Transcript of How to Discover and Embrace Your Creative Side
John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto, modern, easy payroll benefits for small businesses across the country. And because you’re a listener, you get three months free when you run your first payroll. Find out at gusto.com/tape.
John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Tania Katan. She is an award-winning author, public speaker, playwright, and creativity expert. She’s also written a book that we’re going to talk about today called Creative Trespassing: How to Spark… Wait. How to Put Spark and Joy Back in your Life. Tania, thanks for joining us.
Tania Katan: A pleasure, John, and thanks for making a mistaker right off the bat. I’m being totally sincere. I think that that’s part of the nature of creative trespassing, which is making beautiful mistakes and realizing that’s where we learn how to be creative souls in the world. Thank you.
John Jantsch: You’re welcome. As my listeners will know, I do not edit those out either.
Tania Katan: That’s great.
John Jantsch: We’re going to talk about creative trespassing. I guest there is such a beast as a creative trespasser. What does that person look like?
Tania Katan: I don’t know if beast is the right adjective, but I appreciate it. A creative trespasser in my esteem is someone who is willing to take risks, to make mistakes, and to embrace all of their flaws and scars and awkwardness knowing that those are the places where our real superpowers lie. As somebody who has worked an entire life personally and professionally embracing my flaws, scars and awkwardness, I figured that it was important to create a map for other human beings because we are all flawed and imperfect and delightful and fantastic and that that’s actually… Those are the places where real innovations and art and solutions lie. I wanted to write a map and show people that, hey, there are fellow creative trespassers out there. Perhaps we didn’t have a name. Now we do and now we are a force to be reckoned with.
John Jantsch: I’ve realized, of course in hindsight, that I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit in. When do we stop doing that?
Tania Katan: Gosh, I hope the moment that we realize that we’re trying to fit into systems or work cultures or cultures that aren’t valuing all of our weirdness, that those are the times to stop fitting in and embrace our outsiderness. Yeah, I mean, honestly, I come from a long line of outsiders too and that’s my DNA. I thought my birthright was the worst birthright ever, which was to not fit in. That’s all I wanted to do as a kid. Then in the professional realm, I was hired in the marketing department and I just wanted to market, but I had these crazy ideas that led to campaigns that were unconventional and actually worked for the company. The way I’ve learned to embrace my outsiderness and find the value in it is when I’ve proven that it is more valuable to see things objectively as an outsider.
Tania Katan: That there are many people who feel actually stuck in their day to day jobs because they haven’t quite yet figured out how to see what they’re doing, how to see the mundane or their everyday rituals and tasks as something new and exciting. That’s part of why I decided to write Creative Trespassing, to offer exercises and ways for finding and refreshing or reinvigorating these things that we’ve come to think of as boring or we’re just stuck or blame other people for our situation, in fact, our rife with opportunities to be creative.
John Jantsch: I’m sure you get this, and so I’m just going to toss this up here for you to like kick it right out of the park, but you know, you work in an art gallery. You work in marketing. You’re a designer. Those are creative people, but what if I’m an insurance actuary? How am I going to be a creative trespasser? I mean, we don’t do that here.
Tania Katan: Yeah. First of all, I have to say, there are plenty of people who work in “creative jobs” or in “creative industries: who do not feel or in the day to day are doing anything that is wildly creative. I know that we can be uniquely creative whether or not we’re in a creative field. One thing I go to all the time and when I work with clients, I give them the power of the what if question. You probably know this and practice this, John, but you know, as a trained playwright and somebody who comes from theater, our job is to ask what if questions. You know, what if. Basically in doing that, what we’re asking is what is possible or probable or crazy outlandish or unbelievable that doesn’t exist in this moment.
Tania Katan: What’s a solution we haven’t tried and isn’t true? To really brainstorm, well, what if instead of having a marketing campaign on the internet, we had it on the moon? What if we actually got an astronaut to help us launch the campaign? In in asking all of these outlandish questions, we’ll actually land on a solution and ideas that are new and will actually solve the problem. I think the people who are stuck, whether or not you’re an accountant, hey, if you’re an accountant and you can’t figure out your budget, you can’t reconcile your budget, you got to be creative.
Tania Katan: You have to ask, what if I lost my receipt on the way to lunch yesterday, instead of looking at the numbers and trying to solve a math problem, try to think of the whole context and ask what if questions.
John Jantsch: Oh, that’s just crazy talk. All right. You already mentioned that you have spent some time in the theater. I’ve seen you perform. You could do stand up for a living. I mean, what if it’s just not my DNA? I’m giving you like really, you know, silly objections here, but I’m just hearing people go, “That’s easy for you.”
Tania Katan: Yeah, so a couple of things. One, every time I speak, and that’s what I do for a living predominantly is public speaking, there’s at least one person who raises their hand and says, “I’m not creative,” you know? Really the basic definition of creativity is using your imagination to solve a problem or come up with something new. Right? I kick it back to you, John, and say, “Hey, Mr. Devil’s Advocate who’s not creative. Do you ever imagine or use your imagination to come up with something new, whether that’s to add an item to your shopping list or come up with Q4 goals? Do you ever use your imagination to come up with something new or solve a problem?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is yes.
Tania Katan: A lot of the exercises in Creative Trespassing aren’t just like weird dictums to be a wild creative. They’re are actually ways to increase your creative confidence. For example, if you feel uncomfortable practicing using your imagination, there’s an exercise that I call the I Rock Files, which you remember the Rockford Files? You’re old enough, John.
John Jantsch: Do I sound that old?
Tania Katan: I don’t know. I don’t know.
John Jantsch: I am old enough. I am old enough. Yes, you’re right.
Tania Katan: Okay. Okay. The I Rock Files are basically something that I came up with because there were so many high level super smart people that I was coaching who didn’t believe they were smart or creative or wildly innovative. I said, “Well, why don’t you get outside of yourself and find and gather evidence that proves that you are and start a file that says I Rock File. It can be a physical file. It can be an online folder, but evidence that you’ve gathered that points to the fact that you are awesome, that you are creative. When people, like customers, send you a note that says, “Oh my gosh. I never thought to solve a problem like that. I appreciate you taking the time to do that,” or your boss saying, “You exceeded your Q4 goals. Good job,” and go to that. Because a lot of the times that we’re feeling like we can’t do something, we’re the first barrier to entry. We’re the ones who stop ourselves from doing it.”
Tania Katan: This is actually called limiting beliefs. These beliefs that we hold that we can’t do something or we aren’t something. I’m not creative. I don’t deserve a raise. I’m not good enough to x, Y, and Z. Those are just constructed thoughts that we’ve come up with so that we don’t actually have to fulfill our dreams, desires, or goals in life.
John Jantsch: I actually had some teachers that reinforce those thoughts.
Tania Katan: I had those teachers too. Mister… No. Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, our society is sort of banking on us not fulfilling our dreams, goals and desires and us staying in our own way. But you know that anybody who’s ever done something major in the world, and by major I sometimes mean just getting up and feeling good about who you are and how you are in the world, everything from that to starting a creative revolution, they’ve all started with approaching a limit with an option. Like I’m going to tunnel under it. I’m going to jump over it. I’m going to dissolve it or hug it and embrace it and make it go away so that I can do something new in the world.
John Jantsch: You have written about, and I’ve seen you speak about, your battle with cancer. What do you think in hindsight that’s done for you?
Tania Katan: That’s done for me?
John Jantsch: That challenge. You know, surely, I’m just guessing. I don’t have any experience. I’m just guessing that that made you mentally tougher and all the things that we think it might’ve done.
Tania Katan: Well, you know what, John? One thing that you saw that your listeners didn’t see when I gave the talk at the World Domination Summit was yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer twice and each time I had a mastectomy, which left me with two scars. I went through chemotherapy and all of this kind of stuff. In order to ensure that diagnosis and statistically speaking, many of your listeners have either endured cancer personally or have gone through it with a family or a friend or whatever, a colleague. It’s not that it made me tough. It made me question my mortality, and then it made me embrace my body that was filled with scars. Again, I had two mastectomy scars. I did not get reconstructive surgery. I started questioning like, what does it mean to be a healthy body in a different form, right?
Tania Katan: Here I am a woman in our society and my breasts are gone and what does that mean. In questioning all of those things, what I ended up doing was running a topless 10K for breast awareness. I didn’t do it to cause a spectacle or anything like that, but I did it because I realized that there is a disconnect in who we are and what we do in the world. There’s a disconnect. As I go into two different companies across the globe and consult and give them creative strategies for moving forward, there’s often a disconnect between the mission or the vision of the company and then the on the ground realities. In having breast cancer, I realized, well, I’m actually healthy now. I don’t have cancer anymore.
Tania Katan: I’ve gone through chemotherapy. I have this body. It’s scarred. It’s weird. It’s little, and it’s mine. I would go to all these races for breast cancer, and I didn’t see anybody else with scars exposed. I thought that’s weird. We’re all here for the same reason. We’re all here to celebrate the life of somebody who has endured or lost their life as a result of breast cancer or cancer. How do I show that you can be a healthy body in a different form? Anyway, I started running these topless races and to mixed reviews. They were very scary for me to take off my shirt and run topless in a sea of thousands of runners, but what they did was they allowed me to feel more comfortable and confident in my weird and new body and also to show a connection between why we were there and who we are.
Tania Katan: That was really important for me. That’s what having breast cancer kind of helped me to realize is that we are connected to everything we do and every place we occupied, whether we show that or not. That’s actually helped me in my professional life and my vocation with again, working with companies and people who think that they’re connected to the mission of their company and then find themselves not. I’ve worked in museums where we’ve sold art and yet we did not work in a very artful way to sell it. Yeah. I think that was the big lesson there.
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John Jantsch: One of the things that, it seems to me, is that in order to really to ask a question like what if we did this on the moon, requires a level of vulnerability that very few people can walk around with. I think that that’s… In a lot of ways, I don’t know you that well, but in seeing you speak and reading your work, I feel like you’ve embraced a level of vulnerability that now turns around and comes out as strength and power.
Tania Katan: Well, thank you. To that point, it’s funny to ask the what if. Yes, we need vulnerability. A good way to find that is to convene a diverse group of human beings to solve problems. This is something I actually learned from my time working for a software company, which is something called agile methodology. Anyway, long story short, within an agile way of making software, you have to invite people from diverse departments in to help you solve the problem. When you do that, everybody’s vulnerable because nobody feels like they’re an expert, which is fantastic. They might be an expert in their own area, but then they’re trying to find ways to connect with their peers, find common ground.
Tania Katan: I would say that that kind of vulnerability comes when people feel like they’re less of an expert among other experts in their specific field. We bust open those silos and invite diverse people and thinking in to address and solve problems. Yeah, I think vulnerability comes in. This is what I do in my personal and professional life. I put myself constantly in situations where I feel uncomfortable, where I feel like I don’t belong, where I feel like I might be an expert in creativity, but all of these people are experts in marketing. What the hell am I doing here? Then find ways to connect. To me, that’s what it means to be alive is to disrupt…
Tania Katan: It’s to disrupt situations that feel comfortable and challenge myself to find ways to connect across divides.
John Jantsch: Does every business need a you? It’s like, “let’s bring in the freak and have that person participate,” or is it really more about we need a culture that just embraces diversity of thought?
Tania Katan: Both. I think that… Some companies definitely need a shot in the arm and it’s sometimes easiest to hear those things from an outsider, from a consultant, or a coach even if you’ve been saying it to your colleague this whole time like, “You know what? You guys, we say that we champion innovation, but we have not done any sort of innovative exercises or lunch and learns in 10 years.” Sometimes it’s easier, a lot of companies will bring me or people like me in during lunch and learns or they’ll have speaking series and things like this or as a consultant. However, there are plenty of mes that exist underneath the company’s noses. It is about creating and nurturing a culture of creativity, which doesn’t mean that people need to identify as an artist or a writer or a musician.
Tania Katan: It does mean that those people who are in positions of power need to create situations where people can express themselves, have brainstorming breaks, have an engage in play or in rituals that aren’t typical so that we get unstuck from the patterns and habits that are keeping us stuck. Yeah, I think it’s championing and also engaging people in play and creative exercises and doing that with regularity. I mean, you know, this is… Again, I get brought in a lot of times as a consultant because everybody says, “We champion creativity and innovation,” and the first thing to go when they don’t have time, when they feel like it’s the last thing on the to do list is the most important part of the business, which especially if you’re a tech company is innovation.
Tania Katan: You can’t have innovation without having creativity or play. You just can’t.
John Jantsch: Creative Trespassing is filled with exercises that you use, I’m assuming, in your work. Do you want to share maybe one of your favorite ones as an example of what somebody might do or experience if they were trying to break out a little?
Tania Katan: Yeah. Well, two things come to mind. That’s how I roll. I’m just going to shout up with two of them. One is a super, super simple exercise. It literally is to look around and see what problems your company is not looking to solve, and then gather a group of diverse human beings, diverse in background, in mindsets, in departments, in title and brainstorm all the ways in which you can solve that problem that no one is looking to solve. If you’re feeling really gutsy, raise your hand at the all hands meeting and share your ideas for solving this problem. That exercise developed after I was working at a tech company and a boss of mine said, “Hey. We want to kind of solve the problem of women in technology or the lack thereof.”
Tania Katan: They were a tech company selling project management software. Like we didn’t need to solve the problem of women in the tech com… I mean tech sector. That wasn’t important. That didn’t affect our ROI, and yet we set out to solve that problem. We didn’t solve it, but we came up with a marketing campaign that went around the world. The point is that in looking to solve something that nobody else was looking to solve, we came up with an awesome idea that resonated around the globe. That was a really cool thing. Then the second-
John Jantsch: Can I interrupt you before the second one only because I want you to finish that thought. It Was Never A Dress is probably a story that you get a little tired of telling, maybe not, as you’ve told it so many times, but we’ll have it in the show notes. I don’t know if you want to just give us two seconds on what… Because you alluded to the campaign and I know-
Tania Katan: Yeah, totally. No, no, I never get a… No, it’s really… The beautiful thing actually about writing my book was that I got to write about the process behind coming up with the idea because people see It Was Never A Dress which is if you… In your mind’s eye, listeners, please see the women’s bathroom symbol. See her little round head and triangle dress. Okay. You know her, right? You’ve seen her. Maybe some listeners have seen her several times today because you know, they had to pee. But anyway, we kind of a re-imagined the symbol. Let’s say you were looking at her in the front and she’s wearing a dress, but what if we turned her around and she was wearing a cape? We were looking at her the wrong way this whole time. We were looking at her back and in front she’s wearing a cape.
Tania Katan: This shift in consciousness and this visual that we’d seen that became mundane, that we hadn’t thought of now becomes this radical and exciting symbol for seeing women as more than just wearing a dress. That there were visual options for women being in the world, in the workforce. It went viral as the kids say. We put out this image and it went around. For marketing people who are listening, we received 20 million organic impressions within the first 24 hours of putting that out there. This was in 2015. The exciting part, John, the part that actually never gets dull to talk about is the fact that because it was embraced by so many people so quickly that the people made it their own. It wasn’t important. Only now I get to write about it and share stories about it, like sort of behind the scenes how it came to be.
Tania Katan: But the beauty of it is that it became everyone’s. It didn’t become ours, this like little software company who came up with this weird idea. The young woman at TSA who when she saw my sticker said, “Oh my gosh. I love it. I gave this to my cousin and we told them we’re superheroes and we feel so empowered.” It’s my friend’s aunt in the Midwest who never gives a shit about anything online and saw the symbol and said, “Oh my gosh. Now when I go to work, I feel like I belong there.” That’s the coolest part about the It Was Never A Dress campaign is that it became bigger than our idea. It became and belongs to everyone.
John Jantsch: I’m sure there are a few bathroom symbols around the world that have been vandalized as well.
Tania Katan: Yes. I take no responsibility for that.
John Jantsch: Oh, well, you put out the taggers guide to.
Tania Katan: No.
John Jantsch: All right, so I cut you off.
Tania Katan: That’s fine.
John Jantsch: You were going to give me the second exercise.
Tania Katan: Oh, the second exercise that comes to mind because of your Devil’s advocating earlier, when you were like, “Well, what if I don’t fancy myself creative, can I still be a creative trespasser?” This exercise allows everyone to be creative trespasser, which is called the official unofficial award. You know how many times, especially in work culture, it’s like you have to earn employee of the month or you have to wait around for some other like an annual review to get a raise? Like we’re only awarded one time a year, maybe, if we’re lucky. Some people never get awarded and yet they’re doing so many cool things behind the scenes. Get your colleague, your friend, your family member, an official unofficial award.
Tania Katan: You know what I’m saying? You can write it down on a piece of paper. You can change their screensaver when they’re not looking. Somebody could be like the inclusionary visionary award because you bring people to meetings that are unexpected and amazing, or the you make meetings fun award, or whatever. In fact, I’m going to launch an official unofficial creative trespasser award. This is going to happen. I’m going to do it on social media because it’s so easy to see and celebrate those around us who don’t often get seen or celebrated for the amazing things they’re doing every single day to make us feel more alive, more engaged, and just more human. So there.
John Jantsch: I’m speaking with Tania Katan, the author of Creative Trespassing. I think we’re doing a little creative trespassing today, I hope, for listeners. Tania, where can people find out more about you, your work, and your book?
Tania Katan: Sure. They can go to taniakatan.com and that’s Tania, T-A-N-I-A-K-A-T-A-N.com, and then you can follow me on Instagram where I’m TheUnrealTaniaKatan. That’s right, TheUnrealTaniaKatan. Because when I went to sign up for Instagram, there was a Tania Katan already and she was a mom of two. I didn’t want to say I’m the real Tania Katan and make her children go to therapy at an early age. I decided to give her that moniker and I became TheUnrealTaniaKatan.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Tania, it was so great visiting with you and hopefully we’ll run into you again out there on the road.
Tania Katan: John, it was a pleasure. Thank you for having me. Take care.