Read Time: 4-5 minutes
“Creativity is breaking out of expected patterns in order to see things in a different way.” – Edward de Bono
The sudden passing of basketball legend Kobe Bryant along with eight others including one of his daughters sent shockwaves around the world. Having retired from professional basketball a few years ago, Kobe didn’t park his life and rest on his laurels. The setting of his basketball career was a harbinger. Apart from winning championships, most people may not know that Bryant was a storyteller. Writing stories was something he always wanted to do. After basketball, it naturally became his second act. In fact, his creative storytelling was so good that he won an Oscar for his short film, Dear Basketball.
Although his life ended abruptly, his legacy lives on through his family, friends, players he mentored, and the people he met and impacted not only through basketball but through his life. One thing Kobe never did was to suppress his creative strength. He allowed it to show and grow on and off the court. As age crept in and his athleticism ebbed out, Kobe replaced the fancy high flying dunks that put him on the top ten plays with a lethal jump shot that turned him into a clutch performer. It was this ability to make the necessary changes to his game that kept him among the game’s elite for 20 years with the accolades to prove it. Kobe’s creativity continued to grow as he ventured into business, proving that creativity is something we are born with and is transferable into different areas of life.
Trust Me, You Are Creative
As a person of faith, it is my firm belief that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Part of that likeness and image-bearing ability is creativity. I also believe that God is the creator, not evolution. This means that you and I are creative beings. We came from a Creator. The DNA of creativity is inherent to each and every person. A non-creative human being is oxymoronic. Please say this out loud if you can. “My name is _____________, I am God’s creation. I am creative.” Let that sink in for a moment. Make it your declaration of response when the thought enters your mind that you are not creative. But like a muscle, creativity is built through exercise, otherwise, it atrophies. We only get better at what we practice consistently.
One approach that Kobe used to build his creative strength was through inquisitiveness and an insatiable desire to improve. He sought out different leaders in the fields he wanted to go into to learn what they knew. This hunger to learn and grow is what made him such a great basketball player, writer, and businessman. What he absorbed nourished his imagination and in turn, showed up in his creative prowess. Your creative muscle tissue is stored within your imagination. Part of seeing your vision come to reality will be the use of your creative strength especially when challenges come your way. And trust me they will. But challenges can be overcome when the creativity muscle is flexed.
Flex The Muscle
Since its inception in 2001, the emphasis on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) programs has grown to prepare today’s children for the future. More recently, the acronym STEM has evolved into STEAM to include Arts. This includes music, writing, reading, woodwork and other art-related subjects.
This addition has been seen as necessary to help children work through the creative process, thus flexing this important muscle which is invaluable in problem-solving for children who will need creativity to thrive in the future. It’s a muscle I have sought to flex and exercise as often as possible using one simple question.
I am often terrified by one thought in writing my weekly blogs. What if I have nothing to write next week? This thought can torment and place immense pressure on my mind, often leaving me without any mental energy to actually write. Until I decided to flip the what if on its head. My question evolved to, “What if I wrote about ______?”
This shift in thinking has been my go-to week after week. It is how I came up with writing my weekly blogs in a monthly series format. It has taken me down rabbit trails that yielded content that I still marvel at today. You see, what if thinking will either drag you down or pull you up depending on how you use it. It can confine you or liberate you and open up a world of creativity, flexing that muscle for more growth.
A few weeks ago, while walking through the hallway of our daughter’s school, I saw a photo of Garrett Morgan, who invented the three-way traffic light. Intrigued that I had discovered an inventor of something that made everyday life simpler for me, I dug more into his life. This rabbit trail unearthed other inventions from Morgan. And they all began with what if. In 1911, a devastating fire claimed the lives of 146 people. Morgan asked, what if firefighters could enter smoke-filled buildings without danger of suffocation? Morgan created the Safety Hood which solved the problem. And after witnessing a traffic collision Morgan was prompted to ask, what if traffic signals could be set in three positions? This led to the first design of the traffic signal that we use on the roads today.
Problem solving and creativity doesn’t have to be complex. Underneath all the complexities we find the simplicity that Morgan used of being more observant of what is around and applying what-if thinking.
Final thought: How can you use what-if thinking to break out of established patterns of thought in your life? The good news is that this thinking can be applied to any area of life (financial, relational, professional, etc) to see things differently. Or maybe you can use what-if thinking to create inquisitiveness and an insatiable desire to steam ahead in life. Who knows, it might lead to flexing the muscle of creativity to solve a long-standing problem like Garrett Morgan.
Keep on keeping on!