Contributed to EO by B. Jeffrey Madoff
When the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in the US in January of 2020, the situation demanded a rapid response. A new, highly contagious virus posed an imminent threat to the world. This situation kicked off a chain reaction of events, including:
- Scientists began experimenting to create vaccines to combat the virus.
- State and local governments required nonessential businesses to close and people to shelter at home.
- Television networks figured out new ways to produce live shows.
- Businesses had to rethink distribution of goods and services.
- Corporations and educational institutions had to find ways to bring people together for meetings and instruction.
The impact was not only economic, it was psychological. Families and friends had to find on-line means of supporting each other during this crisis.
What do all of these examples have in common? All are examples of creative thinking to solve problems. This type of thinking is essential for entrepreneurs; define a problem or need, then leverage the ability to quickly pivot, iterate and actualize an idea. Entrepreneurship is a creative activity.
Those of us working from home faced the challenge of how to be creative, productive and keep our businesses alive. COVID-19 added immeasurably to that challenge. For many of us, it was hard to focus, to move forward on plans and projects. We were experiencing something we’d never endured before. It was scary, but it also offered opportunities for new ways of thinking.
Being in quarantine can offer opportunities for creative entrepreneurs, despite the challenges it forces upon you. Use the full range of emotions you are experiencing and express them. The inspiration for great works of art don’t come from happy, carefree times; creativity often stems from crisis. Great work is the result of struggle, of trying to make sense of something that’s important to you. The things that mean the most to us are often accompanied by the most anxiety and fear.
There is a benefit of being knocked out of our rituals and routines, it causes us to view the world through a different lens. That is entrepreneurial thinking. Give the ideas that already exist in your brain a chance to pinball around and connect in new ways. Creativity is a job. Discipline and deadlines are essential. Like an athlete or a musician, practice, practice, practice and constantly challenge yourself to improve.
Being a creative entrepreneur is the combustible combination of the passion to affect change and the desire to solve problems. The first step is for you to define your sense of purpose by knowing why you do what you do, and what you hope to achieve. Then you need to fuel yourself with the motivation and drive to go after what you want—and figure out how to get there. There’s no single or magical pathway. Experiment.
Don’t be afraid to fail; instead, see it as a learning experience. If you can figure out why you didn’t achieve what you’d hoped to, you can develop a different strategy, one that will lead to a better outcome. As long as you keep trying and keep learning, you haven’t failed.
How can you overcome your fear and stop letting it get in the way of your creativity? Confront it. If you’re afraid to decide, decide anyway. Again. And again. The more you get used to something, the more you can deal with it.
Creative entrepreneurship is like scientific discovery; you keep experimenting until you find the solution—which brings us back to COVID-19. Scientists are using their knowledge and creativity to decipher the clues, understand the virus, and this has already resulted in discovering several different vaccines. The stakes are high, staggeringly so, and they likely failed many times before succeeding. Yet they persevered. Three highly effective vaccines are now in use in the US alone, a feat thought to be impossible just a few months ago. Their sense of purpose was clear. Discover yours.
Jeffrey Madoff is a director, photographer, writer, playwright and professor in New York City. He is also the founder and CEO of Madoff Productions, a film company that produces award-winning commercials, web content, music videos and documentaries. He was also a recent guest on the EO 360° podcast. Madoff’s book, Creative Careers: Making a Living with Your Ideas, is available at Amazon.