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17 Phrases That Will Crush Creativity Every Time

17 Phrases That Will Crush Creativity Every Time

First things first: What is creativity?

My eleven year old daughter said, “Creativity is being creative.”

Okay. Good start. But we need to be a little more precise. So, let’s go to the standing authority on definitions. Here’s how the dictionary defines creativity:

The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.

I think the word that stands out is “originality.” Something new.

Why Is Creativity–Originality for that Matter–Important?

Maria Popova, the founder of Brain Pickings, wrote a good post on a Harper’s Weekly article (“The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge”) that was written back in 1939.

The Harper’s Weekly article was about the role uninhibited curiosity played in technological breakthrough—discoveries that would never occur under regimented conditions.

In essence, the writer argued that pragmatic purposes are not behind breakthroughs. What’s at work is sheer curiosity—allowing someone to explore an idea simply for the sake of satisfying that curiosity.

While those curiosity driven explorations might not end in a significant discovery, those explorations pile up until someone pulls all that information together—and boom. We have a substantial breakthrough.

And that, my friends, is why creativity is important.

How We Kill Creativity (and Help Our Competition)

Now, I’m not shocking anyone by saying this, so here we go: there is a glut of blogs online.

And most of this glut is ho-hum at best.

What that means is something has to give if you want to standout from the crowd, the clutter and the confusion.

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No more excuses (like those I’ll share below). In order to attract attention and keep devoted followers you need to be extraordinarily creative.

But we so often kill great ideas on the spot merely by the things we say. It’s like we push creativity up against the wall—and execute it.

That’s not good.

What’s worse is when we let what other people say kill our creativity.

So, look through this list and see if you ever said one of these statements—or if somebody said it to you. I then let’s eliminate them from our vocabulary.

1. “You’re not paid to be creative.”

Everyone is creative. Accountants, engineers, carpenters, football players and waiters. Naturally, some of us are more creative than others. That’s why we gravitate to the creative fields like writing and graphic design.

Whoever you are—you are paid to be creative. You just need to be more confident.

2. “You’ve got to follow the rules.”

No. What you’ve got to do is learn the rules. Master the rules. So that you can break them in meaningful ways that introduce brilliant new ideas.

Even if you are absolutely forbidden to play outside of the rules, however, no biggie. Rules are good. We couldn’t enjoy a tennis match without rules. Great players find out how to be creative inside those rules.

3. “Don’t ask questions.”

Ugh. If anyone ever says that to you the first thing out of your mouth should be, “Why not?” If they persist in their obstinacy get out. Your job is to ask questions. And it’s one of the ways you become a creative genius.

4. “Don’t rock the boat.”

Ha. I couldn’t survive if I couldn’t rock the boat. You?

5. “Stay within the boundaries.”

This is like, “You’ve got to follow the rules.” Another phrase you’ve got to kill—or it will kill your creativity.

What would happen if we always stayed in the boundaries? We’d never have interesting movies like Blair Witch Project. We’d never have classic books like Ulysses. And we’d never have rock n roll, jazz or dub step.

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We’d also never have climbed Everest, landed on the moon or dove to the bottom of the ocean.

6. “Don’t try anything stupid.”

You kill creativity when you worry about what other people think about you. However, let me be absolutely clear with what I’m not saying: you do not have to put everything on the table so it ridicules or harms others.

Don’t be an exhibitionist for the sake of attention.

No. There is a limit to stupidity in the creative space. Use common sense—and protect people above all.

7. “That’s not practical.”

Sure, most people who are going to pay you to create want your work to be useful. That doesn’t mean your approach or solutions to tackling challenges needs to be practical. Remember: the client or boss tells you what he needs. You get to decide how you accomplish that goal.

When you are alone, however, it’s a completely different story. In your own space and your own medium you get to explore and create with zero hope of doing anything useful.

The practice itself is useful. Useful in restoring your creative passion.

8. “You need to be serious.”

Yes, there is a time for serious.

Funerals. Exams. Court appearances (this is debatable).

But that time usually occurs after your time with creativity. Until then you need to be seriously creative. Shut off the inner critic and play, okay?

9. “What will this do to your reputation?”

Hopefully rocket it.

You don’t get noticed by turning in consistently practical and ho-hum work. You get noticed when you create something extraordinary—and you do it consistently.

Look at guys like Matt Inman of The Oatmeal and Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content. They’ve made a fortune off of creativity that might have ruined their reputation 50 years ago. Now they are heroes.

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10. “It’s never been done before.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear that phrase I immediately think challenge. I’m a sucker for a challenge. And I like to prove people wrong.

11. “That’s impossible.”

See number 12 above.

12. “I’m not very creative.”

Oh. Oh. Oh!

*holds his ears*

This might be a sentiment you hold on rare occasions when you are suffering from creative block. Or it could be your general outlook. Either way you can conquer that thought.

If you are suffering from a creative block then do things that stir up your creativity. And if that is your general outlook, then start believing in yourself.

13. “We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.”

The conversation could look something like this:

You: “I don’t know, maybe you didn’t have what it takes to make it work.”

Them: “And you do?”

(This is when you put on that smug little grin that drives people nuts.)

No, don’t be smug.

But you never know: you just might have the angle or the outlook that this particular challenge needs to succeed. And it doesn’t really matter if you succeed or not (see no. 17). Even if you fail your creative output will provide a footing for future creatives to build upon.

14. “That will take too much time.”

Like a breakthrough isn’t worth it? Come on.

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And sure, we don’t have all the time in the world to tinker away at our ideas, but true breakthrough ideas are never discovered on a timetable. They usually occur when we’ve lost track of time.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

15. “I can’t afford to fail.”

Then you can’t afford to win. Most endeavors in life—blogging included—involve risk. However, that risk comes in degrees. It can be a win or lose risk: you either win the client or you don’t.

Usually it looks more like this: you only got 4,578 tweets from your viral blog post—not the 13,000 you had hoped.

Of course some failures are more costly than others, but creativity that leads to true breakthroughs involves failure. It’s how you learn.

16. “How will that make money?”

That’s a good question—but if you are asking it during the creative period then you are asking at the wrong time.

Keep in mind: there are times when you need to generate creative ideas that should end in profits. How do you sell your new ebook? What’s the best way to promote this workshop?

There are other times, however, in which you are simply being creative. The goal isn’t profit—it’s breakthrough ideas.

17. “Failure is final.”

This statement comes from a mindset that doesn’t look at creativity as play, but as a win-lose proposition. This mindset is driven by fear. By cowardice. And by desperation.

It’s a dreadful mind-set. And it’s flat out wrong.

Failure is never final, people. And keep this in mind: the end-of-something variety of failures are not just closed doors—they are also open doors. Gateways to new adventures. New opportunities.

Conclusion

Have you ever been guilty of saying any of those phrases? Did you listen to yourself and kill your creativity? How were the results? Do you know any other phrases that should be included in this list?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured photo credit: Beautiful woman doing a yoga exercise on her rooftop of a skyscraper via Gettyimages

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Last Updated on November 18, 2020

50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

If you’re like me and really into self-development, you’ve probably read many of the thousands of self-help books out there on the market. But also like me, you probably find all the information a bit overwhelming.

That’s why I wanted to do the self-less task of taking the most important, life-changing lessons I’ve drawn from these books and condensed them into 50 key points.

Here’re 50 habits of successful people you should learn:

1. Believe It to See It

Our minds tend to focus on what’s happening around us and refuse to see what could happen. Only when you trust in what’s possible and dare to dream big, big things can happen for you.

2. See Problems as a Wonderful Gift

While others only see problems and give up, successful people use the problem as a lesson to find improvement in themselves or the task at hand.

3. Keep Looking for Solutions

Even if they’re knee-deep in problems, successful people will still put all of their focus on finding solutions.

4. Remember It’s All About the Journey

Successful people are conscious and methodical in creating their own success. They don’t sit around doing the bare minimum, hoping success finds them.

5. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

There’s so much fear on the road to success, but instead of letting that fear control and limit them, successful people do a good job of just forging ahead regardless.

6. Always Ask Productive Questions

It’s all about asking the right questions. Successful people make sure they are questions that will elicit information for a more productive, creative and positive mindset moving forward.

7. Understand the Best Waste of Energy Is Complaining

Successful people know that choosing to see the negative side of things will only create a useless and unproductive state.

8. Don’t Play the Blame Game

Taking responsibility for actions and outcomes is a form of empowerment that you can build your success upon. While the act of blaming others or outside circumstances takes this empowerment away from you.

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9. Maximize Your Strengths

Not every successful person is simply more talented than the rest, but they do use what they know they’re good at to achieve more successful results.

10. Be in It to Win It

Successful people are busy, productive and proactive. Instead of sitting around over-thinking and over-planning a great idea, they just take a step towards it no matter how small.

11. Know That Success Attracts Success

People who are successful surround themselves and seek out like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team and forge win-win relationships.

12. Actually Choose to Be Successful

Dreaming big is a massive part of being successful even if your dream seems impossible. Ambition is a mindset that needs to be a daily conscious choice.

13. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize!

You’ve got to see your success in your mind’s eye even before it comes. Successful people clarify and get that certainty about what they want their reality to look like rather than being mere spectators of life.

14. Be a One-Off Original

Successful people look for what’s working and then create a unique spin on it. Imitating only regurgitates other people’s ideas with no originality.

15. The Perfect Time to Act Is Now

Waiting for the right time to act is basically procrastination wrapped up in an excuse. Successful people know there’s never a perfect time so they may as well just do it now.

16. Keep Learning, Keep Growing

Continuous learning is the key to a successful life. Whether it’s academic, being a student of life or actionable learning, it’s all about expanding your knowledge and personal development.

17. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Successful people have the knack for finding positive aspects in all people and circumstances no matter what.

18. Having a Bad Day? Do It Anyway!

We all have bad moods but it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop everything. Giving into a bad mood just stop-starts your life, slowing success way down.

19. Sometimes Risky Business Is Needed

Calculated risks are a must for success. It’s about weighing the pros and cons while moving forward with that element of trust.

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20. Accept Challenge All the Time

Dealing with problems head-on is a must to be successful. Successful people also face challenges in order to improve themselves.

21. Make Your Own Luck

In the mindset of a successful person, there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’. They take control to actively and consciously create their own best life.

22. Ignite Your Initiative

While many people are reactive, successful people are proactive – taking action before they have to.

23. Be the Master of Your Emotions

Being effective at managing emotions is key on the road to success. That’s not to say successful people don’t feel like we all do, but they’re just not slaves to their emotions.

24. Champion in Communication

Consciously working on effective communication skills gets anyone closer to success.

25. Plan Your Life Strategically

Successful people’s lives aren’t a clumsy series of unplanned events and outcomes, they methodically work at turning their plans into a reality.

26. Become Exceptional at What You Do

To become exceptional, you typically have to do things that most won’t. To become successful, hard decisions need to be made and acting on them is crucial.

27. Choose to Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

While many people are pleasure junkies and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs, successful people understand the value and benefits of working through the tough stuff that most would avoid.

28. Live by Core Values

Successful people firstly identify their core values and what’s important to them, then do their best to live a life that reflects these values.

29. Realize Money Isn’t Everything

Money and success are not interchangeable and the most successful people understand this. Putting money on a pedestal and equating it to success is a dangerous mindset to have. Success comes in many forms.

30. Don’t Get Carried Away

Successful people understand the importance of discipline and self-control and as a result they are happy to take the road less travelled.

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31. Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Success

Successful people are secure. They do not derive their self-worth from what they own, who they know, where they live or what they look like.

32. Kindness Breeds Kindness (And Success)

Generosity and kindness is a common trait among long-term successful people. It’s important to take pleasure in helping others achieve.

33. More Humility, Less Arrogance

Successful people are humble and happy to admit and apologize for mistakes. This is because they’re confident in their ability. They are happy to learn from others and happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory.

34. Change Opens New Doors

People who are successful are adaptable and embrace change, while the majority are creatures of comfort and habit. They are comfortable with, and embrace, the new and the unfamiliar.

35. Success Requires a Healthy Body

It’s not just how you think, it’s about how you show up for success. Successful people understand the importance of being physically well, not for vain reasons but because being in tiptop condition creates a better personal life for success.

36. Laziness Just Doesn’t Exist

Successful people are never considered lazy. Yes, they can relax when they need to, but working hard is their game.

37. Resilience by the Bucket Load

When difficulty strikes, most would throw in the towel, but successful people are just warming up.

38. Feedback Is Just Another Chance to Improve

How people react to feedback determines their potential for success. Being open to constructive criticism and acting on it to improve is most seen in those who are successful.

39. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

If people are hanging out with toxic and negative people, then they need to take a look at themselves. Successful people hang out with others who are positive and supportive.

40. Can’t Control It? Forget It

Successful people don’t invest time or emotional energy into things which they have no control of.

41. Swim Against the Tide

Successful people are not people-pleasers and they don’t need constant approval from others in order to move ahead.

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42. Alone Time Is Valuable Time

More self-worth means being more comfortable with your own company. Successful people are more happy and see the value in spending time alone.

43. Self-Standard Is Higher Than Most

Everyone has a choice to set high standards for themselves. Successful people do this, which in turn produces greater commitment, more momentum, a better work ethic and of course, better results.

44. Failure Isn’t Rationalized

While many use age, health, lack of time, ‘bad luck’, or lack of opportunity to explain away their failure, the key to success is finding a way to succeed despite facing these challenges.

45. Down Time Is an Important Part of a Routine

Having an off switch and taking time to do things that make them happy is a common trait of a successful person. Take a look at here The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

46. Career Isn’t Who You Are, It’s What You Do

Successful people know their career isn’t their identity. They are multi-dimensional and don’t define themselves by their job.

47. Be Interested in Only the Path of Resistance

While most people look for the easiest way or the shortcut, successful people are more interested in the most effective way. They look for the course of action which will produce the best results over the long term.

48. Follow Through

Many spend their life starting things that they never finish, but successful people get the job done. Even when the excitement and the novelty has worn off they still follow through and finish.

49. Invest in All Your Dimensions

We’re not just physical and psychological beings, but emotional and spiritual creatures as well. Successful people consciously work at being healthy and productive on all levels.

50. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

To obtain success, it’s important to practice what you preach. Successful people don’t talk about the theory, they live the reality.

So there you have it, a summary of what I’ve learned from self-help books. But of course, you need to start taking actions so you will get closer to success too.

Bonus: 5 Bad Habits To Quit

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Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

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