Adversity is the Teacher – Creativity is the Result

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off well.

Yesterday was an especially productive day. I tackled something new at work, or I should say, new to this particular role. It’s work I’ve done before, just not exactly in this context. So, I had a little past experience to tap on, and a little leeway to adapt that experience for this particular application. That’s when you really feel like you’re earning your keep. It felt good.

In almost every job description I’ve ever read, the word “creativity” is in there in some form. They want you to be creative. And that begins with the resume. “Wow, this is impressive!” Yeah. And if you think that’s good, give me an hour or two and I can make it even better! Okay, I’m giving away secrets I should probably be keeping to myself. But you get the idea.

There are times in life when creativity is exactly what’s needed, and other times when it can be your worst enemy. As I write my morning posts, it’s imperative that I can apply a little creative thought. But if your job involves assembling nuclear weapons, it’s best to stick to the script. There’s no room for creativity in a job like that. Just do what you’re told and nothing more.

When we’re starting something new, we generally prefer detailed instructions. I’ve done my job, in various forms, for the past 21 years. I’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and I can pretty much figure out anything I’m asked to do. But, starting a new job, I want a little more instruction. I know what works – I just don’t know what my employer wants to see. The two aren’t always the same.

That’s why we ask a lot of questions. The answers may not always make sense, and sometimes we’re thinking, “Seriously? That’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. There’s a LOT better way to get that done.” But we do what we’re told to do and save those creative suggestions for later.

And sometimes, in following those instructions, we learn a different way of getting the job done. It may not necessarily be a better way, but in certain situations it could be the only way. What would happen if you couldn’t find the right tool, or if your preferred program on the computer suddenly crashed? That’s when a combination of the boss’ way and your old way can come in handy.

We gain experience through adversity – having to figure out a situation that’s not ideal and working our way through it. And that’s where creativity is born. It’s easy to screw in lightbulbs all day. But when a bulb breaks off at the base as you’re installing it, there are no written instructions to help you get the broken base back out. You figure out a solution and move on.

Funny, one of the oldest tricks in the book on that one is to cut a raw potato in half and use it to remove the broken light bulb base. Now, how many electricians carry a raw potato in their toolbox? It was just a crime of opportunity. After several unsuccessful attempts to correct the situation, somebody saw a bag of potatoes and thought, “Hmmm …”

That’s how creativity works. Sometimes we’re able to look at something and a light goes off in our brain. Other times, we have to stumble through several failed attempts before we accidentally find something that works. But it’s not really accidental – it’s a process of elimination. It’s a methodical approach to problem-solving that we learned early in life, long before we took our first steps.

Creativity is simply the ability to put those skills to work. It’s not a section of the brain that, for one person, is bigger than it is for others. And it’s not like any one of us is more gifted than others in that regard. It’s a natural ability in each of us that some just choose to use more than others.

Instructions get us started in the right direction. They give us the basics and help form the foundation for success. But it’s creativity that lets us achieve a higher level of success. If every one of us did the same thing the same way every day, we’d all end up at the same destination. Think it might be a little crowded?

To reach a different destination, we have to do something everyone else isn’t doing. We have to go the extra mile. And more often than not, that extra mile isn’t even on the map. It’s something we find through a combination of experience, opportunity, and just putting ourselves in a position to find it. Success presents the way when we put ourselves in a position to succeed.

Creativity isn’t something that’s limited to the fortunate few. You’ve got it. Let the foundational instructions put you in a position to succeed, and then use your creativity to cross the finish line.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Sometimes the Well-Trodden Path is Still the Best

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off well.

I’ve talked a lot this week about creativity and thinking outside the box. I guess it all goes back to the old adage that insanity is doing the same thing the same way every day and expecting different results. We all know that if we want things to change we have to try something different. But sometimes, things are working just fine and then we get creative and throw a wrench in the spokes.

When I got up this morning, the bathroom scale gave me an encouraging sign – my weight is finally starting to go back down. I didn’t really gain that much over this last stumble off the wagon, but I had been headed steadily in the right direction until I decided I was smart enough to tweak things a little. After all, will a cheeseburger and fries really make that much difference?

With most things in life, small changes can make a big difference. Sometimes we need to make those small changes to speed things up a bit. And other times, we need to just stick with what works. Anybody who’s ever started a small two-stroke engine, like that on a weed-eater, knows exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t hold your mouth just right, you’ll be there all day.

Some changes will make things better. Some don’t seem to make any difference at all, but they do. The impact just isn’t as readily apparent, but over time it’ll show. And other changes, like ditching the meal bars in favor of a cheeseburger, have exactly the result we’d expect. Granted, sometimes you need to indulge a little. But when “sometimes” becomes every day, we have a problem.

On your job, you were likely taught to do things a certain way. With many computer programs, you have to do things in a specific sequence to get the desired result. Mop the floor before you sweep it and you’ll end up with a muddy mess. And anybody who’s ever tried using vise-grips instead of a socket wrench knows the inevitable result of that mistake.

On the other hand, there was a point in history when somebody set down a hand saw, rubbed their arm, and thought, “There has to be a better way. What if the saw could move itself back and forth? But the mechanism required to do that would consume a lot of energy. So, what if we changed the shape of the saw? What if we made it a circle? Then all we’d have to do is spin it really fast.”

Granted, the saws of the day were pretty impressive. And so were the biceps of the people using them. It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. And all through history, ordinary people have dreamed up some of the things that make our lives so much simpler every single day. Cars, airplanes, computers, power tools, kitchen appliances … the list goes on and on.

My dad was an aircraft mechanic for nearly fifty years, and he taught me most of what I know about tools and how to fix things. Granted, there came a time when I had to try something he’d never shown me, like replacing disc brakes or rebuilding an engine. But the basics of what he’d taught me were the foundation for all those new learning experiences.

I made mistakes along the way, and I’m sure he did, too. That’s all part of it. But when we learn the basics from somebody with the skills and experience to teach us right, the results can be pretty impressive. It’s when we try to toss their advice aside and do things our own way that we get in trouble.

We all know the things we should be doing. And, even though there’s that part of our brain that really wants to come up with a better way, sometimes it’s best to shut that down for the time being and just follow the plan. When the team is ahead by forty points, the coach can afford to run new plays. But when the score is zero, you stick with what works.

There’s a time for creativity and a time to just follow directions. Success is all about knowing when to do what. And, more often than not, if we just follow the lead of those who have gone there before us, we’ll at least find ourselves on the right path. Once we reach our destination, we can think about better ways to get there.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved