise–don’t quit.

6. They see problems as opportunities

While everyone demonstrates independent thinking, all of them, have a problem solving mindset. Swiss designer, Tina Roth Eisenberg shares, “If I keep complaining about something, I either do something about it or let it go.” Marie Forleo, tackles life with the motto “everything is figure-out-able.”  Instead of seeing problems as barriers, the genius crew relishes in the potential for solutions. With the right mindset, problems can open a gateway to discovery.

7. They are brave, but not fearless

 According to Brene Brown, courage and comfort cannot coexist. However, creativity and fear, are inseparable. Thinking outside the box or pouring yourself into something that may or may not work, invites ridicule and criticism. There will always be an element of vulnerability, and most likely fear, that comes along with the uncertainty. But the secret is neither denying or killing off fear, but rather walking forward in spite of it.  As Arianna Huffington, (of Huffington post) puts it, “you have to do what you dream of doing even while you’re afraid.”

8. They take advantage of the internet

 “Geography is no longer our master.”Austin Kleon.  No longer is it necessary to live in Silicon Valley to create a great app, or reside in New York to publish a book. The internet fired the gatekeepers that once kept our ideas and expressions from meeting public eyes. Seth Godin reminds writers that they have the same pencil as Stephen King. The general advice from the crew? Just start. Share stories, post art, self-publish books, and keep engaging in work you love.

9. They don’t mess with distraction

 Caterina Fake, the founder of flickr, often creates between 2am and 5am, just to ensure a quiet, uninterrupted space. Gary Vaynerchuk, chooses not buy netflix. And it’s not because he can’t afford it.  The genius crew aims to create more than they consume and they have accepted the simple reality that good work gets done only after choosing to focus.

10. They spend their mental energy wisely

A great thinker cannot thrive in a frazzled  mental state. Consequently, they treat their attention reserves and mental energy as precious commodities and create strategic structures to leverage them. They employ boundaries, not to constrain, but to free their minds from having to make unnecessary, energy draining decisions. Examples include  automating finances (Ramit Sethi), checking email or social media only twice daily,  morning routines, or saving all google searches for the end of the day.

11. They prioritize family and close friends

Despite the intense dedication to their creative pursuits, they hold a very clear sense of their priorities–specifically who is important to them. Walking the kids to school may serve as just as an important part of his morning routine as the workout. For Gretchen Rubin, adventures with her daughter in NYC are scheduled into the summer calendar with no lesser value than the upcoming projects. And my personal favorite, comes from the  from the Physical Therapist, gym owner, and author, Kelly Starrett. He and his wife hold a “feelings meeting” every single Wednesday night, just to get all their feelings on the table.

12. If stuck, they turn to hobbies or side projects

Common advice states that when creatively blocked,“the only way out is through.” But ironically, much of this crew advised the opposite. Pursuing an activity outside of your specialty, with no strings of emotional or financial investment attached, decompress the brain while still challenging it at the same time. A photographer in a rut could try blogging; a writer in a stalemate with the English language could practice yoga with a french yoga instructor. A public speaker lost for words could take part in the silent solitude of carpentry. Later when they return to their craft, their minds are fertile, reset and ready to go. 

13. They stay curious 

Ursula Le Guin writes, “The creative adult is the child who survived.” Indeed, even for the most sophisticated entrepreneurs, there seems to be something childlike part about them, because they never outgrew their curiosity. Like a kid, they are willing to ask why? Like a teenager, they challenge the status quo. Their habit of asking questions leads to learning, inspiration, and eventually problem-solving. But they are not curious exclusively about their specialty areas; they allow themselves to dive into seemingly irrelevant fascinations. For example, one person in the series became a certified tea master, and another conducted extensive research on different quality paper in moleskin journals. Because, why not?

14. They are generous

Unfortunately, the sad, long list of suicidal poets, musicians, and authors, has left today’s artists with a stigma characterized by misery and self-absorption in the muse. But for most successful creatives, the self-absorption label is simply not true. Contrary to my previous assumption, throughout the series I observed an undeniable spirit of selflessness.  Against popular financial opinion, Tina Roth Eisenberg offers free breakfast conferences. Acting on his passion against sedentary student life, Kelly Starrett donated tall desks to the first ever “standing school.” Motivated by hospitality, and a desire to give back to the artistic community, Adrian Greiner opens his home as a place for other artists to stay and work while passing through New York.  

Bound together by a common thread of generosity, the genius crew creates–and persists through criticism–in part, in order to give away. They make the world a brighter place by sharing ideas, insights, and solutions. They are willing to take risks that others will not.

And speaking of generosity, this entire series is offered for free! I could probably watch it again, except I’m feeling too inspired, to go and create something.

Thanks, Chase Jarvis!

2 thoughts on “14 Commonalities of Creative People

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s