By May 24, 2010 Read More →

Creativity and Discomfort

Nathan Myhrvold

Appearing Last week on Charlie Rose, Nathan Myhrvold, former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft and current CEO of Intellectual Ventures, discussed, among other topics, the process of creativity and invention.

“You have to be comfortable being confused and not knowing what you’re doing,” Myhrvold explained.

He helped illustrate the point by bringing up the great explorers, Lewis and Clark. For a great part of their famous adventure, the two had absolutely no idea where they were. “You can’t be an explorer,” added Myhrvold, unless you’re willing to get stuck in a swamp and get lost.”

This is fabulous advice for anyone who wishes to be more creative.  In fact, it’s great advice for succeeding in life overall.

The question, however, is how do people, as Myhrvold puts it, “get comfortable being outside their comfort zone”?

In my view it’s all about practice.

By definition, you’ll be uncomfortable with any experience you’ve never well, experienced. Conversely, the more you have the experience, the more comfortable it becomes.

This is not to say you ever feel truly at ease being in a state of confusion.

I still get a knot in my stomach when I stare at the blank page upon beginning a project or when I get blocked at some point down the road.  I doubt that I’ll ever be able to solve the problem, and at times even question my own talent.

But I’m able to move ahead, because I’ve been there many times before.

It’s more an issue of managing a state-of-mind that in which you suspend judgement, orientation and security.

And when you start to see the success it brings, you develop a faith that you’ll get to a destination no matter how lost you might feel at the moment.

Watch Nathan Myhrvold’s complete interview with Charlie Rose here.

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