Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is being creative?

This post is part of a bi-weekly blogging event titled Let's Blog Off. This week's topic is: 
How do you define creativity? Is creativity the balance between imagination and talent that bring ideas to life?
Is creativity a true differentiator though? Do you believe that “uncreatives” exist or do you believe all of us have a spark of it on some level?
Before you delve into this blogger's take on creativity, allow me a moment to explain why this will not be a life altering read. For the better part of the past 2 months, I've been working 80-90 hour weeks and have only taken Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve off. I italicized off because anyone who owns a small business will agree, no matter what you are doing, where you are, or which day of the week it is, you are always working in some capacity. 
I'm not complaining but simply stating the facts. I love what I do; I thrive on the challenge, and the people I have met along the way (especially some of the great folks in the Letsblogoff community -- meet them here) have been the wind in my proverbial sails. 

This past weekend was me hitting the reset button. I tuned out the world and focused on me and nothing else. Because I was 'resetting', I forgot to write this post and wasn't going to, until I decided tonight to give it a go.

Jim & Jamey at the 4th Annual Brad Arms
Noah Harris Memorial Golf Tournament
in 2008 - Raising money to send care
packages to troops in Iraq.
Charity founded by Jamey Burrell.
Growing up, in addition to playing varsity football, I was a highly competitive golfer. Golf was a part of my personality. Character, integrity, mental fortitude, and creativity are defining aspects of a golfer. Years have passed since feeling the pressure of having to hole a putt for my high school team or teeing off in front of over one hundred spectators, but the butterflies still swarmed my belly when I stepped on the course this weekend. It had been almost a year since my last outing, but like riding a bike, standing on the first tee, the passion for the game and the knowledge of how to score well returned to me.

Golf is a great metaphor for life and business, and perhaps that is why so much business takes place on the golf course. The game has a tricky way of exposing one's true self on the course. The game will humble the mightiest of athletes and anoint the quietest of men kings. 

But the reason I bring up golf and why it is relevant to this post is that I didn't realize until yesterday while on the course the amount of creativity the game requires. To a beginner, the game seems simple. Hit the ball as far as you can and get it in the hole in the fewest amount of strokes. Playing with my roommate, I realized this skewed perception. He couldn't understand why I insisted on hitting irons off certain tees when I clearly possessed a long and accurate shot with my driver. Furthermore, he was perplexed when, at times, I admittedly chose to hit 'away from the hole' in order to avoid potential danger when I had shown quite accurate precision all afternoon with my approach shots. 

"Why not aim at the flag instead of the certain of the green," he questioned, "or pull out your driver and bomb it down the fairway." 

My answer is simple. I explained that golf is a game of strategy and creativity. You take a look at each hole. Analyze and understand where the risks lie. Obviously, at differing skill levels, there are differing risks presented on each hole. Each hole will play differently to the golfer playing the hole. 

Sometimes you need to lay up, sometimes go for it. The shot may require you to work the ball (by swinging in such a way to produce side-spin on the ball) left to right and other times right to left. You may need to hit the ball high to fly over a tree but in times of heavy wind, you may be forced to play it very low. Some situations allow you to attack the pin whereas in others, you must play defensively and away from danger, make par and move on.

Image Credity:
Why is this a creative task? It's simple. There is no instruction manual about how to approach a hole. You are provided dimensions (length, width, etc) and knowledge of the obstacles (sand traps, water hazards, etc), but you will not find a pictorial 'how-to' guide like an Ikea instruction manual (although I'd love to see one) in your golf cart. A golfer must rely on their innate ability to not just play the shot but to envision the hole and the different ways that it can be played before ever striking the ball.

A golfer does not always make the right decision as evidenced by the enormous amount of How-To Books that help people cope with the frustration of the sport, but if he is wise, he uses his creative competencies to most effectively harness his talents in order to get the ball in the hole whilst minimizing risk. 

And so it is in life. Some of us have a greater sense of Creativity than others, but I think it can be easily defined as looking at a situation and taking a unique approach to it. It may be an obvious or totally fresh approach to an age-old situation, but the creative person is smart enough to know within them exists a better way to address a certain problem and brave enough to then execute it instead of succumbing to the pressure of hitting driver on each hole because that's just the way it's done.

Creativity is simply being unafraid to be YOU.

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