Reawakening the Beginner's Mind

Eric Wahl was the keynote speaker at our Epsilon Symposium today, giving us a thought-provoking look into how we need to unthink our way to being more creative.  Even as a card-carrying creative, who knows quite well how creativity has been ‘schooled out’ of most people, I was moved by his presentation, and his insights.

Did you know, for example, that the mere scent of crayons can help lower our blood pressure by 10 points? How amazing is that?  As he proudly showed us his box of 64 Crayolas (with the built-in sharpener, of course) I smiled and thought of my own box of 64 sitting back in my office in Chicago. I loved that this guy saw the same magic in that box that I do.  

He asked the audience how many people can draw, and only about 3 hands went up. (Part of that was probably because nobody wanted to be part of an audience participation event where they had to get up in front of 300 people and draw, but part of it is absolutely that they’ve “learned” that they cannot draw.)  When he asks high schoolers that question, as you might expect, a lot more of them raise their hands. And when he asks preschoolers? Every hand is raised. Of course they can draw.

When we’re young — when we’re beginners — we believe.   And we haven’t yet been told what we can’t do, and what we’re not good at.  For Eric, it took decades for him to come back to being an artist, after being told, and him believing, that he wasn’t.

It isn’t easy to swim upstream, but for some of us, it was likely made easier by parents or teachers who championed our creative talents.  I was told I was creative my whole life.  And my parents knew I was a writer way back in the third grade.  So did I.

Twenty years into this amazing career, I realize how lucky I am that I have a creative talent that was supported, and nurtured, because frankly, I can’t imagine having missed a single moment of it. Creativity is everything to me, in many different forms: from writing, to drawing, to solving business problems, to selling my ideas — there are endless outlets and avenues.

Eric posed a beautiful question to us all today — “how are you going to reawaken the beginner’s mind?”  I love this idea.  The confidence and certainty that you see in the face of a child with a crayon in his hand who KNOWS he can draw is powerful.  Even those of us who have been ‘creative’ for decades need to embrace this ‘beginner’s” mentality, because it takes us back to that place and time when we truly believed.  Back when our own opinion of what we were capable of, and our own assessment of how good we were, was all that mattered.  Long before we allowed doubt to creep into our minds, or the opinions of others to hold us back, when we knew we were powerful beyond measure.  THAT is where we need to begin.  And when we do that, as Eric suggests, we stop insulating ourselves against risk and start allowing ourselves to be truly free.  And that freedom is the absolute birthplace of our creativity.