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5 Vulnerabilities that Block Creative Thinking

Photo: kazuend

Photo: kazuend

Look at the picture of the forest. This is me — my perspective. In some situations, I feel like a sapling in the forest. Small compared to everyone around me. At the bottom, looking up to everyone else.

Trying to grow.

Trying to catch up.

Trying to reach the light.

But I want others to think I’m one of the big trees.

Like everyone, I have vulnerabilities that I try to mask, protect. And my efforts to hide them can get in my own way.

The walls I put up around myself actually stopped me from writing for years. They stopped me from taking healthy risks, from putting myself out there. But then I made the decision to embrace my vulnerabilities and see what would happen. And it’s all been good.

I’m not trained in this area. I don’t understand the psychology of vulnerabilties like Dr. Brené Brown does. But I have seen a connection between acknowledging my vulnerabilities and enhancing my creativity.

I have seen the paradox that power comes from vulnerabilities.

And that enhances my writing, my storytelling, my creativity and my innovation skills. And that’s gotta be a good thing.

I learned that Dr. Brené Brown said,

“Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

So here’s what I’ve learned about vulnerability + creativity.

Vulnerabilities that Blocked My Creative Thinking

Here are five that affected me. I’m sure there are more.

1. Allow yourself to try — and fail.

I was so afraid of failing that I didn’t do anything — for years.

Mark Zuckerberg said:

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that’s guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

So what does failure really mean? If one of my articles performs poorly, failure means I learn from it and try to write something better.

If my manuscript doesn’t sell, failure means I try to understand why and rewrite it.

So I keep writing (and re-writing) and putting my work out there.

Oprah Winfrey said:

“Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.”

It’s okay to fail. At least you tried. And after you fail, try again.

Lesson learned: Failure is not an end. Failure is input to the creative process.

2. Admit that you have more to learn.

I thought I knew what I was doing, so I didn’t try to learn more. I even discounted advice when others tried to coach me. This is pride.

Then I admitted I had more to learn. This is humility.

Our society makes us believe we have to be the top of our game — in every game.

But humility breeds opportunity.

Example: When I conduct research for my clients, I assume the role of “student” as I interview respondents. I want to learn from them and their experiences. If I ask the questions a student would ask, the respondents naturally take the role of “teacher” and take me under their wing.

I don’t jump to conclusions. I don’t complete their sentences. I keep an open mind.

The result: No matter how much I think I know about the research topic, I always walk away enriched by their experiences, their wisdom and their guidance.

Lesson learned: Be a learner. Everything you learn gives you more fodder with which to create. This is the Law of Rich Input.

3. Admit that you have flaws.

We all deal with flaws, problems, issues, concerns, hurt, disease. Some things we can control. Somethings we can’t. Why pretend that we don’t have any?

NYT Best-Selling Author Richard Paul Evans demonstrates this in a courageous and touching way. He has Tourette’s Syndrome. Rather than hiding it from his readers, he gave that syndrome to the main character in his Michael Vey series of books.

He revealed a vulnerable part of himself. His audience responded with love. And he connected with thousands of kids who see themselves as different.

And they now see that it’s okay to be different.

Lesson learned: Your differences help you see the world from a unique perspective. Don’t hide your point of view. Leverage it as you create.

4. It’s okay to take center stage.

I recently attended a writer’s workshop. At one point, we were working on agent or publisher pitch letters. One of the writers in the room was a young lady — only 18 years old. She preferred to sit quietly and observe.

But then the workshop leader called on her to stand and read her sample letter to the crowd.

Within one second, she was thrown onto center stage. She fidgeted like a nervous rabbit.

Had she declined, she would’ve missed a golden opportunity. But she mustered the courage to read her letter to the group.

She received both praise and ideas. She thought she would be judged by the group. But she realized that the group was collaborating with her.

What happened?

She stopped focusing on the other people in the room. She focused on the valuable advice she was receiving to help her reach her goal.

She walked away with ideas for her pitch letter, a room of advocates and newly born confidence.

Max Lucado said:

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

Lesson learned: Take the stage, but focus on what’s most important. You will gain more than you risk. And you can innovate with what you gain.

5. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Spend some time out of your comfort zone. Most people have a small comfort zone — and a very large uncomfortable zone.

People tend to choose the easy things. I did.

Do hard things!

I think of my first zip line experience, which was onboard a cruise ship. The zip line sailed 10 stories above the ship deck.

I wanted to accomplish it, but I knew that my fear of heights could paralyze me. I knew that if I looked down, I would never step off the edge.

I asked the guide what the key was to make the leap. He said, “When I tell you to go, don’t think about it. Just go.”

So that’s what I did. I focused on him — listening for the signal. When he said, “Go!” I pushed off.

What a thrill! It was one second of my heart in my throat and ten seconds of exhilaration, flying through the air.

At the end, I was ready to go again — and I have gone many times since. I’m still afraid of heights. I’m still nervous before I step off the edge.

But I’m comfortable with being nervous.

Sometimes creating means dabbling in the unknown — not being sure what will come out on the other side and not being sure how to get started.

You can learn and gain a lot by putting yourself out there. Especially when you feel uncomfortable doing it.

Lesson learned: Take one confident step — off the edge. Just create something — anything — and get the ball rolling.

Why Does It Work?

I’m no expert, but I have a theory of why it worked for me. I spent a lot of energy keeping my protective walls around myself so I wouldn’t be exposed. When I acknowledged my vulnerabilities:

  • I had extra energy to apply to creative thinking.
  • I found experience and learning both from my past and from trying new things that I could apply to creative thinking.
  • I found a new level of authenticity to enhance my creative thinking.

I’m sure there’s more to the psychology of it. But in the meantime, I think about that photo of the forest at the top of this article — looking up at the tops of the trees.

I’m okay with feeling small.

I’m okay with looking up.

I will keep creating and growing.

What’s your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Sometimes You Need a Little Creativity Boost

My free eBook might just help:

5 Exercises that Will Make You 10 Times More Creative

I use these exercises to keep the juices flowing — in myself and in my clients. (I am a marketing consultant, after all.)

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Bryan Searing