Thinking out of the box… but how did we get in it?

Commodore VIC 20

This can’t break its programming. You can.

Society has such an outmoded view of creativity. At best it’s a necessary evil, at worst it’s a waste of time.

If you don’t believe me, go and have a look at your primary national curriculum for schools and do a text search for creative thinking and see what comes up.

It’s a rhetorical question: why do we hold back from our creative potential? Because we were trained to. We were programmed to think we were good or bad at this or that and we’ve been running those programmes ever since.

Here’s proof. If someone asked you to do a drawing today, would your first reaction be, ‘whoopee!’? Or would it be one of fear and embarrassment? Ok, maybe you’re the exception, but most people would react in fear. Let’s remind ourselves why.

Let’s go back to being age 6, 7, 8 or 9. The teacher says we’re going to do a drawing. Can you think of anything more exciting? A drawing! It’s pure joy. We’re going to draw… an elephant. So we get going. Mine’s looking ok. But I’m not sure, so I look over at someone else’s which prompts a line of executable programming code from the teacher:

“Don’t copy!” the teacher barks.

So we’re programmed not to look at other people’s ideas. We don’t look to see what other people are up to. We don’t know what our competitors are up to so we can’t do better than them. We fear our ideas will be stolen so we hide them and never improve them. But paradoxically we fear that everyone else is better than us which undermines our confidence, but we can never look to see the truth because our programme stops us from finding out.

John turns to me to ask me something. This prompts the second line of code:

“Stop taking! Do your own work!” .

So we’re programmed not to discuss our ideas to brainstorm them with others. From now on we work in isolation and waste time re-inventing the wheel. We waste time making the same mistakes that others could have helped us with. We get stuck and don’t ask for help. We think that originality is better than collaboration and elaboration and never fully develop our ideas. We begin to doubt ourselves and what we’re capable of. We turn into perfectionists who never finish anything.

Then the teacher comes over and looks at my drawing. “That’s pretty good” she says.

Suddenly I’m programmed with a positive mind virus. It takes over my subroutine, re-calibrating my system with this logical argument.

Teacher is correct.
Teacher says I am good at drawing.
I am good at drawing.

Because she’s the authority figure, what she says must be true. Fast forward from that moment, a year, a decade, thirty years, and the programme is still running. Here I am. I can draw and I know it.

Then she looks at John’s. “Ha ha! What’s that supposed to be? It hasn’t even got a trunk.” She shows it to the class and they all laugh.

Teacher is correct.
Teacher says I am no good at drawing.
I am no good at drawing.

“She’s right. I can’t draw.” thinks John and he runs the further algorithm:

I cannot draw.
Drawing results in embarrassment.
Do not draw.

If we fast forward thirty years, not only does John actively avoid drawing, to avoid further embarrassment, he’s re-calibrated it as frivolous and irrelevant. Just to be safe, he’s lumped in all creativity with it, his software now labelling himself as ‘not a creative person.’

When I was seven I won a painting competition. The best in the village. I won £4.50. I bought a toy telescope with it. But was my painting really that great? If I showed it to you now would it really be that good today? Was it noticeably better than the 2nd place painting? Probably not much better. It probably wasn’t that much better than the worst painting. The painting is of course irrelevant. It’s the fact that I was programmed as a painter that counts.

Can we take credit for what we’re good at (or think we’re good at) today? We can certainly take credit for what we’re not good at.

Did we have talent that was encouraged and developed? Or were were programmed, sometimes randomly, sometimes arbitrarily? Have those programmes stuck, making us think we’re good at (or not good at) something?

The reason so many of us can’t ‘think outside the box’ is because we were forced into that air-tight box all those years ago and we’ve remained there ever since. That’s not really  ood enough. We need to do better. We need to break that programming.

I dare you to do it.

Make a list of the ordinary things you’re not good at. My guess is it will include some of the following: drawing, writing essays, maths, mental arithmetic, memory, sport, geography, finance, cooking, DIY, public speaking, selling…

These are all base-level skills that require little or no talent. They just require confidence and practice.

Pick one, and practice it. Seek the extra bit of training if needed to crack it, and break your programming.

You are not a color home computer loaded with a Beginners All Symbolic Instruction Code operating system and a flashing cursor awaiting instruction on what to do. You are a self-determining creative being. You need to start acting like one. We all do.

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:

Compliments are like protein: it’s difficult for us to grow without them

The power of a simple compliment can last a lifetime. A stray comment by Mrs Begato, my teacher at junior school in 1981, made me an artist:

“You hold the paintbrush really well, like an proper painter”

Most of the positive things we believe about ourselves come from small compliments that provide the evidence we need to build our confidence in any given area.

Something weird happened to me last week. I wrote my blog, as I do every week and posted it as normal. Since it’s promoted with a link on Facebook and Twitter, I usually see one or two views straight away, which grows over the following day to between 30 and 150. I might even get an odd comment or ‘like’.

But this time, minutes after I posted, 87 people had read it. An hour later it has risen to 200. People were reading it at a rate of 1 per minute. I received an email from WordPress to say that I’d been selected from 650,000 blogs published that day as the one to be awarded ‘Freshly Pressed’. It meant that my post, with a picture was on WordPress’s front page as the most recommended read of the day.

The views went up to 3500 over the next 24 hours. The next day I was still featured on the front page, but just not at the top and another 1000 people read the post. The same happened the next day and the next.

But even better than the 8000+ people who have now read my blog this week, even better than the 200+ who ‘liked’ it and the 2300 who now follow my posts, were the comments.

To date, there have been 164 and oddly, and wonderfully, every one of them was positive.

I couldn’t believe it. Only two posts ago, I’d written an article about ‘the imaginary audience’ and yet here I was actually having a real audience and they were enjoying what I’d written. In many of the comments, the readers shared their memories and thoughts on the topic, but most had something extra: a positive compliment on my work.

Such a massive pat-on-the-back from people I don’t know, from all over the world is a humbling and empowering experience.

The blog was about John Lennon and the Beatles. You can read it (and the comments here).

Here’s a few of the personal comments:

“That was beautiful :’) I applaud you.”

“Thanks for your post. It’s beautifully written and expressed.”

“This was such a touching story to me. I really liked reading about the effect this experience had on you.”

“Great writing.”

“Just read this and cried… You brought me right back to that day and time I heard the news..”

“Great post! You nailed the Beatles-love man! While reading this blog it did feel like they lived again for a while.”

“Your blog brings a smile to my face, Ayd. You have an amazing post & story posted here.”

“Beautifully written.”

I had comments on my artwork too:

“That’s some pretty good artwork for 16!”

“Wonderful post… P.S: You have such a gift of drawing .. It looks amazing .. Kudos.”

“Those are some excellent art drawings!”

“Your artwork (at 16) was phenomenal. nicely done! thanks for sharing…well written blog!”

So how do you think I felt after reading those?

How do you feel when someone says to you, “well done”? Or even better, praises something particular, something definitive that you were wanting the achieve (in my case to write an emotive, interesting blog)?

The best metaphor I can think of is that a compliment is like protein: we can survive without it, but will slowly, slowly waste away: we need it to grow, to build up and to become stronger and better.

So many of us are under nourished, perhaps even suffering from malnutrition when it comes to compliments.

A well placed compliment inspires. It costs nothing to the giver but is more valuable than gold to the recipient.

So what should we do? I suggest we make dishing out compliments a habit. Throw them out there whenever and wherever we see something worth commenting on. If you are pleased with something someone has done, or notice something someone has created or enjoyed something someone has produced, don’t keep it to yourself, release the gift and say what you really think in a positive, supportive and friendly way. It’s actually quite simple.

People like people who like them. Compliments create networks of enthusiasm that can mutually lift us all to greatness.

A compliment can turn a ‘like’ into a ‘love’, an acquaintance to a friendship and a friendship to a life-long relationship.

A compliment can turn the spark of attraction to an eternal flame of togetherness.

(I’d like to thank WordPress for their gift of making me Freshly Pressed and all those who read and those who commented on my post.

If you want to be in a position to be ‘Freshly Pressed’ by WordPress, read their guide to what they look for here.)

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:

You CAN draw and don’t you forget it!

Can you use a pen or pencil to write your name? Can you catch a ball from a distance of two metres? Can you thread a needle? If you can, then you can draw. If you can write your name you can hold a drawing impliment and make marks on paper. If you can catch a ball you can judge distances. If you can thread a needle you have the dexterity, accuracy and patience. Those are the skills needed to draw, there are no others. The only other element is practice. You’ll need to practice the secret of drawing. Want to know what it is? It has nothing to do with art or talent. It has nothing to do with what you were good at when you were at school.

It is simply to look at the object you are drawing. This is the secret that so many get wrong. In my workshops I’ve positioned a four-legged chair for people to draw. I positioned it in such a way that they could only see three legs from where they were sitting. But they all drew a chair with four legs because they ‘knew’ that the chair had four legs. When drawing something, never, ever draw something. Never name it or any part of it. It is not a chair, a car or a person. It is a collection of lines, shapes and shades. Look at it and see and you’ll open up your non-verbal right brain and the joy and peace of the moment.

Never mind those logic problems, crosswords and sudukos, drawing is a great work out for the brain and it will enhance your creativity.

For more see:

Can you draw? Of course you can!

In my workshops I teach people to draw. Actually I don’t teach them at all, I just prove to them that they can draw, it’s just them telling themselves they can’t that stops them. I received this from one of the delegates:

“After your talk I was thinking about what you’d said, about how the conscious mind can’t draw but the unconscious can, and I picked up a notepad and pencil and just sketched what was in front of me (a dressing gown on the door). To my surprise it actually looks like my dressing gown!

“I am writing a book on the unconscious mind, and its role in happiness. I am planning to use music as an example. When you mentioned that drawing was an unconscious activity I immediately realised that the techniques I have developed for allowing the unconscious mind access to the body (e.g. the hands) without conscious “correction” – techniques that have allowed me to play the piano in a few months without tuition – should work just as well for drawing, since both activities are best done by the unconscious. Hence, it was not difficult for me to ask my unconscious mind to draw something, rather than play the piano.

“None-the-less, it was your talk that inspired me to try drawing when I had long-since given up!
Thanks again, and best wishes, Paul Rudman”

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