We all know creativity is important. Whether you a student, a young professional, or an entrepreneur, finding creative solutions to the problems you face can determine whether you reach your goals or fall short.
But what do you do when you get stuck in a creative rut? That’s where I found myself a few years ago, when I was trying to keep my third business from failing.
I needed ideas! Good ideas. And I needed them fast. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t seem to breakthrough with the solutions I needed.
Years later, I learned about the destructive power of limiting beliefs.
And looking back at that painful time, I noticed several beliefs that kept me from the creativity I needed. Some were practical, some emotional, and all of them needed to change.
These same limiting beliefs might be blocking your creativity too. Here are four of them — and the inspiring truths you should replace them with.
1. Only certain people have the “gift” of creativity.
Many people believe creativity is an elusive genetic gift. Some people are born with it and some people aren’t. But while it’s true that some of us appear to be wired with specific creative tendencies, any thinking person can come up with creative ideas.
Steve Jobs explained it better than I can:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
I have creative ideas in entrepreneurship because I spend a lot of time thinking about entrepreneurship. I understand it well enough to spot the connections Jobs is talking about. But mechanics do the same thing in their work. So do teachers and lawyers.
So can you.
2. Your first idea will be your best idea.
Another false belief that limits creativity is assuming good ideas should come quickly, or that if you can’t think of a creative solution right away, you must be on the wrong track.
I struggled with this belief for a long time and became frustrated with myself when I couldn’t will my way to a good idea on short notice.
But Thomas Edison, one of the most famous inventors in history, had a different perspective.
“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”
And I recently had the opportunity to see the power of this principle in action.
Last year, I attended a conference hosted by copywriting guru Ray Edwards. During one of the sessions, he told each of us to compose a headline for the writing assignment we were working on. I thought about it for a few seconds and wrote a headline I was pleased with. Then Ray told us to write 10 more headlines.
I found the instructions irritating. I already had a good headline, and I could only use one. Why should I keep writing? But I followed along. Sure enough, the next few headlines I wrote were terrible, but the last two I wrote were even better than the first. So much better, in fact, that I ended up replacing the headline I started with.
So don’t be afraid to have bad ideas. Sometimes those ideas are better than you think. Other times you’re just digging toward the breakthrough underneath.
3. Creative people work alone.
Recently I went to see the new Avengers: Infinity Wars movie. After the movie ended, I stayed in my seat because I knew that Marvel movies usually included scenes after the credits.
The funny thing is, without those extra scenes, I would have left. I never stay for the credits. Why? They’re so long! It takes so many people to make a movie. Even though directors such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, or Peter Jackson tend to get most of the attention, the stories they’re famous for were the brainchildren of a small army of creative people.
So if you find yourself in need of a creative idea, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The smartest people on earth do it all the time.
Every Tuesday morning, I hop on a call with three other entrepreneurs to share ideas and ask for feedback. Together, we’re a “mastermind” group — a model for shared learning credited to Benjamin Franklin.
Making time for this meeting every week gives me natural opportunities to ask for creative advice, and it often leads to ideas I wasn’t smart enough to ask for.
4. Creativity means doing something 100% new.
Forbes reports the Alien movie franchise grossed over $1 billion. A brilliant idea, right?
Sort of — but when he pitched the concept to a Hollywood producer, do you know what director Ridley Scott said?
“Jaws in space.”
This billion dollar idea didn’t appear from nowhere. Scott simply took the premise of a popular film (that came out less than four years earlier) and added a fresh angle.
The same principle is true in entrepreneurship. After watching early movers like GrubHub and Seamless succeed, other companies brought the food delivery service model to new restaurants and locations.
Uber expanded to form UberEats. Yelp purchased Eat24. And the team that founded Caviar sold to Square for a rumored $90 million. Not bad for a recycled idea.
Solomon said there was nothing new under the sun — and that was over 2,000 year ago.
Today, every idea is a remix of a previous idea. Embrace it. Instead of starting from scratch, look at what’s worked before and add a fresh twist.
And when you find yourself in a creative rut, pay attention to your thoughts. Are there any limiting beliefs you need to change?