This post is based off a podcast with Allen Gannett. If you’d like to read the summary, you’re on the right page. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below!
What do The Beatles, Elon Musk, JK Rowling, & Steve Jobs have in common?
Besides being trailblazers in their respective fields, there is a common thread tying them all together. One that can be summed up in 2 simple words: Creative Genius.
Nobody is going to argue that what The Beatles did in their short career was anything short of groundbreaking and genius. Nobody can look at the success of the Harry Potter franchise and arrive at any other conclusion than that JK Rowling is filled with creative genius.
But what if you’re not JK Rowling? Or John Lennon? Do you stand any chance of being a creative genius? At being an icon in your respective field?
According to my friend Allen Gannett, CEO of TrackMaven, anybody can be a genius.
Allen has written a book called The Creative Curve, in which he explores the myth that we are born creative, and how you too can be a creative genius.
All it takes is a lot of hard work, a little luck, and what Allen calls “The 4 Laws of the Creative Curve.”
Everybody Can Be Creative
A lot of professionals, particularly in the marketing and technology sectors, don’t seem to realize that creativity is something that you work at, not just something that you’re born with.
“As it turns out, creativity is the result of systematic hard work.” – Allen Gannett
As if Isaac Newton would have connected a falling apple to gravity if he hadn’t been spending his every waking minute studying physics. As if Mozart would’ve written the works he wrote if he hadn’t practiced 3 hours a day since the age of 3 years old.
No, they doom themselves before they even start, because they get frustrated that they’re not instantly creative, and aren’t instantly coming up with world-changing ideas.
We also buy into the notion that all the best creations are hermit geniuses. That they’re holed up somewhere changing the world, one amazing idea at a time.
This is simply not the truth. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. Elon Musk isn’t designing rockets and cars by himself. JK Rowling had agents and publishers and marketers.
“Creativity isn’t done in isolation. Creativity is a social construct, and as such it is a group activity.” – Allen Gannett
The Creative Curve
So what is this creative curve?
Think of the first time you heard a song. Initially, you may have thought to yourself, “This is an interesting song, I’m not sure how I feel about it.”
But the second, third, & fourth times you hear that song, it starts to grow on you. Before you know it you crank up the volume when the song comes on. You roll the windows down and belt it out.
By the hundredth time you hear the song, however, you’re tired of that song. It loses the appeal that originally drew you in. Not only do you not turn the volume up, you turn the radio station to listen to something else.
The same is true for creative endeavors. As it turns out, there is a very well-replicated relationship between familiarity and preference, and it’s shaped like an upside-down U, or a bell curve.
What you want to do as a creative, is create ideas that are on the left side of the curve. Ideas that are about to take off.
If the ideas that you have are already at the peak of the curve, they have nowhere to go but down. You don’t want to open a fidget spinner store today. You wanted to open a fidget spinner 2 years ago.
There is a scientist who has studied the musical science of The Beatles. They’ve tracked the creativity of their music through their entire catalog and found that it fits this creative curve perfectly.
Think about their early songs. They were very straightforward, not terribly creative lyrically, and not all that complex musically.
But as the band developed and grew, they started approaching the top of the curve and incorporating things like sitars, tubes, and strings into their music, and their lyrics got more and more creative and complex.
Then towards the end of their career, the music began to simplify a bit more as it fell down the right side of the curve.
If it works for The Beatles, it can work for you too.
4 Laws of Creative Curve
Allen lays out the 4 Laws of the Creative Curve in his book. You should buy and read the book, so this just begins to scratch the surface, but the 4 laws are strikingly simple.
Everybody tends to think of creators as constantly creating, when in reality creators are some of the most active consumers of information out there.
Originality is idolized, but there is truth to that notion that great artists steal. Or at least they imitate. They draw inspiration from all sorts of places, imitating past successful creatives.
Since creativity is a social phenomenon, you need people to agree with what you’ve done and validate your creativity. Otherwise, you’ll have no way of knowing that what you’re doing is actually creative.
Again, there’s a myth that Mozart just sat down and wrote concertos, when in reality he went through draft after draft after draft before getting it just right.
Anybody can be a genius. Creative genius is within the reach of anybody whether you’re a writer, painter, marketer, CEO, or baker. All it takes is commitment to your craft, perseverance, and a recognition of those 4 laws of the creative curve.
Creativity isn’t easy, in fact, it’s super hard, but there’s a way you can do it.
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