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Creativity, Astronauts and More

May 22, 2013

Well, Commander Chris Hadfield has (safely) returned to earth.   Not before releasing the most epically awesome music video ever, an all-too-perfect (on many levels) cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity

But, and the main impetus for this blog post, a week or so before that he participated in Music Monday, the annual cross-Canada music event for schools.  From the ISS he led many sites and students across the country in singing his piece “Is Someone Signing” (the first song debuted from space).  Afterwards there was a Q&A session, and a student asked how music has helped Chris be an astronaut.  And in true Chris fashion, he gave a great and deep answer. 

You scan see it here, starting around the 49 minute mark.  It’s perfect.  He draws the line of creativity and the ability to synthesize different bits of information, disparate inputs, and to go beyond the  know and regular X-Y-Z process to his ability to being an astronaut.  Of how that is, in fact, VITAL to his ability and skill of being an astronaut.  And I concur with him wholeheartedly, not only in being an astronaut but in many fields, jobs and endeavours here on earth.  Architecture is certainly one of them, where we deal with codes and art and people and desires and constraints and conditions and all sorts of stuff and we make it sing.  And I got a lot of training for that in my architectural schooling. 

And it’s not just architecture.  Programmers, game developers, entrepreneurs, leaders, technicians, doctors, I’d be hard pressed to find a job where wholistic creativity (to lump it all together) is not an asset, especially at the “higher” levels of the job.  To be effective is to be able to think on your feet, see the elegant solutions, and adapt, respond, and do what’s necessary to make it work.  That is what makes a valuable worker. 

To that end I offer this strong recommendation for everyone out there, the young especially:  “Begin to cultivate your creativity, your imagination, your curiosity, NOW.”  If you want to do really well in all your jobs, start cultivating now.  If you want to enter some of the coolest fields out there – astronaut, designers of all stripes, researchers, and all leaders, start cultivating now.  This is the biggest thing that will help you.  Knowing things is good (but google is greater).  Applying the knowledge, and knowing how to synthesize inputs and knowledge, is the greatest. 

Music, as Chris points out, can be great for this, as can certain schooling like architecture.  But I began my training well before I got to university, in my playfulness, my inventfullness, my crazy imagination.  I spent less time in front of passive media, I engaged in much unstructured activities and games, I talked a lot.  I was engaged.  It is a matter of what you do. 

And as Ira Glass pointed out, to do it well, you have to do it often.

I’ve encountered many people who can do X-Y-Z once they learn it, and they are fine support people who you can give something to for them to do X-Y-Z to.  But when W comes up, they come to a grinding halt and cannot move on.  It’s unfortunate, as I think it limits their potential greatly, and I mean that not only in terms of their “job”, but in terms of their effectiveness at all things that really light them up, and so potentially limit fulfillment and passion. 

So I lend my (little, and not nearly as good at singing (I mean, daaang, he’s got a great voice!)) voice to Chris’ recommendation.  The best thing you can do, for just about every reason and every aspect of your life, is to get your creativity on.  It’s one of the great joys of being human.

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