Category Archives: Article

Use Your Anger To Smash Creative Blocks

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By David Burkus 

 

Hall of Fame basketball player Michael Jordan is famous for his world-class talent, but what set him apart from his peers was that MJ knew how to get angry. And Michael Jordan was always angry.

Jordan would famously invent and exaggerate grudges to help fuel his competitiveness. As Wright Thompson wrote in ESPN Magazine, “This started at an early age… His whole life has been about proving things, to the people around him, to strangers, to himself. ”

Life can throw us frustrating circumstances out of our control that can serve to derail our creative process. Bad news like this is often totally out of our control and can serve as a source of despair or anger. We feel upset, angry, and alone. We hardly feel like creating.

Despite what happens in our personal life, our professional life still needs us to create. The events that bring us down are often outside of our control, but there is something we can control: how we work. New evidence suggests that negative emotions might just help our creative abilities in certain areas. Specifically, when you’re in a bad mood, the bad mood is an asset best used to attack a creative block.

The research comes from a trio of European professors who studied the habits of over 100 creative professionals. They asked these creatives to keep a diary of their emotions for a week. At the beginning and the end of every day, the professionals would rate their level of positive emotions (inspiration, excitement, alertness) and their level of negative emotions (stress, hostility, guilt). Interestingly, the most productive participants reported positive emotions at the end of the day, but also noted that they started their most productive days with negative emotions. In other words, they channeled their anger into their work.

The most productive participants started their most productive days with negative emotions.

One possible explanation is focus. Past research suggests that negative emotions help narrow our focus to specific tasks or projects and even persist longer on those projects, especially when it comes to getting rejected. Perhaps the initial negative emotions were actually helping the professionals keep their mind focused on their work longer, digging deeper into the problems they might be facing and generating better solutions.

To test this idea, the same researchers asked a different group of participants to try their hand at a brainstorming task—listing as many ideas as possible. Before brainstorming, however, the participants were randomly assigned to write a biographical essay recounting either a positive or negative event in their life. Just like the creative professionals in the first task, the participants who reflected on a negative event performed better, listing more ideas that were also more varied and original. Even though their essay writing had no relationship to the brainstorming task, the negative emotions they experienced put them in a better mood to focus on the problem and think up solutions.

The implications of this research are significant. The evidence suggests that certain moods are better suited to certain tasks. When you’re in a bad mood, it may be best to return to a particularly difficult problem or a project that has stalled out. Think of the negative emotion as fuel that you can burn on the path to creation. The negative emotions might just help you dig deeper into the problem and find a solution your happier self would never have uncovered.

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To Me Marketing Is About Values – Steve Jobs

Lets stop talking about ourselves and build GREAT brands that matter to consumers. Create brands that talk about and act upon values they love and not about themselves. If your brand isn’t interested  in connecting with consumers and inspiring something in the world, then the chances of connecting with with them are pretty slim.

Who’s with me?

To me….marketing is about values! This is a very complicated world. it’s a very noisy world. and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is! and so, we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.

Now apple, fortunately, is one of half-a-dozen best brands in the whole world. Right up there with Nike, Disney, Coke, Sony — it is one of the greats of the greats.

Not just in this country, but all around the globe. But even a great brand needs investment and caring if its going to retain it’s relevance and vitality. And the apple brand has clearly suffered from neglect in this area in the last few years. and we need to bring it back!

The way to do that is NOT to talk about speeds and fees. It’s NOT to talk about bits and mega-hertz. It’s NOT to talk about why we are better than windows.

The dairy industry tried for 20 years to convince you that milk was good for you. It’s a lie, but they tried anyway. And the sales were falling. And then they tried “Got milk” and the sales went up. “Got milk” wasn’t even talking about the product. In fact, it focuses on the absence of the product.

But the best example of all, and one of the greatest jobs of marketing that the universe has ever seen, is Nike! Remember, nike sells a commodity. They sell shoes!!!

And yet, when you think of nike you feel something different than a shoe company.

In their ads, as you know, they don’t ever talk about the product. They don’t ever tell you about their air soles and why they are better than reebok’s air soles. What does Nike do in their advertising? They honor great athletes. and they honor great athletics. That’s who they are, that’s what they are about!

Apple spends a fortune on advertising — you’d never know it….you’d never know it…!

So…when i got here, Apple just fired their agency and there was a competition with 23 agencies that…you know…four years from now we would pick one. And we blew that up and we hired Chiat\Day, the ad agency that i was fortunate enough to work with years ago and created some award winning work including the commercial voted the best ad ever made, 1984 (by Advertising Professionals).

And…we started working about eight weeks ago, and the question we asked was, “our customers want to know who is apple and what is it that we stand for…where do we fit in this world?”

And what we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done — although we do that well. We do that better than almost anybody, in some cases. But apple is about something more than that! apple at the core…its core value — is that, we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That’s what we believe!

And we have had the opportunity to work with people like that. We’ve had the opportunity to work with people like you; with software developers, with customers, who have done it. In some big, and some small ways. And we believe that, in this world, people can change it for the better. And that those people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones that actually do!

And so, what we’re going to do in our first brand marketing campaign in several years, is to get back to that core value!

A lot of things have changed. The market is in a total different place than where it was a decade ago. And Apple is totally different — and Apple’s place in it is totally different. And believe me, the products, and the distribution strategy, and the manufacturing are totally different…and we understand that. But values and core values — those things shouldn’t change. The things that apple believed in at its core, are the same things apple really stands for today.

And so we wanted to find a way to communicate this. And what we have is something that i am very moved by. It honors those people who have changed the world. Some of them are living — some of them are not. But the ones that aren’t, as you’ll see, you’ll know that if they ever used a computer it would have been a mac!

And the theme of the campaign is “Think different.” It’s honoring the people who think different and move this world forward . And it is what we are about. It touches the soul of this company.

So – I am gonna go ahead and roll it, and I hope that you feel the same way about it i do!

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The Rhythms Of Work vs The Rhythms Of Creative Labor

Though I am guilty of using it from time to time, I’ve never particularly cared for the word “productivity,” which is defined as (1) the “quality of being productive,” and (2) the “rate of output per unit.”While it’s easy to imagine how to control for output in certain contexts — say, turning out 100 widgets of equal quality from your factory each day — it’s much more difficult to guarantee that you’ll write 10 pages of exactly equal quality for your novel each day.

In other words, all work is not created equal. Willing yourself to suck it up and make that client call or do that distasteful admin task is one kind of work (very controllable), while pushing through a creative block to give something new to the world is another entirely (less controllable).

Which is why I want to share a wonderful passage I recently discovered in Lewis Hyde’s classic book The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, wherein he makes an elegant distinction between “work” and “creative labor”:

Work is what we do by the hour. It begins and, if possible, we do it for money. Welding car bodies on an assembly line is work; washing dishes, computing taxes, walking the rounds in a psychiatric ward, picking asparagus–these are work. Labor, on the other hand, sets its own pace. We may get paid for it, but it’s harder to quantify… Writing a poem, raising a child, developing a new calculus, resolving a neurosis, invention in all forms — these are labors.Work is an intended activity that is accomplished through the will. A labor can be intended but only to the extent of doing the groundwork, or of not doing things that would clearly prevent the labor. Beyond that, labor has its own schedule.

[Hyde closes with this striking footnote.]

There is no technology, no time-saving device that can alter the rhythms of creative labor. When the worth of labor is expressed in terms of exchange value, therefore, creativity is automatically devalued every time there is an advance in the technology of work.

As creative professionals, it’s easy to confuse “work” and “labor” — both are a regular part of our everyday. But when we confuse one for the other, we create the illusion that “creative labor” can be willed, managed, or measured, when, in fact, it can only really be, as Hyde points out, beckoned.

We can do much to create the time, the space, and the expertise that lead to incredible creative work. But there is no silver bullet; there is no “time-saving device” or productivity system that is going to alter the rhythm of invention.

Sometimes we’re better off accepting that certain processes can’t be rushed. Then we can set aside the accomplish, accomplish, accomplish mindset of willpower, and find the stillness that will help us move forward.