The Big Creativity Lie

Full of creative ideas“That is so creative! I could never…”

That’s it. That’s the big creativity lie that people tell themselves all the time. They see a wonderful work of creativity and turn it into a creativity killer for themselves. They hold it in such high esteem that their own creative potential seems paltry in comparison.

Think of the most creative person in the history of the world. Subjective, sure…but just play along for now. Is it a famous artist? An inventor? Thomas Edison, maybe?

For the sake of the example, let’s assume Thomas Edison – who held a mind-searing 1093 patents – was the most creative person in history. Ok…we’ve established this now. But wait!

According to the logic above, Thomas Edison (reminder: the most creative person ever) wasn’t creative.

Seeing something creative and telling yourself you can’t match up is completely true. Why? It has already been created. Creativity should not be a comparative attribute. Is it more creative to maneuver a business to increase profits 140% or to write a thrilling novel?

There is no comparison here. They are different expressions of creativity. Comedy films can’t be pitted directly against horror films (though poor horror films can turn into comedy).

At the same time, it is unwise to ignore other creative works. When Thomas Edison saw that someone had invented the automobile, he went ahead and made an electric automobile. The gas and electric automobiles were both creative ideas.

Thomas Edison’s creativity had absolutely nothing to do with what he did not do. It had to do with what he did; interestingly enough, almost every patent of his was a utility patent. In other words, he focused his creative energy for maximum effectiveness.

There are an infinite number of ideas that you will never have. But someone else’s discovery or creation of a brilliant concept does not squeeze you out of the creative picture.

Your mind is completely unique, meaning you have the potential to come up with some ideas that nobody else has thought of.

There is ample room for everyone to be creative. And yes, creativity can be learned.

Where The Mind Goes Wrong

Since I have had this feeling of creative inferiority while admiring some of my race’s fascinating ideas, I know there are others out there. There is a progression that leads to a small error in judgment and perspective. From this small error, we are dealt a devastating hit to our confidence in our ability to be creative. (note: do not follow these steps!)

1. You see a great idea that someone else came up with.

2. You acknowledge the impressive quality, ingenuity, and impact of the idea.

3. You realize that you were not likely to ever think of this particular idea.

4. You oversimplify via comparison – “That person came up with great idea #2538 and I did not.”

Them – 1. Me – 0.

5. This direct comparison clearly shows that they are more creative than you are. You should leave the creative work to them. Not only that, but there are countless examples of amazing creativity in others besides you. There are so many ideas that you’ve missed out on.

Yank The Root Out (Also Works For Teeth)

The root of the problem starts in point #4 – oversimplification via comparison. The flaw is in how we think of ideas. If we think of ideas as a limited resource, then each new idea we see is a nail in our plain, run-of-the-mill coffin.

Truthfully, we should be encouraged that so many people have so many great ideas!

Most of the battle of being creative is battling fear and doubt that you can’t think of quality ideas. The power of belief is strong and we must use it to our advantage!

I am a very creative person when and because I believe I am. When I doubt that, my creativity suffers. When my creativity suffers, it gives credibility to my doubt. See the cyclical nature of this and the negative momentum it generates?

We can not afford to doubt our creativity, so let’s choose to believe that we are the creative powerhouses of the world. Once you believe it and start living it, you’ll be amazed.

I’ll leave you with a story I told on a guest post I wrote for Firepole marketing:

The CEO of a major publishing firm hired a group of top psychologists to examine the differences between creative and uncreative employees. After a full year of research, what do you think the difference between the two groups was?

The creative group believed they were creative and the others did not. That’s it.

Afterwards, said CEO implemented a creativity program for the uncreative employees and they became “many more times creative” than the original creative group.

Everyone can be creative. Everyone can innovate.

(story is from Thinkertoys – Amazon affiliate link)

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing

Hey Stephen, that’s a really great point – everyone can be creative, and creativity is measured by what you *do*, not by what you haven’t done.

Thanks again for the guest post on FPM – we were thrilled to have it, and you’re welcome anytime! 🙂

Jeff Moskovitz

Oftentimes, when one does something so well, so naturally, and with so little effort, it is difficult for that person to imagine he or she is continuously innovating….

I have to admit, I’ve never constructed ANYTHING out of beer cans. While we’re on the subject, I didn’t help Al Gore build the internet either. Heck, I didn’t even invent the drinking straw! Nor the drink that goes through it! I see a pattern here, and this could go on infinitely, but if I choose to continue down this long road observing all of the world’s innovations that are not mine, the only opportunity I might have to innovate is to find my way back – and that innovation may already be taken!

Everyone seems to have the innovation market cornered. Harvard Professors are even writing books about how to innovate innovation.

Hmmm……This innovation thing is indeed a difficult beast to slay. On that note, I shall continue on with my little project. Starting with the most recent, I will study the major innovations of our era, their impact on society, and most importantly, the prior innovation(s) that made that particular innovation possible, similar to the manner in which Einstein’s innovations influenced John Nash in developing his theory of equilibrium. I’ll find patterns. Even mathematical models may evolve. Could it possibly be that all of the world’s innovations can be traced back to one single innovation or event in history? One single great truth? The possibilities are endless and this thing could take so many unexpected turns….

As for innovation, that can wait for another day.

Thanks Stephen for your inspiring thoughts,


Justin | Mazzastick

Hey Stephen,
Great points in your post about being creative. I too consider myself creative and resourceful and I get get great pleasure in doing so.

Everyone creates something all of the time whether it is something physical like a product or invention or energetically like drama.

We are creative beings the key is to channel that creativity into something that serves the greater good of mankind.


Hey Stephen,

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”

I have long considered myself as someone who is not creative. But I have changed recently by applying the above quote from Einstein. I have been trying to think about my work in different ways. The result could be described as creativity. My notebook is now filled with sketches of possible solutions to problems I have been working on.

So is the change a result of my conscious change of thinking or the effect of believing that I am creative?


Stephen Guise

Yes, it was a pleasure working with you on that!

Stephen Guise

I really like the sound of your project! Will you be writing about it on your blog?

Stephen Guise

Hi Justin,

Creativity does take on many forms and you’re right to point out the varying usefulness of it! Focused, intentional creativity is a potent force in the world.

Stephen Guise

Fantastic quote, Tom. Einstein is full of them!

I think of creativity in the way you described – looking at “things” from different angles and considering unique and diverse solutions (sometimes combining them).

As for your question, I see it as a change in belief leading to a change in thinking. If you change to believing that you are creative or that believing you’re creative can make you creative, both will lead to a change of thinking. Though I’m not sure it is important which one comes first, as long as you’re getting results!



Great post man. I struggle with this issue from time to time because I tend to compare myself with others. Do you believe in faking it until you make it? Because honestly, after a long hard night shift its a no bueno attitude.

Stephen Guise

Yes, I believe in faking it until you make it. I mentioned it in another post. I think that phrase has a negative connotation that isn’t very accurate.

To fake it until you make it is to give yourself confidence before you have any reason to have it. It can be a necessary first step for certain situations. Faking it in this sense would be equivalent to “giving it a shot.”

Imagine having a new business. Well, in the business world, well-established businesses with great credentials are the ones that people (consumers and other businesses) flock to. As a new business owner, you very well may need to feign your status in order to get the ball rolling. I would only do so ethically, but anyways…

Sometimes you only realize you can make it when you successfully fake it, ya know?


“giving it a shot.” Thats deep brother. Funny how a play on words can shift perspective. I need to do more shifting!


Hey Steve,

Ideas are endless, no doubt. Cemeteries are loaded with unrealized ideas. The missing ingredient seems to be the implementation of said idea. Did no one else think up a FaceBook, filament, or sandboarding? I have to think so.
A couple of folks I know ‘invented’ different things (myself included). For one it was a solar powered attic fan. Not bad. He was working it out of his garage, and then, got an order from Honolulu Airport and had to quickly find a factory!
I am anxious to try sandboarding. We have some sweet dunes in Indiana and you whet my appetite.
You’ve got a brilliant mind and writing style. I hope you don’t mind lots of comments, as the talent will soon be recognized far and wide.

By the way, you sandboard?


I’ll make this short.

This is a great post that gave me a different perspective about being creative and the effects of the comparison of your own ideas with what others have already thought of.

Thanks Stephen!

Oh and by the way your blog is not blocked here in KSA anymore, as you can see I can post a comment now!

Cheers bro!

– Melvin

Dan Meyers

It’s amazing what the mind can accomplish, and it’s amazing what the mind can prevent! It’s important to remember that most inventions aren’t newfangled ideas with no previous existence. In fact, many inventions are built upon many other great ideas by other people. There’s still debate as to whether Edison invented the light bulb or if he just won the historical debate!

Either way, I agree that anyone can be creative.

Prion Indigo

That is so cool! We limit ourselves too much.

Prion Indigo

Right, everyone has some kind of talent. People are miracles and systems.

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