Creativity defines the human species — it underpins our favourite technology, music, arts and every other tool or product we use everyday.

The human mind is naturally creative, constantly looking to make associations and connections between things and ideas.

It wants to explore, to discover new aspects of the world, and to invent.

Some people are genetically constructed to have a knack for certain things.

But when you start to believe that talent is the most essential piece to the puzzle of success, you’ve built up a wall all on your own that will only lead to failure in life.

You can be good and even great at something without being naturally talented.

Adopt what Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. Look for opportunities to test yourself and keep pushing yourself to see how far you can go.

When two individuals are equally talented, only effort will make the difference.

There is an old saying that with your hands in your pockets you cannot climb the ladder of success!

Talent can do nothing without perseverance!

John Wooden once said, “Judge yourself not by what you have achieved but by what you should have achieved with the talent at your disposal”.

Those who really want to make the most of their talent also have a desire to improve and a work ethic that combine to make them even better.

Calvin Coolidge argues that “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Stop labelling ability as talent

If someone is good at something, they’re skilled.

Deliberate practice got them that far.

Most people view “creativity” as a talent. But that spark of genius can be nurtured and triggered using a variety of techniques.

In Talent is Overrated, Colvin argues that deliberate, methodical, and sustained practice is the way to achieve true mastery.

“Deliberate practice is hard. It hurts. But it works. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.” Colvin writes.

The biggest difference between you and Picasso or Einstein, or the most creative minds of our time is that they embraced the long road to mastery.

They spent more time in front of a canvas, or guitar, or computer, working away at applying their minds and souls to the one thing they wanted to do.

Most of what we think of as natural talent is really just the result of having started practice early.

In “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance” from the journal Psychological Review, authors K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf T. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer study the learning curves of grandmaster chess players.

The authors explain that no single chess player had attained the level of an international chess master without at least 10 years of intense preparation with the game.

According to their research, it took master chess players — older than the age of 11 — an average of 11.7 years to reach such a high status. That’s 12 years of intense chess play every single day.

Creativity is a skill that can be learnt just like any other.

When you make everything a skill instead of a talent, the entire world opens up. With the right mindset, you’re ready for the other half of the battle.

Lose yourself to find yourself

As children we’re much less self-critical of our creativity.

Kids will happily experiment with ideas, pictures, drawings and doodles without any fear that it’s not 100% perfect.

Worrying yourself to death or painstakingly creating a concept before abandoning it — even for the smallest fault — can be a paralysing way to work.

Suni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, notes that some of the greatest thinkers–from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs–used doodling to jump-start creativity. Doodling can enhance recall and activate unique neurological pathways, leading to new insights and cognitive breakthroughs.

By throwing yourself into every idea, you can work through and find solutions that you wouldn’t necessarily have thought of had you spent days agonising over a concept.

If you can accept some failures and don’t always strive for perfection, you really increase your chances of producing something amazing and will find yourself constantly learning new things.

Being prolific means going in at the deep end.

If you refuse to get started before you’ve brainstormed your brainstorms, thinking through an idea from every possible angle, you can end up with nothing at all.

Creating is the result of thinking like walking.

Left foot, problem. Right foot, solution. Repeat until you arrive.

Give yourself time in your life to wonder what is possible and to make even the slightest moves in that direction.

Enjoy the journey

The only way you can find out if an idea will work is to actually try it out.

You can save a lot of time by seeing an idea through early, if only on a provisional basis, to see whether it holds up to your own or a clients brief.

But the greatest impediment to creativity is impatience.

The almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something, and make a splash can hurt your creative work.

Want to be more creative? Pick a problem you care about and get to work.

Or focus on the one thing that makes you come alive and get started exploring it. If you don’t care about anything, your problem isn’t creativity, it’s apathy.

To master any skill, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.

Assume nothing. Question everything

Consume relevant information.

Check out the work of those famous and obscure in your field, and absorb absolutely everything you need to know.

Curiosity builds upon itself, every question leading to the next.

While people can understandably worry that this as a habit could make their work derivative, often-original ideas can be sparked by your unique reaction to the work of others.

By being interested and engaged in the world, the chances are that your work will reflect this passion and become more interesting and engaging for other people.

While it’s never a good idea to conduct blatant plagiarism, your great creative idea could be hiding in someone else’s project.

Inspiration is often found in the works of others arguably all thought and creative ideas are influenced by others.

Where would Plato and Aristotle be without Socrates!

Mind the tiny daily rituals

Sleeping in until noon rarely sets you up for the day.

Getting up early, finding a routine and setting yourself deadlines will do wonders for your productivity, and will let you create your best work.

Discipline however doesn’t mean working 9 to 5.

There are no set rules for being creative or productive.

Balzak used to work during the night having consumed 30 cups of coffee.

Mozart meticulously counted out 60 beans for his morning coffee every day.

Hemingway rose at 5:30am before working until his midday Martini and writer Tony Schwartz used to set his timer for 90 minutes, focussing intently for an hour and a half before taking a lengthy break.

There is no “right” way to structure your day, but one common thread is that many of the greatest creative minds had strict daily habits.

Find what works best for you stick to it.

Pause for thought

Creative thought activates alpha-brain waves that helps trigger an idea with minimal conscious thought.

Professor Jonathan Schooler from the University of California has studied brain wave activity during the creative process.

He found that doing something different from sitting at a desk allows these unconscious thoughts to take hold.

Both Beethoven and Tchaikovsy firmly believed that taking a two-hour walk every day helped them with their musical composition.

Taking a break from distraction and the constant bleeps, bings and boings from our various devices, can allow our brains to relax and innovation to slowly bubble to the surface.

Give your mind permission to wander

“Every day is an opportunity to be creative — the canvas is your mind, the brushes and colours are your thoughts and feelings, the panorama is your story, the complete picture is a work of art called, ‘my life’. Be careful what you put on the canvas of your mind today — it matters.” — Innerspace

Charles Darwin was reading Thomas Malthus’s Essay on Population for amusement when he was able to crystallise his theory of natural selection.

Dr Rex Jung from the University of New Mexico has also observed that when people are engaged in the creative process, there is a distinct change in the frontal lobes.

When there is less activity in the frontal lobes, it is more likely that you can come up with an original idea.

Dr Jung describes the phenomenon as “transient hypofrontality.”

Great discoveries often evolve as slow hunches, maturing and connecting to other ideas over time. And remember, being completely terrible at something is the first step to being pretty darm good at it.

At first glance talent seems to be the biggest indicator of success in any field.

But talent isn’t everything.

Don’t wait your whole life for your talents to find you. Go out there, explore, discover and hone your own.

Originally published at