August 12, 2022

A sense of agency and spirit of enterprise outweighs imagination


The theory that everyone is born creative has been widely debated.

The nature versus nurture issue has been a trend in creativity research for many decades now.

Psychologists, professors, art therapists, public figures and professional creatives themselves have essentially proven that all human beings use their imagination to solve problems, to some degree.

Now, certain individuals have a natural propensity for divergent thinking. Having the right genetic makeup makes their biology more inclined towards creativity than others.

Cornell scientists discovered in their research that the brains of artistically creative individuals contain a particular characteristic that enhances their generative process. The brain is divided into two halves, they explain, and joining the two hemispheres is the bundle of fibers called the corpus callosum.

Writers, artists and musicians were found to have a smaller corpus callosum, which may augment their creativity by allowing each side of their brain to develop its own specialization.

Long story short, some have more than others, but creativity is evident in all people’s lives, as we all solve problems and navigate change.

But that’s actually not the most important point here. Because while everyone has creativity, not everyone has agency. And in my own twenty plus years of experience as a professional creative, agency is equally if not more important than creativity itself.

At the heart of what it means to be a person is the act of dreaming, doing and finishing. Coming alive through the pursuit of our ideas. Such a process requires a lot of creativity, yes, but it also requires an adjacent family of mindsets and behaviors.

Agency is giving permission, taking ownership, making choices, taking action, building momentum, organizing ideas, overcoming rejection and applying resilience.

If a person can do those things, then their level of natural creativity is almost irrelevant.

Seinfeld once said that comedy takes a lot of talent, but an equal measure of temperament.

Considering he’s the only billionaire comedian alive, it’s fair to say creativity is merely one spoke on the wheel.

Our goal is buttresses imagination with agency. To grow our capacity to act and exert power to achieving an end.

During my freshman year of college, I started an indie record label, recorded my debut album, designed the jewel case, wrote the linear notes, produced the physical product, and then sold copies to friends, family members and fans at live shows.

Now, were my lyrics the most creative ones in the world? Was my guitar playing a fresh, original sound nobody had ever heard before? And were my songs structured in innovative ways that shattered the musical status quo?

Not really. But nobody cared. They applauded me and paid me because my sense of agency and spirit of enterprise outweighed my imagination.

Temperament trumped talent. That’s what actually inspires people.

When you act and exert power to achieving an end. No matter how old you are, no matter how much creativity you’re born with, no matter what kind of art you make, agency is the difference maker.

Learn how to take ownership and execute your ideas, and nobody can deny you.

Where do you need to give yourself more permission?