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Be Creative! : Attitude

Creativity & Attitude

By Lance Gallup

While I'm primarily addressing musicians and other creative types in these little rants, many principles are common to all humanity and apply as well to engineers and bus drivers as they do to musicians and artists. One such principle, much maligned and overlooked is the principle of maintaining a positive attitude.

It's been said that man is the only creature born to the world in a natural state of disorientation. While other animals are immediately controlled by instinct — unaware of the possibilities and unable to question their inner drive — human beings have an awareness of themselves and their environment, and a godlike ability to create and to find meaning in that creativity. Show an M.C. Escher print to a person and they'll likely look at it and try to ascribe to it some interpretation or meaning. Same with a piece of Stravinsky's music — love it or hate it, you're still aware that there's something more there beyond mere sound. Show the Escher print or play the Stravinsky for a horse or a chimpanzee and you'll get a far different reaction.

It's this awareness and this creative potential that sets us apart from the other animals on this planet. You have no choice but to be creative — like it or not, you exercise this ability every moment of every day, in every action of your life. Each action is a choice, a decision, each decision defines a pattern — the pattern that eventually becomes your world and the space in which you live your life. For many people, this process is more or less an unconscious game of follow-the-leader in which large numbers of people copy each other — social customs, styles and clothing, politics, religion, music, culture and so on. A very small minority ever stop to deeply consider what it is they're doing and why they're doing it, never mind buck the trends or try things a different way. Ironically, it's many of those rebels who become the visionaries, the creative leaders that the masses eventually end up following.

Ephesians 5:15 admonishes "see that you walk circumspectly." The word translated circumspectly here in the original language can also be translated as the word "accurately." Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. Life is often compared to navigating a boat ("picture yourself in a boat on a river...") Assuming your desire is to reach a spot on the opposite bank, a certain amount of planning and effort are required. If you simply push off from shore, lay down for a nap and let the current handle things it's unlikely you will ever reach your destination. The unfortunate navigator, upon waking from his slumber to discover his craft being pulled by strong currents toward rocks and white water may suddenly grab an oar and start paddling for all he's worth, but by then it may be too late. The gentle stream has become a boiling current and has taken control of the journey, for better or worse.

Better instead to cultivate an attitude of thoughtfulness — to "live life like you mean it", to walk circumspectly, mindful that each decision in cause and effect fashion pours into an overall trend. Yes, it's easier to start each day in neutral and just react to the events and circumstances around us. The problem with that approach is that everybody else is doing it too and entropy becomes the order of the day. As any homeowner knows, growing a beautiful lawn takes a lot of effort — left to natural forces, a golf course quickly becomes a weed field.

The best place to start is with a positive attitude. There's something very powerful about attitudes, either good or bad. For example, have you ever noticed when you get a new car, suddenly you start seeing the same model or color everywhere you go? Do you suppose that, coincidentally, half the people in your area went out the same week and bought a red Jeep Grand Cherokee just like you? Of course not — you've just become more aware of that model, and your mind, amazing and mysterious biological computer that it is, sees your newfound interest and faithfully points out all the other Jeeps on the road. It works the same way with other things. Start your day with a sour "my life sucks" attitude and your mind will begin collecting data to support that premise. Things go wrong, your attitude gets worse and the process feeds on itself until pretty soon your life does suck. You've created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why not put a little conscious effort into going the other way instead? When something goes wrong, let it go, or look for the good in it. In this way you begin to build positive momentum. Your mind will start looking for data to support that attitude and pretty soon you'll find you're becoming "lucky" — when really, luck is just when preparedness meets opportunity, and opportunity is always present if you know where to look for it.

To sum it all up, I can't say it better than the master motivator, the late Earl Nightingale. In his program about attitude called "The Magic Word" he says this:

"Success or failure as a human being is not a matter of luck, or circumstance, or fate, or the breaks, or who you know — or any of the other tiresome, old myths and cliches by which the ignorant tend to excuse themselves. It's a matter of following a commonsense paradigm of rules — guidelines anyone can follow." •

© Lance Gallup 2006

Lance Gallup is a "singer, songwriter, guitarist and all around nice guy." His website is lancegallup.com.

9/4/06