Finding Your Zone of Creative Genius

Finding Your Zone of Creative Genius

First, let’s un-collapse the words “artistic” and “creative,” because they are not the same thing. And the conflation has led to a massive misunderstanding of the true nature of creativity.

Here’s the thing: everyone has some area of creative genius. Because we are tribal animals, designed to live in groups, there is a natural distribution of interests, skills and talents. Which is sort of magic, if you think about it. I mean, just imagine that you are back in cave-dwelling days – someone would be the healer, and someone would tend the children. Someone would be good at working with their hands, and someone else would be the one who always wants to go exploring off into the far lands. Every group forms a complete society based on the fact that everyone is good at something.

Whatever area you would be naturally inclined toward is an indication of your zone of creative genius.

Because your area of creative genius is so much a part of you, it can sometimes be hard to discern, so here are a few other clues:

  1. You have a natural interest in your zone of creative genius. You find yourself watching shows, reading books and spending endless hours online digging into this area. It might seem weird to you that other people aren’t so interested in it. If there’s a convention for it, you might wish you could go.
  2. You have a natural talent in your zone of creative genius. You don’t know how instinctively understand this area – you just know. Your natural aptitude may surprise others, and you’re probably surprised that other people don’t share your inborn talent.
  3. You have an inexhaustible enthusiasm for your zone of creative genius. If someone shook you awake at 3am, whispering, “Hey – we’re going to go do XYZ – wanna come with?” you would immediately get up and start looking for your shoes.
  4. Others defer to your authority in your zone of creative genius. If you’re the one everyone turns to when it’s time to plan the party, or design the garden, or build the addition, or map the route or clear up the miscommunication, then you have become the designated authority in your area. Congratulations. You may not think of yourself as an expert, but everyone else does.
  5. And most significantly, You have a natural ability to problem-solve in your zone of creative genius. In fact, problem-solving doesn’t even feel like problem-solving when you are in your zone. It just feels like fun – and time flies when you are having creative fun. Figuring out how to feed a houseful of people with limited supplies, or figuring out not-dumb team-building activities, or building a better mousetrap offers you a welcome challenge and a chance to experiment, and the hours zip by while you tinker.

You may have discounted your zone of creative genius as just a hobby or pastime, but because of the way you get into a “flow state,” there’s quite a bit more going on. You are engaging the most powerful aspect of your brain’s power, and the ideas/things you create are probably quite a bit more valuable than you might realize.

You may have been taught to discount the things that come easily to you. I remember the disapproval of my parents when I didn’t do well in Calculus and French while getting excellent grades in English and Drama. There was this, “Well, of COURSE you got good grades in those things,” attitude. It seemed that only success in the subjects that were hard for me had merit. While I do believe we should work hard at the subjects in which we are out of our comfort zone, we should reward people for their natural aptitude, and encourage them to go even deeper.

NOTE: If you find that you possess MULTIPLE areas of creative genius and that you are naturally good at a lot of things, you may be one of the 10-15% of the population that qualifies as a Highly Creative Person.
Find your creativity quotient HERE with this easy, fun quiz.

Start noticing the “un-earned and un-learned” talents and abilities you – and others – possess, and see how you can maximize them today.

P.S. Highly Creative People, or "HCP's" as I like to call us, are the most underutilized resource on the planet. Together we can change that because the world needs our unique talents and genius, and there's no time to waste.

Think you might be a Highly Creative Person?

Are You a Non-Artistic Highly Creative Person?

Are You a Non-Artistic Highly Creative Person?

So many Highly Creative People don’t think of themselves as creative because they are not artsy, craft-y, or quirky. They are hiding in plain sight.

Like Clark Kent in his glasses, the Non-Artistic Highly Creative Person (HCP) isn’t flashy or even obvious to themselves. But behind those spectacles is a mind that just won’t quit. The brain of the HCP is a perpetual motion machine, always seeking out new projects to try, new problems to solve and new wheels to spin.

For example, Ray from Kentucky is an engineer who creates communication networks. But he has also built a boat out of piece parts, figured out how to climb trees so he could design and build a zip-line in the backyard, knows everything there is to know about Jet Skis, and he plays the ukulele. But if you asked him he might say he’s a “Jack of all trades,” but I doubt he’d ever describe himself as a Highly Creative Person.

And Zena works in accounting for a digital marketing company. She’s famous around the office for bringing in the coffee beans she roasts at home (she doesn’t drink coffee herself) and the elaborate vegan desserts she invents on the weekends. She is studying Swedish, does the Sunday crossword in ink and has been known to write bawdy birthday limericks for family and friends. She has also spent hours learning about dog training, even though she only has two cats. She jokes that it’s so she can better train her boyfriend, but really it’s because she can’t turn away from anything she finds fascinating.

There are Non-Artistic HCPs everywhere – roaming the halls of corporate America, working on oil rigs and driving Ubers. Here are a few of the qualities of the HCP – you can take the full quiz HERE.

  • Has a grillion ideas all the time
  • Is good at a lot of things
  • Not particularly motivated by money or prestige
  • Suspicious of anything that’s too popular; zigs when others zag
  • Tends to overcomplicate

Having a Non-Artistic HCP in your life is a wonderful blessing, because they are always up to something interesting. They love to immerse themselves in their latest area of interest, becoming an armchair expert on anything and everything, which makes for lively dinner conversations. They also tend to have very high standards, so if they recommend something, you can be pretty sure it’s good. It is also my experience that they have a need to prove things for themselves. If you tell them it’s raining, they’ll stick their head out the window to check. Try to find this quality of the autodidact charming rather than annoying, OK?

If you are lucky enough to have an Non-Artistic HCP around your home or office (about 10-15% of the population qualifies as an HCP, so it’s likely there’s at least a few in your life) here are a few guidelines:

  1. Give them freedom All HCPs tend to be anti-authoritarian, but if they believe in a project, they will work longer, harder, faster and better than anyone. Don’t make them follow dumb rules or do pointless busy work. Let them invent their own projects if possible, and allow them time to work on their passions.

  3. Engage with them around their values. In my experience, Non-Artistic HCPs tend to be highly ethical people, without a lot of the virtue-signaling flamboyance demonstrated by some artsy types. Get clear about what they care about, and whenever possible, tie your requests to their values. There’s a big difference between, “I need this done by Friday,” and “If this is done by Friday, the whole team will be able to breathe easier. If it’s any later than Friday, there will be a lot of stress and rushing around. Do you think a Friday deadline is possible?”

  5. Don’t try to flatter or bullshit a Non-Artistic HCP. They won’t fall for cheap tricks. Vanity isn’t really their thing. Approach them quietly and with respect. Ask their advice, and listen carefully to their answers, because they tend to over-deliver, and you’ll get more than you expected. They like being the unsung hero, the power behind the throne, the (real) wizard behind the curtain, so they may shy away from public recognition, but be sure to let them know that their contributions have not gone unnoticed. Find out their love language and reward them generously – the loyalty of a Non-Artistic HCP is priceless.

Just because a person doesn’t paint or sing or wear funny clothes does not mean that they are not a Highly Creative Person. After all, the heart of creativity is problem-solving, which makes an HCP a very helpful person to have around.

P.S. Highly Creative People, or "HCP's" as I like to call us, are the most underutilized resource on the planet. Together we can change that because the world needs our unique talents and genius, and there's no time to waste.

Think you might be a Highly Creative Person?

Your Overthinking is Absolutely Killing You (and what to do about it)

Your Overthinking is Absolutely Killing You (and what to do about it)

You have an idea that seems interesting. You might even be tempted to take action on it. But then you immediately start to reconsider. Is it actually a good idea, or just an average idea, or worst of all, a terrible idea? You begin to imagine the outcomes of acting on this idea, and all the permutations of all the outcomes. You start to envision the disappointment of having made a poor decision, and suddenly it seems much better to not do anything at all.

This is how great ideas die.

This is how Highly Creative People stay stuck.

One of the characteristics of the Highly Creative Person is a real gift for nuance and subtlety. If you are an HCP, you love intricacy, multiplicity and process, and are somewhat more likely than most to use the word “liminal” in conversation.

You read micro-expressions.
You consider your words carefully.

You notice connections between things before others have noticed anything at all.

Here’s the problem: you overcomplicate every.damn.thing.

You may have noticed yourself overthinking yourself into inaction.
You may have discovered that you overwork for no reason or reward.
You may be habitually overwrought.

And all this “over-” is exhausting for you and for the people around you.

On the other hand, you don’t want to dumb yourself down.

So what’s a twisty little brainiac like you to do?

TRY THIS: First thought, best thought.

Why this works: your processing speed is a bit faster than everyone else’s, so the thought that feels like it just popped into your consciousness has actually undergone a fairly elaborate, if invisible, process of evolution. You may not know how you know – but you know. You process information, intuition and patterns quickly, and then you are able to make connections between disparate bits of information with supersonic speed. You can trust that your body and brain have, in fact, “thought” about it for you, and have delivered a sound outcome.

If nothing else, moving forward from your first thought puts you into experimentation mode, which will lead you to new thoughts and new outcomes. Which is waaaaay better than just sitting there spinning your wheels, yes?

TRY THIS: Put it in Beta

Rather than think of every idea as a full commitment or a final decision, think of yourself as putting your ideas into beta testing. (Beta testing is the stage of software development when the creators think they’ve got something that might work, and even though it’s not near done yet, they invite users to start testing and giving feedback. So the users know they are mucking around with something that’s not complete, and enjoy the process of poking holes, finding bugs and discovering weaknesses that the designers may never have even considered.)

Beta-testing your ideas allows you to experiment with the deliberately imperfect.

To put your ideas into beta, think of the smallest, easiest component that you can put into action the quickest.

Have an idea for a class? Why not invite 3 people to coffee to talk it over?
Have an idea for a book? Go ahead and start by writing a few sentences on one index card every day for a week.
Have an idea for a new business or marketing scheme? Why not put up a teaser post on social media to gauge initial reactions?

TRY THIS: Ask someone you adore.

We all have a few smart friends whose opinion we take seriously. Why not cash in some of those Friendship Points and ask them for five minutes of their time. You can’t do this non-stop, of course, but it’s amazing how having to explain your idea to someone you respect can clarify your thinking, and how much insight a smart person can bring in just a few minutes. Be sure to offer to return the favor, of course.

TRY THIS: Google it.

I am astonished by the number of people who confide an idea to me when they haven’t spent even five minutes looking into it. Do yourself a favor and Google your idea to do a quick check on whether it’s been done before, and by whom. This is what is known as research, and it is an important part of the development of an idea.

Just because something’s been done before is no reason not to do it – quite the contrary. If someone has already proved the market for an idea, that’s excellent news. Mostly you want to know if an idea has been tried so you can learn from their mistakes and figure out how your idea is better, different, cheaper, or more interesting.

TRY THIS: Try it.

Spend 15 minutes every day for a week (a month, a year) noodling around on your idea. Let it see sunlight. See if it goes anywhere. See if you wake up thinking about it (usually a good sign) or if you don’t want to stop working on it (always a good sign). It’s fine if you play with an idea for a while and then decide it’s not worthwhile, or not the right time. At least you’ll have gotten your hands dirty and learned something.

You have some amazing ideas to offer the world – but you’ve got to stop torturing them inside of your mind and start letting them see the light of day, yes?

Want to know more about the Highly Creative Person? Take this quiz here and let me know what you think.


Don’t Refuse the Delivery

Don’t Refuse the Delivery

Have you ever had an idea arrive in your brain already finished? Like a “download” of an invention, a book or movie idea, a song, or a solution to a vexing problem?

And maybe you thought, “That’s weird. I just suddenly got the entire plot structure of a three-volume novel set in Ancient Greece.”

Perhaps you dismissed the idea.

Perhaps you even punished yourself for having the idea by thinking, “I don’t know anything about Greece, or novels, for that matter. In fact, my fifth grade English teacher said I couldn’t write. How stupid of me to even imagine I could do such a thing.”

More likely you made a little mental note about it, but took no action.

I have an important news flash for you: Don’t Refuse the Delivery.

Ignoring an idea download is like getting a package addressed especially to you, but instead of opening it and seeing what’s what, you send it back, throw it out or just let it molder on the doorstep.

I don’t know how or why ideas appear to us like that sometimes. I’ve heard all kinds of theories ranging from daimons to past lives, from psychic transmissions to the zeitgeist and the collective unconscious. It’s a mystery how and why ideas appear.

But what I do know is that those ideas carry with them a special magic. 

They are an invitation for you and you alone.

By paying attention to them, you will grow in new ways, learn new things, transform your world and possibly transform the whole world. After all, every significant piece of art and literature, as well as every invention, started with an ordinary person having an idea.

You will have a number of perfectly valid concerns – let me name a few:

  1. You’re worried that it’s not a good idea. There is no way to tell if an idea is “good” or not until you start playing around with it. So remove the pressure of good and bad, and tell yourself that you’re just experimenting.
  2. You feel utterly unqualified. Don’t worry that you feel utterly unqualified. Everyone feels utterly unqualified. Trust that you know enough to start.
  3. You’ll worry about the end of the process at the beginning. You’ll worry that you don’t know how to get a literary agent, or that your idea will be stolen. Don’t. You will learn what you need to know as you go, and your teachers and guides will show up as you move along.
  4. You think you don’t know how to start. Of course you don’t know how to start – you’ve never done anything like this. Just noodle around a bit. Spend 15 minutes on it every day. Consider it a meditation, an intellectual exercise, a chance to let your mind play around.
  5. You need to stay alert to supportive signs and signals. It’s amazing how often a good idea is accompanied by the unexpected means to produce it. You know – the morning after the historical novel idea pops up, you discover that your new neighbor is a literary agent with a passion for the Stoics. Stuff like that happens all the time.
  6. You need to be careful with whom you share this idea. We all have people in our lives who demonstrate their affection for us by being discouraging, dismissive and even insulting. They think they are helping to keep you safe. So be judicious about sharing this idea, especially in the early stages, and don’t go looking for treats in the empty cookie jar, OK?

The nice thing about welcoming the ideas that arrive Special Delivery is that you may find more ideas following along. Taking action on ideas tends to cause more ideas. And having more ideas increases the odds that someday, you will land on an idea that changes your life. 

Trust that even if you end up not seeing this idea all the way through, you will have honored the creative process by showing up and trying your best. 

P.S. Highly Creative People, or "HCP's" as I like to call us, are the most underutilized resource on the planet. Together we can change that because the world needs our unique talents and genius, and there's no time to waste.

Think you might be a Highly Creative Person?

Too Many Ideas Much?

Too Many Ideas Much?

One hallmark of the Highly Creative Person is that they have a lot of ideas, all the time.

And there are too many people walking around saying that they are “not creative” when what they really mean is that they are not artistic. And by not leaning in to their creativity, they are depriving all of us of their special kind of brilliance.

Let’s be clear: there are plenty of Highly Creative People who are not in the least bit artsy. You can often find them in the lab, the library and the coder’s lounge.

So what, exactly, does it mean to be creative?

The Latin origin of the word means “produce,” and eventually it grew to mean, “the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative.” (

A non-stop flow of original ideas all the time is one of the hallmarks of the HCP.

Take this brief self-assessment:

  • I have ideas all the time.
  • I have ideas while I’m working on other ideas.
  • My ideas wake me up when I’m sleeping.
  • When other people share their ideas with me, I immediately have ideas about their idea.
  • I find it hard to prioritize my ideas.
  • I have a shoebox/storage tub/entire spare room filled with notes about my ideas.
  • I have way more ideas than I could ever implement.
  • I have ideas that are far outside of my expertise (for example, I have ideas about designs for clothing, even though I have no training or experience in the fashion industry.)

Did you answer YES to more than five of the eight?

Congratulations, you are a Highly Creative Person. (Don’t believe me? Take the quiz right here and see for yourself!)

Having a lot of ideas is not a character defect.

Having a lot of ideas does not make you flaky, ADD, ADHD, uncertain, indecisive, lazy or a dilettante. It simply means you have a lot of ideas. It’s a symptom of a very active brain that makes a lot of connections between a lot of things a lot of the time.

And if you feel your excess of ideas is most often met with bewilderment, remember that only 10-15% of the population qualifies as a Highly Creative Person. So the remaining 85% of the planet does not live inside a 24-hour Idea Factory, you know?

Nevertheless, you probably are experiencing some guilt over all your un-done ideas.

It might comfort you to remember this:

  • Not every idea is a good idea.
  • Not every idea is a mandate.
  • Not every idea requires immediate action.
  • Not every idea needs to be done by you.
  • There is no expiration date on ideas. It’s never too late.

You are allowed to enjoy your ideas without feeling pressure to implement them. You can think of exploring your ideas as a brain game – a wonderful way to prevent boredom and mentally stretch yourself. (I once knew a fellow who spent six straight weeks working on the ultimate way to commute from one seaside town to another. He finally invented a sort of combination jetpack and kayak. His detailed specs for this unlikely creation are hilarious and sort of mind-boggling. Such fun.)

You don’t need to be precious or overly-protective of your ideas, but you should have a way to capture them. A journal by your bed, index cards in your purse, a voice memo or note on your phone – any way that is easy for you both capture and retrieve them is the best way.

NOTE: don’t pass by the “retrieve” part of idea storage. Make sure you title and date your ideas (maybe even color code?) so you can find them again. Bonus points for having a filing system.

So stop punishing yourself for your lovely, imaginative, innovative, fun-loving flow of ideas, and start celebrating your delightful, and Highly Creative, brain.

Are YOU a Highly Creative Person? Find out now!