Overcoming Fear – The Courage to be Creative

Jeff Jarvis writes, “we are shifting, too, from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance.” While we live in a world of potential abundance, there are obstacles to realizing this abundance. It requires that we accept change and become willing to relinquish control of others. To realize your creative abundance, you must have the courage to confront your own fears and the fears of others. Jeff Jarvis writes…

So let’s assume that instead of a scarcity there is an abundance of talent and a limitless will to create but it has been tamped down by an educational system that insists on sameness; starved by a mass economic system that rewarded only a few giants; and discouraged by a critical system that anointed a closed, small creative class. Now talent of many descriptions and levels can express itself and grow. We want to create and we want to be generous with our creations. And we will get the attention we deserve. That means that crap will be ignored. It just depends on your definition of crap.

The gates of the creative kingdom have been guarded for far too long by a group of elitists who practice a form intellectual apartheid (albeit unknowingly). In the past, they, the guardians of taste and culture have prevented the great mass of humanity from participating in true meritocracy. In fact, the system was designed to convince us that we don’t deserve to participate. William Deresiewicz writes in The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

My education taught me to believe that people who didn’t go to an Ivy League or equivalent school weren’t worth talking to, regardless of their class. I was given the unmistakable message that such people were beneath me. We were “the best and the brightest,” as these places love to say, and everyone else was, well, something else: less good, less bright. I learned to give that little nod of understanding, that slightly sympathetic “Oh,” when people told me they went to a less prestigious college. (If I’d gone to Harvard, I would have learned to say “in Boston” when I was asked where I went to school—the Cambridge version of noblesse oblige.) I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to elite colleges, often precisely for reasons of class. I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to college at all.

I also never learned that there are smart people who aren’t “smart.” The existence of multiple forms of intelligence has become a commonplace, but however much elite universities like to sprinkle their incoming classes with a few actors or violinists, they select for and develop one form of intelligence: the analytic. While this is broadly true of all universities, elite schools, precisely because their students (and faculty, and administrators) possess this one form of intelligence to such a high degree, are more apt to ignore the value of others. One naturally prizes what one most possesses and what most makes for one’s advantages. But social intelligence and emotional intelligence and creative ability, to name just three other forms, are not distributed preferentially among the educational elite. The “best” are the brightest only in one narrow sense. One needs to wander away from the educational elite to begin to discover this.

Now, due to ubiquitous technology and cheap access to the internet, no one can prevent you from floating balloons and discovering what rises. But there is another angle to this, the media consumer.

I hear average Joes (non-social media addicts) say they don’t understand blogging and all the fuss about online media. I hear, “every blog I’ve read sucks. How do you find blogs worth reading? How do you know if it’s accurate? How can you trust some blog?”

I reply, “Discriminate for yourself and find your information via news aggregation. Decide for yourself what is plausible, what is good.” In a diplomatic way, I’m saying, “Think for yourself.”

Invariably I am told, “Who has time for that!” Which I find a bit depressing, because they’re saying they don’t want to exert the effort to think critically about what the media says. It is an industrial age hangover.

A large percentage of media consumers were conditioned during the industrial age to have decisions made for them. They don’t want the freedom to decide for themselves what is worth believing, because then – they must take responsibility for what they believe. Now, they assume if something is written in a major newspaper that it must be accurate and trustworthy, and it makes them feel safe. They want editors to protect them. They want schedules, filters, and predictability, but they don’t want to be accountable.

This is the problem Web 2.0 entrepreneurs must solve. Digg tries to filter out the garbage and let the cream rise, but they fail by consistently suppressing great content via bury abuse. People bury ideas they disagree with, not just spam. Controversial political opinion is becoming harder to find on Digg. Reddit’s algorithm allows it to be overrun with redundant content. No one system has the answer, but the aggregators are improving, and we are getting more choices.

While Jarvis writes of the demise of the creative class, Dereck (I Will Not Die) asks if we are in the midst of a new class war.

Not rich vs. poor. I don’t mean the hordes of normal working people rising up hoping to slaughter all the landowners. What I have in mind is a new kind of class, a class that has crept up slowly, growing almost without being noticed until it’s big enough to be a major player in society. I mean a class of tech-savvy, scientifically-minded, free-thinking über-”geeks”. I’m guessing we now number in the millions, easily. Probably in the tens of millions though.

As I talk with people about new media and the changing economy, I run into people who ‘get it’ and people who don’t. Right now it appears to be nearly black and white. Of course there are those who think they ‘get it’ and don’t, and those who ‘get it’ and are trying to thwart it, like the Philadelphia Inquirer. The new class warfare Dereck describes is being fought between those attempting to preserve the past and those welcoming the future. This new class war, defies the political and social constructs of the industrial age. It is neither conservative nor liberal, rich nor poor, white nor black. It is about freedom, intellectual and creative freedom.

The old media won’t hold up economically or ethically. It will fall like all central control falls when it is confronted with mass technological and social innovation. It will fail because it doesn’t serve people, it serves itself. Preserving the past never works, because (as an old school genius wrote), Time Marches On and it doesn’t care about you or your fears.

9 thoughts on “Overcoming Fear – The Courage to be Creative”

  1. I’ve been an avid consumer, with a keen critical filter, of the “old media” for the past couple of decades and IMHO it’s degenerated into a mixture of triviality (Paris Hilton and her ilk) and if “it bleeds it leads.”

    In some ways the blogosphere is the same (For example numerous blogs reporting the same movie news and rumours). One advantage the blogosphere has is that “free thinkers” have a low cost medium to express themselves and develop connections to other “free thinkers.” I appreciate the opportunities to absorb views and thoughts divergent from my own.


  2. To overcome fear, I follow these steps:

    Recognize Your Fears – First, you need to recognize that this is indeed one of the fears you have. If you already accept this particular fear as the absolute truth, then there is no way to face that particular fear and hence no way to overcome it.

    Understanding The Root Of Your Fears – With your list of fears that are holding you back, you can now try to figure out where these fears come from. For each item on the list, examine whether this fear is the result of some other fears. Your goal is to consolidate your list to as few fears as possible, so that you can better understand where the root of your all your fears are coming from.

    Overcoming Your Fears – Fear, as far as I can tell, is the result of uncertainty about a situation. We fear death because we don’t know what happens after it. We fear losing our jobs because we don’t know if there is another way we’ll be able to support ourselves. We fear asking a person out on a date because we don’t know what the other person’s expectations are and whether they would say yes or no. In all of these instances, fear comes from not knowing what we would do should some particular situation happen.

    To get rid of the fear, simply figure out what you will do in each of the possible scenarios. For example, for the fear of asking someone out on a date, figure out what you would do if he/she says yes, he/she says no, he/she says yes with a smile, he/she says no with a smile, he/she throws a glass of water at you, etc. Once you know exactly how to handle every single situation, there is simply nothing to be afraid of anymore.

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  3. I dunno about William Deresiewicz. I attended an ivy school and I work at another Ivy school. In both, I have met plenty of students who appeared to be ditzy or have non-traditional smarts, and certainly have met students who have different kinds of backgrounds. If you choose only to meet and socialize with the people who are a certain way, that’s all that you’ll see.

  4. Thanks for this post. I think another way the divide you’re talking about manifests itself is through the distinction between people who have an “Industrial Age” mentality toward their careers, who see a “real job” as requiring an office away from home, a pension plan and a seniority-based company structure, and those with the “Information Age” mindset, who don’t see any of those things as necessary for career satisfaction (and actually see them as potentially obstacles to finding fulfillment).

  5. You’ve given us a lot to think about here. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school – far from it. I was taught to be anti-snob. My parents thought there was something inherently evil about “blue bloods.”

    As I got older, I came to know people from all different social and economic circles. I found that there are smart and “dumb” people in all of them. The ones who irk me the most are those who have extensive education (MBA’s, PHD’s etc.) and no common sense.

    You’re right about the world becoming more abundance conscious but, like anything, it doesn’t happen overnight. It will take generations for the majority to finally catch on to the fact that the universe is limitless.

    Most people are just too busy doing what they’ve always done to learn how to do anything new or find a way out of the rut they’ve become accustomed to.


  6. @kickstand – I have no direct knowledge of Ivy League Schools, I just found William Deresiewicz essay poignant. Regardless, would you say there is an elite class in our society which believed itself to be the guardians to the gates of information and they are being threatened by the low barriers of entry on the internet?

    @Duane – I was raised much like you. I like to think that I hold no prejudices and judge on merit only. However, when I examine my feelings, actions, and words, I find I have a heavy bias toward the working class. I believe there is a part of my subconscious that was programmed quite young to believe that working class people were ‘my people’ and were somehow morally superior. Intellectually I know that is absurd, viscerally it is a reality for me. It is the comfort zone I must break out of. I think it is the juxtaposition of William Deresiewicz’s inability to relate to his plumber.

  7. Well said Steve.

    “It is about freedom, intellectual and creative freedom.” – this is very true. When we reach this state of freedom, our life opens up for us. The key is overcoming the fear and letting these creative sides emerge and prosper. I believe the social Internet is empowering to those to embrace it as a tool to understand and live their creativeness.

  8. How does one “be creative”. It’s an oxymoron. You either create, or you don’t. But if you want to “be creative” that will be your undoing. You’ll just gaze at your navel.

  9. We’re all human and therefore we all have fears. Some of us fear death, others fear being alone, and others fear social situations. If you can think of it, there’s someone somewhere that’s afraid of it. But fear is a normal part of life! There are times, though, when fear can hinder us and stop us from enjoying life and experiencing new joys. When your fear starts to limit what you do in life, you need to conquer that fear. I get more inspirational tips lately from http://www.bestsum.com


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