Does anyone remember record players? I suppose that statement dates me.  But the one big flaw of record players is that when a scratch was present, they could get caught in a “loop” – endlessly playing the same litte bit over and over.  It was annoying as hell to be listening to your favorite song and to suddenly have the last three words of the verse go on endless loop.

That’s a lot like the notions of “productivity” that are out there.  It is and endless loop: get more efficient, cross things off your list more quickly, outsource more – and you’ll magically get to the top of the field.

It just ends up with lots of people more stressed out and overwhelmed than ever, because they’re missing a “secret ingredient” that the truly productive implement in their lives (don’t worry, it won’t be so secret once I finish with this post).

Let’s take an extreme example: Bill Gates. He’s a polarizing figure, but almost nobody can deny that he’s been successful.

Is he a billionaire because he “gets far more done” than other people?  Of course, that’s a ridiculous notion. If you compared the fortunes of Bill Gates to that of the average McDonalds clerk, he earns like 10,000 times more from interest on his investments alone than does the clerk, but if he was working 10,000 times harder, he’d be dead by now!

Some – who are particularly susceptible to the poverty mentality – may argue that Bill Gates makes his money “off the backs of others.” I know of at lest two people who have jobs working for Microsoft that help them support their families, and if Bill Gates didn’t exist, those jobs probably wouldn’t exist, either.

Then, what is the difference between Bill and the thousands of people that work for Bill, and make far less than him?  If we suddenly “evened out” the pay so that everyone at Microsoft earned a salary equal to Bill (by giving him a huge pay cut) – how long would the payroll stay even-steven? NOT LONG.  Companies like United Airlines have tried experiments along those lines, and there are always those who rise to the top, and those who sink like a falling stone.

No, Bill has a “secret ingredient” that would very likely get him back on top if he were to loose his fortune.

  • It’s not his connections. Those are helpful, but they aren’t the answer. There are plenty of people in poverty who have connections
  • It’s not his “golden spoon” – that makes success easier, but by no means assures it. Just look at the history of people who’ve won the lottery – many of them return to poverty after their winnings run out
  • It’s not his “extremely hard work” – I’m sure Bill worked hard at times, but like I said above, not 10,000 or 100,000 times harder than others.

His secret ingredient is his creativity.  He found a way to creatively come up with the right solutions at the right time for a fledgeling market in computers. He didn’t just do that once – he and his team did it time and time again! That is how he got to be a Billionare.

Take another example: Steve Jobs.  In his Stanford commencement speech, he talked about how the design of the first Mac was a creative endeavor – bringing in new typography (and building on ideas that he’d seen at Xerox Parc labs).

Some say he “stole” the ideas from Xerox, but they misunderstand creativity. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum! You don’t go from nothing to a complex idea in one single step.  It’s almost always incremental. Steve may have gotten ideas from them, but he and Wozniak built on those ideas, creatively.

Did you ever see the first iPod? I had one. At the time it was a fricking revolution – storing 5GB of songs in your pocket.  It was a leap beyond the other players at the time, like the Archos jukebox (I owned one of those, too).

Now, compare the current ipods and iphones to that first iPod. There’s no comparison! The current lineup is far more advanced, smooth, holds more songs, is easier to use, etc… (and the price is lower!)

It didn’t happen in one step. It happened in many small steps – iPod touch, original iPhone, iPhone 3, iPhone 4, etc.

If Apple had stopped innovating (creating) with the first iPod, would Apple exist today? Of course not. Their success is in direct proportion to how much they can apply focused creativity to solve the needs of the market in new ways.

My point is this: if you want more success, you’ve got to bring your creativity into your endeavors – in a focused way. Lots of people associate creativity with dreamers and other often not so focused applications of creativity.  If you apply it willy-nilly, you’ll get willy nilly results!

The challenge for a lot of us (me included) is that our schools teach us to thoroughly develop the left-brained skills of analysis, mathematics, etc – but they do almost nothing to develop our creativity.  That’s why some of the most successful people (like Steve Jobs) were college dropouts – they weren’t exposed to so much of the over-development of the “left-brained” skills.

So, if you want to be more “productive” (i.e. getting to your goals faster) – learn to develop a balance between the right-brained skills of creative, big-picture thinking and the left-brained skills of rational analysis.

If you are a business owner or entrepreneur interested in more training on that topic, check out