Transcript of How to Discover and Nurture Your Creativity
John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Chase Jarvis. He is an award-winning artist, entrepreneur, one of the most influential photographers over the past decade, founder of CreativeLive. Some of you may remember that I’ve had a couple programs on CreativeLive. He’s also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life. Chase, thanks for joining me.
Chase Jarvis: John, super-good to be on the show. What is it, long-time listener, first-time caller or something? Happy to be on. Thanks for having me.
John Jantsch: Let’s talk a little bit about CreativeLive, if you don’t mind. For listeners that might not be familiar with it, just to kind of tee up the quick what is it?
Chase Jarvis: Sure, it’s the world’s largest learning platform specifically for creators and entrepreneurs. That’s our target. Those are the people that are in our tribe. They identify as creator, or entrepreneurial, or creative curious, or entrepreneurial curious, and it’s where folks like yourself, like Tim Ferriss, Brené Brown, Sir Richard Branson, Pulitzer Prize winners, New York Times Best Sellers, the best of the best go to teach. Specifically, the high-quality, high-caliber experts that we have on the platform, the super-high quality production, and then the area of focus, again, for creators, and entrepreneurs, small businesses, and side hustlers that is a… It’s where we go. We got more than 10 million people on the platform. It’s a thriving community, and it’s been around for 10 years. It feels like a blink on the inside, here, but it’s a great, great community. We’d love to have anybody come take a peek. You can either buy a-la-cart classes or subscription. There’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there’s free content there, too.
John Jantsch: I, as I mentioned, did a, as you and I were talking before we jumped on here, five six years ago did a program on Duct Tape Marketing. I’ll will say, I mean, the most fun I’ve had doing that, obviously, the most professional… It was actually a little brutal, though because we did 18 hours over three days live. That was a little brutal, but very fun. I have a confession or admission. Craig Swanson, your co-founder, is that what you’d call him, told me that 10 years ago when you guys were cooking up CreativeLive that he bought one of my first courses, which was, getting ready to date myself here, a three-ring binder with CDs and that kind of thing sent to him for marketing purposes. I always kind of… He may have been completely BSing me, but I always hold that up as one of my greatest honors was that I was there at the beginning in some fashion.
Chase Jarvis: You were. Yeah. We talked about it and how to put your products out there in the world, all those entrepreneurial secrets that you’ve been cheering with your tribe for years, we definitely deployed them in launching CreativeLive.
John Jantsch: Well, that’s one of my biggest badges of honor, there.
Chase Jarvis: Aw, come on [inaudible] I’ll take it.
John Jantsch: In Creative Calling, I got the sense that maybe we need to define, or redefine, what creativity even is or means for a lot of folks.
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. I’d love to, and that’s one of the points that underscores the book. I believe a couple of things, and it’s really clear in the book. First of all, that there’s creativity inside of every person. Culturally, we have historically thought of creativity equaling art so activities, painting and drawing. Just know, now, that that’s not true, that creativity is everything. It is the decision. Anytime you’re putting ideas together to form something new and useful, that is creativity. You created dinner last night. You’re creating a family right now. You baked a cake. You are building a business. All these things are wildly creative. By extension, it’s easy to see then that creativity is in every person. We have it at birth. It’s one of the things that separates us from the other species on the planet. It’s also something that gives us unlimited possibility. Right? Limitless, rather.
Chase Jarvis: To me, that has historically been a challenge of creativity and why people… I mean, just think of your own experience as you’re listening to this and you go back. You were either sort of anointed, oh you’re creative or you’re not creative. Or when I was told, I was in second grade, and they said, “Chase, you should focus on sports, not on art.” I carried that with me for 20 years. I’m trying to [inaudible] and redefine around creativity around what it really is, which is the ability to create something new and useful. Look, all you have to do is ask any first grade classroom, “Who wants to come to the front of the room and draw me a picture, or who wants to create anything,” and every hand goes up. It’s very clear, just empirically, that creativity’s in every person.
Chase Jarvis: The second principle is really that creativity is a habit. It’s not a skill. It’s a way of being in the world. It’s a way of operating. It’s a practice, not a product. A good way of thinking about it is it’s a muscle that we develop. Like all muscles, the more you use them, the stronger they get. If you believe, one, that everyone’s creative in some way, shape, or form, two, that we have this creative muscle and that if we use it more, we develop it, the last thing I ask you to believe is, and this might be the part that is jump, where it’s the same exact thing.
Chase Jarvis: Creating businesses, creating a meal, playing the piano, drawing, taking photographs, writing, the muscles that we use in doing that, in small projects on a regular basis, I would even say daily, we’re creating on a daily basis, it’s the same set of muscles that we use to create our life. It’s just at a different scale. To me, that’s the big leap that the book… It takes us beyond creativity with a small C to think about creativity as this amazing human super power.
John Jantsch: So would you admit, though, that there are, I’m not sure of the right term, I’m going to say forms of creativity. In other words, there are definitely people that can look at nothing and create something from it. I’ve never been able to do that, but I can look at something and create something else. Does that makes sense? Am I talking in circles? I think that’s where, I think, a lot of people have to come to grips with is that this muscle, or whatever it is that you’re talking about, takes so many shapes and forms. But is there a common thread, maybe, that kind of unites all of that?
Chase Jarvis: In the same way that we learn in different ways. Right? Some people are visual. Some are auditory. Some are really tactile. The same is true for creativity. It takes different forms, and it usually has to do with some things in our childhood, or our upbringing, or our particular DNA, but to me, I’m agnostic to how you best activate it. To me, that’s a personal exploration. In the book, I invite you and show you some ways of going about doing that. I’m trying to get you to flip the bit. There are people that… We were, again, sort of categorized, usually really early as kids. My second grade teacher told me that I should focus on sports. Second grade, and I listened to her. It’s understandable because the people around us, our parents, our peers, our teachers, our career counselors, they have our best interests in mind in their mind, but it’s doesn’t always translate to what we actually should be doing or what’s true for us. Even, as either young people or sometimes very late in life… I did learn this until well into my 20s, that, basically, how to listen to that intuition.
Chase Jarvis: This is the calling part of the book, and when I say creative calling, it’s not necessarily like, “I was called to be a painter.” It’s, “I am a creative person and there’s a way that I’m supposed to express my creativity in the world. Maybe it’s building a business, writing a book, or any number of ways.” Culture has all these shoulds that we should be doing. Right? We should get this kind of job. We should make this much money. What I’m trying to get us to do is to unlearn that, and learn to listen to that whisper that we all have inside of us, and then take action. For you, John, you can look at something and make something else, wildly creative. The act of taking literally nothing and making something, that’s maybe just a slightly different angle, but fundamentally, it’s the same muscle. That’s what we want to strengthen.
John Jantsch: I’ve always suggested that curiosity is really such a huge driver of any success that I’ve had. I do think that, and there’s a lot been written about this lately, but do you think there’s a real link between that idea of being curious and being creative?
Chase Jarvis: It’s the same thing. All I’m asking you to do… The difference of curiosity is intellectual. I think creativity is active. The way I talk about it in the book is action over intellect. If you’re wondering if you’re creative, you can sit there and think about all the ways you might be creative or you can just start writing. You can just start writing, figuring out the business plan. You need to take action in order to explore that creativity. You’re absolutely right. They’re super-tightly intertwined. To me, that’s the thing that most people miss is go back to all the shoulds that the culture tells us, what’s been missing from the narrative is that, historically, creativity’s been this whimsical thing that you’re naïve or at least slightly crazy if you pursue it. But I argue just the opposite, that it’s so foundational. It’s as fundamental as exercise and nutrition. It’s what separates us from the other species on the planet.
Chase Jarvis: Ultimately, therefore, it’s as practical as hell. It’s super-practical. If you can create new neural pathways, and you can find ways to connect unlikely things, or, in John’s case, you can look at something and see how it could be something else, the more you start to use that muscle, the more options open up in front of you. It’s a pretty, from a logical extension perspective, it’s not a big leap. It’s just a bigger cultural narrative than we’ve been sold. That’s part of what I’m trying to get people to do. The reality about the curiosity part is that we all have these moments in our past where things were in line with the way we saw them for ourselves where we were listening to that whisper or that call that’s inside of us that we should be doing something. It’s when life felt effortless, when you were around people that supported you. Whether that’s at a particular job, or a time of life, or when you were doing something in your past, I’m just suggesting we listen to that and do more of it. In your word it might be curiosity. In my word, it’d be creativity, but we walk to that thing. We explore it through action, not just intellect.
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John Jantsch: I want to get into a couple of the actual practices to develop these habits but I want to ask one more question around that. I think a lot of us lose this ability to be curious and creative because we’re just going through the day, slugging through our stuff. Life comes at you and you’re not practicing that. To what degree does a level of paying attention, mindfulness, come into establishing these habits?
Chase Jarvis: It’s massive. I call it the creative mindset. Any sort of mindfulness around it, it very much has to do with intention. You’re going to go home, and you’re going to cook dinner tonight. Ostensibly, there’s two ways you can go about it. You can think of what you’re creating as okay, I just need to execute this thing, to your point, get through my list or whatever.
John Jantsch: Right.
Chase Jarvis: Then, there could be a moment of awareness, literally a moment, where you do one thing differently. You change something. You add a spice. You present it in a different way because a lot of us, we cook the same things all the time because it’s easy. We get in a habit of doing that. It’s the simple act of changing that just a little bit, and then doing that on a regular basis through awareness every day, that you realize that you actually have agency over your life. It’s sort of creativity with a capital C. In these small, daily ways, awareness and practicing it, so, again, awareness of hey, look it… I can either just bust out this meal or I can change one thing, present it in a more beautiful way, fill in the blank, whatever it means for you. Then, if you did that three or four times throughout your day, you start to realize that you have this powerful agency over your life.
Chase Jarvis: The cool thing is this. I’m not asking you to move to Paris to get a new set of friends. No berets, no cigarettes, no paints. This is not required. That’s an old, archaic definition of creativity. So is the fact this, the idea of the starving artist. That’s just a horrible myth that has no real bearing on creativity. When you look at it, in fact, this is the part that also kills me, you look… Who are the people that inspire you? Who are, even if it’s just your… It doesn’t have to be Richard Branson. Maybe it’s your neighbor. They live with integrity and they’re incredibly mindful. They tend a beautiful garden. Whoever the people that you look up to, or aspire to, or… Here’s the thing. The life that you’re looking at, it didn’t just happen. It was created.
Chase Jarvis: We talk about finding happiness. We don’t find… You don’t stumble into that. You create it. You cultivate it. With just a simple shift in mentality and, to go back to your original question about how do we do that, it absolutely is an awareness. If you start to become aware of it. It’s amazing how many opportunities you have throughout your day. We’re not talking about adding extra time and going to the art supply store. Sure, you can do that, and that would be helpful to have a practice that looked like that, but it’s not required.
John Jantsch: Let’s talk about some of the practices that you litter throughout the book that help people develop some of these habits. What are some of the things that people could inject into their routine that would shake it up a bit?
Chase Jarvis: I look for things, initially, again it’s a… The most important thing is the awareness that… You already mentioned that. It’s sort of like if you have a mindfulness practice or a meditation practice, the goal is not to keep your mind from wandering. The mind is designed to wander. The meditation practice is actually bringing your attention back to your mantra or whatever your focus should be. That’s the same thing with the creative practice. You can’t just be constantly in open, creative mode. Otherwise, you might not get as many things done as you wanted to get done. But if you can, when you realize that you’re not in that creative mind space or the creative mindset that I talk about in the book, the simple act of returning to it on a regular basis.
Chase Jarvis: The way I like to start is small. I’m not asking you… Say you have a vision for yourself like someday… I’m an engineer right now, and I work at Google, but someday I want to open a café. The distance bet where you are right now and a café is pretty far. It’s probably a couple thousand hours’ worth of work. When people think about that, they get depressed, and frustrated, and they know there’s too many hurdles between here and there. But what if you started baking, and every Sunday you cranked out a few scones, and you sought out some single-origin coffee, and you held brunch for your close friends, every Sunday for four or five weeks. That is an amazing first step toward getting oriented around your life as a café owner. I would argue more importantly, and more fundamentally, to explore your relationship with cooking.
Chase Jarvis: The same could be true with building a business. Right? You don’t actually have to get the POS system, and rent a space, and have all these things to create a small business. So what would a small business, what’s the minimum viable product? What’s a way to get started simply? If you apply that same thinking to a day, it’s what is the lightest way that you can embrace that creativity. I talk about taking pictures just intentionally. One, or two, or three, or five pictures on your afternoon walk maybe at lunch time or on your commute. Morning pages is a great way to engage your mind. This is widely written about. Just a few minutes of time in the morning to write out what you intend for the day or to create something simple. It can take any of these forms or the, for example, the concept that I mentioned earlier about just how to think about creating the meal just a little bit different than you would otherwise.
Chase Jarvis: If you can do that in small, useful ways on a regular basis, you start to realize that it is actually a muscle, and it starts to become more natural. The more natural it becomes, the more leverage you can create in your life.
John Jantsch: One of the practices that I’ve intentionally done that I think probably fits into your practice is… I’m a child of the ’70s music. That’s how old I am. It’d be very natural for me to go into my Neil Young and Jackson Browne, and just listen to that all the time. I intentionally can seek out Spotify Release Radar and just make, not make myself because I enjoy it, but really make sure that I’m listening to the new stuff that’s coming out. I feel like that… I don’t know that I look at it as, “Oh, this is going to make me more creative,” but I do feel like it keeps you more relevant, maybe. Would that fit into, I mean, would that be a type of a typical sort of simple thing?
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. That’s a great thing. The only thing I would change rather than that being a little bit passive is what if you’re picking up the guitar for five minutes? I don’t know if music was ever in your past.
John Jantsch: I play the guitar. How did you know?
Chase Jarvis: See, that’s the thing when you talk about curiosity. We can all find something in our past that really brought us a lot of joy. When life got “practical,” then we had to, for some reason, we had to stop doing that. I don’t know what we go doing instead, pay attention to the stock market, or grocery shopping, or I find it’s hard to-
John Jantsch: Facebook.
Chase Jarvis: … Yeah, Facebook. I find it hard to believe that those could actually be more important than cultivating the most powerful muscle that the human has at their disposal, which is their creativity.
John Jantsch: What about teaching, speaking writing? I always find that that forces me to innovate, forces me to be creative, and to just go out and see what other people are doing.
Chase Jarvis: Absolutely, and that hits on two really important points. One, how that broader definition of creativity really is conversing and collaborating on an idea. Teaching a subject, that’s a wildly creative… I mean, just think of the most important and powerful motivating teachers you had in your career. They were wildly creative, and they presented the material in a dynamic way. That’s part of what you loved about them. I think, A, you hit the nail on the head on that on. Then, as a corollary to that, community aspect is huge. I put the book into four parts, a framework, if will. It’s a creative process that works for any individual project, building a business, or baking a cake, or anything to living your life. That’s the structure is IDEA.
Chase Jarvis: IDEA. The first one is imagine what’s possible. The second one is design a system of steps to get you there. The third one is E, is execute. You’re executing that plan. None of this should be really surprising. This is what we all do every day with every project. The part that I think is missing, and which you touched on, is A. I talk about it, the amplify. What we need is we need a community to help our ideas fly. Nothing happens in a vacuum. For those people that you’re looking to your left and to your right, and their creative ideas whether it’s a business or some venture, when they’re successful and you’re not or when they’re getting traction and you’re struggling, the reality is probably they’ve spent a lot more time and/or put more effort into cultivating a community that’s both ready to receive their work and is happy to be a participant in the collaboration between creator and receiver of that gift.
John Jantsch: Visiting with Chase Jarvis. He is the author of Creative Calling. I’m going to throw one more out for you to let you categorize this. I’ve been getting a lot of creative ideas from people I don’t agree with lately. By actually practicing empathy and trying to understand maybe where I’m wrong, trying to understand where they’re coming from, what role does listening to play really just in general in your creative calling?
Chase Jarvis: I mean, listening functions… First of all, it’s a hugely powerful lever. It functions in two ways. The first way is in being open to ideas [inaudible] them. Right? You talked about being-
John Jantsch: Yep.
Chase Jarvis: … sort of like having [inaudible] by not being hard. The reality is that everything around you was created. We forget that. This is how we’ve put creativity in the weirdest box. Everything around you, if you’re jogging when you’re listening to this, the park bench you just ran by, the light pole, the food you just had, the can of Red Bull that you’re drinking right now. Everything was designed. It means it was first envisioned, and then it was designed, and then someone built it. Usually it came out in a drawing first. Whether it’s listening or just observing, that’s a huge piece of the creative process.
Chase Jarvis: We need some raw input in order to create an output. Listening is a great form of that, and it also does exactly what you talked about. This is sort of point two, is I like saying, “If listening is meaningful to you, what if you’re listening to other people? I like to be the fan that I wish I had.” It goes back to that idea of community. Right? If you want to more likes on your Facebook posts, or your Instagram posts, or maybe a better example is you want more people to use your product, what are you doing to use the products of others in your peer group, your friends? What are you doing to provide feedback, and to support, and show up? That’s part of… It’s not in a transactional way, but in a way of building community over time that whether you’re listening or you’re contributing to what someone is saying with a product or an idea by participating in that product, it all matters. I think community is a huge piece of this process that we overlook and, specifically, how it ties into listening.
John Jantsch: So, Chase, where can people out more about your work, about CreativeLive, about Creative Calling?
Chase Jarvis: Creative Calling, it’s wherever books are sold. It’s dropping right now. If you pre-order, we’re doing a really cool thing at CreativeLive. You’ll get access to an exclusive class. I’ll have some super-fancy, world-class guests, and that happens… You just go to… Buy it wherever you want to buy it on the internet. If you go to Creativecalling.com, there’s a couple different links there. One link will get you to the CreativeLive class where you can just upload your receipt. That will allow you to be a participant in that. Again, that’s probably the best stuff around the book. CreativeLive is just Creativelive.com, and I’m @Chasejarvis all over the internet.
John Jantsch: Well, Chase, it was great catching up with you. Hopefully, we’ll bump into you next time I’m out on the road.
Chase Jarvis: Awesome. Looking forward to it. Thanks a lot. I’m excited about what you’re working on, too. You’re always up to cool stuff, and I appreciate you having me as a guest on the show.
John Jantsch: Well, thanks, Chase.
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