Why Unused Creativity may be Harming your Health

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What I learned at the World Domination Summit

During the first week of July this year (2012) I headed to Portland, Oregon for something called the World Domination Summit. If you just made a face, rolled your eyes or muttered some version of “what the…?” under your breath, you are not alone. I hesitated telling friends, or posting status updates on Facebook, for fear of reactions to the title.

World Domination Summit 2012
Lobby entrance to the 2012 World Domination Summit – photo credit Armosa Studios


Scott Dinsmore from Live Your Legend did a great job of summarizing some of the highlights of the conference. I read Scott’s blog on a regular basis and met him at the conference, and can attest that he’s the real deal. His site is all about finding your passion and living it, which, in a way sort of sums up the conference too. The people I met are in various places on their journey but they all had that one thing in common – passion!

Here’s a few examples of people I met or saw and what they are doing:

  • I met Marthe Hagen from Norway who courageously wrote about her own personal struggles and in doing so is helping others
  • I met Benny Lewis who travels the world, learning languages and teaching others how to do it too.
  • I met Jess Green who helps people find find a creative course, I’ve registered my workshops on her site, Seek Your Course
  • I met Stacey and Craig who help dance studio owners build web sites
  • I met numerous writers (Cynthia Morris), literary agents, artists (Lisa Call) and artist coaches (Alyson Stanfield who’s book I’d Rather Be in the Studio I have in my library – and Anita Horton) all involved in creative endeavors
  • I saw amazing keynote speakers including Scott Harrison who’s small goal is to help provide clean water to 100,000,000 (thats a hundred million!) people by the end of the decade, that don’t currently have access. The group he founded, Charity:water has already provided water to 2.5 million and I believe he’ll make his goal.
  • I met people that live abroad and travel year round, or whenever they want, and have businesses to support that type of lifestyle
  • I met three amazing women (that’s us in the photo to the right) who were also my roommates. We had never met before but hooked up on Facebook to share hotel costs. We now plan to keep in touch monthlyand help each other stay on track with our goals. We arrived as strangers, but left as friends. (Left to right: Jen Vertanen, me, Louise Wo, Sarah O’Leary)

The common thread – passion!

Are you getting the idea?! 1000 attendees and speakers, each with a great story and living an extraordinary life of passion, on their terms. So how you dominate the world will be different for you. It could simply mean dominating your own world, and killing it, as the best ever at what you do: mom, teacher, coach, blogger, travel writer, artist, executive assistant, lawyer, etc.

This was all started by a guy named Chris Guillebeau with his site and book of the same name – The Art of Non-Conformity. He’s a humble guy from Porland, who’s created a huge following of people the related to his message – life on your own terms. He did something extraordinary at the end of the summit. I’m not going to tell you what it is, if you want to know head over to his site and read, “The $100 Investment”, there’s a video as well.

Oh and it was also a lot of fun! There was a karaoke party, Bollywood dance party in an old style dance hall, and many other official and unofficial events. I even created and led a photowalk and 40 people showed up. Having never been to Portland before, that was a bit challenging. But I took it on nonetheless, and people seemed to really enjoy themselves. Thanks to all of you that came along on the walk!

WDS2012 Portland photowalk
My photowalk group, photo courtesy James Clear (he was the man with a tripod)

Unused creativity is not benign

I experienced a huge “aha” during the opening keynote speaker, Dr. Brené Brown when she said,

“Unused creativity is not benign and doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.”.

Brene Brown on stage at the World Domination Summit – photo by Armosa Studios


That hit me like a ton of bricks right in the face!

She talked about how as small children we are encouraged to express our creativity in every way – draw, sing, dance! But as we get older, suddenly there’s a standard we have to measure up to and many kids end up getting stifled and their creativity is silenced.

How I was affected by this creativity standard as a child . . .

I remember being about 10 when I was told in music class that my singing voice “sounded funny” (by a classmate or teacher I don’t honestly remember). So from that moment on, I never sang again. I only ever just moved my lips and pretended to sing. This continued long into adulthood, until after many personal growth courses and self help books, into my late 30s. How can this one thing affect us so greatly, and for so long?! Some never overcome this creativity squashing.

Some other new friends I met!

Now, I’m happy to go to karaoke and actually participate and sing for real. My roomie Louise sang lead for R-E-S-P-E-C-T and I was one of her back up singers at the karaoke party. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me over the weekend and told me how great we were, and how much they loved it. I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you how great that feels, overcoming that old hurt.

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso

So how does that relate to you?

You may be asking yourself that question now, why am I rambling on about this? Because I feel that a good percentage of our society has had a similar incident, or been told that something they created wasn’t good enough and it had dire consequences. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What part of your creativity have you shelved for fear of not being “good enough” for someone else’s standard?
  • What do you want to create but haven’t? Why?
  • What is stopping you from expressing your creativity?
  • What is your story?

You are probably here because of an interest in photography. Luckily this part of me was encouraged in my teens (by supportive parents and a mentor teacher – thanks Mr. Gainer wherever you are) and it became a career. Many others are not so lucky.

Do you relate to any or all of these?

  • Stuck in a job – perhaps you feel stuck in a boring job you hate but can’t quit, or don’t want to leave but you feel the need to do “something”, anything!
  • Afraid – maybe you dream of doing photography as a hobby or a part-time business, but are afraid of what people will think.
  • Doubt – maybe you doubt that you have what it takes. The “not good enough” fairies dance in your head a little too often?
  • Lack an outlet – maybe you simply just need some outlet for this creativity that’s been bottled up for so long and you picked up a camera – so here we are!
The Bollywood party room – this place was literally hopping for 3 hours

Help is here!!!

The good news is – you’re in the right place, help is here! Sometimes I feel like what I do isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things. I can’t do brain surgery and save someone’s life. I haven’t raised 2.5 million dollars for charity. But what I can do IS important and I’ve come to realize that in a big way after this summit.

Expression of creativity is key in living a happy, passionate, fulfilled life. You don’t have to be a professional artist, hell you don’t even have to be good at it. The biggest key is to just do it! Do something creative in your own way. Suck at it even, who cares! But enjoy it, love it, and have fun with it.

Take action now!

So what do you do now?

  • Start by getting out there and surrounding yourself with other “crazy”passionate people.
  • Find groups to meet with that like doing what you do.
  • Take some classes.
  • Meet some strangers at a conference (or coffee shop) and make friends.
  • Do something that you think is unusual, daring or downright scares your socks off
  • Do something that the people around you think is a little bit weird like going to some conference called the World Domination Summit. (Hint many of the speakers that weekend said if you get that sort of reaction to something, you’re probably on the right track – to that thing!)

My challenge to you

PART ONE: I want to know your story. Answer the questions (above) in the comments, tell me your story. Tell me your fears. Tell me what you plan to do about it! Tell me how I can help. If you think you can’t post it publicly, go read Marthe’s story and see if you change your mind. Her article has gone viral and she’s been overwhelmed with support.

PART TWO: What are you going to do to express your creativity?

For further discussion on this topic of losing our creativity, watch this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson.

Photo credits: all the photos from the conference (except the photowalk group) were taken by Armosa Studios. The group photo is by James Clear.

Cheers Darlene

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