You know someone’s advice fits you as soon as you try it on. Great advice is more like a recommendation for your future than an expectation picked out for you. It is a perfectly timed gift.
The best gift my husband ever gave me had 20 inch-wheels and a comfy canvas seat for my six month old baby. Nobody had a baby jogger in my neighborhood a decade ago. They were a fairly new invention then. Until the jogger stroller I kept pace and chatted with my friends, the slowest runners in the running club I’d recently joined. I walked briskly, pushing a Tonka-like stroller that stopped on a dime or whenever I let up on the heavy pushing. The jogger not only introduced me to faster friends but always gave more than I pushed into it. It entertained my little child with ever-changing views and a constant breeze. My mood picked up throughout the day to see the jogger, conspicuous in my living room, a Pandora’s box of things worth living for.
Great advice is like this, humbly-given, like my first jogger stroller, but containing a Universe of possibilities and expectations that jive perfectly with the receiver.
Professor Doty Hale gave me such advice one afternoon after her Children’s Lit. class. She looked me in the eyes and said, You should go for your PhD. You’re PhD material. She had noticed me jump at any chance to do research and that I loved philosophy. That moment, I realized I lived for both the most minute details of a topic and the grander questions. She’s right! I thought, I am PhD material. Hale’s advice uncovered my truth.
Unfortunately most advice is not so thoughtful or humble.Highly Creative people know most advice is not a gift at all. It often comes instead like badly cut pants, five sizes too large. Bad advice makes you feel lost, confused and less than expected. Advice smothered in someone else’s expectations of a better you, cut to change who you are, squashes your Creativity.
Bad advice and expectations cover your truth so you won’t see it.
Creativity Scholar E.Paul Torrence studied more than 400 children from kindergarten into their 50’s and found the single most important predictor of a creative child’s future career success and overall life satisfaction was the child’s ability to dodge bad advice and ignore, even fight, expectations that were not a perfect fit. In his Manifesto, Torrence said,
Learn to free yourself from the expectations of others and to walk away from the games they impose on you.
French fashion designer Coco Chanel said,
How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.
A Highly Creative person is not a doctor or lawyer, or even a novelist, but an individual, irreplaceable and irreplicable; a Someone who constrained himself to his truth. Highly Creative people don’t even try on ill-fitting advice or bother with other’s expectations.