The Little Bit of Creativity That Could
"One of the biggest challenges that a young person has to face, is the relentless pressure of the industrial school system; which in large part, does not foster creativity..."
When I was about 10 years old, I went to a slumber party with some of my friends. The slumber party was in celebration of our friend "Scotty" and I can vividly remember the talks that lead up to the party. We had grand ideas of pillow fights and ice cream, staying up all night and watching movies. BUT what really happened that night, for me, changed everything.
Scotty had an older Brother named Eric. Eric was a high schooler, AND he had one of the very first Apple computers. And while I wanted to carry out the plans of hedonism with the rest of my friends, I found more enjoyment in watching Eric work on his computer.
I remember Eric talking about technology and how it was the way of the future. I remember him talking about "Entrepreneurship"(a word I had NEVER heard before), and he talked about creativity and how truly powerful the mind is.
It was in that night, that brief encounter with Eric that my whole life changed. Being somewhat clever with drawing at that age, I decided, in those few short moments with Eric, that I would be an Entrepreneur, and that I would use this thing called a computer, and my creativity to make a living. I was 10 years old, and my mind was made up.
About five years later, my Dad sat me down at the dinner table and asked me a simple question: "What are you going to do once you get out of school? What kind of work are you planning on doing?" On the surface, this was an EASY question, I had been thinking about this idea for a LONG time, 5 years now! So to deliver a sharp, and clever: "I am going to be an Entrepreneur!! I am going to use the computer and my creativity to start a business!!"
My Dad worked at a paper company as a Floor Manager. And he had worked at this paper company for as long as I could remember... His mindset was fundamentally different than mine, and I could clearly tell when he answered my excitement with: "NO!! You are going to focus on your school work, get good grades, graduate and get a REAL JOB!" My response was not what he was expecting ... I said: "NO, I am going to be an Entrepreneur, and I am going to build my company using a computer and creativity!"
My Dad was very angry, and frustrated by my response to him. I remember him hammering me with this idea that I would work for someone else, earn an "honest" living, and someday retire". For some reason, nothing he was saying made any sense to me. It was so far detached from what I had been dreaming about, that I too became frustrated and began to cry.
My Dad decided he would tape record our conversation, with the promise of playing the tape back for me, when I was "mature" enough to realize just how "crazy" I was sounding. It was a terrible experience. I had hot tears streaming down my face, and with each question he asked, and each demand he threw at me, it felt like he was trying to pull something out of my heart. After about 10 minutes, it was over. He finished hammering, pushed stop on the tape recorder, and sent me to bed.
When I went to bed, I remember chanting to myself... "I am going to be an Entrepreneur, I am going to use the computer to be creative, and build my business..." - I think I said it hundreds of times that night...
Fast forward about 8 years later. I had gone on to finish high school, and 5 years of military (ARMY). And in all that time, I never stopped dreaming about being an Entrepreneur. When I got out of the ARMY I pursued a job in sales, because I knew I had to be able to sell to be an Entrepreneur. Around that same time, the web was coming on the scene. Web design was something that was emerging, and I remember thinking: "If I could figure out how to take my ability to draw, and be creative, and merge it with this "web design" thing - I could sell web pages, and start my business..." So that's what I focused my learning on... Every night I would go to the public library, and dive into searching the web for resources on how to design web pages. Now, back then, there was no "Udemy" or "Kahn Academy". I had to piece it all together, hours and hours of searches.
After about a year, I felt like I had enough skill to build web pages for businesses. So I put on a tie, and my best slacks, and went from door to door, telling business owners I was a "Web Designer". I got a BUNCH of no's, which I was used to, because of all of the no's I received trying to sell insurance!! I kept at it, and finally, I got a "YES".
I charged the business owner 2500.00, and he wrote me a check for 50% of the project cost, which I would ultimately use to buy a computer! The one I had, was just a service computer that was given to me by the insurance company I was selling for!
Once I had the check in hand, and a rough service agreement, I realized that THIS was my first sell!! My first sell as a Web Designer, and ENTREPRENEUR!! I immediately went to my Dads house that day, to find him outside cutting grass. I asked him about the tape he had made when I was 15 years old... He joyfully retrieved the tape and the tape recorder. We sat together and listened to the tape... With a grin on his face he said: "See how crazy all that was sounding? See how you can't pay the bills with a dream!!" ... I said: "No, I hear the dreams of a child being hammered away, but I can also here the resistance of the creative spirit..." At that moment, I pulled out the check I was given by my new "client", and I said: "AND YES, you can pay the bills with a dream..." We both wept, and that moment defined something very special inside of me...
I went on to start one of the first full service web design studios in my city, and grew a successful business.
One of the biggest challenges that a young person has to face, is the relentless pressure of the industrial school system and the thinking of the industrial generation; which in large part, does not foster creativity.