In the passing of Steve Jobs, many have marveled at how he created technology that transformed our world. The accolades are deserved as he brought us devices that improved our lives such as the Apple computer, the IPod and I Pad. When measuring his impact on society through technology, he stands shoulder to shoulder with such legends as Edison, Bell, and Ford.
So how was he so creative? Was it nature or nurture? Do you and I have creativity within us that we are not tapping? Could we be the next Steve Jobs?
When I ask these questions, I turn to others that know much more about these topics than I do. In this case, I looked in my library and found a fascinating book by Mihaly Csikszentmaihalyi titled, Creativity (1996). The author states that we often falsely assume that creativity is a personal phenomenon “inside the heads of some special people. (p. 23). That was my assumption. People like Steve Jobs seems to be something special. Surely there was something he had that most of us don’t. But the author continues in saying that creativity is instead an interaction between a person’s thoughts and the world they live in. Hmm. So he is suggesting that creativity is not nature but a way of living, that creativity is not merely a gene we have, or more importantly, what we don’t have. If that is the case, then EVERYONE CAN BE CREATIVE – EVEN ME! That is pretty amazing but I’m not sure I can wrap my mind around that concept. I really doubt I could ever be a Steve Jobs, inventing technology that changes the world. But maybe I could be creative enough to change a few small things. How would I begin? How can I seize my opportunity to be creative? How can I use creativity to get what I ultimately want in business and my personal life?
Csikszentmihalyi believes that we begin developing our creativity when we t fine tune our focus, the object of our attention. We become creative when we pay attention to what has happened, what is happening and what can happen in the future. We focus our attention on what can be. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy living our lives that we don’t have the physical, intellectual or emotional energy to pay attention to what can be. Survival supersedes creativity. So, to be more like Steve Jobs, we need to take a moment now and again to be pay attention to what can be, instead of what we have to do.
I have found that the more I pay attention to what can be, the more it changes my perspective and soon, I’m living in a different world. This world is filled with possibilities, not mere frustrations. At the same time, this world is saturated with the desire to reduce frustrations of the past and a curiosity for how that might happen. This is a fun world to live in.
Curiosity takes us outside of our protective box and into the land of creativity. We are intrigued by different and interesting things, ideas and people. Instead of playing it safe, we take the risk of doing something different. We follow our curiosity with little regard for our established lifestyle. This curiosity, if nurtured will ultimately lead to a whole new world where, like a United Nations press release stated of Steve Jobs, “He saw what others did not.”
There is, however, a downside. Creative individuals live in that different world of curiosity and are “often considered odd – or even arrogant, selfish and ruthless.” (Creativity, p. 10) Why? Because they (we) are so curious that we focus almost all of our attention on that which lies outside of the traditional. By doing so, they/we live in a different world and are seen as different. Yet, those safely within the traditional, come to appreciate what creative people like Steve Jobs does when they use the
Jobs, as Bono of U2 fame noted, “He was only interested in doing truly great things.” Jobs wasn’t interested in change for change sake or to satisfy his own ego. Instead, he was interested in doing that which made the biggest change in helping others do what they needed to do. He was not like some who find creative ways turn tradition on its head, rebelling against authority. That would be a waste of creativity. Instead, he used creativity to help others better their lives. That is Unleashing the Ultimate by sensing and seizing his opportunities. He did great things. What an epitaph.
So, you and I can actually be more like Steve Jobs. We want to do great things by helping others. We want that creativity, more than we likely imagine or acknowledge. What can we do? We can change our perspective and focus more on what is important, rather than just what is urgent.
Assess your attention. What captivates you? What are you curious about?
- Note the frustrations in your life and the lives of those around you.
- Imagine what their lives would be like without those frustrations?
- Let your mind wander and imagine what it would take to alleviate those frustrations.
- What opportunities might there be if you can relieve these frustrations?
We notice incredible opportunities when we open our eyes and ears to the frustrations around us.
We realize unbelievable individual opportunities when we step away from the confines of our predictable lives and become curious about what can be.
We discover amazing business opportunities when we focus on helping others solve their problems.
Attention Allows Creativity and Curiosity Creates Opportunity
Sense and Seize Your Opportunity to Do Amazing Things
Unleash the Ultimate.
Loren Murfield, Ph.D.
“The Opportunity Professor”