Creativity | The Key to Success, Leadership, and Happiness.

Four years ago, I was completing my fourth 75th Ranger Regiment Selection process. I was with the Regimental Psychologist conducting my exit interview. The 75th had done extensive psychological testing during each of my four times through the selection process, and as part of that testing, we took an IQ test. I felt I had not performed as well on this IQ test as I had on the other three, and I asked the psychologist to pull my scores from previous selections. The psychologist granted my request, and my suspicions were confirmed. My IQ test score had diminished a few points in the most recent test compared to the other three. In my opinion, the reason for this is a lack of creativity and art. I’ll explain.

The definition of creativity is; the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Creativity and art are a part of everything, and I think sometimes we lose sight of this. Some would argue that math and science are more important, and that is a valid argument. It is wrong, but valid. Math, science, shop, woodworking, history, the list goes on, do not exist without creativity. Creative thinking is applied to the disciplines mentioned above and results in products, services, and ideas. Without an innovative, creative mind, nothing is possible. Everything started as a creative idea: the car you drive, the house you live in, the book you are reading, the phone in your pocket, the bridge, interstate system, keyboard, mouse, shoes on your feet. After the idea, someone sketched it, drafted it, edited it, molded it, carved it, and eventually created it, whatever it is. All of the math and science in the world are useless without someone having the imagination to create. Now, how does this apply to my IQ?

The Army is a creative place. The Army is full of talented artists. We do not realize we are artists, but we are. Asking high school kids if they want to join the Army and be an artist doesn’t have the same appeal, but we are artists. Your recruiter just didn’t tell you this and probably a few other things. Think about it – your commander tells you he wants to conduct a live-fire exercise replicating a Columbian Drug Cartel facility. He wants you to build it from scratch and on a specific piece of terrain. You better be a creative person to figure all of that out. I did a lot of creating my first 12 years in the Army, creating training areas, training plans, and combat operations orders. As I progressed in rank, I created less and moved into a role as an approver. I was the one telling you what to build; I was removed from the creative process. I started doing more automated work, checking this block, updating this slide, unimaginative administrative work. The first time I put all of this together was during the IQ test. My brain was not creatively stimulated the way it used to be. I believe my removal from much of the creative process at work is the reason for my lower IQ scores.

For the past two years, I have made it a priority to cultivate my creativity. I started a family YouTube travel channel, the Leading With Vulnerability podcast, and this blog. I also went back to school to finish my undergraduate degree. All of these things have reinvigorated my mental sharpness. I still have times when creativity lapses, and I can see an almost immediate change in my mood and mental state. I can also see this in the people around me. Everyone knows the grumpy Command Sergeant Major or boss who is miserable to be around. Look close, and you will likely see someone who is not creating or being creative. In the examples of people I can think of, I know this is the case.

We need to pass creativity onto the next generation. If you are a parent, you know that the tyranny of the now can be a creativity killer for our kids. The phone, Ipad, XBOX, Playstation, and many other things remove our children from creativity. I acknowledge that those things can also stimulate a different and important side of creativity, but organic creativity is irreplaceable. What is organic creativity? Turn off the devices and go outside or to the playroom. Whining and moaning will ensue, or it does in my house, but after a few minutes, the creative mind takes over. Watching a child cultivate creativity is an inspiring thing to watch. Amazon boxes become forts, trees become monkey bars, wagons become space ships, and sticks become lightsabers. We can all learn something when watching a child be creative.

Don Barden, my friend, mentor, and author of the Perfect Plan, studied what makes people in our culture the elite 1%, and this is what he found:

“It can be a physical action, but to be part of the actual Creativity requires the act to morph into an emotion. It is a very special transformation. We discovered that much like Gratification, Creativity is a magnetizing emotion based on stimulation. When someone senses another person’s Creativity, they become magnetized by it and are stimulated to be with them.”

“Create. Don’t compete.”

How do we cultivate our creativity? Good news, you do not have to be an artist to cultivate creativity. Creativity can be found everywhere, and we have to be intentional about recognizing and nurturing it. If you are a deer hunter, create food plots, hunting locations, and take trail camera pictures. How many times have you said, “I’ll have to get creative to kill this old buck.” Football coaches create plays and practice plans, “we have to be more creative in our play calling.” Housewife, or Househusband (no bias here) create meal plans, juggle schedules and activities with your children. Journal, take photos, sketch, paint, or make a family movie. There are many ways to cultivate creativity, the key is intentionality. Be intentional about finding time at work, home, and recreation to be creative. If we want creative kids who communicate well and are not afraid to try new things, we must get their heads up from the devices. We have to set an example for them to follow in all things, and this includes creativity.

Have a great day, and go create something.