Most of the highly creative people I know aren’t known for their Zen-like patience. These are the kind of people you wish would sprinkle a little Ritalin in their morning coffee.
Or even better, their morning chamomile and raspberry-infused tea.
They are hyper thinkers and tinkerers.
But most of these creatives don’t fall under the ever-evolving ADD diagnosis.
They are simply unimpressed with the status quo. They are looking for new connections. Better ways of expressing ideas. Smarter ways of putting ideas to work or play.
Here’s an example in advertising. A client may love a certain commercial in his or her industry. But as a creative, I know that particular commercial is an idea that JC Penny did this year that “adapted” the idea from an older Walmart commercial, who “adapted” it from an even older Target commercial.
The adage “nothing new under the sun” won’t sway a creative from trying to fight the gravity of the expected or the already done to death.
So, as a group, we aren’t all patient with what’s already been done. Especially, when it was done incredibly well already.
Creative people tend to be hyperactive because they are fueled by curiosity, the desire to do something unique, by a competitive spirit, and a sense that good enough isn’t.
Now for the patience part.
Ironically, most of the creatives also have deep reservoirs of patience. It often comes in the form of perfectionism or “making it great.” A really good designer may spend hours and hours looking at not just a good photograph but just the right one.
In Inotivity sessions, I tell participants I don’t want them to be patient in the creation of ideas. But I want them to be patient in the selection and the development of ideas.
So there are two skill sets in becoming a better creative -- impatience and patience. Some times you can compensate for not having one of the skill sets by collaborating with someone who does.
Developing patience: A guide for impatient creatives.
Now, I'm assuming that you had the patience to actually get this far in the blog.
I was wrangled into patience by one particular game. Love words. Not so fond of numbers. So when Sudoku became the rage, I reluctantly gave it a try, Didn’t like it.
For me, it was the equivalent of volunteering to take an SAT test.
If you aren’t familiar with Sudoku, it’s most commonly a 9 x 9 grid composed of nine 3X3 smaller grids. Yes, there are a lot of 9s going on. The object is to insert the numbers in the boxes to satisfy only one condition: each row, column and 3x3 box must contain the digits 1 through 9 exactly once. The big grid or puzzle is partially filled out.
Now, I played it. Filled out the entire puzzle and discovered I put in a lot of wrong numbers. Tried it again and same result. But rather than toss the book away, I game myself the challenge of figuring it out.
It didn’t take long. I soon finished the next ten puzzles without a single error.
The key is simple. You can’t guess.
You have to find ways to “verify” that you are putting the right number in the right box. You look horizontally. You look vertically. You look within the smaller 3 x 3 grids. Basically you eliminate possibilities.
I became successful at Sudoku because patience was a requirement. Patience here is not guessing, leapfrogging, or making assumptions without verifying.
The amazing side effect of this enforced patience was that I became remarkably relaxed and focused. It was an antidote to the high-flying histrionics of developing 100+ ideas for a project in less than an hour.
This isn’t a plea to get you to play Sudoku, get to a higher level on Angry Birds or learn how to groom a feral cat, but it’s opportunity to explore how to develop patience when you need it. Like creativity, it can become an equally powerful approach to solving problems.
I have even applied the same patience training to the game of kings, chess. I have won 10 times against a computer set on novice, but frankly, now that I’m a patient man, I may move up to Grandmaster.
Just give me a few hundred years.