How fear and failure are necessary to opening the creative floodgates and achieving the great things we are all capable of.

Sun, 08/18/2013 - 15:28 -- Dr Jasmine Prad...


And yet fear and failure can be our greatest allies if we see them simply as challenges requiring creative thinking to be overcome.

History is full of people we revere who have had to overcome numerous fears and failures. Michelangelo for example was a sculptor, not a painter, yet the commission for the Sistine Chapel, which was not originally intended for him, led to one of the greatest wonders in art history. Einstein wasn’t a gifted mathematician and yet he didn’t allow that to hold him back from the Theory of Relativity. The vision came first followed by the proof.

Van Gogh only started drawing at the age of 26, but in the ten years before his death, went from childlike drawings to producing paintings that will resonate with people throughout history. Steve Jobs dropped out of college yet used the time to study anything that was of interest to him. And we know how that worked out. These are but a few examples, but there are millions similar, perhaps not on the same scale but to the individual, life changing moments of reinvention and enlightenment.

I have always believed that EVERYONE has a talent. The tragedy is that so many either never discover it or choose not to act on it. We all make excuses:

I have no time.
I have no money.
I have responsibilities and a dream is a luxury I can’t afford
I have left it too late.
I am too old.
I am too young.
I will never be really good so why bother.
I will be really good and then people will have expectations.
I am not like the people I read about.
I am not special.

It has recently been shown that there is no need for creativity to fall off with age. In fact if anything, bringing together a lifetime’s experience will make us far more creative. The reason many people start to become less creative is mastery of the world they inhabit. Ironically, the better we can become at things, the less they will inevitably challenge us. I have seen it time and again in artists who hit on a ‘style’ which is successful and lucrative and in which they inevitably become trapped. Picasso was a maestro at reinvention. It’s what makes him one of the greats. And another of my personal favourite’s, was the physicist Richard Feynman, who approached all things with the naïve curiosity of a child.

It’s inherent to being human that we seek security and the slow descent into complacency is inevitable if we don’t shake ourselves up a little. Apparently, for optimum creativity, it is best to reinvent yourself every seven years; not completely or course. We still have the needs of the lower rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy to meet, but that doesn’t exclude learning new skills or immersing ourselves in new worlds through literature. When you are new to something you don’t know the ‘rules’, so you inadvertently break them. You take risks unknowingly. ‘Beginners luck’ is a very real occurrence which has been well documented.

Because once you have found your passion, once you have allowed that inner child to have a voice, there is no turning back regardless of consequence. In fact, there is no negative consequence if you find the courage to start listening to your dreams, no matter how small the start. Then your passion will simply take over and success is guaranteed in one form or another.

You get to the stage, where you simply have no other choice.

However, like any new body of paintings, set of experiments or a life transition, you need a method and a set of tools to work from and to guide you. I will be writing about this next. Some is the reverse engineering of my process and some is what others have done, but how you use them will be very personal and will eventually require what the Americans refer to as ‘grit’.

After so many years of working with children and adults, I know that change cannot be passive or happen by osmosis through words. It requires work -thinking with your hands- and finding your particular brand of ‘work’ is what passion is all about.

‘Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.’ Lao Tzu