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Three ideas from Creative Confidence

Self-efficacy, Figureoutability and Mileage

Creative Confidence

Recently, I read Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley, then taught some of the key concepts at my "How to be more creative in work + life" sessions for Total Life Complete.

There are many useful ideas in the book, and no doubt there will be a longer blog post describing them in more detail. For now I want to share three that have stuck with me:

  1. Self-efficacy - belief in your ability to do a task
  2. Figureoutability - the belief that you'll be able to figure out something you don't know how to do
  3. Mileage - the ability to increase quality and creativity through repeated cycles.

1. Self Efficacy

In the book, the Kelley Brothers define Creative Confidence as:

The ability to come up with new ideas
and the courage to try them out

Underpinning the idea of creative confidence is psychologist Albert Bandura's work on self-efficacy. Bandura found, for example, that the best way to help someone overcome a fear of snakes, was in small steps....sitting in next room to a snake, standing in the doorway to a room containing a snake, and then finally touching the snake. Bandura found that once a person touched the snake, not only would their fear of snakes go away, but they'd gain increased confidence to take on challenges in other parts of life too.

Creative Confidence describes a similar situation with creativity: if you guide people through small creative challenges of increasing difficulty, they'll not only become more creative, but also change the way they look at life in a positive way.

I've seen a similar effect, when I used to teach Consulting 101 to entry level management consultants over an intense 5 day period. It was amazing to see the transformation, as the participants were put through their paces in groups to complete a series of challenges based on what they'd just learned. As well as increasing their confidence in problem solving, they also learned how to quickly and effective work in teams, how to think on their feet and how to present concisely..... We all got a lot out of those sessions, me as much as the students, it was fun, left a lasting impression and formed the basis of many great working relationships.

Creative confidence comes from having a bias for action. You can't think your way to creative confidence.Through various types of experiments with formats and events with Total Life Complete, I've seen that it's possible to increase a person's creative confidence in a short period. An hour or so. But the key to sustaining it, is to "do the homework". To find small challenges in life and work in the days and weeks after the session that build on the initial awakening of confidence. In short, you must build a mini-track record. A byproduct of doing so, will be the belief in the inherent figureoutability of stuff.

2. Figureoutability

Marie Forleo is commonly credited with the quote "Everything is figureoutable", and I'm not sure where I first heard the, but the concept is certainly in the spirit of and related to Creative Confidence.


Figureoutability, for me, is the belief that the key challenges in doing something new, will present themselves, and be resolvable by normally competent person who is willing to work at it.

After all, most of us are not trying to split the atom, but to do a new, incremental thing that will help us in life and/or work.

I've found, that the most difficult challenges to overcome, are the ones in our own mind, not those relating to the mechanics of a specific task. For example, I often tell my students to produce a short video about themselves talking about something they are passionate about.

How would you react to that assignment? Some of us might be stopped in our tracks, by the fact that we've never shot a video before. We might spend our time worrying about whether what we'll produce will be any good.

Others will pick up their smartphone and get started. For this second group, what could likely happen is that they'll have a difficulty lit, disjointed video with poor sound...but be a million miles ahead of the first group.

You see, lighting, a script and a better microphone are easy tactical fixes that are easily researchable and findable-to both groups-but the second group will have the incentive to actually solve those problems, because, for them, they have the problems in the real world... and thus produce a much better second take, while the first group will be still be thinking about how to start. After a while, you'll realize that most things are figureoutable. Start first, figure out as you go along, else risk never starting at all.

3. Mileage

Mileage is simply the idea that to become generally proficient–and often express that through increased creativity in the eyes of others–you need to have been through a number of cycles of solving a problem. The more different stuff you've seen and done, the more effective and you'll be. The key here is different. Doing 2 different things actually gives you, not 2, but three or more experiences. Your imagination can triangulate your two experiences into different combinations of the above. The more different experiences you have, the field of possibilities increases exponentially.

In consulting, I was humble enough to know that the value I added for clients wasn't just my own genius somehow, but the fact that I'd done so many shapes and sizes of projects over time. There is a form of creativity and value that comes from simply doing a lot of things, and making mistakes, and learning.

As a somewhat reformed thinker-procrastinator i recognize in myself when I'm going into a recursive loop of thinking. When I'm trying to solve a problem with too many unknowns. The only way out is to do something. To write a note or a blog post, or talk to somebody about what I'm doing. To get another perspective, and to make something not quite there that I can react to an make better.