It took me a long time in life to realise I’m really a creative person, not a systems person. These misconceptions began very early on…
In England you go to ‘infant school’ between the ages of 5 and 7. Our school was just a five minute walk down our road. At the time, the school felt huge. There was a big open plan area in the middle, with classrooms jutting off at the sides. I went back a couple of years after I had left, only to realise how small it really was.
One day we were making an art scene using paper tissue. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The sky would be along the top, in a blue strip of paper with the sun in the corner. The grass along the bottom. People and buildings in between.
I remember asking the teacher for scissors. “Just rip the tissue paper,” she replied.
No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t rip the damn paper without it going in totally random directions. I sat there for a while in confusion, watching the other kids. Everyone else seemed to be getting on with it okay. “Can’t you do it?” one girl asked.
I looked down at the mess I had created, through hands covered in PVA glue. No, I couldn’t do it, apparently.
Perhaps I just wasn’t an artist…
Later that spring we were given a task to create an Easter card for a parent, or somebody at home. At the time I was into the building system Meccano, although in hindsight I mostly just helped my Dad build stuff. My card, I decided, would be a musical card powered by giant Meccano batteries.
(I still get excited thinking how awesome that would be!)
I remember other kids colouring in their cards, while I stared at my blank A4 sheet of card, contemplating how to secure the battery compartment.
Of course, I got nowhere near designing of the card, let alone finishing its musical capabilities. I’d probably still be working on that today if I had carried on.
I sat there at the end, feeling ashamed as I looked around at everyone else’s finished cards. Everyone had a finished card, except me. Even the kids who never finished stuff had a card. I had failed.
“I think you’ve been a bit ambitious,” was the teacher’s semi-friendly remark.
Not a creator. Not an inventor. Not an innovator. Not an artist. That was the message that stuck with me after that. I had that conversation running in my head for many years.
The point of today’s story is to point out how seemingly insignificant events can actually form key turning points in your life. I remember the two events above because internally I felt ashamed.
I responded by doing what every child does: I took steps to protect myself. I stopped dreaming of giant battery-powered cards. I stopped creating so much.
I’ve since realised that most inventions rarely start from scratch. You don’t have to be a lab coated professor to create innovation. And not all art has to be visual.
True Story Selling is really a place for people who identify more as artists than as entrepreneurs, even if you’re not an artist in the conventional sense. Production – the act of doing your thing – matters to you.
P.S. Notice in the story above I told you how I felt, not just what happened. That’s important. You can make any story interesting and relevant by describing the core emotion you felt.