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Inspiration Isn’t Everything: 3 Ways To Hack Your Creativity


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Have you ever stopped to ask yourself where your creativity comes from?

I think for a lot of us, creativity shares more with magic than it does the tangible, hard skills we use daily to run our businesses. Hailing from that mysterious realm we know as inspiration, creativity often seems like it’s there one minute and gone the next, with no telling when it might strike.

But what if, just like a sorcerer summons magic, you could summon creativity at will? And rather than coming from divine inspiration, it was driven by frustration?

It’s not just fantasy.

Nearly all of my best ideas have been the result of frustration. A problem arose and I solved it, not because I have this underlying need to fix everything that’s broken, but because I can only ignore frustration for so long. It’s emotional, it’s hot, it gets under your skin. When something isn’t working and it’s affecting your happiness, productivity, and growth, you can’t help but look for ways to eliminate that discomfort.

That’s where creativity comes in. Like most entrepreneurial businesses in general, creativity is often more about being perceptive to needs that aren’t being fulfilled than about reinventing the wheel.

That means it’s not just a thing some people have and some people don’t have, like blue eyes or blond hair. It’s a muscle, and like any other muscle, it can be developed. You just have to work it.

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So if you’d like to start building your own creativity muscle and turning your frustrations into innovation, I highly recommend incorporating these three “workouts” into your daily routine.

  1. Write It Down
    “The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.” Lee Iacocca

    If you’re anything like me, your brain generates ideas all the time … and forgets them just as often. It’s like my brain is working a million miles a minute, and as soon as one idea comes into my head, a new one is there to take its place.

    It’s a common issue for entrepreneurs, and also an easy one to fix.

    The thing is, ideas are like soap bubbles—if you let them float away, they’ll pop!

    The first step toward overcoming this kind of idea diarrhea (sorry) and strengthening your creativity muscle, then, isn’t to just wish you had more time or even to hope for “better” ideas, but actually to take the ideas you do have seriously.

    How do you do that? Write them down, immediately!

    The longer you wait, the more likely you are to forget what you’ve come up with, and the less credit you give yourself as a result. If you’re willing to risk forgetting an idea, you’ve already decided it’s not worth remembering.

    That means writing things down is about building your confidence muscle just as much as it is about building your creativity muscle, and there’s no greater asset to an entrepreneur than personal confidence.

    And if you’re worried about creating extra work for yourself, just remember that writing something down doesn’t mean you’ve committed yourself to acting on it. It just means you’ve committed yourself to your own creative development. No skill gets better without practice, and no task becomes habit without regular implementation.

    There’s also no right or wrong way to store your ideas. You can practice in whatever way makes the most sense for you. Some people really love the feeling of putting pen to paper, while others like the ease of dictation. Personally, I prefer to do things digitally, so I have a Trello Board dedicated solely to recording my ideas. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing—having a meeting, attending a workshop, chatting with friends—if I have a cool idea, or notice something particularly frustrating that needs my attention, I put it in the board right then and there.

  2. Let Them Breed
    “When you write things down, they sometimes take you places you hadn’t planned.” Melanie Benjamin

    The next step, and I’m quoting the very funny, very talented entrepreneur James Altucher here, is to let your ideas have sex! As he says, “What you want to do is put a bunch of ideas together and then they’ll make new ideas. They’ll be like rabbits. And if you put them together, they’ll make more rabbits.”

    In other words, stop looking at every idea in isolation. Bring them together, let things simmer, and see what connections emerge. You’ll be amazed at what your brain can produce when you integrate your thoughts in this way.

    The easiest method I’ve found for doing this is to quite literally throw all my ideas onto a blank page and see what happens from there. I like visuals so this works really well for me, but maybe there’s another way that works for you.

  3. Make It A Discipline
    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

    If you’re serious about growing your creativity muscle, you can take things a step further by building a practice right into your day. Strategic Coach co-founder Dan Sullivan does this by setting aside a few minutes every morning to write down 10 ideas. (Though he admits, “The first four ideas are pretty easy … the next six are hard.” Sounds like every workout I’ve ever done!)

    The point is, anything worth doing takes effort. And if you’re someone who wants to contribute, to make a difference on your team and even in your family life, then taking your ideas seriously and setting aside time to capture them is the very best thing you can do. It doesn’t matter whether every idea is great. What matters is the practice, the mental exertion.

From Frustration To Freedom, Prosperity, And Growth

You can be inspired by a lot of things, but it’s frustration that gives you the clarity to act because it highlights what needs your attention the most. And if it’s urgent for you, you can be sure it’s urgent for others as well, which means frustration is a foolproof road map for transforming obstacles into innovation. In other words, it’s the secret to getting more clients, retaining current ones, and driving your company’s growth.

Just remember: You’ve always got two choices when it comes to things that frustrate you. You can either make everyone else miserable by complaining about them, or you can create something better by using them as fuel for your own creativity. Which sounds better to you?

About the Author

Shannon Waller, Entrepreneurial Team Strategist, is a natural collaborator who instinctively saw that a thriving Unique Ability® Team can strengthen their entrepreneur, the business, and themselves. A win-win-win. Go, team, is Shannon’s rallying cry.

Profile Photo of Shannon Waller