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The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice Paperback – August 27, 2013
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“Mr. Henry’s prescription for maximizing productivity is sagacious, innovative, and sublimely practical. The Accidental Creative is high-octane fuel for creative productivity.”
—Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art
About the Author
Todd Henry is the founder and CEO of Accidental Creative, a consultancy that helps organizations generate brilliant ideas. In 2006 he started The Accidental Creative, one of the top business podcasts. Henry is a sought-after speaker, consultant, and coach.
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A fair amount of the things in this book are things that probably should've been obvious to me but I was somehow missing. A lot of it also seems initially counterintuitive and/or countercultural. Actually, a lot of his points were all of the above. For example, the author strenuously argues that overbooking yourself dramatically interferes with our creativity. He especially focuses on tasks that give us a short-term gain or "win" at the expense of long-term productivity (e.g. checking email compulsively to respond slightly faster instead of focusing on an important project or squeezing in "just one more" meeting). Our culture has glorified that kind of behavior - the assumption seems to be that if you're not exhausted, you're probably not working hard enough (and whoever's the most exhausted and overscheduled wins). (Brene Brown talks about the same phenomenon in "The Gifts of Imperfection"). We're so busy frantically trying to keep our heads above water with the daily tasks that the bigger picture of excellence and innovation get lost in the shuffle.
He warns about sacrificing effectiveness on the alter of efficiency and short-term gains. Creativity often requires doing tasks that seem inefficient at first glance; for example, he advocates spending an hour a week just thinking, and spending time with play and developing relationships. (Not to give it away but he advocates spending time on a very specific kind of relationship, the kind that can challenge us to do our best work). It also requires us to manage our energy well; for example, can you REALLY manage on 5 - 6 hours of sleep?
In a way, I was initially disappointed that he didn't just give me the "quick techniques" that would help me start being more creative right now. Actually, he argues that that kind of instant gratification and quick fix thinking is part of the problem. Yes, you really do have to prune things from your life. He takes you through discovering what your goals really are and identifying activities that are no longer helping you. This was really helpful to me actually because I tend to start doing activities that are helpful and continue to do them long after they're not helping me move forward; I currently have 3 - 4 commitments in my life that aren't helping me move forward but I'm afraid to let go of. (In some cases, I've held on to things that were actively harming me simply because I was afraid to let them go). Or, in some cases, you may even end up abandoning things that really are good and helpful in favor of things that are even better for you.
My big takeaway is that creativity happens to the prepared. This isn't a book where you can implement a few quick tips and carry on with your life as you were living it. Odds are, you really will have to prune your schedule some and be more selective in what you take on. You might have to get more sleep and do a better job managing your energy. You'll probably have to examine what's really important to you in your job and in your life as a whole. But if you do what he suggests, you'll be prepared.
And now here is "why" of I love this book ....
I think this book is great if you are a creative in the commercial world (ie writer, artist, etc). I don't think it would be as helpful if you have what would be considered traditionally a non-creative job. It's really geared for those trying to avoid burn out and how to maintain the creative "flow" or always being on with some sort of consistency. These are pretty universal problems to most people in these types of jobs AND the book gives some practical everyday advice on how to manage/find creativity when you need to depend on it.
Read the book to see how it applies to you (but only if you are in a creative field.)
Before reading his book, I felt that the three main limiting factors in life and career were time, money and energy. Of the three, I thought that time was the largest constraint. Mr. Henry argues that energy, and its preservation and deployment, is the constraint that requires the most careful consideration. While considering his arguments, I found them persuasive.
He further contends that separation of career and personal life is a false dichotomy. Each aspect of one's life requires time, money and energy. Since these resources are limited, expenditures in one area of one's life, whether career or personal, limits the availability of these resources for deployment into other areas of one's life. The book considers the necessity of balancing one's personal life and career. This is a challenge that I, and I suspect many others, experience regularly.
The author argues that what one puts into your life affects the creative potential of what you will be able to produce. Or, to put it another way, what goes in will heavily affect what comes out of your career endeavors. He argues for pursuing broader intellectual interests as this might allow unexpected creative insights.
A certain amount of courage is required to avoid mediocrity. Inherently, risk accompanies traveling unfamiliar paths. Read the book to understand the author's mantra of "die empty."
I would not generally be considered a creative, but I found the author's approach readily applicable to the career that I have pursued. I found his suggestions and arguments, which are far more than I have discussed above, to be thoughtful and provocative. Many business books consist of 20-30 pages of useful material repeated 5 or 6 times (or more) with some variation in the information presented so there are 150 or more pages so the publisher has a book and not a magazine article to publish. Mr. Henry avoids this fault, provides useful guideposts for life and career and for these reasons I assigned 5 stars to the book. I encourage you to read it..
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Don't be fooled, it's not just for creative types.
The system presented for organizing ones schedule has literately transformed my...Read more
Like all of Todd's work, he has a calm, simple way to help you tackle some of the most monumental issues in our lives. Check out his podcast too.