Chase Jarvis urges the crowd to take a stand for creativity in work, education

Chase Jarvis thinks creativity is the new literacy, and by that, he means “creativity is the fundamental building block of the solution to every problem the world has ever seen, has ever known and will ever know.” 

For example, he once hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro with a group of friends to raise awareness for clean water, and after much social media sharing of their experience, they managed to attract the attention of Bono and President Obama, which led to a conversation about clean-water policies and legislation.

That result might seem impossible to most of us, but Jarvis insists on thinking big. A renowned photographer, visual artist and founder of who frequently works with celebrities and Fortune 100 companies, Jarvis views creativity as his highest calling.

He asked Big Omaha attendees to raise their hands if they’ve ever been told to pursue something more practical and less creative. About two-thirds of the audience raised their hands.

“Creativity is the new literacy, but we have a culture that doesn’t value creativity and an educational system that stomps it out. We’re programmed to shy away from the creative for the more practical,” Jarvis said.

“But it’s fundamental to being human that you are creative, it’s what distinguishes you from the rest of species on the planet. We’re hardwired for creativity, I promise, and we owe it to ourselves and our culture to prioritize creativity as a mode of operating.”

Jarvis described the state of creativity today as positively medieval, having three acts like a play.:

Act 1: Creativity with a capital C

“Creativity is the act of taking something that didn’t exist and making it something, ideally something useful.” Jarvis encouraged the crowd to experiment and think about things in a new way, noting examples of this sort of renegade creativity in the way Martin Luther King Jr., approached human rights issues and the way engineering brought forth the wheel.

Act 2: Sh*t is broken

Jarvis told a sea of attentive Big Omaha attendees about his childhood full of creativity—when he made films and skateboarded with friends—that got “systematically stomped out” once he reached high school.

Jarvis said 67 percent of millennials want a career that lets them be creative on a regular basis, and 75 percent of people say they aren’t living up to their creative potential. Yet, the current educational model doesn’t support or promote creativity as a value.

“We use a factory system model with schools to move people in and out of the classroom as quickly as possible so that they come out all the same. The education system needs to value creativity and innovation, and it doesn’t,” Jarvis said. “There’s a line of thinking that goes like this: If you get good grades, you get to go to college, and then you can get a good job and live happily ever after. Here’s the facts, people: that narrative is false.”

Act 3: Whatchu Gonna Do

Jarvis shared his top 10 ways to make yourself more creative (since, in his words, “I know the Internet loves cats, and top 10 lists, and I know you love the Internet, so…”).

10. Pursue a creative craft, like photography or knitting or whatever it may be.

9. Cultivate space for yourself every day, because “great ideas don’t come from chaos.”

8. Play by taking time to do something you love every day.

7. Find your tribe of people who like what you like and can provide feedback.

6. Show your work, because “making something and not showing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it to somebody.”

5. Be imperfect repeatedly.

4. Put more of yourself into your work. Share your stories. Be willing to speak out.

3. If you have doubts, that means you’re doing it right.

2. Make something every day.

1. You have nothing to lose. One day you’ll be dead.

Build relationships and meet new people

Jarvis gets hundreds of emails a day, and large chunk of them are from people asking him to look at their photography. He said he’s happy to help, but what these people are really asking for is an hour of his time, which he doesn’t have enough of.

Instead, he offers a different approach to networking: “For every person that’s achieved a great deal of success, there’s something he or she doesn’t know. Find a way to help that person instead of asking something for them. Provide value, four or five times, build a relationship, and then when or if you do need something from that person, they are more likely to help you.”

Be the creative heroes you admire

Jarvis said that all the people we value as a culture are the ones who take risks and are incredibly creative, but we can’t step back and wait around for another Martin Luther King Jr. 

“We must cultivate those people now. You can start by making something and sharing it every day, so that it becomes a habit. That creative habit unlocks what is possible and gets you over the hurdle of worrying about what other people think. Let creativity be your guide.”


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