“Surely, of all the wonders in the world, the horizon is the greatest.”
— Freya Stark
Last week’s creative challenge was to uncover the underlying message in the visual identity of the Staying Gold Society (see left). So, how’d you do? The parallel to a magnificent sunset was revealed, but there’s something intentionally deeper.
Look at the horizon. Three dots, three dashes, three dots. Three dots, three dashes, three dots. Is that symbolism familiar? If you said it’s the international signal SOS, you’d be correct. Three dots is Morse code for the letter “S” while three dashes makes the letter “O.” Taken together, it’s a universal distress signal. When repeated, it means urgent distress.
SGS is sending out an SOS, an urgent distress signal, while simultaneously signally that great wonders are just over the horizon. Why are we distressed? Because the creative and innovative capabilities of young people are failing to be nurtured. The 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index indicated that the U.S. ranks 34th in the world in innovation-oriented higher education, behind Latvia (33rd) and ahead of Tunisia (35th). We can do better. We must do better.
Just beyond the figurative horizon is hope. Boundless opportunity. Endless possibilities. At SGS, we can be both realistic and optimistic, and that’s what we aim to do. The challenge is simple. As the sun sets each day ask yourself, (1) what did I do today to demonstrate a creative mindset and (2) what can I do tomorrow to show innovative actions?
Three dots, three dashes, three dots. It’s time to take this urgent distress signal seriously. We’re ready. Let’s get to work.
“With black-and-white I feel free and confident of results.”
— Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
Confidence. Appreciation of one’s abilities and capabilities. Self-assurance. Famed photographer Ansel Adams found confidence in black-and-white imagery. By contrast, he lacked confidence in the tools and techniques of his era to capture color in the same way he saw it. He was self-assured; he was simply lacking confidence in the resources available to him.
The opposite is true in our era. Resources abound today. For many of us confidence in resources is not the challenge. Instead, the challenge is self-confidence, particularly when it comes to our ability to create. Ask a group of elementary school children if they are creative, nearly every hand will fly into the air. Ask a group of adults the same question and very few maintain an appreciation of their abilities and capabilities.
Below are two images. The first is intentionally black and white. It is also serves as the visual identity of the Staying Gold Society. It is purposefully without color so that it can be transformed by the creative self-confidence of any SGS member. The second image is a beautiful display of vibrant colors captured by TU alumnus Jeffrey Metcalf. Each is intended to signify the same context: a magnificent sunset as seen from McFarlin Library on The University of Tulsa campus.
There is something more to the first image, though. There’s an underlying message. Uncovering that underlying message is your creative challenge for the week.
Good Luck. Stay Gold.
“The most creative innovations are often new combinations of old ideas. Innovative thinkers don’t create, they connect.”
— James Clear
How many uses are there for a paperclip? This question was last week’s creative challenge. How did you do? Remember, the average person can think of 10-15 unique uses while the creative person can list hundreds. Here’s hoping that you were at least above average.
The central task of a paperclip is to connect. This is a wonderful metaphor. Connect pieces of paper. Connect seemingly disparate ideas. Connection is at the heart of a paperclip’s purpose.
Paperclips need not be limited in connection possibilities. Case in point, paperclips can connect people as was the case when Kyle MacDonald traded his one red paperclip to form a continuous chain of “up trades” until he secured a house. If you don’t know the story, you’ve got to see it to believe it!
Paperclips can connect people to computers (or at least try) as was the case with Clippy the Paperclip, Microsoft’s digital assistant within early versions of Office. Clippy himself was deemed a failure, but without Clippy we might not have subsequent successes such as popular digital assistants Alexa, Cortana, and Siri.
Finally, paperclips can connect people to learning. That’s one goal of Universal Paperclip. Dubbed the possible “best video game of the year,” Universal Paperclip is both a simple and addictive supply means demand game. It’s easy to start, and potentially hard to stop.
If you said a paperclip can be used to secure a house, lead to a host of virtual assistants and become an addictive learning tool, you were definitely above average. If not, take James Clear’s advice and look for new combinations of old ideas. In short, look for connections as a means to be more creative.
“Creativity is a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert
Why creativity? Of all the things that could result from recapturing the innocence, awe and wonderment of youth and regaining perspective, why is the Staying Gold Society focused on reigniting one’s creativity? Great question!
According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report creativity will become one of the top three skills needed by members of the 2020 workforce (up from 10th in 2015). The Number 1 skill — complex problem solving — is a creative activity as well.
Next, creativity is a precursor to innovation. If we desire more innovation, we need more creativity first. In short, creativity is thinking in novel, original and distinctive ways while innovation is doing novel, original and distinctive things.
Finally, research by Dr. K.H. Kim at the College of William & Mary has revealed that the United States, once the world’s most innovative society, is experiencing a decline in creativity. In fact, it has been in steady decline since 1990!
At SGS we believe that creativity is both teachable and learnable. We further believe that creativity is more of a lost skill than a skill to be discovered anew. Each week we’ll deliver tools and techniques to challenge you to find your creative self again. Let’s start with a classic.
Creative Challenge: How many uses are there for a paperclip?
Please note that the average person can think of 10-15 rather easily while the creative person can list hundreds. Be the creative person, and feel free to share your best ideas in the comments section below.
If you want to help us to prepare people (1) for the workforce of the future, (2) to be more innovative, and (3) to reverse a troubling trend, share this message with at least five (5) people so that we can collectively reignite creativity. They can join us for weekly exercises by enrolling here. It’s free to join. Both you and they can look forward to hearing from us each Friday.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
— Henry David Thoreau
What do you see in the four images below? Our individual perspectives allow us to look at the same images yet see something altogether different.
The first image (top left) is a quiet countryside or is it? The second image (top right) is four people looking at the same object yet seeing unique possibilities. The third image (bottom left) is a look behind a hopeful, familiar curtain while the final image visually represents what often happens when we see (and do) something in the first three images that is drastically different from what others see (and do).
Staying gold is, in part, about regaining perspective. We should celebrate one’s unique view of images 1-3 yet we often treat unique perspectives like the lightbulb in image 4. Challenge yourself to be less like the contents of image 4. Give greater consideration to new perspectives by embracing those with a different point of view.
What do you see in the four images below? Tell us by visiting our new website: http://staying.gold. Here you can learn more about our group and join in as we encourage the stay gold mindset and staying gold action steps. Here you can also see how we are encouraging creative ideas and innovative concepts.
If you have friends, family members, or colleagues who are looking to regain perspective, they can join us for weekly exercises by enrolling here. It’s free to join. Both you and they can look forward to hearing from us each Friday.
“Because he kept a childlike sense of awe about the world.”
— Peter Jennings
What do you miss most about being 7 years old? Maybe it was spending free time with friends, having a fairly carefree lifestyle, or being able to eat large amounts of sweets with virtually no consequences.
Maybe it was that your world was filled with awe, innocence and wonderment. Those three aspects are markers of youth for many of us, and they can be again if we allow ourselves the opportunity. Facilitating these three aspects in children of any age is central to the mission of the Staying Gold Society.
When Tulsa native S.E. Hinton wrote the words “Stay gold” in The Outsiders we believe that she was appealing to the 7 year old in all of us. “When you’re a kid, everything’s new,” she wrote. “Keep that way, it’s a good way to be.”
Research suggests that simply stopping and looking at the world from the perspective of your 7-year-old self can take you right back to the sense of awe, innocence and wonderment you had then. Try it and see. Sunset is scheduled for 6:58 PM (Central). Look at tonight’s sunset through the eyes of the kid in you. It will be spectacular.
If you have friends, family members, or colleagues who are looking to recapture youth, they can join us for weekly exercises by enrolling here. Both you and they can look forward to hearing from us each Friday.
“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
— Walt Disney
Welcome to the Staying Gold Society! Founded in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of The Outsiders, a book written by Tulsa native and alumna S.E. Hinton that was later adapted to a major motion picture, the Society is dedicated to rekindling a creative mindset through innovative actions.
If you have friends, family members, or colleagues who are looking to rediscover their creative confidence or flex their innovative muscles, they can join us for weekly exercises by enrolling here. Both you and they can look forward to hearing from us each Friday.
Again, welcome, and thank you for joining us!