Best insight I got today: Everybody’s creative - they just don’t know it. This was told to me by my friend and collaborator John Padilla. John is a writer, artist, musician, theological instructor, and executive producer (having worked in everything from narrative, documentary, and commercial work across New Mexico. John also runs the largest prop house here in the state). I've had the pleasure to work with him for some time now. He's been an artist his whole life. Even when he was young he was creating things - whether drawing, painting, sculpting, or making music. So I wanted to pick John’s brain about creativity. What is it? Do we all have it? Is there a way to enhance it??
“I don’t understand creativity,” he says. It’s not that people need to increase their creativity, people just need to take their creativity and execute it. Everybody’s creative - they just don’t know it.”
Part of that executing, it turns out, has to do with looking at things from other people’s perspectives.
We often become fixated on our own perspective, especially when we think of creating art.
We think of our own vision. Our own ideas. But John’s point is that creativity is not one-sided. It always involves a creator and a perceiver. Once we start looking at things from the position of the perceiver as well, that’s how we can truly get our vision off the ground, and tap into our creativity.
John: I see the world a certain way. In a way that says ‘how is somebody else going to view this, how is it going to appeal to them?’
Colt: So do you think there’s an aspect of humility in that? We’re often focused on ourselves?
John: I think so. Once you train creativity a little more — it can be wild and rampant, and nonsensical sometimes — you become cognizant and mindful of what others are perceiving, and then you give that out. We have visceral reactions because we’re trained to react to what we see… EVERYTHING IS MARKETING. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. We’re trying to convince (market to) each other all the time - that we’re trustworthy, that we hang out with the right people, et cetera. Your non-verbals communicate.
Colt: Yes! it’s so interesting you say that - I’ve been fascinated with non-verbal communication for the longest time.
John came into our meeting (as he always does) with his vintage leather backpack. Today he pointed out that even that is a non-verbal communication. It says something about what you like, who you are, and it’s an effort to target other people’s perceptions. There are different ways to creatively communicate who we are, and it all has to do with how it affects other people.
Colt: Do you think there’s a way to become more creative or tap into our creativity more?
John: I don’t know where it comes from or how to develop it - I think that creativity is in you, and when you start to just execute your ideas, that’s it - that is being creative. I never went to art school. I didn’t ‘learn’ it. I don’t understand it. But I think everyone is creative in different ways. Even things that are very academic can be creative. Entrepreneurs are creative, business people are creative. I go to people to create things that I’m not creative enough to do.
Colt: Is there a way to be more mindful of other people’s perspectives? Do you spend a lot of time observing people?
John: I’m an observer. Watching what people do - why they do what they do… I think that’s why I like focus groups a lot - let people give you feedback and study their reactions. When I worked in retail I created a training system for a company - customer service training. One of the things I used in this training was for people to value complaints. It’s a weird concept because complaints are the worst part of the job. But you should value them. Learn. Listen. Then you’ll become a better employee, or manager. When somebody gives you praise - that’s fine. But you don’t learn from that. You learn from when you get negative feedback.
Colt: I wonder though if criticism is a bad way to be a leader. Or if it’s bad if you’re in a position where people need to trust you…
John: I don’t think it is. I don’t hold criticism back. I wish more people would give me criticism.
Colt: Do you feel like when we get criticism our first response should be “why do you feel that way?” instead of just getting aggressive or defensive with them?
The central idea that stayed with me after this talk was this: There is no divide between creative and non-creative people. Just people who act on their creativity and people who don’t. And everyone can act. We can all expand our perspective, consider others, and then enhance our own engagement with the world around us.