Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Creativity Lessons I Learned from Basketball by Christine Kane

Okay. I know.

I'm not supposed to do sports. After all, we creative types are more about reveling in the smell of crayons, the angle of moonlight on the river, and the beauty of the ocean at sunrise.

Not the obnoxious sound of the buzzer, or screaming at the coach to use a time-out, or shouting in glee as a three-pointer swishes through the hoop.

And yet, I'm in love with the Carolina Tarheels. And it's not because I know basketball or what a screen is. It's because I love the process, the stories, the passion - and yes, the similarities between basketball and being creative.

Here are seven unexpected Creativity lessons I've Learned from Basketball...

1: Systems and Habits. Not Feelings and Reactions

In his book Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made , David Halberstam devotes two chapters to Dean Smith's Carolina basketball program. He describes the team's daily practices with pure awe.

First because of how quiet they are. And he writes, "The next thing was how brilliantly and carefully organized it was, with a schedule posted each day that outlined how each minute of practice would be used."

In other words, no one is waiting to decide whether or not they "feel like it." The system was in place before the practice began. There was a schedule.

The creative-types I coach are always amazed at their productivity levels when we create a schedule for their weekly practices. They no longer spend their time reacting to their days with emotion and drama.

2: Get a Coach

Here's where athletes get it right. They get coaches. From the start, they have coaches and mentors. Lots of them. No athlete in his right mind doesn't have a coach.

Yes, it'd be nice if the coaching model were built into the creative life. But this is where we can BE the change we're looking for. For now, we'll have to learn to invest in ourselves enough to hire coaches, ask for mentors and create a support system that doesn't turn us into strung-out loners.

3: Success Brings Critics

You can search the web and find all kinds of nasty articles, blogs, and television snippets whose sole purpose is to trash teams, players, coaches, and fans.

Creative types sometimes try to play a game of "not making people upset." They contort themselves into limiting boxes in hopes that no one will notice them shine.

It's pointless. Snarky people are everywhere. They pick apart successful people because they don't know how to do it themselves. Keep your focus on your work in the world, and let the snarky people ruin their own lives with their negative vibes.

4:Have fun with ALL of it

Michael Jordan tells a story of Coach Dean Smith in the final seconds of the championship game against Georgetown. Carolina was down by one point. During his time out, Smith outlined the play, and then paused and looked up at his players and asked, "Isn't this fun?"

I remember this when I'm frustrated at my writing, when I'm overwhelmed with ideas, when I begin to think I should've gone to law school. Creativity is all about loving the unknown , being able to look at it, and then ask yourself, "Isn't this fun?" Because you KNOW it is!

5: Three-Pointers Can't Make Up for Steady Performance

There are times when one team makes a run and suddenly leads by 9 points. The other team, in total panic, will try to make a quick come-back by rushing down the court and randomly shooting three-pointers.
That's because three-pointers are a seemingly quick way to get back on track. If they're doing it from desperation, it rarely works. That's because they've stopped playing to win - and now they're playing not to lose.

Creative types are often holding out for the "big thing." The Record Deal. The Gallery Opening. Being on Oprah. Something - anything - to rescue them. They're running around trying to get the three-pointers. But it rarely works.

Nothing works like consistent, solid, steady forward movement. That way, when the three-pointers happen, they're just icing on the cake.

6: Passion is passion. (Swear words and all.) 

I always crack up when the camera hits a coach after a bad call just as he's belting out a stream of profanity so articulate that even the blind can read his lips.

It's a part of the passion. Don't be afraid of yours!

7: Keep Shooting

In the last weeks of the 2009 tournament, Tarheel player Danny Green missed some baskets.

Well, no, that's not true. He missed every basket he shot. Three pointers, two pointers, lay-ups.

The media went nuts. Everyone was wondering what was wrong. All kinds of drama and speculation.

Coach Roy Williams' advice to Danny?

"Keep shooting."

And he did.

Within a few games, he was back on track.

Sometimes we're off our game. The words don't come. The passion is gone. We're tired. Life bums us out.

In those times, you can decide it's all over, you're washed up, nothing is worth doing anymore. Or you can take Roy's advice and keep shooting. --

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her 'LiveCreative' weekly ezine with more than 11,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at .