Live out of your imagination, not your history. Stephen R Covey, Author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

At the end of last year was fortunate enough to attend a talk on creativity given by Sir John Hegarty, Worldwide Creative Director and Founder of BBH Advertising Agency.

Sir John has over six decades experience working in advertising and has received numerous awards for his adverts for Levi’s and Audi as well as many accolades for worldwide marking campaigns such as British Airways, Lynx, Johnnie Walker and Boddingtons.

He’s knows his stuff. He’s been there, done that, over and over again.

I have great admiration for Sir John and what he has achieved and pioneered within the creative industry. I’ve read his books and use many of his thoughts in my work, so I was all ears to hear first-hand his words of vast experience and wisdom regarding creativity.

After 10 minutes of a very enjoyable talk, he said something that I really wasn’t expecting:

Creatives do their best work in the first 10 years and then repeat themselves for the next 10.

Sir John went on to elaborate with various examples, mostly from the music and art world, where creatives ignited their brilliance, created their ‘thing’ and then either repeated themselves or just got less and less brilliant as the years went by.

He had a compelling point.

There are lots of examples to indicate that this is a familiar trajectory of a creative life, yet there are many examples where this isn’t the case.

What struck me was this…

If this is how a revered figurehead of the creative industry views an individuals’ creative career path, then what are the implications of this for all the super-experienced creatives and Creative Directors who’ve been in the industry for a couple of decades?

If someone works in the creative industry for more than 10 years, does this imply:

– there’s a time in your career where your experience will be superseded by naivety and inexperience? 

– that as you mature there will be a constant line of fresh young things nipping at your heels?

– that you’re destined to descend into the pitfalls of formulaic creativity. Create / Articulate / Formulate / Repeat?

Is this really true?

I’d say it’s all a possibility. I’ve seen it for myself. I’ve even experienced it myself during my 22+ years in the industry.


What’s the one thing that naivety and inexperience can often bring that experience and habitual thinking can often miss? 

What’s the one thing that poses a challenge the more you journey along your creative career path?

What’s the one thing that’s the foundation and life-blood of the whole creative industry?

Fresh thinking.

I believe there’s something that’s not understood enough within the creative industry.

Fresh thinking is not dependant on youthfulness and inexperience or maturity and experience. The two things are not correlated.

Fresh thinking is dependant on a clear headspace whatever your age, status or experience.

When you enter the creative industry as a fledgling, you have a lot less habitual thinking than someone who’s been in the industry for a couple of decades. Habitual thinking leads to formulas and repetition because it’s not fresh or new.

However, whether you’ve been in the industry for 10, 20, 30 years or more, there is a way to freshen-up your thinking so you can be as original, innovative and also as passionate as you were in the early years of your career AND it allows you to leverage the advantages of your many years of experience.

To do this starts with understanding how your own headspace works and how to access the state of flow.

Flow is the fertile headspace that cultivates great ideas and fresh thought.

And when you experience that state, you’ll drop a lot of formulaic, habitual ways of thinking and you’ll tap into your own limitless fresh creative capacity.

When you access a clear head space on a daily, hourly, moment-to-moment basis you will be the best version of yourself, coming up with your best ideas whatever your age, experience and know-how.

Fresh ideas won’t ever run out. Once you understand how YOU work, neither will yours.

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