Does Your Childhood Influence Your Creativity?

‘Robyn is a creative person!’ I doubt that any of my school teachers ever wrote that on my report cards in primary or secondary school. I wasn’t good at Art, I was okay at Latin, French, English and Music, and I failed Science and History. Yet I think I’ve nurtured a creative spark for most of my life. I loved craft, and used to crochet and knit as a child. I actually have a theory, totally unproven, that sometimes when you have a learning disability, another part of the brain is strengthened by way of compensation, and you learn to think in different ways – ways that ultimately make you creative!

 ‘No way’, I can hear some of you saying. ‘There’s no chance that your theory will ever be proven correct.’ But let me tell you why I think I developed another part of my brain. To describe me as a sensitive teenager in a chronically dysfunctional family would pretty much sum it up. I needed glasses when I was nine years old, but I didn’t get them until I was nineteen. You see, the thought of looking unattractive in glasses was so great at the age of nine that, even though I had realised that I needed glasses, I chose not to tell my parents, so they had no idea. In class, I hid my disability by sitting very close to the front of the room at every opportunity, and when that was not possible, I memorised, memorised and memorised.

 I went to school from the late ‘50s through to 1968, when I left school at fifteen years of age. There seemed absolutely no point in doing the higher school certificate or even remotely contemplating going to university. If I couldn’t read the board for the fourth form exams, nothing was going to change for university. I recall my piano teacher asking me why I was squinting to read the sheet music, but I must have satisfied her with my response, because she never asked again. And so, I managed to sabotage my senior education.

 There was a funny side to all this though, which occurred whenever we had exams. I attended a Catholic school, and the Latin teacher would write up a slab of Latin on the blackboard (this was the mid-60s, long before whiteboards or PowerPoint arrived). I would squint to read the first line and off I would go. I had memorised the material we were taught, and could write lengthy passages of Latin verbatim. I’m sure that sometimes I wrote more than I needed to write, but I always got an A in Latin.

 Maybe needing glasses and choosing not to wear them is not a disability in the true sense, but I do believe I strongly developed different parts of my brain. These parts today enable me to brainstorm very quickly and confidently, to provide quick responses and solutions, to think on my feet, and to create new models and systems to empower others. I also have a great memory, not for names, but for faces and pieces of information, and I’m sure those early years of memorising helped here.

 PARENTS INFLUENCE

My father was an entrepreneur who left school at the age of thirteen (he was born in 1916, and in those days many students did not complete their education), went to war, and then built a carpentry business before establishing a toy manufacturing business in the early ‘50s. The Australian Koala Bear Manufacturing Company was one of the few Australian-owned companies manufacturing Australian souvenirs in Australia. As a child, I recall my father supplying kewpie dolls to the Royal Easter Show and toy koala bears to Taronga Park Zoo, and it was nothing for Dad to bring home eyes to cut (the toy koalas had glass eyes that had to be inserted in a specific way) or tickets to thread (each bear had a map of Australia swing tag threaded onto a rubber band and then placed around their neck). We never actually had a koala bear as a toy during our childhood years – Dad used to say he saw enough of them at work without seeing more of them at night.

 I worked for my father for 18 months from 1970 and then again in 1987 for two years. To say we clashed is an understatement. I think reality was, we were too alike – both strong-willed innovators. What I learned from working at the ‘factory’ was the ability to make something out of nothing – taking a piece of kangaroo skin and, through a process of cutting, sewing, machining, turning, filling and finishing, making a toy koala bear. Not something I necessarily need to know today, but once again, my brain was constantly learning different skills. I often saw my father take a phone call from someone wanting a six-feet high kangaroo, or a four-feet tall koala bear and then watched him create the desired product as a one-off.

 In addition to running the factory, my father was an SP bookmaker. Although this was an illegal activity in the ‘50s and ‘60s, there was no shortage of people wanting to place bets on the dogs, the trots and the gallops. In those days, there were no mobile phones of course – every home had just one phone, and on race days, ours ran hot. I think in hindsight, although I have absolutely no interest in gambling, that growing up in this environment taught me to be a risk-taker. And I firmly believe that taking risks is a critical part of true creativity.

FROM ORIGINAL THOUGHT TO END PRODUCT –  CREATING THE INFORMATION EMPIRE MODEL

 In 1992, I took a leap of faith and launched a speaking business. At the time, I was running a women’s network in Sydney, and had also worked in sales roles for a couple of unethical companies, struggling with their ‘promise good, deliver lousy’ attitude.

 I joined the National Speakers Association of Australia (NSAA), worked my way up the accreditation chain, received awards, and gradually built a reputation as a Global Networking Specialist. This involved lots of national and international travel, and so in 2002, I started to wonder what speakers did to generate income once the time came to retire. My way has always been to seek out whoever is doing what I want to do or learn, study with them if possible, and create my version of whatever it is that has sparked my interest. So, looking for different models within the speaking business, I spoke to lots of Australian speakers, seeking that elusive ‘passive streams of income’ model. At the time, I was considered to be somewhat ahead of the pack, as I had books, CDs and videos to sell on-line and ‘back of room’ (at conference and seminar venues following one’s presentation).

 At the time, I happened to be subscribing to a regular e-zine from Mark Victor Hansen, of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame. He was promoting a Mega Book Marketing University in California – a specific three-day event – and I happened to have those days free. I remember paying a fortune for my airline ticket, as I could only spare four days out of Australia at the time, but I knew intuitively that it was the right decision to go to this event. On the first night of this intensive three-day event, involving over 400 people, including just two Australians, Mark mentioned that there were 68 possible streams of income other than speaking. My ears pricked up, and I quickly made a note of that point. Wow, 68 streams of income – I wondered what they were. The next lady who spoke also mentioned those 68 streams of income, and how her company could make them available for what I worked out to be around A$100,000.

 I knew I had the answer – I just didn’t know what it was YET! So I returned to Australia, and went to the NSAA national conference. I was so excited to be able to tell my speaker mates that there were 68 streams of income other than speaking, and of course somebody asked the obvious question: ‘What are they, Robyn?’ I told him that I didn’t know, but as soon as I did, I would let him know. And so that became my task for the next 90 days. Every time I read a newspaper, magazine, trade journal or book, watched a television show or surfed the Internet, I looked for things that could possibly be included in the information empire.

 My research was based on the principle that people pay to hear from Information Experts, not speakers! Further, any topic you were passionate about could have an information empire built around it. My A4 page of scribbled notes turned into an A3 page, and then into two A3 pages, until finally I felt that I had covered all the possible streams of income in an information empire model. Guess what? I had found close to 200 streams of income – over 130 more streams than I had been told was possible. And yet, had I never been told that there were 68 possible streams of income, I would never have started looking for those 68, let alone the 200 that I eventually found.

 When I launched my Information Empire Model at the NSAA Spring Skills workshop in September 2002, I was so nervous. I knew in my heart that this model was the future of the speaking industry, but it was so revolutionary. What if I was laughed off the stage? I had shared the model with a few enthusiastic mates prior to the session, so I knew that if everyone else left, at least there would still be three people in the room. As it turned out, I would be lying if I said that all fifty people in the room were convinced, but a large majority were, and so I knew that my model was, and continues to be, a ground breaking tool within the speaking profession.

 Since that workshop back in 2002, a number of people who were in the audience that day have adapted their speaking business to include multiple streams of income, as laid out in the Information Empire Model.

 Would like to share the key 13 catergories of what was included in the Information Empire Model:

Writing/Publishing

Template Creation

Creating Derivative Products

Fee for Service

Media Work

Distribution

Website Resource Centre

Research

Speaking

Co-Branding

 Under these 13 catergories in the pack – I list the 200 plus possibilities for creating streams of income. If  you’re interested in purchasing the original wall poster and the three-CD pack, please visit www.networkingtowin.com.au and check out the Information Empire Model.  

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE ABOUT CREATIVE THINKING

 I know that we need stimulation to get the ideas flowing – this may come from something as simple as a walk on the beach, reading a magazine, visiting an art gallery, or having a stimulating conversation with friends or strangers – anything can do it for you.

 When I knew it was time to start my writing for this book, I visited Bunnings, the major hardware retailer. ‘Why Bunnings?’ I hear you ask? Well, I find Bunnings, or any other large hardware stores for that matter, filled with innovation and creativity, whether it’s the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) section, where they offer all sorts of classes and interesting materials to work with, or the gardening section, where there seems to be an endless supply of creative inventions. Yesterday, I saw a vertical wheelbarrow made of heavy plastic, similar to a wheelie bin (without the lid) but circular, with a sloping edge and a handle to push or pull the barrow along. The key feature however was that the barrow was vertical, and easier to manoeuvre than the traditional horizontal design. What a smart idea – and it was retailing for less than $40. Then I saw a square bucket – not revolutionary, but not traditional either, and obviously designed by someone with a need for something other than a round bucket.

  I believe that some of the best creative thoughts and inventions are driven by necessity – here is a problem; how can we solve it. What materials are available for us to use? Do other people have this problem? What will someone pay for this item?

 Travelling can also stimulate creativity – and it doesn’t have to be international travel. Even visiting an unfamiliar suburb thirty minutes from where you live can do it. I have found that anywhere that takes me out of my familiar territory for an extended length of time can really ignite those creative sparks.

 Food is another creativity trigger – try a new restaurant, a new cuisine, a new recipe, visit Chinatown or Little Italy (if these are not local areas for you) or the farmers’ market, anywhere where the food is different and you don’t have the safety net of a shopping list with your staple ingredients.

 I know that when I’m stressed, I’m rarely creative – because I am not breathing as deeply as possible, and I am totally focussed in my head rather than in my heart. I am not present, because I am worrying about something that has happened or something that might happen. Both are a waste of energy, but at the time, my stressed state cannot differentiate.

 Mastermind groups are a great way of stimulating creative thinking – see The Power of Mastermind Groups for information on how to establish a mastermind group. Make sure you take an open mind to the group. I know that some of the most ‘out there’ ideas are sometimes just too outrageous, but once it’s been stretched to outrageous, your mind can then come back a little to fit your circumstances, but they need not bounce all the way back to mainstream thinking. The more you are prepared to shift out of your comfort zone, the more creative you will become.

 Finally, you must be prepared to make mistakes – and realise that it’s okay to make mistakes. Without mistakes, you’ll never create anything. How can you – you’re not trying anything different.

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