Guts, Courage and Confidence
So, imagination in some ways is easy, right? But creativity requires hard work. Like, if you really think about it for a second, this is how it kind of flows, so it starts off with information or ideas, or data, or just raw material, and then all of a sudden we start to think about that a little bit more, and we get imaginative. And imagination is often up in the clouds. I mean, you can come up with anything, the sky is the limit, weird and wild ideas. But the next step of the process is creativity. Creativity is when imagination gets to work, when we start to actually make, or do, or build. And that's what makes it so hard. And that was the case with Steve. So, Steve had this idea, he wanted to write a novel. And so then, there it was, the idea. He started to imagine what it might look like. Problem was that Steve was stuck being an English teacher in high school, and he didn't like his job. Have you ever had one of those teachers in high school? The ones that you know are just, they ...
hate what they're doing, and it just makes everyone miserable. Well, that was him. But he had this dream, he had this idea, he had this imagination, I want to write a novel. And he got to work, he started to create. And there he was, that act of courage. You know, it was like, going for it, I'm going to make this thing happen, I'm going to do this thing. And he wrote, and he wrote, and he wrote. And he was living in a trailer with his wife, they had limited funds, but he was chasing this thing down. And eventually it got to this point where he was like, you know what, this isn't worth anything at all. He gave up, and he took his manuscript, and it was back in the day when you would type something on a typewriter, and he threw it away. Later that day, his wife was taking out the trash, and she brought the trash to the dumpster, his manuscript was in there, and she thought, man, this is heavy, and so she looked in it, and realized it was her husband's manuscript. And she pulled it out and read the whole thing. And she went back to him, and she said you have to finish this thing, this is good work. And he went on to write, and he finished it. And his first novel was a huge success. He was able to quit his day job teaching English, and that's how Stephen King started. I don't necessarily like his literature, but I love that idea, I love that idea of having a trash can friend, that someone who says, you know what, when we throw in the towel, and just chuck it all away, and our courage is crushed, and we aren't feeling bold, they say no, you need to stand up, you need to keep going with this thing. And the reality of doing anything creative, whatever it is, is that we need people like that to help us, because very rarely can you accomplish great and bold things on your own. Because in almost every project, you'll hit that point where you say, you know what, this just isn't working at all. What does that look like for me? Well, what it looks like for me is making sure that I have people that I can go to, what I think of as my trash can friends. These are people that I can go to before something big that I am doing, like I was about to give a talk at Google, and I was really nervous, because I thought, oh my gosh, this has to be really good. And the nervousness kind of turned into anxiety, turned into oh my gosh, what have I done, I don't know how I'm going to pull this off. So I called up one of my trash can buddies, Ryan, and just said, Ryan, I'm about to do this, I'm not feeling right about it. And he gave me this pep talk, he was like, Chris, you were designed for this. Chris, you are the man, you know, he just hammed it up. And it was exactly what I needed to hear. Or another time I had this big shoot in Big Sur, and it was a multiple day shoot, really huge campaign, all these moving parts. Right before, I wasn't necessarily nervous, but I was like, oh my gosh, my head was spinning. I called up another friend, Evan. And just said, Evan, bro, I'm doing this thing. He's like, Chris, this is perfect, you know, he just gave it to me, you know, and he pulled it, pulled me out of the gutter, pulled me out of the trash can, got me back up on my feet. And so what I've found is that you and I need people like this, and how do we get those friends? The only way to get them is to be one to someone else. And so that really is one of our major points, I think, in this little chat, is this idea that we need to start to think about well who can I turn to, when maybe I'm feeling insecure, or I've thrown away a project, or I'm just not sure. Because to create requires that you're bold, that you're courageous. So we need some physical, real people. So first step in the action step here is to just say, okay, well who are my people, who are these folks I can call to, write down a few names. Also, how can I be this to a couple other people as well, and that's a really important step. The next one is to think about how we can build up our courage by the way that we act. When I taught at the university level, I taught photography, there were all these aspiring photographers who were coming through my classes. Many of them wanted to do things like think outside of the box, and be creative, and be bold and courageous and all of this. The trouble was is they just didn't have courage really built into the fabric of who they were. And so we would do these exercises in class, I would say okay, here's your assignment today. Or the next day, I would give it to them that day, the next day, tomorrow what you need to do is to wear two different shoes, and do it for the entire day. And some of the students would say what are you talking about, Orwig, and I would say, yeah, I want you to wear two different shoes. And so the next day, they would wear two different shoes, and then they would come back to class and report. And I'll never forget this one student who came back, she was really, really shy. She would wear two different shoes, you know, they were just a little bit different, different colors. And she shared her experience, and said, you know what, when I did that, I was so nervous. My heart was pounding, and all of a sudden, it heightened my awareness of everything around me. It was like I was in this whole brave new world. And what I thought is people were going to come up to me and say, why are you wearing two different shoes, but not a single person noticed, and no one said anything at all. And it made me realize that I need to take these creative risks, and that people don't really care, I think we assume people care more than they really do. And it was a profound thing, right, so sometimes what we need to do to get bold and courageous is to have friends that can help us stand strong; other times, we need to do these small acts, and so the second step that I encourage you to do is to do something today that's just a little bit off-the-wall. If you want to think outside the box, you've got to act outside the box. And do something where you're approaching life in a unique way, not just when you take pictures, or make drawings or create art or do your work or vocation or craft, but in other ways as well. All right, the third one is to think about mentoring. I like to think of mentoring this way, I love to ride bikes, whether mountain bikes or road bikes, and when you're riding a road bike down a mountain, one of the things that you do is you have to figure out how you go around corners. What people will teach you is that when you're cornering on a bike, you turn your head to the point where you want to go. What that means is you're turning towards your destination. What tends to happen to beginning people who are new to biking is they'll look at the rocks on the edge of the road, that they want to avoid. So rather than looking to where they want to go, they look at the rocks, and of course what that ends up doing is pointing their bike there. And it doesn't turn out very well, and you're not very good at cornering around things. So I like to think of mentors as giving us this way to look, you know, these are these people who are great and amazing, or maybe very bold and courageous, and say, I may not be like them yet, but that's where I want to go. This is who I'm looking towards. So how do we find and create mentors, or how do we find mentors, what if we live in an area where there just really isn't anyone accessible or around? Well, I think we can create a mentor group kind of vicariously by looking at people that we know. We can redefine mentorship in a way. And this is one of the ways that I do this, I say, you know what, one of my mentors is my dad. Why, well it's because of his work ethic, his deep faith, and that he's tough as nails. Now, he doesn't know he's my mentor, but I've decided that he's one of those people that I'm turning towards, that I'm looking at. Nelson Mandela is another, it's his courage, his kindness, his resolve, that he was in prison for 27 years without giving up. Another one, Chris Lieto, he overcame obstacles and inspires others to do the same. Another one, Frederick Douglass, escaped the shackles of slavery and went on to thrive. Theodore Roosevelt, he had legendary vigor and grit. The point isn't that these people have to be living, it could be anyone throughout the course, the history of, throughout the course of whatever. Throughout history, or throughout time. And that we want to identify these as these are the folks that we're saying hey, I'm going to glean, or I'm going to learn from who they are. So that next step is to say, okay, I've done this thing about, I've done some work on thinking about trash can friends. I'm going to take some of these actions. I'm going to think, I'm going to act outside of the box so I can think outside of the box. Then also, I'm going to begin to assemble my own mentorship group, the way you do that is come up with people who inspire you and then also articulate why. The reason why this is so essential in order to be creative is because you can't do it on your own, we need people to look to who are further ahead. We need to practice it in small actions. And we also of course need that support from those quote, trash can friends. All right, well how do we dig deeper into something like this, well, for this one I have three books that I want to recommend. The first one is my book, it's called The Creative Fight. This one's about getting out there and being bold with all that you create. The next one is a wonderful book, and it's, I'm not sure if I'm going to say this name right, but it's Rainer Maria Rielke, and it's Letters to a Young Poet. And what I love about this book is it's about, it's written from an older poet to a younger poet. And even if you don't like poetry, you'll pick up this wisdom from one to another in it, which you can apply, for me, I apply it to my life as a photographer. Last but not least is one of my all time favorite books, it's called Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales. And why I like this book is this guy has devoted his live to studying why certain people survive and others don't, now this is survival in kind of the adventure sense of the word. But it's applicable to anyone who's doing creative work, because creativity always requires that we be courageous and bold. All right, well I hope that you enjoy this one and take those action steps, even if you're feeling like you don't need to, because maybe you feel like, well the stuff I'm doing isn't that risky right now. One day it will be, and you've got to practice this stuff before you get there.