Developing creativity starts with knowing your toolkit

While it’s often hard to admit, we all get the shiny object syndrome when developing creativity.

Constantly looking for the tool that will make our lives so much easier and our jobs feel like a breeze. When that product comes to us we are mesmerized by how “shiny” it is and can’t wait to start using it.

And yet, the best glass of orange juice I ever had was fresh-squeezed by hand, not made in a factory by a million-dollar machine.

My favorite form of travel is walking, not taking a private jet (although I’ve yet to try it).

There are always going to be new tools with the proposition of “revolutionizing” the way you work. Some of them will live up to that lofty goal, while most will fall short.

So, how do you decide what tools are necessary to developing creativity? How do you know it is time to change your process?

The short answer is: don’t get caught up in what tools you need but focus on mastering the ones you already have.

While new tools can increase productivity, they can also be huge limiting factors. There’s a learning curve to every tool that holds you back from working.

Healthcare took its time developing creativity and adopting telemedicine

Creatives can learn from the healthcare industry, which notoriously takes its time embracing new technology.

Imagine hopping on a Skype call with your doctor. In essence, that’s telemedicine–diagnosing and treating patients from remote locations with video or text messaging. Every day, a group of surgeons here in the U.S. coach-general practitioners in Syria through procedures via phone, and it’s making a huge difference. There’s no reason this form of assisted healthcare can’t grow, breaking the formal, elongated process of visiting a hospital.

Remember making macaroni portraits with Elmer’s glue in Kindergarten? Well, some doctors and researchers in Germany realized how much they missed playing with glue, so they created surgical glue known as Adhesys. This polyurethane-based surgical sealant, used during surgery to seal arteries and blood vessels to minimize blood loss, has doctors and surgeons antsy to relive their childhood. In all seriousness, though, this is a huge breakthrough in medical procedures and will be a great surgical aid.

Both telemedicine and Adhesys are exciting tools that to the outsider seem to be widely implementable today. But, each is going through an intense vetting process right now. In fact,  we might not see either of these technologies commonly used by doctors until 2026 or even 2036!

I’m not encouraging you to stick to the same tools forever – don’t be the guy/gal that still sneezes in their hands instead of using a tissue.

But, when you see a new tool be a skeptic first. Read the reviews. Talk with other users before you spend a bunch of time learning and implementing it into your regimen.

The best surgeons aren’t amazing because of the tools they have. Instead, they’ve developed a relationship of mastery with their tools that is unparalleled.

Don’t let your tools define you.

If you feel at a loss for what amount of tools is a good amount, then you should follow Quick Theories, which is a brief, weekly email of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. You can sign up here: quicktheories.com

Robotic Arms And The Cyborg Olympics (Cybathlon)

Samsung TVs haven’t changed in 5 years. Cameras look the same as they did in the times of Ansel Adams. Hardware hasn’t progressed at all in comparison to the exponential growth of software, except for the hardware of robotic arms – which a competition called the Cybathlon is fueling. 

It’s not just robotic arms either. All prosthetics are making crazy advancements.

For many years, the choice was between leaving the residual limb or something along the lines of a hook or non-moving hand. No longer, though. Now there are robotic arms that sense muscle twitches in the residual limb allowing a wide range of functions. Once, the thought of grasping a water bottle was absurd. But, now one can cut their own steak, type on the computer, and perform a normal handshake.

Much of the prosthetic advancements were initially to aid paraplegic veterans. But, now a larger driving force is competition within the industry. And not a competition like Apple vs. Microsoft of the 80s. Literally their prosthetics face-off against one another in the Cybathlon, also known as the Cyborg Olympics.

The Cybathlon is a beautiful confluence of man and machine in a way you’ve never seen before, which had me thinking about cyborg sports.

How long before someone with robotic arms or other prosthetics reaches the professional level? Would administrators restrict them to only the Cybathlon? Can a “cyborg” train their body to be a greater athlete than the professionals of today? Would a “cyborg baller” do LeBron’s pre-game ritual of rubbing chalk on his hands and throwing it in the air?

I can already sense a major pushback of fans and administrators complaining of the robotic way a cyborg would play sports. But, they fail to realize that robotic arms don’t make you a perfect shooter.

Robotic Arms Don’t Give You A Competitive Mindset

When you are shooting a free throw, it is just you and the basket; the only thing in your way of making that shot is your mindset. Creating is no different than shooting a free throw – just you and your goal.

There are two distractions that will create mental barriers and prevent us from making shots: the crowd and the situation.

The minute you put something out in the world some people will cheer, while others will jeer. Many creatives will make the mistake of focusing on the what these people say and either feel hurt or become full of themselves. There’s a time and a place for feedback, but it’s not during the process of creating.

Instead, you should do one of two things. One, drown out all of the noise and focus on only your goal. Two, harness all of this energy and redirect it into your shot. Either way, don’t let the crowd itself influence your shot.

Another external distraction is the situation. Whether you are down 1 point with 10 seconds left or in the middle of the game, don’t let the situation get the best of you.

You must develop a routine to get mentally focused. Every basketball player gets up to the free-throw line and has a routine. One might spin the ball twice or dribble with their right hand or take a deep breath, but they all repeat the routine exactly the same every time.

As a creative, find your routine that helps you get into your creative zone. When your rhythm stops, take a break, and go back to your routine. This is how you cloud out all those distractions and narrow your focus.

Personally, my routine revolves around catching up on the latest advancements in technology, which I then put into a Quick Theories–my brief, weekly newsletter of thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. If you feel overwhelmed by the rapid advancement in technology, you can sign up here: quicktheories.com

Facebook Ads: A Guide to Spending Your First $100 on Facebook Advertising

I remember the first time I spent over $100 on a pair of shoes. I was in 6th grade, pooled together all of my lawn mowing money and bought a $114.99 pair of white and red Nike Shox NZ.

No one else had shoes nearly as fresh as mine and I knew it. Compliments and stares fueled my confidence level. Everywhere I went for the next week my Shox came with me.

Unfortunately, because I didn’t want them to ever leave my feet, I wore them to school on a very rainy day. After lunch, we got to walk around outside for a bit, which normally turned into a game of chase someone around the building.

Then it happened. I took a sharp turn around a corner to grab our captor, and splash. Rain puddle? No, worse. Half a leg’s worth of mud.

That was the end of the shoes and $114.99. The right shoe was no longer white and red, but rather brown and beige.

Just like my shoes, your first $100 on Facebook Ads is probably only going to last you 1-2 weeks. Are you gonna make the most out of that time and get a great confidence boost? Or are you going to waste it and just dip your shoes in mud?

When done properly, you can learn a lot from your first $100 of Facebook Ad spend. To forewarn you, the chance that you’ll hit a homerun, go viral, and not have to spend any more money is very slim. Expect it to be a learning experience.

It will act as your litmus test for Facebook Ads.

  • Can I create ads that entice my audience?
  • Can I put to together the right audience that will benefit from my business?
  • Is my business even cut out for Facebook Advertising?

These are all questions that you’ll be able to answer after your first $100 of Facebook Ads. Not a “well maybe if I put a little more money in they’ll come around to my ads”.

If it goes great and you reach your goals then put together a spending plan. If it doesn’t go that well, then you need to either rethink your ads and audience, cut out Facebook Ads, or hire some experts to run it for you.

As experts ourselves, I’d like to outline campaigns that we would run if we were in your shoes. While we may not cover every industry, we’ve broken it down into local business, product campaign, SaaS company.

Local Business

Goal: Get people in your door.

Precautions: As a local business advertising on Facebook, your target audience will be limited to a certain radius of your business. This means there is a small, fixed number of people you can advertise to. So, first impressions are very important here.

Whether you own a restaurant, boutique, movie theatre or anything in between, you have to stand out in your ads and show someone why they NEED to come in. Not to worry, it is easier than you think.

Ads to Use:

  • Video – Use this to raise awareness
    1. The purpose of this video is to intrigue people in a memorable way.
    2. Highlight something unique about your business.
    3. Keep it under 90 seconds.
    4. The voice over should be funny and memorable.
    5. The footage should show where you are located and a few unique things about your business.
    6. Finish off with a deal.
  • Boosted Post – Use this to promote a crazy deal.
    1. Your deal should stand out from the coupons that give $1 Off when you spend $100.
    2. Highly suggest a one-time FREE giveaway to all participants.
    3. Ask them to share, like, or comment on the post to receive the coupon.
    4. Create virality in your target area so that it gets organically shared.

Example: Glaze Teriyaki

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Glaze Teriyaki just opened up in Madison, Wisconsin. They are creating two advertisements, spending $10 / day on each ad and running it for 5 days. One 60-second video ad and one promotional post.

For the video, they make a jingle, “Treat your taste buds right, eat at Glaze Teriyaki tonight”, and say it 5 times throughout the video to get the name stuck in people’s heads. They take a tour of the space, first showing where it’s located, then heading inside and taking a look at their rotisserie ovens and their cafeteria-style seating, which their voice over calls their state-of-the-art chicken machine and the “get to know your neighbors” seating. The last thing they say is: “Share this video, and we’ll message you with a coupon for a free teriyaki plate.”screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-1-30-20-pm

Their promotional deal is for a free teriyaki plate, no strings attached.

Product Campaign

Goal: Sell your product or at least get them to come to your website.

Precautions: This is essentially your sales call which you’ll present over and over to new people so it should be succinct (under 120 seconds) and effective. I’d highly suggest using a video because they perform extremely well on Facebook and you can pack a lot of information in an easily digestible format.

Ads to Use: Video for clicks to a product page.

Your video and voice over should cover these topics, in this order to make a sale:

  1. Address a change / shift in the world. Don’t flat out say the problem your customer has as this will make them defensive.
  2. Show that those who adapt to this change will win, while those that stick to the status quo will lose.
  3. Paint the picture of what a winner looks like that adapted to the change. (interchangeable with 4)
  4. Introduce your product as a tool to easily adapt to this change. (interchangeable with 3)
  5. Present evidence or testimonials of someone that used your product.

Example: Fidget Cube

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Solving all of your fidgeting needs with this one small cube. They do a phenomenal job of going through this flow in their product video, and they do it in a very unique and almost disguised way.

Video flow:

  1. Address the world of fidgeters by putting all the burden on one person.
  2. He embodies what it means to be a “loser” that continues to fidget and annoy people. Foreshadows a solution by saying his Kickstarter community helped.
  3. Introduces the product as the solution and goes off the specifications that solve the problem.
  4. Explains what you can accomplish if you have the fidget cube to satisfy your fidgeting needs: “Sudden ability to cope with boring meetings. Pay attention in class. Power through Netflix marathons…discrete fidgeting in any setting.”
  5. Scientific evidence of “floating attention” which makes it hard to focus in certain settings. Studies showing that students perform better on tests when they use Fidget Cube.

Obviously, their video is very informal and pokes fun at pharmaceutical videos, but it kept you interested, it was abnormal, and you probably went to check out how much it cost.

If they were making this video for Facebook Ads, then I would suggest they cut down the length of the video.

Your video doesn’t have to be high-budget or anything, it can be shot on an iPhone and still be great. Just make sure it is steady and the sound quality is high.

SaaS Company

Goal: Educate, raise awareness, and generate leads.

Precautions: It can be very tempting to try and sell your software in an ad, but try to refrain from doing this as you are asking a lot out of someone to buy / download your software the first time they hear from you.

Over time you’ll see better results by educating the first time you speak with a potential customer and sell by the 3rd or 4th touch point.

Sending traffic to a white paper, webinar, email newsletter, etc… where they need to provide their email to “obtain this knowledge” will allow you to collect these warm leads, while not pressing them for a sale. Obviously, if you don’t have any of this free knowledge to give away, then your focus should be on creating some timeless content that you can use to attract leads.

Example: Tableau

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Tableau is an analytics company that creates tools which make it easier to present data. Their software costs, at the minimum, $999. For this reason, their customer’s buying cycle is going to be elongated, since they will probably need to see a lot of value and weigh options before purchasing.

They could break down this barrier by advertising their White Paper on trends in Big Data: https://www.tableau.com/learn/whitepapers/top-8-trends-big-data-2016

Now they can appeal to their audience on industry-relevant topics while capturing their information. Not to mention they are positioning themselves as thought leaders at the same time.

A Digital Notebook Actually Hurts The Creative Process

Organizing your ideas should be like making an abstract expressionist painting…messy. Unfortunately, organizing your ideas in a digital notebook is only hurting your creative process. Let me explain. 

Have you ever seen Jackson Pollack creating one of his masterpieces? It’s brilliant. With his brush already in hand, loaded with paint, he takes his inspiration and throws it on the canvas. He doesn’t contemplate each move; he simply does it.

When an idea pops into your head, write it down. And that’s as far as your organization efforts should go.

Don’t catalog each idea in alphabetical order, based on subject, and where you were when you got the idea. You know why? Because that will actually kill your ability to connect ideas down the road.

Einstein was famous for his messy desk. Most might look at this as hoarding, but it was his brilliant creative process. This forced him to look through each idea snippet every time he needed to solve something. In the process of looking for a specific piece of the puzzle, he might’ve found a completely irrelevant piece that sparked a new idea or solved the problem in a different way.

Finding your ideal creative setting doesn’t have to be hard and you definitely don’t need an Einstein desk. But, your creative process needs Einstein’s metaphorical puke of ideas.

Let your head feel free of constraints by writing down your ideas as they come. Then, you can revisit and recollect what you previously thought while allowing your mind to find the next idea.

A creative’s organization includes a clear head and a piled-up mess of ideas.

What is the future of the digital notebook?

It can be a hassle carrying around a notebook designated for ideas.

We’ve seen digital journals such as note-taking apps and even the Neo smartpen N2 where you can write on paper and it shows up digitally. But, they’re just digital versions of the physical note-taking form.

We’ve yet to see a smart digital notebook which will empower the creative journal of the future.

Apple’s iPad Pro took a PB&J and simply made it a double decker when they should’ve changed the game and deep-fried that sucker. In other words, it merely digitized traditional note-taking, keeping the same creative process.

I want a smart digital notebook that can take what I highlight across any app or website and add it to a favorites folder.

Often times I find myself spending 10 minutes trying to make the perfect box around an idea when creating an idea map. Why can’t my notebook perfect my imperfect shapes and arrows?

Have you ever created a whole grid of data (by hand) and wanted to convert it to an Excel spreadsheet version? I know, it’s harder than putting toothpaste back in the tube. There’s no reason that a smart digital notebook can’t convert this.

Those are low-hanging fruit that honestly notes apps should already do.

Ideally, a smart digital notebook should be like William Shatner’s captain’s log in Star Trek. But, I’ll settle for one that can analyze what I write and treat them as commands.

Like if I realized that I needed to grocery shopping while writing this article, I could’ve written: Grocery Shopping Tonight, and it would’ve been added to my To-Do List. Or if I wanted John Cena to offer up some of his thoughts on this article, I could’ve written: Invite John Cena to Collaborate, and he would’ve been able to collaborate on the document with me.

In essence, a smart digital notebook understands what I’m writing and will act according to the content that I write. The technology for a smart notebook is here, it’s just a matter of someone making it.

However, as smart notebooks come to fruition, are we taking a step further from Einstein’s creative mess?

While I still keep most of my ideas in a notebook, I do like to transfer them into digital form. All of the insights I have on modern technology get put into a weekly email newsletter, Quick Theories, so that you can better understand how new technology affects your life. If you occasionally feel overwhelmed by the advancements in technology, you can sign-up here: quicktheories.com

How Fear Kills the Creative Mind

When fostering your optimal creative mind, you must eliminate fear. 

At its core, fear is a creativity inhibitor. It causes us to second guess our artwork or hold back that crazy marketing idea because we don’t know if people will like it. 

We fear the unknown, even though the creative mind is stimulated by the opportunity to conquer the unknown. 

Steve Irwin conquered the fear of putting his head inside an alligator’s mouth. He showed us that some of the world’s deadliest animals aren’t all that bad.

Evel Knievel conquered the fear of heights (and pain). He showed us there truly isn’t a single stunt or obstacle that man can’t physically beat.

These men are fearless in their area of expertise, but aren’t fearless overall. Fearlessness is a state of being that few people actually attain. It’s repetitive courage that most misconceive as fearlessness. Repetitive courage in the eyes of your fear will allow you to, step by step, conquer that fear.

That fear may never go away. Many of the creative minds you idolize are probably still conquering the same fear you have. But, these creative minds have created a competitive mindset that masks itself as fearlessness.

Business is an arena for fearing failure. Whether you fear competition or the higher ranks in your corporation, there is a common thought that everything you put out there must be a huge success.

But, we must put that fear mindset to rest! Being a creator is about having the courage to listen to your conscience, putting your creative mind to work, and executing your ideas.

Hollywood agents were scum, except for one creative mind…

In 1975, it was a collective agreement that the only guarantee was their hefty ten percent fee. They treated their clients as if they were a stock portfolio: Happy to ride the wave of success, but eager to dump them when things went bad.

In 1976, there was a defining moment that would change the entertainment industry. Five men, led by Michael Ovitz, left the security of the biggest agency in Hollywood to start their own firm. Redefining the way every agent would work for decades to come, they created CAA, the Creative Artists Agency.

The entire industry threatened to end their careers every day they came into work. But, they didn’t let that fear guide their actions because they knew that they would change the world. As time passed and clients migrated to CAA from the big agencies, other agencies had to adapt to the new model CAA created. 

Fear puts us in boxes. When you have the fear of losing your job, you don’t present your craziest ideas at work, therefore you keep your current position and don’t climb the ladder. You fear rejection, so you don’t post your artwork online and remain a mediocre artist. These boxes are comfortable and probably lined with Tempur-pedic pillows because they are very hard to get out of.

Treat your creativity is the rope ladder, trust your ideas, and they’ll lead you out of those boxes.

Let courage tell your fears what to do, so your creativity can ensue.

It’s easy to fear the rapid advancements in technology since it’s hard to keep up. But, that’s why I created Quick Theories–a brief, weekly newsletter filled with my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. If you feel bogged down by technology, sign-up here: quicktheories.com

Facebook Ads: My definitive guide to conquering Facebook Advertising

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Are you ready to conquer Facebook Ads?

Carpe Diem. Seize the day (of Facebook Ads).

The term that captures the “Do-ers” and scares the “Don’t-ers”.

When I was (still am) learning sales I bought every book on the topic, trying to find that one secret that would turn me into a salesman extraordinaire. I didn’t find it. Needless to say, there wasn’t a switch I was missing and no matter how much I studied the craft, I wasn’t getting any better. I understood all the principles behind sales, but I just couldn’t close one to save my life or my company for that matter.

My business partner finally gave me the secret: Science.

Every great salesman there is today is a scientist. They hypothesize a new way to make a sale, go in the field to test it, analyze their results, tweak their process and repeat. Great salesmen are habitual learners. Everyday putting their schemes into action to perfect their craft.

Facebook Advertising is no different.