The Hidden Truth About Creativity

“Choose a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think we’ve all heard that before. But, I think it’s bullshit. I love cooking, owning restaurants, and working with people every day. But, it’s very difficult at times. It’s long hours standing on your feet, doing repetitive tasks. It’s late nights and early mornings. It’s being behind the scenes. And, it’s a thankless job sometimes. But, it’s something that I truly love. It’s something that brings me happiness every day and it’s a happiness that I can share.

—Hari Cameron, chef1


Many popular articles make creative endeavors seem easy if you follow the recipe for their special sauce. Creative endeavors can be fun, but creating things that have the power to change is not easy.

Too often the playful mindset that is helpful for creation becomes fully conflated with childlike play. There are similarities, but the goal is often different: in business there is usually something that needs to be achieved; with children the playful act itself is the end goal.

Creating something of high value that lasts longer than the meme you saw on your Facebook wall this morning is hard.

Nobody has influenced the modern culinary landscape more than Ferran Adria: his restaurant elBulli was regularly ranked as the best in the world; he created new cooking techniques; he changed what modern chefs thought they were capable of and what they were allowed to do in the kitchen. His influence is felt in kitchens throughout the world today.

Even for a genius like Ferran Adria, the creative act—especially at the level that can become a game changer—is not easy. Speaking at the MAD Symposium in 2012, Adria told the audience:

Creativity is hard. To do it at the highest levels—if you decide to do it—it’s not a game. Creativity doesn’t have compassion. Those of you who are here and are creative, it has no compassion for you if you dedicate yourself to it at the highest level. If you want to play at this level—at Noma’s level, at elBulli’s level—there’s gonna be no compassion for you. And, it doesn’t matter how much passion you have for it.2

Creative solutions aren’t things that come easily. But, an easy, sudden solution is often the myth we perpetuate in business. Kevin Ashton, the inventor of the term Internet of Things, writes about this myth:

Businesses are built by magic touch. Something is not, then is. We do not see the road from nothing to new, and maybe we do not want to. Artistry must be misty magic, not sweat and grind. It dulls the luster to think that every elegant equation,  beautiful painting,  and brilliant machine is born of effort and error, the progeny of false starts and failures, and that each maker is as flawed, small, and mortal as the rest of us. It is seductive to conclude that great innovation is delivered to us by miracle via genius. And so the myth.3

Sometimes innovations seem to come suddenly, but the solution is the result of hard work that came before it.

Being able to create new things of value is a lifestyle choice. It’s not much different than staying in shape: it requires dedication, perseverance, and routine. You have to want it enough to persevere through the hard work.

And, it’s passion that makes you persevere. But, passion isn’t all fun and games. It’s the innate willingness—it can’t be forced—to do what it takes to produce excellence. Daniel Humm—the chef of Eleven Madison Park, which is currently ranked the best in the world on the popular World’s 50 Best list—expressed the inherently difficult nature of passion better than anyone else I’ve seen in his profile in Esquire. Jeff Gordiner, the author of the article, writes:

As we finish our meal at I Sodi, Humm tells me that he’s got a passion for food, a passion for cooking, and I barely pay attention to this, at first, because it seems like a generic thing to say. Then he puts down a glass of wine and explains that when he uses the word passion, he’s referring to a German word: leidenschaft. Break down the word and it means something more along the lines of “enjoy suffering.”

“That would be my translation,” he says. “Passion is not something pleasant. Are you willing to suffer for this? That’s when you have passion. Otherwise, it’s a hobby. Passion is not a hobby.”4

True creativity comes from true passion. Finding out what your truly care about is a key to developing game-changing creative output.

When you do discover your passion, here are 10 tips to help you turn it into a creative lifestyle.

And, when the going gets tough, remember: even the world’s greatest geniuses never found it to be easy.


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