Striking Gold Creatively is All About Perseverance

What do Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Sammy Sosa and Mickey Mantle have in common? As you likely guessed, they were all horrible baseball players. Yup – some of the most inept batters you’ll find in baseball history. Complete and utter losers, really. At least that’s the impression one might get when you see their names included among the batters with the most strikeouts. (Reggie Jackson holds the dubious honor as the #1 strikeout batter in history, having struck out 2,597 times at bat.) Of course, you know the punch line. They were also some of the top hitters to grace the game.  

Baseball metaphors are cliché, but the seemingly trite idea that you need to take a lot of swings to hit it out of the ballpark appears to be true when it comes to creative organizations and people. From Edison to Jobs to Google, whether we’re bigstock-Bright-Idea-5453884talking about creative artists, inventors, or entire companies, a lot of creative success comes down to a game of numbers. We marvel at the many ideas and invention Edison or Google inspired, but we forget (or don’t even hear about) the many, many, many misses.

The need to keep swinging the bat means that creative people and creative teams have two related traits in common, that are sometimes underappreciated:

  1. Perseverance. Creative people tend to be the Energizer Bunnies of the world: They just keep going and going and going and going…
  2. A healthy view of failure. This is the other side of the perseverance coin. In fact, I suspect the term “failure” isn’t even in their vocabulary. Edison supposedly told a reporter that he “Succeeded in finding 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb.” Failure, to creative people and companies, is simply part of the process. It’s research. It’s closing doors so that better ones can open. And yes, it’s recognizing that in order to strike gold you sometimes need to strike out.

Michael Kerr is an international business speaker specializing in workplace culture, creative workplaces, and humor in the workplace.  www.MikeKerr.com

 

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