All You Need to Know About Being Creative

Forget Consistency, Long Live Consistency: How your creative mind balances contradictory impulses to deliver #StandApart results.


Labels are funny. Sometime they put us in boxes we’d rather not find ourselves in (he’s a doer not a thinker), but sometimes, they can be really freeing. For me, “creative” falls into that latter category. I LIKE being creative.

This post from Matthew Schuler tells why. Based on 30-years of research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s and his book, Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People, Schuler lists the nine apparently contradictory traits explaining why creative types often make no sense. Schuler writes:

“As someone paid to be creative, I sometimes feel kaleidoscopic in my views or opinions, and that “multitude” of expressions sometimes confuses those around me. Why does that happen? My thoughts make cohesive sense to me, yet others sometimes feel that I am contradicting myself or switching positions. What is wrong with me?”

The short answer: nothing. In fact, Milhay’s research shows that creative-types, like Schuler, embody traits that can’t be learned (soft skills) and, in most cases, rank very desirable when it comes to the workplace. As it turns out, the same traits that make creatives seem flakey, ungrounded and sometimes, just plain ‘out there,’ also make them unstoppable, passionate, committed and innovative. Why? Because creatives rely heavily on that too-often overlooked professional muscle: gut.

So, how does being part of the creative class make you #StandApart?

1.    You’re never one-sided

It might seem like a 180-degree shift in viewpoint, but that’s because you have the ability to quickly synthesize lots of information – and never get stymied in any one. Instead, Milhay says that being creative means you show: “fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas.”

2.    You weather storms

When the rest of the team is sweating (or cracking) under the pressure of a major corporate shift, you just seem to be going with the flow. That’s because creative-types move much more easily between “imagination and fantasy” (we’ll all lose our jobs) and a rooted sense of reality (this will improve operations in the long run). 

3.    You have stamina

That extra long walk at lunch or the 2-hour brainstorm session – they don’t equate to work not done. In fact, just the opposite: “despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not.”

4.    You get back up

As Schuler writes, “Most creative people are very passionate about their work, but remain extremely objective about it as well. They are able to admit when something they have made is not very good.” You take criticism and you improve on it.

5.    You really love the work

Perhaps your most important quality, “the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals,” says Milhay, “is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake.”  In other words, you’re in it.

As Schuler says, “what appears to be a contradiction on the surface is actually a harmony in disguise.” Sure, the creatives on your team seem complex: they’re responsible and irresponsible; they’re flakey but they get the job done; they share thoughts and take actions that seem to fall on complete opposites end of the spectrum. But in the end, they’re there, they deliver and they’re truly committed and impassioned with the mission.

What do you think? Are you scattered, unfocused or a bona-fide creative? Could releasing your inner creative help you #StandApart? If you identify as a creative, would improving your communication help you be better understood by your peers?