Jack of Trades: How Cross-Disciplinary Skills Enhance Creativity

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According to Sire Ken Robinson, “Being creative is not only a matter of inspiration. It requires skill, craft in the control of materials and a reciprocating process of critical evaluation.” I was always more of a jack of all trades. Most jacks have talent but lack focus. In retrospect it might have been my bliss keeping me at the periphery of my vocation. It still baffles me to this day: how did the choices I make throughout my career lead me down this path and how I was able to leverage all of my experience into something meaningful and focused? The truth is that I wasn’t, until I started finding focus by writing this book. But I wanted to know how. That certainly is the idea that I’ve proposed to explore. I’m still not sure I have complete focus. But I have a vision. Perhaps the dark side of having a visionary mind is self-doubt. I was good at many things but I was always afraid of failure. I yearned to be a master of various domains but I could never complete anything great. The advice I was given was to plod along until I figured something out as if my vocation would emerge from the depths of my psyche. Sounds poetic but I don’t know if that’s how it happened. Or was it? Did my vocation find me? Regardless I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew that I wanted to be great and to evolve my creativity.

Like many people I went through the motions of going to college even though had no idea what I wanted to major in. What I did know was that I wanted to do something unique. But like everyone else I was also pressured to learn a practical skill set—something that I could actually use after school to get a decent job. I didn’t want to major in business because it didn’t interest me enough at the time. I was interested in girls and partying but there weren’t any courses on that so I majored in something that was somewhat creative, somewhat practical, and just downright easy—Communication. This allowed me to learn about media, journalism, and the way people collaborate with one another. I learned about countless theories of mass-communication, interpersonal communication, and sociology. It all pointed to the same concept no matter how much I intellectualized it. Subject A, the sender, delivers a message to Subject B, the receiver. Apparently there were about a thousand ways to say this and we had to know every single theory to pass our tests. Social networking didn’t exist so I was forced to make practical connections to these lofty theories.

Around this time I became interested in personal development. I began to read Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Napoleon Hill, among many others. I started to make it a priority to know myself. I was always a soul-searcher—interested in expanding my mind through philosophy, psychology, and exploring the meaning of consciousness. I was also very interested in the idea of destiny. This is why I have always been so fascinated with mythology and superheroes.

It was also important for me to work in an environment in which I could develop my writing skills. The university environment was of course ideal for this. I enjoyed writing papers because I appreciated the process of critical and analytical thinking. Putting words to paper in meaningful ways made me feel smart. I remember writing term papers for my roommate in freshman year just because I wanted to prove to that I had the skill set to think in creative and analytical ways and perhaps to be a pseudo intellectual. By putting myself in a growth-mindset I naturally started to get more interested in the courses that were offered. I didn’t think that I was meant to do something meaningful with my life. I just enjoyed exploring meaning. I was always more of a tortured and conflicted soul, always pondering the purpose of my existence and beating myself up about mistakes or bad decisions I made. Little did I know there was tremendous value in this—value that could be created from a universal need to understand the world. In a sense a brand’s value can be enhanced by understanding universal similarities between all people. I did not know this at the time but it was the connections we created between ourselves and others and the values that we share with one another no matter what technology platform or smart-device we utilize that drives value for any brand.

I was always creative but I never found the right medium to express my creativity. Writing was a fine medium, but I didn’t have the stick-to-itiveness to even finish a short story. I did write a thirty page autobiography in a mentorship course that showed some promise according to my professor. “You have a unique writing style—extremely visceral and engaging,” he wrote.

I received my B.A. in Communication and eventually my M.F.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco. Good school. At the time I didn’t know why I was enticed toward writing but I followed my bliss and my education ended up being the foundation of my innovation platform. It was probably one of the more challenging phases in my life. This is because I was working full-time for an international broadcast media company called ABS-CBN International as an Account Executive selling advertising and integrated marketing promotions. It’s ironic that I was selling television campaigns when my passion was always in creative production. This is where I learned about the media and advertising business while I took evening courses, reading voraciously while working on my thesis. I was just trying to find my way in a highly competitive industry. Perhaps there was a reason why my vocation remained in my periphery. At that time I didn’t know what that even meant.

My master’s thesis was a postmodern novel about spiritual, personal, and metaphysical transformation told in the style of a grand epic mythology and modern allegory but set in the present day underworld of Los Angeles, California. I was honing my creative writing skills everyday—not only by going through the rigors of writing five to ten pages a day but also by reading other student’s work as well as countless masterpieces written by literary geniuses. This fueled my creative passions and the experience of writing this novel was a profound exploration of the depths of the unconscious and the realization of one’s destiny. It was one of those cases in which I lived through the narrator I was writing about. I was able to explore my own spirituality through my protagonist’s trials and tribulations.

During this time I became aware of my creative rhythm—when I was most productive, when I would hit creative walls, and when I was deeply in the zone. I also made an important discovery, that by studying mythology and depth psychology, I was learning how to tap into my unconscious, learning how to dialogue with the work that inspired me and leveraging that which inspired me to strengthen my ability to produce work with more depth and authenticity. The more I understood that myths were symbols of transformation, meaningful archetypes, and images from deep within our unconscious minds, my creative imagination was enhanced and I was clearly inspired to create remarkable work.

I also learned how important it was to workshop and collaborate with other creative artists and to develop a respectful culture of innovation through these workshops in which we would critique each other’s work. People who don’t write books don’t understand how brutal the process of ruthless iteration and revision can be. This process is just as arduous as it is fulfilling. Workshops are an extremely important setting to break through and overcome creative challenges and I conduct them to this day and recommend it to any organization as a format to innovate their brand and business processes. In these workshops it was extremely important to point out what was working with each creative piece that was shared in the group. I absolutely hate it when I ask for feedback for a creative project and all I get back is corrections and questions about things that don’t seem to be working. When you create a workshop environment it is critical to provide each person with feedback about what is working—which is sometimes far more important than telling them what is not. I got my MFA in Writing from USF, but it was really more like a Masters in Creativity. I kept wanting to explore this essence of innovation–how creative materials manifest from the unconscious. I wanted to dig deeper into the imagination.

I’d been working on the book in small stints since about 2007. But it really started to kick into gear in December of 2010, when I decided to focus my efforts on building a platform with a collection of all of my ideas, all of my favorite quotes and musings, and pretty much all of my insights about creativity through the years. The experiment was to see if an overarching idea would manifest through the process of curating hundreds of great ideas about design, the creative process, and the psychology of branding and innovation. This was a slow hunch that had been simmering in me as far back as in college, when I first read James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

There was something about this archetype of how ideas travel from the unconscious, into the imagination, and get expressed onto the world. Strip away the form, and you still have its essence. This process is metaphysical in nature, and it fascinated me–how ideas jump from physical to psychological to digital planes, and beyond. I needed to understand this invisible essence, how the process works, and how it shapes business, industries, the world, and ourselves. Mindshare evolved from brand awareness–which is merely the result of four other essential elements: creative commerce, collective intelligence, consciousness, and optimal experience.

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