Being Successful Means Being Creative: 4 Ways You’re Squelching Your Success

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On September 3, 2013

One of the most common character traits that successful entrepreneurs have is that they are creative. That doesn’t mean successful people necessarily have a talent for painting, drawing, designing, writing, or any of the other things we often associate with creativity. It does mean that they have the ability to look at things a little differently than most people.

In business, creativity often shows itself when someone sees the real problem—instead of just the symptom. And successful business people are often the ones who see a solution to a problem that nobody else sees.

There’s a great scene in the movie Apollo 13 in which the astronauts are losing oxygen and have to create an oxygen scrubber out of whatever materials they have on board the space capsule. The NASA crew on the ground frantically goes to work using only materials that can be found in the capsule, and they finally come up with a “Rube Goldberg” contraption. It’s not pretty. It will never win any design awards. But it’s extremely creative—because it works!

Chances are that your business faces creative challenges like this. You may not be artistically inclined, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be creative. You just have to look at things a little differently. We have that ability, but we often suppress it, or let things get in the way of using it. Here are four ways you may be suppressing your innate creativity—and squelching your success.

1. Disbelief: Sometimes we simply tell ourselves that we can’t do something. We make excuses such as: I’m too old. I’m too young. I don’t have the resources. It would never work. Who would listen to me? We refuse to listen to that inner voice that tells us we’re onto something. Don’t get me wrong: not every idea we have is viable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dream and pursue our dreams.

2. Immeasurable results: It’s hard to stay excited about a new idea if you don’t see results. But it’s also important to make sure you know what results you’re looking for. Determining specific metrics for success up front helps you to know if you’re accomplishing your goals. If you can’t measure it, how do you know whether it’s a success or a failure?

3. Lack of discipline: There’s a big difference between dreams and daydreams. Making a real dream come true involves a lot of work—and a disciplined approach. A lot of making a dream come true requires disciplining yourself to work on your dream. Sometimes there’s a lot of monotony in that. It doesn’t seem very “creative.” But you need to go through the disciplines of making some assumptions and then testing those assumptions. And a big part of fulfilling a dream is having the discipline to say no to other things (projects, investments, etc.) that will take you away from what you need to be doing.

4. Fear of failure: Nobody likes to fail. It feels terrible. But it’s essential for success. If you don’t have any failures, you probably haven’t tested your idea fully. We all know the famous quote from Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We can argue semantics, but Edison’s point is clear. If you’re going to be creative, you’re going to fail. It’s part of the process. Get used to it. You don’t have to like failure, but if you want to succeed, you can’t let a fear of failing keep you from trying.

Creativity isn’t about being flashy or pretty. It’s about looking at things differently than anybody else and having the discipline to test and refine your idea until you know it works. What’s your idea?

By the way, you might enjoy checking out this video on creativity that talks about why business leaders should think like artists!