Don’t be successful. Be valuable.

05.24.2010 / Author: Bruce Stanley


I’m often asked, “how do you come up with creative ideas?”. I usually answer, “It’s a process”. It’s true, understanding how ideas are cultivated and developed into great creative executions is why I also say, ”Creativity isn’t a talent, it’s an obligation”.

It’s this obligation that most people never learn to respect and incorporate into their creative personal and professional lives. Every great artist, designer or director of creativity uses some sort of process, bringing successful appreciation or effective results to what they create. But how much time did they spend getting there? Or, did they use the same methods every time to achieve their goals?

John Maxwell, author of Talent is Never Enough, writes, “The key choices you make—apart from the natural talent you already have—will set you apart from others who have talent alone. Talent + right choices = a Talent-Plus Person.” If you have read this book, you’ll know that he is referring to a 13-step process to recognizing and behaving in a way that takes your talent to new a level of value. His steps are not just about cultivating ideas, they are about understanding your abilities and being in- tune with them to reach farther to achieve peak performance—a skill that takes an obligated attitude.

Sure, I have a process. It’s a 9-step journey to uncovering insights and developing ideas. It is also a path to appreciating persuasion, respecting measurement and being in-tune to my creative balance—perspective and objectivity, including steps that allow for ideas to mature (incubate) and finally, understanding the difference between “execution” and “production”—there is a difference.

So if everyone uses a process, why is it that so few actually achieve greatness? It is this question that points to whether someone is seen as successful or valuable. Using a process can make you successful—just ask any ad agency. There have been many books written about process and the science of creativity. Removing subjectivity and adding a proven system for getting results differentiates one ad agency or designer from another.

It is when a creative person becomes so in-tune with their process that he or she pushes the aspects (the details) of that process to a commitment level more similar to an obsession than anything else. He becomes obligated to things like exploration, collaboration, measurement and the art of persuasion, thus becoming more valuable than others practicing the same process. Taking it to another level, this person incorporates balance in her life with other creative outlets of inspiration, helping to remove emotional bias and instilling clarity between their creative professional and personal life.

The difference between good to great shouldn’t be measured by success. Instead, greatness, associated with talent, should be valued by obligation and commitment.

Bruce Stanley is a Creative Director and the Graphic Design Coordinator at Nossi College of Art. His belief in the ability to control your creative destiny is why he enjoys sharing his expertise and experiences with others. You can reach him though his blog,, twitter, @bsimage or at

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2 comments, please join in the discussion

  1. Speider

    I’ve always said creativity in a person is a gift and a curse, but I tend to be dark.

    • 06.02.2010

      You are right. We tend to think we know it all, but we wake up scared to death cause we are changing the world. We see the the world in a “different perspective”. It’s why the White House is employing creative people these days. We have a different angel on things.

      But once you’re in…you’re in. You have to own your thoughts and play them out.

      Good luck!