Innovation is not welcome: a warning to creatives


Man shruggingInnovation is the process of making something better, or doing something better. It’s applied creativity. In some small way, almost everything could be made better. There are plenty of things that are crying out to be made better. Innovation is certainly needed. But it is not always welcome.

People don’t like change. They say they do, but they don’t. They don’t like things that are different and they certainly don’t like people who are different. This is a double blow to creative people like you because not only are creative people the ones who drive change by doing different things, they are also different themselves. They may even look, sound and act different to normal people. Normal people don’t like that.

This is a warning to creatives: you and your ideas are not welcome around normal people.

Who do you think you are getting ideas above your station? You’re paid to do a job, not to think. You’re paid to keep the status quo, not to upset the applecart. You’re paid to continue the ideals of the company, not to modify them (even if it makes them better).

Trying to get a new job? Who wants a troublemaker? Who wants a loose canon on deck? Who wants someone who’s multi-disciplined? They have a coat peg here for a job description, not an evolving mind. (If you don’t believe me on this, just check out any job advert and you’ll see that from a cleaner to an executive, the job description involves things that must be done, not things that could be thought.)

Trying to start you’re own business? You’ve got to stand out from the crowd to be seen, but if you stand out too much you may look flakey. If you look too exciting and fun you may be thought of as flighty and not serious (but of course if you look too ordinary you won’t be seen at all).

Most inventions and developments took ages and ages for the normals to catch on. The herd are too frightened to try anything new so they wait to see what everyone else does first.

If you’re too innovative, they often can’t even see what you’re offering, it is simply invisible to them, they can’t compute it. You remember that story about the ships coming over the horizon to the shores of South America for the first time? The story goes, that the natives, not ever having seen a ship, couldn’t see it. This is of course a load of hyperbole, it’s more likely that they simply explained it away and initially just ignored the phenomenon. Something like that anyway.

My favourite example of this is the Beatles 7th album in 1966, Revolver. It is now cited by all the experts as probably the most innovative rock LP ever recorded, certainly the most influential LP of the 1960s and definitely better than the one everyone usually thinks is better, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

But what happened on its release was unusual. It went to number one, obviously, but the critics of the day couldn’t review it. They couldn’t review it because it was too innovative to review. You can get hold of these reviews today and read them for yourself. They didn’t have the literary skill to properly describe what they were listening to. Even people you’d expect more from such as Ray Davies from the Kinks said he ‘didn’t get it’.

It took the listening public a year to ‘get it’ by which time the Beatles had released a less innovative LP, Sgt. Pepper, which was lapped up as the greatest human artifact every created in history. But they weren’t really praising Sgt. Pepper (they thought they were), they were praising Revolver, which had finally stretched the audience to be able to listen to rock music. All rock journalism changed that year, along with everything else in culture. Revolver was just too advanced in 1966.

Now, that was just a record we’re talking about and not really very important, but the same problem can happen with your new products, your new services and even your new ideas: if they are too innovative people just aren’t ready for them. They just won’t ‘get them’.

I’ve spoken in front of the wrong audiences many times. They didn’t get my topic of creative thinking. They didn’t get my guitar. They didn’t like my purple suit. They didn’t like my mad hair. It was too much. They just didn’t ‘get it’.

So what do I do? Unlike the Beatles, I can’t rely on my popular cultural icon status to be able to release Revolver onto an unsuspecting public. I did get a haircut. But I have to either dumb my message and approach down to an acceptable level or find a different audience, one that is ready. One or the other.

I suspect that you have a great new product or service and yet you can’t get anyone to take it up. I bet you have a great new idea but are struggling to find people to ‘get it’.

My guess is that, because it’s you, and I know you’re one of these ‘creative types’, it’s probably not because what you’ve got isn’t any good. It’s probably because what you’ve got is TOO good. Too good to be true and just too different.

I’m not in a position to offer advice. (I’m in the position to buy a new suit). But if I were to give advice, perhaps it would be this: keep looking for ways to find your audience. They’re not going to be down the street. They’re not going to be coincidentally in the next conference or networking event you rock up to. You’ll probably find, like me, that they’ll be 3% of your audience hidden in every batch of normals you come across. Our challenge is to increase those odds by being more strategic.

The other thing you could try would be to stop being so darn clever and knuckle down to be mediocre and boring just like everyone else. Play it safe and sound, that’s best.

But I can’t imagine you can do that anymore than I can. We just don’t have ‘being ordinary’ in us, do we?

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

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The story of ‘What if?’


PSA NSA Professional Speaking Association convention stage

My stage. That massive screen dwarfs the guitars!

Last Friday I opened the 12th Annual Convention of the Professional Speaking Association in London. I’d planned to do something different there for some time. I’d already worked out that my talk was to be called ‘The Power of ‘What If?’. But I’d had this idea to write a song called ‘What If?’ and not only to perform it live on stage with my guitar but to record a full band backing track and have a video synced too. I knew that the venue had the largest projection screen in London so it would be a shame not to take advantage of that.

But time passed and the date of the convention grew closer. I was also involved in support for other aspects of the event and almost forgot that I’d have to get a move on to be able to work out my own quite complex idea.

Two weeks before I discovered that my normal stage suit was unusable. It had just worn out. There was a particular outfit I’d always wanted so decided now was the time to get it. I spoke to a tailor in America who had Paul McCartney’s original 1965 Beatle suit that was worn at Shea Stadium, the Beatles most famous and biggest gig, and the world’s first stadium rock show and he made me a facsimile suit, stitch by stitch perfect.

It was now a week before the gig and I still hadn’t written the song. Maybe it was too big a task? To come up with a new song that was good enough to open a show, record it, learn it AND do a video in just a few days?

I wrote the song in an evening, or at least the tune and a few words (the two words were ‘What if?’, so no great lyrical creative leap that day). I spent the next day splurging out dozens and dozens of phrases and words and selected the best to form the lyrics. I only needed 90 seconds worth, but it still wasn’t easy.

Then I started working out how to record it. I didn’t have time to get my drummer in, I’d have to do it myself, and I’m not that great a drummer. Even to keep a constant time over 90 seconds would be tough. I pulled it off by recording a few batched of 8 bars and then duplicating them to create the drum track. The next day I overlaid the main acoustic guitar, then the complex bass line (I’m quite proud of that), then two tracks of 12 sting Rickenbacker, one track of lead guitar with a wah-wah pedal and one without. Then I laid down the main vocal and two extra vocals creating a three-part harmony. All the tracks were first or second take – I knew I didn’t have time for perfection.

I then mixed the recording to create the backing track. I turned off the main vocal and the lead guitar as I’d be playing these live. Then I had to figure out the video…

I wanted the video to feature the same outfit as the one I’d be wearing on stage. The only problem was that the new suit was being held in customs. It arrived on Wednesday (the conference was on Friday, and I’d be setting off to it on Thursday). As soon as the suit arrived I filmed various segments of me playing the various instruments and synchronised it to the music, putting footage of the Earth from space in between. By late Wednesday night, it was done.

All in all it was about 30 hours of work that went into 90 seconds of performance that opened the convention.*

You can see the finished video here (this version has the main vocal turned back on).

It seemed to go down well at the event, but of more importance to me was that it served as a reminder of what can be done when you put your mind and your passion into achieving the ideal outcome for something. To my mind, I’d achieved the impossible. And although the audience would have never seen or guessed the effort that went into it, I feel it was worth it.

So my question to you is this: what idea outcome could YOU actually pull of if you put your mind and your passion to the test? What if…

The lyrics are:

What if you were brave?
What if you took flight?
What if after trying hard you got it right?

What if you had time?
What if you had cash?
What if you could find that inspiring lightning flash?

And see, realise
As your dreams came back to life before you eyes
What would we see, what would we find?
With opportunity laid out before your mind?

What if you had hope?
What if you were great?
What if you find a way to escape your certain fate?

What if you had skill?
What if you went wild?
What if you still had the imagination of a child?

(* I was pleased to have the ‘subtle’ Beatle reference in my act as it was 50 years to the day that the Beatles’ first record, Love Me Do, was released.)

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Dare we discuss the F word?


smile, beach boysDare I write an article about failure?

The internet is so full of positive platitudes, feel-good quotes and testimony from all the rich, famous and celebrated (successful) people about how failure is a good thing – the best time to begin again – the another way not to do it getting you closer to success and so on…

But does that help?

Are there different types of failure that need to be handled in different ways?

Perhaps.

Here’s the first and most clear cut type. We can all recognise it. It’s where you fail to reach a set standard, such as a driving test, or get a silver medal instead of gold, B for your Mathematics GCSE instead of an A. It’s also a failure to pass through a gateway such as failing to get the job or the university place or to close the sale.

These I believe are all the same; there’s a target and you didn’t hit it. Maybe, depending on what it is, you can have another go and try for the bullseye again – re-take the driving test. Sometimes you can’t and have to settle for less – take home the silver medal, go to your second choice university, put up with the job for a bit longer.

But there is another kind of failure that attacks the creative mind that is unrelated to that first type. This more pernicious one is less easy to spot and deal with face on. No amount of platitudes or quotes from Marianne Williamson or Edison will make a dent it its blackness. It’s a creeping doom of an arbitrary dissatisfaction with your work, your abilities, your life. It’s a sense of having failed that unlike the first type isn’t matched to a clear and visible target. It has fuzzy edges. You can’t quite get a handle on it. It’s a feeling of failure rather than a printed out results page that clearly gives the grading mark. It’s something only you can see and often you can’t quite explain it.

Zig Ziglar said, “Failure is an event, not a person”.

That’s a great and useful quote, and clearly helps with Failure Type 1. But with Failure Type 2, when there doesn’t appear to be an actual event, it really does still feel like a personal failing.

It manifests itself as an over whelming feeling of not being good enough (rather than a specific and tangible failure to hit a target that can be identified and corrected). It appears as a holistic failure, of all systems.

So many artists, on completion of a piece of work, which may even have been labeled by the outside world as a masterpiece, often turn on themselves and their work and label it themselves as a failure, and sometime even destroy it. Authors have been known to burn or shred manuscripts, painters to paint over or destroy their paintings, musicians to wipe mastertapes.

It’s symptom is that of regret, focusing too much time on what might have been if we’d only chosen the alternative path.

We know we’re prone to it when we find ourselves comparing ourselves or our work with others.

In the mid-sixties, the Beatles and the Beach Boys vied for position as the greatest creative force in popular music. Inspired by the brilliance of the Beatles’ 1965 Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys felt the gauntlet had been thrown down and he had to better the Beatles’ efforts. The result was the excellent Pet Sounds. But it didn’t hold he crown of most innovative LP for long as the Beatles released their groundbreaking Revolver LP in 1966. This excited and enraged Wilson, who took it upon himself to bring in a new lyricist and the best professional musicians he could gather, ignoring the rest of the Beach Boys, in an attempt to produce his masterwork and trounce the Beatles once and for all. The Smile sessions were the most ambitious recording sessions ever attempted, but the complexities required were just not possible with the technology of the day. He also took it upon himself to produce the album himself feeling that no other producer could translate his vision. The Beatles of course had George Martin in their collaborative team, as well as being a tightly knit quartet. The overly complex Smile was hit by delay after delay and then, in January 1967, Brian Wilson was traveling in his car when something came on the radio. He pulled of the road to listen and broke down, tears falling on his cheeks. It was the Beatles new record, Strawberry Fields Forever. That was the moment that Wilson knew that the Beatles had won. That was the high water mark for innovative popular music. From that point on, everything to come would be variations on a theme as music fragmented into genres. It was cemented by the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper six months later making Wilson’s creative breakdown complete. He never fully recovered. Smile was abandoned and he left the Beach Boys.

44 years later in 2011, Brian Wilson returned to the Smile tapes and finished off the record. Technology and time had moved on sufficiently for him to be able to piece together the intricacies in a way he couldn’t back in 1967.

He had set himself up for creative failure by setting a goal that was impossible to reach, setting his ambition too high, by wanting to create the greatest music work every created (trying to get ‘one up’ on Revolver could have been attainable). He was also weighed down by the immense pressure of a mythical standard of his own making by judging his success by comparing himself with others. Instead he could have compared himself with his personal best (trying to beat Pet Sounds could have been attainable).

There is a reason that creative people create their own demons in this way.

Creativity is governed by right-brain thinking, by imagination, with subconscious inspiration in the visual arts, in music and in creative writing. One of its principles, or attributes, is uncertainty. It’s a by-product of how creativity works, it is not certain of itself, it is in flux and without logic or sequence.

Uncertainty is uncomfortable. We usually want to search for certainty, for an anchor, for something to cling on to. But we need this uncertainty to be able to create in the first place, but its dark side is that we turn it into self doubt and spiral down into our own meaningless lack of worth instead of spiraling up into transformational success.

So what’s the answer? In short there isn’t one. But there is hope in knowing that this is the path that we will find ourselves on at some point in our creative lives. Being forewarned is forearmed and knowledge that our despair is just a side product of our creative power can take the sting out of it.

Doom and glory are the extremes that only the creative mind tastes. Our job is really to surf the space in between as neither of those countries are places we should ever linger.

So perhaps the old platitudes were right after all. You actually can’t have success without failure as they are both manifestations of the same mechanism.

Churchill famously said “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. The same is true, of course, for failure. You’ve heard the one “Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the ability to take action in spite of it”.

Success favours those who continue to take action in spite of failure, those who keep going. So come on, let’s keep going, knowing that failure is perhaps not a false path after all, but is perhaps instead the fuel.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Brainstorming doesn’t work


Is it time to start thinking of ideas generation in a different way and sacrifice the sacred cows of old? Should we admit what people have known for sometime, that so-called traditional brainstorming doesn’t work?

Ideastorm, brainstorming, ideas generation, training workshopIf brainstorming is simply dumping a bunch of people in a boardroom and expect them to suddenly ‘get creative’ and come up with some amazing ideas then it’s no wonder it fails.

There are two key elements of the classic brainstorm that we want to examine and challenge here and they’re both wrapped up together:

  • Brainstorming is a group activity
  • There should be no judgmental, critical or negative attitudes in the meeting.

So lets get stuck in on some clear and simple facts on the matter: Firstly, let’s admit that it’s individuals who think of ideas, not groups. But we all know from personal experience that one of the things that can inspire an individual to think of a great idea is being in a group. But it has to be the right group.

…Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”

– Johan Lehrer in the New Yorker, January 2012

Large groups or groups that contain political or power plays will not work. People will feel inhibited or too much pressure to perform or conform. All those things ruin the creative process in the mind.

This is why the original brainstorming condition is to have no negative or judgmental attitudes in the meeting. This is the main mantra of idea generation practitioners because most people are so lacking in confidence in their own creativity that one harsh comment will shut them down.

But there’s another reason to get the group dynamic right. Think about yourself for a moment. It’s really annoying to be in a group that doesn’t ‘get’ where you’re coming from or doesn’t let you speak. They might not have the inside track on the issues or they may not be as engaged in the theme as you are. They may not listen to your valuable insight, preferring the sound of their own voices. In any large group there’s bound to be some arrogance or envy and let’s face it, people you don’t like or don’t get on with.

This leads us to that brainstorming rule. The only way to deal with this problem is to level the playing field by bringing in the ‘don’t be rude and don’t be negative’ instruction. It creates the democracy to allow everyone equal say and have equal value. Sounds good in principle but in practice something else happens.

Research has been done that ‘proves’ that by not having debate, criticism and argument, a soft and fluffy nice meeting is manifested where too many diverse ideas are generated that cause ‘cognitive fixation’ . The mind gets blocked and fixated on those multitude of ideas and fails to break out into something innovative. Everyone is too busy being nice.

Too many organisations are running their sessions under these wrong conditions. They may have too many people, too many of the same type of people or too many disparate people.

By fixating on the democratisation of creativity are we mixing up the different types of contributions that individuals and groups can bring?

Perhaps we expect too much from an ‘idea’ meeting. Do we expect great original idea after great original idea? Perhaps what we should be aiming for is smaller quantum jumps from ideas put forward. Perhaps the role of a group is to fiddle with ideas put forward by individuals, who have already made intuitive leaps, and to improve those ideas?

Throughout history, groups and teams have out-performed individuals in the elaboration, expression, development and manifestation of an idea. Yes, an individual may be remembered as the one who ‘thought of it’, the the combined group mind always improves and builds on it.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney ink drawingWith the Beatles the main ideas generating group for their songwriting was John Lennon and Paul McCartney, working together to create all those hits. So here we have a brainstorming group of just two. They didn’t even let George in on the songwriting meetings, he and Ringo would have to wait until the songs were more or less finished and presented to the group to arrange and embellish.

But Lennon and McCartney didn’t run a ‘let’s be nice to each other’s views’ songwriting brainstorm. It’s well documented that their differences and disagreements would cause arguments and fights. And yet it was these differences that made them great (and the same differences would eventually pull them apart).

We have the stereotypes of McCartney singing the optimistic, “It’s getting better all the time” and Lennon add the sardonic, cynical, “couldn’t get no worse”.

They’d do that with each other, face to face, opposite each other with guitars. With McCartney being left handed they would have appeared as if looking into a mirror.

Paul would sing, “She was just seventeen, you know what I mean” and John would stop and say, “I LOVE that!”. In Hey Jude, Paul sings a line he was unhappy with, “the movement you need is on your shoulder” and John retorted, “don’t change it, that’s the best bit!”.

We now know that although all those Lennon-McCartney songs were credited as equal compositions, they were nearly all instigated by one of the pair first and then worked up afterwards, together, then further developed with the other members of their team.

Paul McCartney may have thought of the ‘idea’ for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. But it was the team of the four Beatles, their producer and engineers that embellished, elaborated, enhanced and manifested that idea into the record.

This should be our new model for brainstorming (or Ideastorming as I call it). Here are the new guidelines:

  • get a small group of two to five people who you trust. Could you bare to be stuck with them in traffic for eight hours? Could you bare to be stranded overnight with them?
  • each prime mover puts forward their ideas and the others help to change, embellish, enhance or reject them as an evolving debate.

Can it really be that simple? Actually yes. The secret to making brainstorming work was not to leave your brain at the door. All along we should have been using a healthy dose of common sense and realise that no strict formula or rules of ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do this’ has any place in creativity.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Click here to learn about Ayd’s Ideastorm workshops.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

RAM on against the critics


Paul and Linda McCartney RAMIn my last article on criticism I focused on John Lennon. Let’s have a look at what happened to Paul McCartney who had to deal with criticism in a different and more prolonged way.

McCartney had, unlike John, lived his life almost without any form of criticism at all, right up until the end of the 60s. Then it hit him hard. Blamed for the acrimonious way the Beatles split up and appearing to attack the other three and their business decisions, it placed McCartney as the outsider. The press and the public seemed to always side with Lennon and the others. While Lennon’s first solo efforts were seen as deep, McCartney’s were seen as shallow. He suddenly found himself in a place where, just a year or so earlier he was hailed as Britain’s greatest songwriter, responsible for YesterdayMichelle, Eleanor Rigby, Sgt. Pepper, Hey Jude and Let it Be, his new efforts were seen as pale and trivial.

Today we know better. Listening to Every Night and Maybe I’m Amazed of 1970’s McCartney we can imagine that a followup to Abbey Road would have been every bit as great.

In 1971 McCartney recorded his second solo effort and his first post-Beatles LP, entitled RAM. He’d been in a panic as to what to do following the split. The pressure to deliver something spectacular must have been enormous. His solution was a great one: just do what would be fun. He retreated to his Scottish farm and with the help of his new wife Linda, created the new album.

When it was released it face almost universal scorn. Lennon reportedly hated it (it contained secret messages to Lennon encoded in the themes of the songs Too Many People and Dear Boy). Even Ringo, who nearly always managed to stay positive and not take sides said that “there wasn’t a good song on it”. However it did spawn a massive US number one single with Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.

Everyone, including McCartney’s own record company despised the fact he’d credited the album to ‘Paul and Linda McCartney’ and the ‘fan’ backlash against Linda continued. That had begun with his marriage to Linda in 1969 – how could ‘their’ Beatle, leave beautiful and talented Jane Asher (she left McCartney by the way) for this plain, American divorcee? Paul took his family on tour with him throughout the 70s with his band ‘Wings’ and Linda sang (and played) in the shows and on the records, giving rise to the joke, ‘what do you call a dog with wings? – Answer: Linda McCartney.’

But what makes the story of RAM all the more curious is that in May 2012 it was re-released in remastered form, on multiple CDs, DVD box sets and as 190g vinyl record to universal acclaim, with radio stations and rock magazines showering praise and awards on it.

They even went as far as saying that RAM was McCartney’s best ever album.

And Linda turned out to be a devoted wife, loving mother, talented award winning photographer, famous celebrity chef, founder of and instigator of soya protein vegetarian food. When she tragically died from breast cancer in 1999, everyone loved her.

So it just goes to show, even when you face what seems like universal criticism, you can never really be sure of the context, which might be different for every critic. Getting criticism doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done a bad job. People will always have their own agendas and reason for slagging you and you work off.

So take care. You may well have just produced your greatest work too.

(In 1995, the famous and successful comedian and actor Stephen Fry disappeared. His friends got worried. It was because he’d had a bad review for a show. He said he’d felt as low as he thought possible. If his talent and his track record wasn’t enough to fend off just one bad review then it’s no surprise the rest of us suffer.)

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Getting over brutal criticism – you won’t have it as bad as John Lennon


John Lennon 1968 pen and ink drawing white album

Drawing by Ayd Instone, aged 16

There’s no escaping criticism. No matter how good you are, there’s always someone who’ll have a pop. There’s a whole profession of people out there who describe themselves as ‘critics’ whose job is to criticise. And the more successful you get, the more open to brutal criticism you are.

When it comes to your own personal creativity and work you have done yourself, criticism is tough. It’s personal, or feels personal. Highly creative people often lack confidence in themselves and their work. We often believe that we’re only as good as out last piece of work (that’s never really true) so if we get a bad review or a finger is pointed at us and our errors, we take it so much to heart that it feels like the end of the world.

Can you imagine going from being universally loved and adored for your work to having pernicious personal criticism levelled at everything you do and then having one critic so hating you and your work that they set out to murder you.

Yet that’s exactly what happened to John Lennon.

In 1968 the Beatles released the John Lennon song Revolution as the b-side of Hey Jude. It had the line “But if you talk about destruction. Don’t you know that you can count me out.”

The revolutionary sub culture was split on whether their idol and spiritual leader had gone soft and had sold out. Was he saying they should all just be cool, peaceful and take it easy, or was he siding with the establishment?

But later that year, the Beatles eponymously titled White Album, was released with a different version of the song which contained the lyric ‘But if you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out… in.”

It had appeared that Lennon had done a u-turn on the previous non-violent stance. The subculture was now incensed. Not because Lennon appeared now to sanction direct action but because it looked like he’d swayed and changed his tune just to keep in with the underground.

The truth was that the album version of the song, although released second, was recorded first. Lennon’s actual stance was initially to perhaps support destruction which he later changed to be wholeheartedly in favour of peaceful protests.

The criticism he faced hurt him deeply and possibly pushed him into more proactively declaring his position (which was perhaps a good outcome) and led to his signature bed-in-for-peace events. But it also caused him to attempt to forge closer links with the more undesirable members of the underground subculture where his naivety was unable to tell good from bad. This led him to donate money and effort to some very undeserving causes, all to fend off that feeling of failure from harsh personal criticism.

This new radicalism alienated him from many of his former fans who, in Lennon’s words, “loved the mop tops and A Hard Days Night, but I’ve grown up. Have you?”

Yet this radicalism was short lived. He gained critical acclaim for his first solo album (1970’s John Lennon Plastic Ono Band) but it had poor sales figures. The best selling Beatle after the split was George Harrison with his hit single My Sweet Lord and triple LP All Things Must Pass. Even Ringo was having more hits than John. Lennon’s second LP, Imagine, was more commercial, but the third, Sometime In New York City was a disaster.

Lennon had been the first Beatle to be singled out for criticism, back in 1966, when the US radio stations picked up on the infamous ‘bigger than Jesus comments’. He’d had to suffer the embarrassment of having to ‘apologise’ repeatedly for what was a simple and fairly accurate statement made to a UK reporter months earlier and taken out of context. This event was part of their decision to stop touring. They had violent threats on their security by all sorts of weirdos including the Klu Klux Clan who threatened to plant bombs at a Beatle concert. John was physically sick before going on stage during that last American tour.

Then, from 1968, he’d had to put up with being criticised for getting together with Yoko, later blamed for ‘splitting up the Beatles’ but even before that, he had to endure nasty and disgraceful racial abuse leveled at her. He’d been criticised for turning his back on the Fab Four and pop music and being far too nutty and far out and yet also criticised for being childish and not being or radical enough.

Then he was criticised for producing ‘mediocre’ albums in the mid seventies (Mind Games and Walls and Bridges) and his LP of rock ‘n’ roll standards. Then he was criticised for not producing any new material for five years while he became ‘househusband’, looking after his son Sean. And more often than not, he was blamed for the lack of a Beatle reunion. (When if fact they’d all agreed on a reunion, but never at the same time.)

Then, in 1980, he was hunted down and killed by a ‘deranged fan’ who decided Lennon had become a ‘phoney’.

It would be hard for any of us to imagine what it could be like to have such adoration as the Beatles enjoyed (and suffered) in the sixties. It would be equally hard for us to imagine the type of criticism that followed, especially after following on from such acclaim. It would likely be impossible for us to consider that our creative work would cause someone to want to murder us.

I think when we consider what happened to John Lennon, it makes any criticism we face, just that little bit less raw, a little bit less biting and a little bit less relevant.

So don’t let it stop you. Carry on with your great works and love what you do remembering that there are no statues or memorials for critics.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

The truth is not out there


I’ve always loved paradoxes and alternative realities.

They are very useful things to be able to embrace if you’re a parent or work with young children. Children operate in a constantly changing, often incoherent and sometimes contradictory reality. As adults we often see our job as to ‘straighten them out’ by getting them to understand ‘the real world’ and to ‘get’ the ‘truth’.

I’ve put all those worlds in inverted commas because I don’t believe in any of them.

(But that’s just me. It is of course possible to prove or disprove a belief in anything you like.)

So what is this ‘truth’ that we are supposed to be weaning them onto?

Here’s an example. Do you believe in Father Christmas? Most dull adults will say ‘no of course not’. Most of the people I hang around with will say, ‘yes’ because they’re a facetious bunch. But the more we think about it, the more that opinion is correct.

Let’s look at the facts: children have a strong image of the Father Christmas/Santa Claus being. There are pictures, films and songs of him. He turns up at school and/or in shops. They write letters to him. There is a mythos surrounding his story, paraphernalia and methods. But most of all: on Christmas morning, presents turn up, just as they have been promised.

This all means that Father Christmas is real. He exists. You can argue with me if you want to and say that it’s daddy who get’s dressed up and/or waits until their asleep. But that just proves my point. The problem with truth is that so many people want to be so blumin’ literal with it. If you want to take it further there are other strands to the mythology of the concept of Father Christmas that are ‘true’ and ‘real’, some positive, some perhaps not so: wishful thinking, positive thinking, hope, greed, consumerism, trust, joy. Those feelings are real.

So to those people who say that encouraging a believe in Father Christmas is ‘lying’ – you’re not only miserable joy snatchers you’re also categorically wrong, according go my evidence and my beliefs.

I’ve heard is said that some people think it’s bad form to let children believe in things that they think ‘aren’t true’. (The list usually includes Father Christmas, faeries and God amongst other things). They think we should tell our children ‘the truth’.

So where do I begin in this quest? And where do I end? Do I tell them about violent pornography and pedophilia? Do I give them the full truth and details of mass murder, torture and cruelty? Do I tell them the details of the Holocaust? Do I explain the pain of dying from cancer? That’s the truth isn’t it? Of course I don’t, and in the moment that I censor any of that ‘truth’, I’m presenting a modified and incomplete vision of the world and  its reality to my children. (And in my opinion, quite rightly so.)

Our children recently watched the Beatles animated film Yellow Submarine. They loved it and began acting out the stories and characters in imaginative play. As a Beatle fan, I have the Beatles records and their other films in the house. Over the past few weeks we’ve also watched A Hard Days Night and Help!

Mabel said, “I wish the Beatles lived in Oxford so that they could come to our house and sing for us”. I wish that too, but I know it’s not possible. I know that the events depicted in those films took place 46 to 48 years ago. I know that Paul is nearly 70 and Ringo is 71. I know that George died of cancer ten years ago and that John was murdered outside his home thirty-one years ago. So do I tell this ‘truth’ to my children, running around the house singing A Ticket to Ride and putting on Liverpool accents and saying “I’ve got a hole in my pocket”?

The answer is of course no. In the same was that I won’t be saying that Mickey Mouse or Scooby Doo is dead. The Beatles aren’t real, not in the sense that our family and friends are real. But in a sense that Thomas the Tank Engine or Tinkerbel is real, then yes they are very much alive. It’s only us boring literal adults, locked into linear time that say they no longer exist.

By the time they realise that Paul McCartney doesn’t now look the same as he did when he was 21 and is as old as their granddad it won’t matter because their understanding of the world will by default have ungraded their own mythologies as their reality changes as they grow.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know I’m a big fan of the television programme Doctor Who. My son is 6 but he’s not watching it because I’m withholding it from him. Why? because he’s what they patronisingly call a ‘sensitive child’. He has no concept of death, and frankly he doesn’t need to have one. Not yet. He will. That will come. But there’s no rush, why should there be? Doctor Who deals with death. It deals with nightmarish monsters that currently have no place in his straightforward problem solving world of Thomas the Tank Engine. So there I am again, creating and maintaining a deliberate different reality to yours (and mine).

My children believe in faeries. I didn’t encourage that belief, but neither have a dissuaded it. The reason is that just like Father Christmas, faeries are real.

My daughter may visualise them as flittering winged creatures, akin to angels, and princesses (and cats, in some surreal way. She’s 4). That’s her reality and who am I to stomp all over it with my Gortex boots.

After all, she’s probably right. Faeries are nature sprites. The small fluttery ones help the flowers bloom. The gnome-like ones work on decomposition and help fungus breakdown rotting matter. What if faeries are our anthropomorphism of these natural processes? That makes them real. I’d go further and suggest that faeries are live, actual beings that do indeed work with flora and vegetation, blossom and decay. Today we tend to call them the more uninspiring names such as butterflies, bees and woodlice. Perhaps faeries are the anthropomorphism of insects? When some people look at them they may see just an insect. Their boring lack of imagination sees a creepy-crawly. I see the miraculous circle of life. If I ingested enough ergot alkaloids I’d probably see pixie faces too, just like our ancestors did.

I’ve got grown up friends who have seen ghosts, spoken to them (and got replies). The fact that I haven’t doesn’t make them wrong either. It doesn’t make their experience less valid. I haven’t seen one and I know nothing about such things. My experience proves nothing about the subject.

The esteemed professor Dawkins and his cohort would have us not believe in God. His non-belief is his own rightly held opinion although he can’t have any evidence for it, only lack of it as you can’t prove a negative. But his assertion that such a belief is like believing in an invisible unicorn or a chocolate teapot in orbit around Mars or a spaghetti monster is not the same thing and his weakest argument. No-one believe in those things because there’s no point in believing in those things. There’s a great point to believing in a creator God or a Father God and many people derive great joy and meaning from their beliefs which is why they have them and keep them. (If someone has a belief that is a threat to others then we may well have to step in to challenge their reality but they’re not the people Dawkins et al go after, preferring instead softer targets, which is a shame.)

If you ever watched the 1990s television series about the unknown, The X Files, then you will be familiar with the phrase ‘the truth is out there’. I think that the truth is NOT out there at all. It’s in here, that is I have my version and you have your version.

Another more useful phrase from that programme was on a poster behind Agent Mulder’s desk. It said, ‘I want to believe’. I like it because it has a positive flexibility within it. I may not be able to believe, but I’ll seek out the evidence accordingly, rather than a default setting of disbelief which is as inflexible as any other dogma.

To those who still maintain that so-called supernatural beings aren’t real and don’t exist: our society has some fashionable concepts that are, by all modern definitions, ‘not real’ and yet we all believe unquestioningly in them. Money being a good example. We all believe in things that very few of us really understand (such as Electromagnetism).

In mathematics there are calculations that cannot be done unless you invoke what it called the ‘imaginary number’, i. It’s determined as the square root of -1, which is impossible (and therefore imaginary). And yet we need it to solve the equations that make our modern world possible as it’s needed for signal processing, control theory, electromagnetism, fluid dynamics, quantum mechanics, cartography and vibration analysis. Some mathematicians describe i as not ‘imaginary’ but ‘pure real’.

We need the imaginary in our lives which it is just as relevant and therefore just as real as anything we can actually see and touch, which, when you come to think of it, is such a tiny proportion of our so-called reality don’t you think?

Perhaps we live mainly in a ‘pure real’ world…

Ayd works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

A record for your life


“A record was like a massive flat mp3…. there was almost no information on it at all. It was very impractical – it could break or warp in the heat and get scratched…

…but it was better than your life.”
Stewart Lee

Record player Twist and Shout by the BeatlesI finally got my record player plugged back in. I unplugged it in late December to make room for a seven foot Norwegian Spruce that I’d covered in glass balls and low voltage white bulbs. We’d long since thrown that tree away and vacuumed up thousands of tiny needles and now it was time to re-install just one needle in its place.

There was an air of anticipation and excitement. My three children gathered around. From a massive pile of 7” black discs, some in paper sleeves with pictures on, some in plain green sleeves, they selected one.

Oliver (age 6) slid it out of its cover and I showed him how to place it on the spindle by touching only the edges. I told him to flick the switch on the left to ’45’. I lifted the metal arm over just a little bit and Mabel (age 4) flicked the switch on the right; once to make the platter spin and again to lower the needle into place.

We all watched as the disc span round and round at 45 revolutions per minute. A crackling sound, like that of a well established fire came from the speakers. Then, the room was filled with the booming mono sound of the most energetic 2 minutes and 35 seconds ever committed to the physical realm.

49 years ago, a few young men played and sang live in a recording studio in Abbey Road, London, using their voice boxes, guitars and a drum kit. The sound they’d made caused vibrations in the air which caused magnets to create electronic fluctuations along a wire which cause another magnet to re-arrange the rust particles on a lengthy plastic tape into a pattern.

Later, another magnet was affected by those magnetic particles from the tape causing low level electronic fluctuations in a wire which were amplified by a complex arrangement of glass vacuum valves to move a diamond tipped needle to vibrate. The needle was held still while a lacquered disc spun round at speed, allowing the needle to carve a spiral on its surface.

A mould was made from that lacquered disc and a glass disc was made from the mould. This was then pressed onto millions on lumps of hot vinyl plastic which were flattened into a 7” disc.

One of those discs found its way into a shop in mid 1963 and was bought by my Dad. 18 years ago when I got my own house, I liberated it, and now it was here, spinning around in my lounge with my three children jumping and dancing to the sound of the Beatles performing Twist and Shout live in 2012.

They were in room with us. This was no sample. No abstract digital file in the cloud from zeros and ones in a computer. They were here for real. (As real as a reflection in a mirror of you, is actually you, where a photograph of you is not you.)

That record is a time mirror that reflects their sound, via magnets and needles, right here from the long distant, unimaginable so-called past of 1963 to today, here and now. They were with us, alive and happy and infectious.

But more important that all that was the fact that my children were dancing and singing. Music was real. They could see it. They could touch it. They could choose it.

The past two weeks have seen Oliver become a DJ, going through my collection of singles and albums, intrigued how the large cover images may relate to the secret sounds hidden within the grooves. He’s playing tracks for his sisters to dance to, or draw to, or play to. He wants to be like Ringo and play the drums so he can come with me to my conference performances and provide the beat for my keynote songs.

He’s developed an ‘ear’. Some tracks he says are ‘too noisy’ or ‘too sad’. Mabel has lifted the piano lid and is more considerate in which keys she presses. She knows that some combinations are more pleasing than others. Our youngest is just 20 months old. When the records are on she smiles and dances and twirls.

It’s an involved process to choose which record to put on. You have to make a decision that will involve some physical activity that needs to be done with great care. The records are precious and fragile, and therefore by association, so too is the music. So once a record is on, it needs to play all the way through. It needs to be listened to, to be engaged with. There’s no easy way to change your mind, or to default to ‘shuffle’. You make your choice and stick with it.

Is there a danger, in our perceived search and adopted desire for ‘easy’ and ‘quick’ we are at risk of overlooking the experience altogether? After all, what is music ‘for’?

In our instant coffee, free download, always online world, do we rush through the day to get to the evening? Do we sometimes rush through the week to get to the weekend? Do we rush our children through childhood so they can grow up? And rush them through education so they can get some certificates?

Do we risk rushing the journey of life to get to the destination of the grave in the easiest and shortest possible time? Do we risk taking for granted the complexity of the human experience in order to dumb it down to effortless chicken nuggets that we can consume on the move?

Take a moment.

Dust off your own record player (whatever that might be) and put on a record. Choose it. Touch it. See it. Listen to it. Dance to it. Enjoy it.

Life is not about the needle reaching the run-out groove in the centre of the record.

It’s about the music in between.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


And by the way. For those of you who read my blogs and take all the metaphors literally: this is not a blog about replacing new technology with gramophone vinyl records. If you thought that, this blog is not for you. You’ll find material better suited to your taste here.

Do you still have potential?


Beatles Twist and Shout 1963 by Ayd Instone

The Beatles 1963: A representation of youthful energy and creative power

Can one person really be of more worth than another?

And if that person is a teenager, do they have more worth than someone who is 29? Is a seven year old more deserving of our support and love than a teenager, or an unborn something, or a 50 year old man?

The moral reaction is that all have the same worth and value, that is what the law states, that is what all religions state, but it’s not quite how society behaves.

When a baby is born, the universal emotion is one of joy. When one dies, it is with great sadness, but not always quite as great as when a child, who has lived for a short number of years, dies. Perhaps it’s because their personality is more tangible than a baby. Usually only the immediate family mourn a baby who dies in childbirth. A teenagers death is tragic, but once we move into being adults, the tragedy of our untimely deaths grows less and less important to other with our age. Why?

Is it to do with potential? Perhaps there’s perceived greater unfulfilled potential in a child, which by the time that child has become an adult has either become manifest, or not, revealing an adult who has achieved, or has not. Is it therefore to do with what value an individual human contributes, or could potentially contribute?

People certainly mourn famous celebrities as much as members of their own immediate family. Is it connection that deserves our attention? We feel connected to actors, musicians and royalty so we mourn their passing? If a child dies of an illness or incident at home, no-one apart from the immediate family and friends cares. If one dies on the road, strangers may leave flowers. If one dies as a result of murder, thousands may take to the streets in mourning. If the victim of the murder was a 40 year old man, no-one would bother taking to the streets. The end result is the same in each case: we’ve lost a human life too early. But why the difference in reaction?

A celebrity expert, let’s say a famous author, is often quite willing to lend their expertise to support and help a young writer under 16. They would not be so willing to help a 50 year old. Is it that the 50 year old should have figured it all out themselves by that age. They clearly should simply have tried harder in their life and having blown all the chances and opportunities that must have come their way, don’t deserve any help… No-one would argue that children deserve help more than an adult. But why? The 50 year old clearly has more experience, of something, as they have had a longer life than the teenager, but do they have less potential, less to contribute? Or more? Potential to do what exactly?

In most societies, throughout history, age meant wisdom. Today though it seems less so. There have been many examples in the media where a greater age has been perceived to be a disadvantage and some have observed that television presenters appear to be biased towards more youthful ones. Do we value youth (and beauty) more than age and experience?

In some disciplines, the optimum level of youth does have a clear advantage. There is an average peak age where a sportsperson can perform at the highest level. It is said that mathematicians perform at their optimum between the age of 19 and 26 when our brains are said to be at their peak before cells start to die off.

But recent research has shown that brain cells may well die off, but new ones do grow. And it is the connections between the cells in the brain that are more relevant than the actual number of cells.

Because of a number of high profile successes in various creative endeavors by quite young people, the focus of the media is that creativity peaks when we are in our mid to late 20s.

The Beatles are the perfect manifestation of this rule. By the time they’d competed their final recordings together (on Abbey Road in 1969), George Harrison was still just 26. Ringo was the oldest at 29 (John Lennon was 28 and Paul McCartney had just turned 27).

Just a few years earlier, the four Beatles who wrote, played and sang on their first number one record were aged just 20, 21, 23 and 23. Their manager, Brian Epstein was only 27 and George Martin, their recording producer, 37.

In almost every creative avenue in the 1960s it seemed that youth had the creative power and it’s something we seem to have stuck with ever since. But is that actually true, or are the results somewhat skewed? Can people still be creative in their 30s, their 40s, their 50s and beyond?

Anyone of you who knows my age may well be thinking, “oh you’re just bitter and twisted because no-one spotted your ‘genius’ when you were 26.”

That may well be true, but it’s not the point. Or rather it is part of the point because I may well write off part of my creativity in the same way that you have, by thinking that we must have been no good at a certain thing or it would certainly have led somewhere by now, or we’ve missed the opportunity, and that we’re just past it.

If we ignore the negative impact of the media we’ll notice that many successful painters and authors only began their craft close to ‘retirement’ age.

We ALL have potential and we always will have that potential right up until our very last productive day on this Earth, irrespective of our age.

Drawing by Ayd Instone.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


The 10,000 hour rule: can we trust it?


It’s been said* that if you constructively practice anything well for around 10,000 hours you will have become world class at it. The argument is that talent is less relevant than effort. What do you think? Is this the case?

The Beatles 1964 and 1966 RevolverLet’s try to make it simple and compare like with like. Take a dozen or so rock ‘n’ roll bands from Liverpool in 1960 and send them to Hamburg in Germany to perform 8 hours a night or more in various nightclubs for two to three years. They all have the same background. They all have the same exposure to influences. They all start with similar ability (they’re all aged between 17 and 19 so have been playing music for the same amount of time, between 1 and 3 years).

They are all the same, and yet only one of those acts becomes the phenomenon known as The Beatles.

I’ve been talking about, researching and training creativity overtly for 8 years. (Yes, before that I was doing it covertly).

Creativity is still a dirty word. By dirty I mean messy. It almost doesn’t mean anything. Sometimes when I’ve been talking about it I’ve had to keep it so broad, to encompass so many things that it can become almost meaningless. I make a great point that it has to be practical, that it’s not just to do with a particular artistic discipline, that it’s about making connections, problem solving, intuitive leaps, experimentation and so on. There are different facets to it, like a diamond, and so many differing ways to engage it, express it and use it. It’s what makes us human (as opposed to animal). It’s what forms our beliefs, it’s what allows us to explore the universe and ourselves. It IS science. It IS civilisation.

Here’s a new definition for you: creativity is a human’s ability to imagine a future in the minds and then use the hands to manifest it.

But even with this glorious definition there is still a misnomer that exists. So many people still believe that some people are more creative than others. We’ve got to admit, the evidence is compelling. But it is really true?

I think it comes from a misinterpretation of what creativity is and what it does. People believe in ‘talent’ and often think that talent = ability = gifts = creativity. It doesn’t.

There are many observers who report that talent is a myth. They believe that any concerted effort into consistent constructed practice will deliver exceptional performance. They cite examples in sport, mathematics, performance, art, business, chess, science and so on. Almost everything in fact.

Are they right? If you practice, practice, practice in a constructive way, learning and growing, learning and growing for 10,000 hours or 10 years, you will become a world class expert? Really?

I think the answer is yes, and no.

The 10,000 hour rule works with certain activities. It works with activities that have their basis in pattern recognition. Any sport that is based on pattern recognition will improve with practice. This is true for tennis, football, motor racing and chess. If you want to know more on why those activities are pattern recognition and not reflexes or memory then you need to read these books: Bounce and Talent is Overrated. I’m not going to be going down that route here.

Any sport that relies on endurance, motor skills or strength will not improve with 10,000 hours practice past the limitations of a particular person’s body. We can all get fitter and stronger, but not without limit. Those limits are set by our particular skeleton, muscle arrangement etc. So we’ve found one hole in the practice theory.

It’s said that the Beatles did their ‘10,000 hours’** of practice in the night clubs of Hamburg, playing, as they did, 8 hours a night. To be able to do that, to play and sing for that length of time they needed a few things or they would have collapsed. They needed youthful energy and endurance (this was enhanced by them ingesting Preludin, a drug that increases metabolic rate, then a freely available diet pill, now known as speed), they needed to be able to sing correctly so they didn’t damage their voice boxes. They needed a large repertoire of songs so that they or their audiences didn’t get bored.

So their time in Hamburg made them world class rock ‘n’ roll performers. So the story goes, there was their 10,000 hours, and that’s what made them musical geniuses, right? Is that it?

The time in Hamburg made all those bands blumn’ good at playing Twist and Shout. But the Beatles version is undeniably better than all of them.

There were plenty of bands that performed to the same schedule as the Beatles and who came from the same starting point. Many of them we know about, you can get hold of their record and you can compare. Many of them were also signed by Brian Epstein to EMI’s Parlaphone label. Many of them were produced by George Martin and many of them had a few number one records. But only the Beatles went on to write amazing hits like She Loves You or I Want to Hold Your Hand within a year of coming back from Hamburg. Only the Beatles came up with groundbraking songs outside the rock ‘n’ roll genre of Hamburg like Yesterday or Eleanor Rigby. Out of all the Merseybeat groups that had exactly the same background and experience, only the Beatles re-defined rock music with Strawberry Fields Forever, Tomorrow Never Knows and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Cub Band.

So what did the Beatles and specifically Lennon McCartney have that the others lacked?

Can we really say that it was ‘talent’? And if so, where was that talent located and how did it emerge? Were they born brilliant? When did they become genius songwriters and how?

There’s even more to this question because if you looked at the Beatles in 1963 you would already recognise (as many comentators did) the genius songwriting skills of Lennon and McCartney, but you would have ignored George Harrison’s songwriting ability. You’d have pricked your ears up in 1966 to his contributions to Revolver but it wasn’t until  1969 with his songs Something and Here Comes the Sun and his triple solo LP All Things Must Pass in 1970 that made comentators place Harrison’s songwriting on an equal par to Lennon and McCartney (some would even place it higher).

So when did George become a genius? Was it with him all along? Was it innate talent, or was it developed by hanging around with the century’s greatest songsmiths? If it was environment, why don’t we value Ringo’s songwriting skills as highly? He was there all the time too?

Their story does point to something else, some other mechanism. But what? Were they born with the talent and potential to write Sgt. Pepper? Were they unique in that respect? If so what DOES that say for the rest of us? Is 10,000 hours spent a waste on time for mere mortals? We’ll no doubt get pretty good at singing Twist and Shout but will we ever be able to transform the experience into A Hard Days Night, never mind a Hey Jude?

Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that the Beatles really, really really wanted to write the greatest songs. They certainly had a driving passion for their chosen field. But just being super keen isn’t enough either, otherwise all the contestants on those talent shows who ‘I’ll shrivel up and die if I don’t make it as a star’ would eventually shine. We know that they don’t.

Perhaps the teenager living next door to you, playing Wild Thing or Stairway to Heaven very badly on his out-of-tune electric guitar at all hours, may well be a future George Harrison, if only he had the chance to perform and/or hang out with some serious masters for enough time? How can we know?

There STILL are too many questions when it comes to creativity and the weird, obfuscated

world of talent (whatever that is) and still not enough answers.

So for now we’ll have to just keep practicing, crank up our 10,000 hours in our chosen field after all, and make sure we do our best to follow our own passion in the best way we can.

* Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
** It was more likely 2500 hours, but that’s actually no less impressive.
Drawing by Ayd Instone. 

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com