Now some creativity lessons from Physical:100 for creators. This is the sort of thing that is going to be basically automated at some point in the future, so there’s probably some meta lesson for myself here.
In any case…
Challenge 0: Strengths can backfire
In the case of the first challenge, or technically challenge zero, it’s strength itself that backfires. Sort of. It’s more just the weight required for that strength. The strongest competitors are also the heaviest. That becomes a major disadvantage when hanging from rafters.
For creativity, it can be useful to be mindful of when your strengths might backfire. In my case, I practiced and became faster at coming up with ideas and connections at a high level.
(aka: whip up an outline for how Physical:100 relates to creativity so that you can justify your guilty pleasure show even though deep down you know it’s actually a way better use of time than the one true alternative: scrolling mindlessly on my phone.)
I’m glad I can do that, but then it leads to a lot of work in progress that is never finished. The bottleneck comes later, all the shiny new ideas become a distraction, and then every few weeks I come to the conclusion that I just can’t finish anything.
Challenge 1: You can choose your environment (and that includes people)
In the first actual challenge, the top 50 competitors get to choose their opponent in a 1-on-1 match. They also get to choose the arena. The open arena favors strength. The playground arena favors speed.
In creative work, you get to choose the environment you’re in. It’s often good to have different environments for different “opponents” or whatever form of resistance comes at different stages of work.
In the beginning stages, it might be good to go somewhere without internet to go distraction free and to avoid diving into research too early. You might have a specific setup when editing work. You might like writing in loud coffee shops (like Malcolm Gladwell).
People become important at different stages as well. Feedback helps you get to great work. But friends and family who have no experience in your craft might not be able to provide the type of feedback that you need.
On the other hand, if you’re just getting started with your creative work, encouragement might actually be all you need to get the ball rolling. In that case friends and family are great. Even better would be to add a few other people at your level to take the journey on together.
Here’s a quote from the great Chael Sonnen (where he’s quoting the great Frank Costello):
There is a memorable line from the movie The Departed, where Frank Costello says, “I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me.” Wonderful line, but for good and bad, we are influenced by where we grew up and even today, your environment continues to influence the person you are.
Challenge 2: Do the basics well (so you set a good foundation)
In the second challenge, the competitors form teams and need to build a bridge and then carry sandbags over the bridge.
They highlight one of the competitors who used to work in stunts and knew the importance of securing things properly for safety. She builds a very secure bridge while the other team constantly has to stop carrying sand to adjust the planks on their bridge.
In creative work, it’s important to understand the basics of your craft and to make sure you know how to do the basics well.
The Physical:100 competitors didn’t exactly have time to understand which parts are the basics since it was a brand new game. In hindsight, securing the planks was really important. During the game, it seemed worth it to sacrifice some security to simply build the bridge as fast as possible.
Luckily, in your work you’ll likely be able to learn from experts, books, interviews, and peers to know what basics you need to nail down.
In “Creative Confidence” by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, they describe someone asking Yo-Yo Ma if he even needs to practice anymore, now that he’s a master:
The question hung in the air for a moment before Yo-Yo Ma delivered the bad news to Erik. Long after ascending to the top of his field, Yo-Yo Ma continues to practice as much as six hours a day.
I’ll do the rest in a future post
but I figured out what my own lesson is as far whether it’s worth it to write this post even if it’ll be automated away in some near future — There’s still beauty in humans doing things. Maybe me writing this post isn’t exactly going to be one of those things in the future. But the best example is Chess. It’s already been decades of humans being unable to beat the best AI. Still, it’s entertaining to play against others humans. And it’s entertaining to watch the best humans against one another.
There’s a difference between watching the Madden simulation of the Super Bowl and the actual Super Bowl.
(At least for now.)