The Creative Personas | Developing the White Belt Mindset

Last week, we spoke briefly about a concept known as Ikigai, which translates to a reason for being.  With Ikigai, we define four main criteria for our purpose, known as Purpose Pillars - Something we are good at, we love, can be paid for and the world needs.  With this, we define our purpose as a vocation, passion, mission and profession.

With that understanding, we next can take a look at how we can execute on whatever interest we’d like to pursue.  One necessary ingredient to establishing our Purpose Pillars is that of Creativity.  Creativity, a well-known and oft used term, also suffers from extreme ambiguity.  What does it really mean to be creative?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at the Creative Personas - three main identities that can produce vastly different results - the Creative Antagonist, the Creative Neutralist and the Creative Protagonist - the White Belt of Creativity.


The Creative Antagonist suffers from a drought of creativity.  They are critical of the imperfection required to be creative and the failure required to learn and improve.  Many of us know Creative Antagonists in our life.  Their fear of imperfection restricts them to a narrow mindset, and yet, ironically, still quick to benefit from and approve of noticeable perfections and conveniences, especially consumer goods, that were the product of creativity.  The Creative Antagonist, sadly, does not add much to the world.  To the Creative Antagonist, Ego is the driving force behind their decisions and points of view.

The Creative Neutralist is, as named, a neutral force in life.  They are fans of predictability and systems, whenever possible, and value the repetition of good work over constant experimentation.  Many of us have or are currently the Neutralist.  We have grown used to the comfort zones of predictability and, in some cases, have gone years without being the proverbial ‘white belt’ of life.  There are some positives to a creative neutrality.  First, to be neutral is to appreciate the simplicity of doing good work consistently based on past creative advances.  Take, for instance, a doctor.  Although the world of health and medicine is ever growing, how many of us would like a surgeon to experiment in the name of ‘creativity’ when we’re under the knife?

Lastly, we have the Creative Protagonist (The Creative White Belt).  To the protagonist, we can give thanks for everything around us that has made our lives easier, safer, more beautiful and so on.  It takes courage and curiosity to be the Creative Protagonist.  First, we must question everything and test hypotheses for ourselves. We must ask if something is a certain way because it is the best way, or because it is a product of laziness or tradition.  To be the Creative Protagonist, we also embrace the beauty of failure.  Failure, like learning to walk for the first time, is a crucial component to experiencing the best version of ourselves.  Some will criticize failure.  But those who understand what it means to step into the arena and take risks to improve, will never shame those who fail.  Below are four basic rules to embracing the identity of the Creative White Belt.


1. Be the Proverbial Student (White Belt Mentality)

Never stop learning.  Never assume you have all the answers.  Always assume you have something to learn from everyone.  Always be prepared to lose and learn from someone smarter or better than you.


2. Embrace pain in the name of growth

Pain is a necessary component to growth.  The strained muscle adapts and grows.  The heart that is exercised beats stronger.  The failed plan becomes a predictable lesson for future endeavors.  The fist of 10,000 punches is like iron.


3. Value necessity over popularity

Popularity will come and go, and is rarely adaptable.  A technique in the fighting arts might look flashy, but have no necessity in a fight.   Necessity is as adaptable as they come.  To do work that is of necessity is to have the identity of the Problem Solver.  When you are committed to solving interesting problems for many, you will be a necessity.  When you are interested in doing what will get you attention, you will be a fad.


4. Let go of your fear of time

Too often we allow fears of time to rule our decisions.  “It will take too much time” “There’s not enough time.” “I’m too old.” “I’m too young.” To be the Creative Protagonist, you must let go of time.  Be patient enough to do a thing well.  Be ambitious enough to optimize and move quickly when needed.  The oldest white belt I’ve ever met was 73 when he started, after surviving cancer twice.  What’s your excuse?

So then, what is your Creative Persona?

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