Start Your Training

006: Building a Volume of Creative Ideas and a Tolerance for Failure

podcast Nov 16, 2020

On this episode of the High Flow Lifestyle podcast I explore how a tolerance of failure is an important part of building a volume of creative ideas, we have to put in the reps, build the skills, then we can enter the creative flow state. 

New Family Flow Activities

We were recently down in Naples, Florida visiting my mom, and after what felt like hours of Youtube research on surfing and skimboarding, we decided to give it a try. My daughter Miana was particularly interested in it and because the waves aren’t really that big in Naples we went to a local surf shop and got her a 15$ beginner’s wooden skimboard. I didn’t even know skimboarding was a thing but it’s a highly creative water sport similar to skateboarding, where they do a lot of tricks like spinning the board around, changing directions etc.  

We brought it with us to the beach and she spent hours on it! My son Hawk, who is a few years younger tried it a few times and found the challenge to be bigger than he thought and this sort of killed his interest in it. I pushed a little and said he had to at least give it a few more tries and he begrudgingly did. The timing just wasn’t right for him. But after multiple trips to the ocean again, Miana has decided this was in her wheelhouse and gets a tremendous amount of joy from running back and forth on the shore, slowly trying new tricks and pushing herself farther each time. After doing it over and over again she has found a new way of expressing herself and her creativity, and added another piece to her identity. It has become a part of her and something she can say is a representation of who she is. 

For my son the challenge was too big and it got in the way of him developing an intrinsic motivation to continue with it. We’ll return to it later on when the skills/challenge balance is a little closer and see how he takes to it. I tell him it’s more about timing, and he shouldn’t feel like he’s just not good at it. I did it too but her board was fit to her size and was way too small for me, so yeah, I’m going with the size of the board as the main problem with many failed attempts. It was really fun though and I’m looking forward to doing it again, with a board my size.  

Difficulties Building a Volume of Experiences

But therein lies the problem, we’re back in Buffalo now and no warm oceans around us here. We don’t get the chance to build up a volume of experiences with skimboarding. I feel bad for Miana because she really took to the ocean sport and she now can’t build those practices she needs to excel at it.  

Although I think in terms of creativity as being a state of consciousness as opposed to a skill set, we need to develop skills in a particular medium in order to explore and enhance our creativity. When you are truly creating you are in a state of flow, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are creative across various genres. Lebraun James is in flow and creative when he’s on the basketball court, but give him a paint brush, who knows. Similarly, just because someone has learned how to use the tool, in this case a paint brush, doesn’t mean they are creative or can use that tool to access flow.  

It's Not Talent, It's Practice

Successful entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and famous musicians all go through the same process of building a large volume of ideas. We like to think they are just gifted or are naturally good at their work, but the reality is they are producing more than the average person and therefore have a larger pool of ideas to choose from in selecting their best. Even Mozart, who like to think of as some type of supernatural being that was just gifted, produced a tremendous amount of average music that we don’t hear about because it just wasn’t memorable. But he needed to create those unremarkable works in order to find his best work. 

And sometimes we don’t always get to choose what those best works are. If musicians or entrepreneurs new what ideas or songs were going to be a hit they would simply duplicate that process over and over and create number 1’s every time. But this doesn’t happen.  

Developing a Tolerance for Failure

We do need to develop a tolerance of failure and remember that it isn’t permanent and it doesn’t carry into the future. We haven’t been successful at all of our business ventures, but continuing to try new things and small pivots has been important. Even within our restaurants, developing different systems and then having to change them, coming up with new specials and marketing and seeing what works and what doesn’t. It’s a constant changing situation of trial and error, then evaluation, and trial again. All the while researching and evaluating what worked and didn’t work. This is how we have built up a small amount of tolerance for failure. Not being attached to the failures. 

So there is no happy ending on our journey with skimboarding, but it’s more of a to be continued. For the time being with winter setting in here we will all have to divert our creative energy into something else.  

Creativity Exercise

So here is a little exercise for you to get your creative juices flowing, it will push you to get out all of the basic things that spring up quickly so you can then allow your brain and body to make deeper connections between ideas. 

  • In 10 minutes, I want you to come up with a list of 35 round things.  

Take a 1-minute break and stretch, do some jumping jacks, shakes things up a bit.  

  • Then for another 10 minutes, make a list of 35 things you are curious about. 

Afterwards, pick out the best 5 in each list. This exercise will help you develop your creativity and push you to go beyond the basic answers. I try to do it every once in awhile with random things like colors, shapes, words etc.

I know it might not seem like a productive use of time, but it’s training your brain to go beyond the basic connections and can help your creativity and idea generation in a variety of situations.  

I hope you understand the necessity and power of creating a large body of creative ideas and that a tolerance for failure is part of it. You should realize that your big ideas are still out there, but actually they are in there, they just need to be drawn out.  


The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin



Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.