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“Without resistance, there is no fire.”

Anne Bogart

(To learn more about Anne and her contribution to theater look here.)

There is a lot of talk in business right now about creativity and the need for more of it in industry. In Steven Kotler’s book The Rise of Superman he cites research that creativity is one of the most important elements in a CEO. “The quality most desirable in a CEO? According to a global survey conducted by IBM of 1500 top executives in sixty countries: creativity.” Steven Kotler.

Without getting into a debate about what they mean by “creativity” (which would be really annoying), I’m curious about why it is so hard to be creative in general.

When I look at my own life, I am struck by how often I lean away from discomfort. Do I actively want to join a group that is made up of total strangers? Do I try new things that I have no prior knowledge or experience doing? How often to I allow myself to feel that particular discomfort of resistance, either with others or when I am alone? What is my discipline around connecting with anything new?

Despite the stories that I like to tell my self about how brave I am, an honest assessment of my day is less generous. I like to think that I do make connections with my creative side, but much of my life (and modern life in general) is built around avoiding that friction that might cause us to feel something unsettling.

And this is without working in a corporate environment that can sometimes be stifling and controlling.

Creativity requires something of us. Martha Graham talks about tapping into the “life-force” which can be “translated through you into action.” In her experience you couldn’t block out your feelings or your impulses if you wanted to be creative. “You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

(And she was pretty creative.)

The more that we suppress those urges and the less that we lean into the discomfort and the tension of new thinking, the less creative we feel and the less innovative we are. Companies and leaders who nurture a culture of fear of mistakes, insistence on conformity and a distaste for any tension among people will always benefit from having a safe environment. They just need to stop asking for the fire and the creativity from their teams.

But let’s not put it on “the man.” If we genuinely want to feel more creative and experience the excitement and the spark of our own imagination, we will need to look to our own behavior. Where is the resistance in front of us? Are we leaning into it or moving away? Are we actively choosing and planning situations that invoke something in us? Do we risk anything during the course of the day?

If all we seek is safety in our lives, then that is exactly what we will get, at the risk of actually experiencing our life. If we want that spark and that creative fire, then we will need to take the chance and experience the friction of our own resistance to the power within us.

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