This was a keynote talk I gave to open the World Creativity and Innovation Week and I wanted to share it with you.
First of all, thank you to the entire World Creativity and Innovation Week family for asking me to host this opening night. It’s an honor and a privilege to speak to folks working to bring beauty and love and innovation into the world.
After all, this is one of the things that humans get right. Being human is messy and we get a pretty bad rap—deservedly. We can be selfish and petty and spiteful and grateful and generous and affectionate—all in the same afternoon! We are complex. Capable of immense self-sacrifice and catastrophic self-delusion.
But as I’ve spent time researching the people we are about to get to know and their work, I found myself feeling the same way I’ve felt when I’m at the symphony. Or gathered at a music festival. Or standing in front of a great work of art or architecture. It’s the awe inspired when we see a successful rocket launch or the emotion that bubbles up in our hearts when we see a viral video of a small act of kindness. It is why we are inspired by the hero’s journey, whether it’s in a movie, or as the story of our own lives.
We all have the capacity to create. It is our birthright as humans. Whether it’s a child or a beautiful meal or a funny TikTok video or a solution to relieve someone else’s suffering. Every day we wake up and we are participating in the act of creating our life. And I’m convinced that if we don’t use this creative energy we are given constructively, we will either self-destruct or project that destruction outwards.
I know this because for many, many years that was my story. I couldn’t get out of my own way. I was completely lost. I knew I wanted to pursue a creative, entrepreneurial path—but I didn’t have the guts or even know where to begin or how. I told myself to take the safe path. The path that other people told me to take. It felt meaningless and eventually, I experienced my first of many epic failures. I failed out of college and ended up in rehab. The experience was humbling but also, liberating.
In that failure, I found freedom. Freedom from expectations. Freedom from fear. In rising out of the ashes of my first rock bottom, I found resilience. I found an inner strength I didn’t know I had. I found the importance of laughter, even in the darkest moments. I found the path not taken—and the courage to take that path—wherever it might lead me.
It was out of this crushing disappointment in myself that I began to build but it would take years to find my footing. Years before I could remove toxic substances and people I’d come to rely on. Years before I stopped making excuses. But slowly, as I kept taking risks, as I continued to create, as I continued to treat life like a giant game of Improv in which you say enthusiastically, “Yes, and!” The path materialized before me. Like magic born of fierce determination, delusions of grandeur, luck and boring old hard work.
The three most valuable lessons I’ve learned on that path are: 1. It’s never what you think. 2. Take the work seriously—don’t take yourself seriously. 3. It’s not about me.
It’s about surrendering to the process, that creative intelligence that whispers in all of our ears and tells us to dream, to reach beyond our comfort zone, to venture into the unknown and be changed.
Yes, we humans are messy. And violent. And destructive. But we are capable of truth. And beauty. And love. All of the people I’m about to interview aspire to bring these principles into the world. They’ve made it their life’s work and often it has come at a great cost. Out of loss and pain and suffering, comes creativity. Innovation. Life. We cannot underestimate the capacity of creativity to change environments, individuals and minds. Creativity changes the world. It is our superpower. And the hero’s journey is right there waiting for us—if we dare.
Gratefully and with love,