To stimulate creativity, sometimes you must do the unexpected.
January 2021. Everybody was in a funk. Before COVID, I would generate new ideas for podcast promotion by attending conferences, meetings, and lunches. My creative juices were severely depleted.
As a confessed extrovert, ideas come to me from interacting with others face-to-face. I spent eight months interacting via Zoom calls. It was obvious I was missing the nuance of conversations. Isolation stalled my ability to make creative marketing breakthroughs.
Marketing gurus say video is the king of content marketing. It was obvious that one of my podcasting clients could reach the next level by adding a video presence. I was the logical candidate to do the videos.
Unfortunately, when I looked in the mirror, I saw a guy with grey hair and thought my appearance would not allow for success. I feared people would look at the video and say, “What does that geezer know?”
Everyone reading this can discover a flaw that can be used as an excuse not to do video. You may have grey hair – or no hair at all! Maybe you are too tall or too short; have an accent; possibly you are too young for an audience to allow you to generate credibility.
I started doing 18 second promotional videos on LinkedIn. My target audience was quite small – the satellite communication vertical market. Despite that, I was surprised to get 10,000 views on LinkedIn in the first twenty short videos.
How did I get the breakthrough?
The pandemic forced me to seek out new methods for creativity. I still couldn’t shake my native extroversion; I asked people for reading suggestions.
One of the guests on my podcast told me to read Nasim Nicholas Talib’s Anti-fragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. One of Talib’s points is stress can have a positive impact on improving what he calls anti-fragility, and he gives many examples.
A medical doctor examined Talib’s back and told him not to lift weights. He decided the stress of lifting weights would improve his back problem, and it did. It was counterintuitive, but it worked for him.
Talib also wrote about fasting. He argued that fasting is a low-level stressor that can be beneficial. Images of medieval monks and self-flagellation came to mind. Fasting sounded painful and I immediately removed the concept from my mind.
During the mid-winter quest for creativity, my wife recommended Adam Nicholson’s Why Homer Matters. Just for the record, this is not Homer Simpson, everyone knows he matters. Nicholson mentioned that some ancient Greek philosophers had used fasting to help with mental clarity.
You can only beat me over the head two or three times before I get the hint. If fasting was a mild stressor and it has been used to improve clarity, then I should give it a try.
Confusion ensued. If you go to Google Trends and type in “intermittent fasting” you will see a drastic increase in interest. The Internet was cursing me with so many fasting models, one search yielded 35 million results.
One Meal a Day (OMAG) or Two Meals A Day (has not earned an acronym) were suggested by some experts. Other people recommended eating for a specified period during the day.
Some may choose to eat from noon to 8PM. This can be called a 16:8 fast. A twelve-hour block is a 12:12 fast. A four-hour eating period is a 4:20 fast . . .. You can spend years looking at the possible variations on fasting.
My simple brain would not be able to tolerate any complex fasting formula. My binary mind had to choose a simple path. For me, I decided the way to do this was to pick a day in the week and just stop eating. I decided to get up on Monday mornings and not eat until Tuesday. No need to count calories, read ingredients, or order specialized meals.
The initial result was not bolts of lightning from the sky. After a few weeks, it dawned on me: if you provide information that helps answer questions, viewers do not care if you look like a Martian or a movie star. If you have a flat tire and a motorcycle gang stops to change the tire, you will be grateful.
Humans are focused on anything that can help them reach goals, if a video fits the bill, then run with it. Even if the person in front of the camera doesn’t represent the fountain of youth.
Cause and effect
Did the fast produce the insight? Will a fast help you to breakthrough barriers? Just because I think it worked for me doesn’t mean fasting will boost your ability to produce new ideas.
Nobody really knows what motivates humans to do anything, whether it is launching a video campaign to promote a podcast or designing a rocket to the moon.
The human mind has boggled researchers for centuries. If you would like to pursue this topic, please start with Dr. Robert S. Burton’s On Being Certain. After reading this you will be utterly confused as to how you have made decisions in your life. Logic? Emotion? Nurture? Genes?
Perhaps we can look at another field of endeavor for breakthroughs – sports. Swimmers rarely have a direct linear improvement in their time in a specific event. Their best times will plateau until some new mindset or training method is implemented.
Intelligence and hard work
Proverbial wisdom states that if you are smart you will succeed. Combine that with 12-hour workdays and you will dominate. Thirty years in marketing has taught me smart is overrated, and everybody works hard.
I have taught in the graduate school of Georgetown University for ten years. Walk around campus and you are inundated with smart. Smart is not enough. Smart alone can lead you to self-absorption that yields nothing but degrees and articles in arcane scientific journals.
Do you think you are the only person reading this article with an intent on improvement? The Internet allows you to compete against some of the hardest working people in the world. The fact that you have progressed this far in my article is an indication of your dedication. Working hard is what some in the gambling community would call “table stakes.”
The real game-changer is creativity
Artificial intelligence (AI) changes everything. The real challenge that all marketing professionals will face is not blocking out time for taking courses in analytics or working weekends, it is AI.
Successful marketing professionals like Neil Patel think, in a few years, all the tedious aspects of marketing will evaporate. It is simple – your competitor will learn how to leverage AI to write, post, and edit. If your competitor can produce more content than you without incurring traditional expense, then you will be at a disadvantage.
Conversion.ai is a service that provide headlines but will soon do more. UiPath is a company well known in the information technology community. It uses Robotic Process Automation that can establish sequences that free up humans for other activities.
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If you want a creative challenge, get invited on another podcast. Here is my article “How to become a guest on a podcast.”
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Artificial intelligence cannot produce creativity and vision. That will be the differentiator for today’s podcast marketing, or any other marketing endeavors. You must learn ways to get more creative. The concept of fasting is explored in this article, but there are hundreds of other methods that may work for you.
Perhaps you would benefit from human-to-human interaction in a brain-storming session. COVID has shown me the importance of face-to-face meetings to get a full-orb view of a person’s thoughts. Humans convey ideas with gestures, postures, and movements.
If you are an introvert, you may want to take the opposite tack to get creative. Authors like George Orwell removed themselves to a cottage to write.
Lots of books have been written about creativity. If technical competence resonates with you, author Ed Catmul’s Creativity, Inc. (2014), could be a place to start. He talks about his experience at Pixar.
A more recent exploration of creativity is Sarah Stein Greenberg’s Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways (2021). She shows her academic background at Stanford with providing assignments for readers in this book.
If you have a barrier in your marketing activity you will have to explore many new paths to get a breakthrough that works for you.
Don’t worry if your target audience is small. This is an advantage. A limited community makes it easy to learn what is currently presenting issues to your listeners, whether they are civil engineers or experts in space debris.
You must look at new ways to break through barriers to creativity. Fasting it not the goal – it is just a possible option to kick start creativity. The idea is to jump ahead of your competition with creativity and vision.