Many of you probably consider yourselves creative in some way. But there are many many people who do not. I cannot tell you how many adults I talk to who do not have some creative outlet in their lives. They are on the outside looking in. Some people are so far outside the creative world, they don’t even know it. Most of them think they do not have the right to be creative because they don’t have enough talent, however they define it.
Behind everything I do – every word I write, every image I make, every lesson I teach, is one motivation.
To create a generation of creative people.
Last week, I was really honored to speak at STORY conference in Chicago about this very topic. For all of you who were not there, I want to tell you three things you can do to help do what I do, create a generation of people who are empowered to be creative.
Find Someone Who Is the Worst
It’s really fun to work with people who are the best in their field. We like to find those people because they are easy to work with. They make us look good. They build our resumes. Everything turns out well when we work with talented, experienced people.
There is an ocean of people who are not the best. In fact, someone out there is the worst at whatever they do. Those people need someone to invest in them. They need someone who will work with them, even though they have nothing to give. Every day I work with kids, some of whom are very good. Their work makes me look good. But many students are far from that. And I can’t ignore them just because they are tougher to work with, or their results don’t make me look great as a teacher.
Help me build a generation of creative people, and invest in someone who isn’t already at the top of their game.
Give Up on Being Important
We are obsessed with being important, being recognized, whether we like to admit it or not. We want our lives and our work to have meaning and purpose and have a great big impact on the world.
I know that I want everything my kids do to reflect well on me. I want everything I work on to be important. Here’s the thing. I’m very much a creative director. I tell my students what we are going to do and how we are going to do it. But the results are still completely in their hands. They decide if our work will turn out well or not. It is really hard to hang up lousy looking projects and celebrate them as part of a child’s educational odyssey and love those kids just as much as the “easy,” “talented” students.
But if I am addicted to everything I do being “important,” I’m never going to give up enough creative control to let kids do messy work, to fail. And neither will you. We will never be able to invest in people if we are addicted to feeling “important.”
Go Fail at Something
It’s almost more difficult for me as a teacher because art came so naturally to me as a child. I just don’t understand how some students can be so bad. Some kids, no matter what, will find a way to make a project look crummy. Their ingenuity always surprises me.
It’s a lot of fun to be an expert at everything. I’m finally at a place in my life where I feel like I’m really good at what I do. It’s been a long time since I deliberately tried something that I knew I’d probably fail at.
So this fall, I signed up for an amateur woodworking class. Not because I need to learn this skill. Not because it’s important. I did it just because it’s new. And I will probably fail…a lot.
And it is that experience of failure that makes us able to empathize with the people who need us to invest in them. They don’t need criticism. They are their own best critics. They need a mentor who still remembers what it feels like to be an amateur.
I hope you’ll join me and help build a generation of creative people. What other ways are you investing in other people?