I first met actor, writer and comedian John Cleese when he keynoted Content Marketing World 2015 (see image above).
First off, the man is tall. I mean extremely tall. I felt like a small child standing next to him.
Second, he’s brilliant.
Last week my friend JK gave me John Cleese’s new book Creativity: a short and cheerful guide. Yes, this is a book…but it reads like an essay. It cannot be more than ten thousand words. That said, the content is gold and I highly recommend it.
Toward the middle Cleese talks about the greatest creativity killer.
Can you guess what it is?
He says research has shown that after an interruption it can take eight minutes for you to return to your previous state of consciousness. And up to 20 minutes to get back into a state of deep focus.
Let’s think about the content you’re creating. You start on that article or post or image or storyboard and then someone walks outside your door. You stop. It distracted you.
You were in the groove and now it will take you 10 minutes or more to get it back.
How about checking Twitter or Facebook? I know a few people that keep their social media notifications on all day. Probably five minutes do not go by that they don’t receive some kind of news or social update. It’s a problem.
Cleese recommends two different strategies to remove these types of interruptions.
First, create boundaries of space to stop others from interrupting you. Shut the door, put “do not disturb” on the outside or hide where people can’t bother you. Second, you create boundaries of time by arranging for a specific period to preserve your boundaries of space.
For content creators this means effectively using your calendar. To finish my novel, The Will to Die, I blocked out calendar time every morning for my writing. It was just my computer and me locked away in my office. I left my phone outside the room.
At first this was extremely difficult. I’d interrupt myself all the time. I’d think about who I needed to call or email or sometimes just crazy random thoughts popped inside my brain.
But your mind learns and after a few days, I found the groove. Those two hour periods seemed to last just a few minutes and then…poof…I wrote 2,000 words.
Do you want to be more creative? Give yourself the time and the space to do so.
As Cleese says, creativity doesn’t just happen. You have to set up the proper circumstances for creativity to appear.
It’s Time to Be Bold
(Not to Hold)
I had a conversation with a friend of mine that works for a large event-media company. Like all other event companies, their in-person events were replaced with virtual events this year. And, for the first six months into 2021, their in-person events will be virtual. The company is hopeful that they can start having in-person events after July of next year, but they honestly don’t know what’s possible at this point.
I asked my friend how innovative their plans were going to be for 2021. I was curious if they were adjusting the business model or experimenting with any “home run” ideas.
He said [and I’m paraphrasing] – “We are cutting costs and holding on. We have no new plans for anything. No new investments. No new strategies.”
Now, on the surface, this makes complete sense. Their business model had been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cutting costs to the bone and waiting for their moment to reinvest is prudent.
Or is it?
Now, my friend knows my background, but I was compelled to reshare what happened with Content Marketing Institute in 2008. I believe the only reason CMI was able to become a 10-million dollar property in such a short time was while we were investing heavily in building our audience during the financial crisis, everyone else in our industry was cut, cut, cut.
At that time, the big kuhuna in our industry was B2B magazine. I was a fan of B2B. I loved the content…and they had the largest audience in the B2B marketing arena. But in 2008, they let go of some very smart people and stopped their new product launches. They also cut back the magazine and, to be honest, their current products suffered. It seemed the brand was just “waiting” for things to come back to normal.
If anyone could have offered what CMI did, it was B2B magazine. A few years later, B2B magazine was shuttered. It no longer exists. A lot of media companies no longer exist.
I certainly hope this doesn’t happen, but I’m afraid my friend’s company won’t be around in a couple years. They will go from leader to also ran to out of business in the next three to seven years. I firmly believe that. When he told me they were cutting costs and holding on, that’s all I needed to know. It sealed their fate.
I know times are tough, but now is the time to build. To invest in your audience. To shape your content experiences so they truly are the best in your industry. Don’t have the cash? Borrow. Money is cheap right now. Invest during these next two years when things are crazy, and when we come out of this thing, you’re growth will skyrocket. It did for us at CMI and it did for dozens of my friend entrepreneurs as well.
Fight the temptation to hold on. Now is the time to go big…or you will definitely go home.
The following was an excerpt from Joe’s newsletter. Only subscribers receive the full version.