As we grow older, we become more and more attuned to a routine. We have made it so that life is so predictable that we no longer need to be creative or think outside of the box. We live the same lives each day. We either punch in words and numbers into a machine or recite the same spiel. And, worse, at the end of the day, we consume supposedly relevant content from a screen as a form of rest. We have become so used to it that any change would throw us off into a state of fear.
If that pretty much sums up your life, have you ever asked yourself if there was anything more than that monotonous life? Do you not wish you could go back to that same vigour, same passion, and bursts of Creativity when you were a child? We have been so busy trying to catch up with the path society has laid out for us. We have forgotten what it was like to be kids in the process, to be free in thought and be fearless of rejection.
The pandemic has hit us hard in that it’s disrupted the routines we have been preparing for and performing since our adult lives. We have been calling this disruption the “new normal.” Yet, it really is not far from how we used to live if you think about it. The only difference is we are now more isolated than ever before. Should we look to restore the normal we knew then, or should we start creating a normal wherein we are freer and fearless?
In this episode, I have Robert Belle, Champion Of Creativity, Ambassador Of Wellness, and Pursuer Of Excellence. He is a transformational speaker who helps people reclaim their Creativity. Prepare yourself to let your imagination run wild.
Covered in This Episode
[2:28] Early Life and Background
[5:22] Following Our Unique Destination
[8:08] Overcome Fear To Relay Your Message
[11:58] The reasons behind why we become less creative as we age
[15:08] Reclaiming Creativity through public speaking
[18:31] Everyone is creative
[19:43] Creativity vs. artistic abilities
[24:12] Fearful of our Creativity being rejected
[27:49] Free yourself to be more creative
[33:41] When You Have A Big Decision to Make, Sleep On It
[39:30] Play Games to Spark Creativity
[47:04] Which Color Primes Our Minds to be Creative?
[51:17] Creative People can Stay Calm During Uncertainty
[53:34] Prioritize Your Creativity
[55:24] How to Contact Robert Belle
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertAgufanaBelle
Chris Ippolito 1:14
Robert Belle 1:17
Chris Ippolito 1:19
How are you?
Robert Belle 1:21
I’m doing fantastic, despite the circumstances.
Chris Ippolito 1:25
Yes. As a lot of my most recent episodes, we are recording during the COVID-19 pandemic. But life goes on, right? And we’re able to still do this, which is fantastic. Welcome to the “Get Coached Podcast.” Excited to have you on, as you are definitely one of my further guests as far as distance apart. Do you want to share a little bit about yourself? Let’s start off with where are you located? Let’s get into your story.
Robert Belle 1:59
All right. Thanks so much, just a pleasure to be on your podcast today. I’m located right now in Nairobi, Kenya, just a little bit further away. That’s where I am right now. We are going through the pandemic, we have curfew. We’re just doing our best to stay indoors, flatten the curve.
Chris Ippolito 2:19
That’s awesome. We’re doing the same thing. Tell me about yourself. What’s been your journey to get to where you’re at now?
Robert Belle 2:28
Well, my journey has been a whirlwind of misdirection, failures. Just typical hero’s journey, just a lot of falls. I actually grew up in the Caribbean, I grew on an island called Antigua. I was a tropical guy, loved the beach, etc. Growing up, I never really had a big desire for anything in life, really, except for sports. I was absolutely convinced I was going to be Michael Jordan. And I tried my best at it, but wasn’t that super athletic. Didn’t really have any much desire for a career or anything, but I did love experimenting. When I was younger, when my friends would go outside to play, I would, at times, stay at home and try out experiments in the encyclopedia. Yeah, I think I’m revealing my age with that. We didn’t really have social media, we didn’t have any Internet per se. I used to experiment.
I was just there, I had nothing really. I’m not trying to downplay it all, but just didn’t really have anything going. I could fit into any situation and that was very frustrating for me. I could fit in anywhere. If I needed to play sports, I could at least fit in some way. If I needed to be in the classroom, I could get fairly good grades. I never really had something I was excellent at or something that I totally failed. I kept trying different things. That confused me because people always say, “Find your passion and you’ll discover where your aim is in life or where you should be.” But I just never found that, I just kept trying different things, different things.
Moving from trying to experiment, I studied accounting. I was like, “Okay, this is good.” My teacher said, “You’re quite good at it,” I became an accountant. But just somewhere along the line I felt there’s just more to me that I could do. But everyone kept saying, “But you can do more than what an average person does.” I said, “You know what? I have to discover what it is that I’m meant to be. Not necessarily my passion, but I just want to push the limit and push the envelope.”
I kept trying to do that, I kept trying to do so many different things, challenging myself. Public speaking was one of the biggest challenges of my life. I was a nervous wreck, I couldn’t speak in front of people. You put me on a stage, I would shake, palms sweating. I was like, “No way, this is not for me.” But I started working with a coach, with a mentor eventually, and I ended up where I am today, as a transformational speaker and now I’m a first-time author.
Yeah, that’s my journey.
Chris Ippolito 5:01
That’s awesome. What’s the title of your book, again?
Robert Belle 5:05
Blow the Lid Off.
Chris Ippolito 5:07
Right. What’s the premise of the book? Let’s give maybe the audience a bit of a snapshot of what it is, the message that you’re trying to deliver in your book.
Robert Belle 5:22
As we grow up, we really fight and struggle to fit in. We try to copy what everyone else is doing on the proven road and we rarely take time to discover what is our unique path or what’s our destination in life. It sounds similar to what I said even just in the intro, I was just comfortable doing what was required to do. I never took time to figure out what’s my journey, what’s unique about me.
The premise of the book is helping us to reclaim our stolen creativity, because it gets stolen from us. We are all born creative, but it gets stolen from us and we’re able to just get by in life just by copying everyone else. Just growing up, going to school, getting a job, having a 401(k), retiring, that’s it. We really take time to discover, “You know what? I need to push the envelope.”
The whole premise of the book is for us to blow off the limitations that are on our lives, especially our creative limitations. Because three out of four people say that they’re not creative, which is absolutely inaccurate.
Chris Ippolito 6:31
Yeah. I 100% agree. Because I was one of those three people who felt that way.
Robert Belle 6:38
Yeah, me too.
Chris Ippolito 6:41
Yeah. I wanted to go back a little bit to something you said. You played a lot of sports. Was it basketball you were playing, was that your main sport?
Robert Belle 6:51
Yeah, basketball was my main sport, and tennis.
Chris Ippolito 6:54
Tennis, okay. I’m surprised not soccer. Because I feel like the Caribbean area, soccer would have been quite a popular sport.
Robert Belle 7:05
It was, I did play it, also. As I said, I was just trying to fit in everywhere. I did play soccer, I even played it at a semipro level. I didn’t get much game time, but I did try.
Chris Ippolito 7:19
Robert Belle 7:21
Chris Ippolito 7:23
Oh, a stopper. Nice. I was a keeper for a big chunk of my soccer career. Then when I finally made the decision to play out, I went to stopper, which I enjoyed it a lot. To me, I was like, “I feel like I’m still a goalie, I just can’t use my hands.”
Robert Belle 7:43
Chris Ippolito 7:46
That’s awesome. How did you get into public speaking, what was the desire there? Was it something more around seeing yourself in a future career of public speaking? I’m curious why you went down that path.
Robert Belle 8:08
I came to a point where I was tired of being silent, I wanted to speak up. Not necessarily physically speak, but I had a message inside of me. I was tired of my friends and people around me just saying I can’t or “no,” I’m not good at this. Because that’s the position I was in and I was really trying my best to get out of that position, to remove those limitations.
That brings me just to something that I keep telling people. They ask me, “What’s your why?” I didn’t have a why when I started, I had a “why not.” I went on a journey of just removing all the “why nots.” Every time I’ll tell my friends, you look for company, “Hey, let’s do this, let’s try this,” they’ll be like, “No, I can’t do that, I didn’t do well in school,” or, “I’m not good at this.” I was like, “We have to try, we have to develop our skills.”
I got sick and tired of trying to stay in the same line with people, I decided to just turn around and start talking to them and say, “Guys, we’ve got to go, let’s get moving.” I just started talking to one person, two people, then I just found myself speaking to a group of people. Not formally, just in a group. Or maybe even in my sports team, despite me not being the best player or the captain or the coach, people would keep looking for me and say, “Hey, just talk to us.”
I started doing it and I didn’t notice that I was speaking publicly until I actually learned that that’s a thing, public speaking. I never had a desire to go into it as a career, I just had a message and I really wanted to communicate that message to everyone that I knew. It started growing to people I didn’t know, then I started being invited to speak, but it wasn’t really formal speaking. I just developed my abilities.
Chris Ippolito 9:53
I like that, I like that a lot, actually. Because it sounds like it was just more of an organic journey for you to get to that point. The desire came from you wanting to share a message and people were listening, which is obviously great. Then you’re like, “Okay, well, I like this, why don’t I try and talk to more people?” It just looks like it grew from that point on. That’s awesome.
Robert Belle 10:21
Well, it wasn’t even just about liking it. I think for me, Chris, it was the feedback. This is feedback you can’t necessarily get in writing. I would say something and people’s faces would light up, I would see the connection. I was like, “I don’t see what’s so special or magical in what I’m saying.” It just sounded like I was having a chat with my buddies. People would resonate well and unsolicited feedback would be like, “Hey, you really spoke to me, what you said was really great.” I was like, “What? Are you crazy?”
That continued my frustration of every time I try something, it seems to work out. I was just like, “What’s happening? I’m getting really frustrated.” I came across a quotation that said, “What seems obvious to you could be magical to so many other people.” I can’t remember who said it, but that just turned my life. I was like, “Right, that explains it.”
Chris Ippolito 11:17
Yeah, I like that a lot. I’ve already gotten a couple little golden nuggets off you, I like this.
Robert Belle 11:24
Chris Ippolito 11:27
I really want to dive into what our topic was going to be, which was creativity. Like you said, we both were in this position of feeling like we are not creative people. Why do you think that as we age that seems to be the norm, that as people age they tend to feel that they are not creative people? Why do you suppose that is?
Robert Belle 11:58
Well, it is a proven fact that the more we age, the less inclined we are to be creative. One of the primary reasons is that we begin to prioritize productivity over creativity. We become busy doing and spend less time being. In other words, we focus more on actions as opposed to thinking. But I keep saying that our actions should be a direct consequence of our thoughts and our ideas, but we have it the other way around. We do, we do, we do. Then if there’s time left over, then we do a bit of thinking.
Also, from a societal prospective. We can get by without being creative in life. You go to work, you go to your job, your boss tells you what to do, you have a job description, you do it, you get a paycheck, you come back home. That’s it. Your life is scheduled, there’s no time to think outside of the box or try anything different. We have the same route to work, we drink the same coffee, we buy from the same place, we have the same friends, we eat at the same place. Life just becomes so monotonous that we really don’t see the need to become creative.
For me, that’s the chief reason why we are now becoming less creative, because we don’t prioritize creativity in our lives, it takes a back seat.
Chris Ippolito 13:15
Yeah. I feel like that’s the rut I fell into. Because I like structure, I like routine. But I went through a period of life where I felt very low, to the point where it may be even depression, I don’t know. But in reflection to that, part of it was I didn’t really have any creative outlets. I feel that is probably a more common reason for a lot of people. I hate to use “depression” because that can mean different things for different people, but let’s just say there was a lack of fulfillment or a lack of joy, maybe we’ll use that as the term. There’s a lack of joy in their life and I feel like a big part of the reason is because they don’t have that creative outlet, they don’t have that thing that they can do that allows them to exercise that creative part of their brain. Did you go through an experience like that ever?
Robert Belle 14:27
I can totally relate. I’m that guy, the structured one.
Chris Ippolito 14:34
What was your journey as far as discovering the creativity, or reintroducing it almost into your life? Because for me it was something like this, it was not the podcast, but it was another project that I worked on for many, many years. That was my creative outlet and I looked forward to the day of the week that I did it because it brightened me up. Did you have a moment in life where it was the same thing, then all of a sudden you were able to reintroduce creativity?
Robert Belle 15:08
Yes. This is going to sound very odd to the listener. My outlet and my turning point was actually the public speaking, that’s what sparked my creativity. People are wondering how does creativity relate to public speaking. Because the speaking that I was doing was very unstructured, it was very impromptu, it was just off the cuff, and I had to think on my feet, as I said.
Well, literally I had to think on my feet because here we are, we’re in a situation, there’s a problem, and I need to communicate a message to the people who I’m speaking to. I have to come up with ideas very quickly and leveraging on our experience, what we know, what I know, what I’ve been through, whatever knowledge that I have. I had to put together so many different things using the language that we were communicating with, whatever group that was, to really get them to move to another level.
That’s what really fired up my dream, that is what really got me to start thinking, “You know what? I need to start tapping into my creativity.” Because it brings you alive. Creativity is perhaps one of the only things in life that we do that really reveals our true value, it’s one of the only things that we do. I mean you can do an awesome job at work, you can get awards. But as you said, you can still feel invaluable, you don’t feel like you are really coming alive.
For me, it was really just speaking with people constantly, one on one, whatever it was, that got me thinking on my feet. Then that transitioned into writing because people were like, “Hey, can you write down for me what you said?” I was like, “Half the times I have no idea what I’m saying.” That’s why I like podcast interviews, because it’s just flipping a lot of things on in my brain. Then when I go back and listen to it, I was like, “Wow, okay, that makes sense.” I started writing it out, then building it out from there.
Chris Ippolito 16:55
Yeah. I feel like I’m the same in that I know a term that some people use is it’s almost like they’re riffing on ideas, to steal from the musicians. I felt like any time that I’ve ever done public speaking or presentations, I couldn’t have it too structured, or else I felt boxed in almost. Whereas if I had a bit of an outline and key points that I knew I wanted to make sure that I hit on, yeah, my energy level went up quite a bit when I was talking. The one thing that you had mentioned earlier that I really enjoyed was you’re able to get almost this instant feedback as far as how things are going, then you can adapt as you go.
If you look at some of the people in your audience and they’ve got this blank stare on their face, you’re like, “Ooh, I’ve got to step this up a little bit because they’re not engaged.” Or they’re leaning in and they’ve got a smile on their face, or you can see they’re really focused and concentrating, you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got it, this is good.” You get into that rhythm and that routine.
For the people that are thinking still “I am not a creative person,” what would be that conversation you would have with them to help them realize that you actually are creative, you’re just thinking about it in the wrong way?
Robert Belle 18:31
Let me even connect it to what you just said. The reason why that happens to you and I when we’re speaking and we get that light bulb, if you want to call it that, a light bulb moment, science tells us that there are two things happening, we’re connecting on two levels.
One, our brains are connecting what we have in our conscious mind and what we have in our subconscious mind. There’s a part of the brain called the RAS, the reticular activating system. This part of the brain captures information as we go through the day, as we go through life, in a very subconscious manner. Think about it, when you want to buy a new car, all of a sudden you start seeing that car. When that light bulb moment happens in our brains, what’s happening is that it’s connecting information that we have, experiences that we’ve had, things that we’ve observed, you’ve observed how the audience is responding, and you’re connecting everything.
Number two, you’re connecting with people now at an external level. That’s why when you speak, you have a podcast, or you do something creative or from a creative outlet, there’s a connection. You hear people say, “The music spoke to me,” “This painting speaks to me.” You’re connecting with another person. That’s one of the major premises of creativity.
I tell people that, “Listen, creativity is not measured by your artistic abilities.” I’m right-handed, if you want to call it that. I started learning to write with my right hand in elementary school, then I broke my right hand. I had to start learning to write with my left hand. Then just when I got the hang of writing with my left hand, I broke my left hand. I had to go back and relearn to write with my right hand. To date I struggle even to draw straight lines with a ruler, it’s still a bit of a challenge just because of the physical issues that I face. If I was to determine my creativity based on how well I can produce something, it’s totally unfit.
This is what I’d say in a nutshell. Creativity is about searching and combining information. We all have experiences that are unique to us, combining our knowledge and experiences will never be the same combination as anyone else. I don’t care if you’re twins, just your experience, the way you combine, the way you perceive things is what’s critical.
You know what, Chris? Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we struggle being creative, we don’t understand what creativity is. We think it’s just being artistic, being able to sing, or some sort of creative outlet such like that, but it’s bigger than that. It’s problem-solving at a lower level, but it’s then solution-finding at the higher level. We all can come up with ideas. This goes back to what we said earlier, one of the reasons why we’re not creative as we grow older is because we’re looking for something that can be produced, something tangible. But creative starts from the imagination stage, coming up with ideas, forming it out. You have to follow it through. Many of us don’t take time to follow it through, we think all creativity has to be an actual product out of here. Look, you just coming up with an idea to a problem, even if it doesn’t work, is beginning the creative process. Building up on that is how you develop your creative skills.
Many of us fear failure or fear not getting it right. Just going back to the classroom, “Hey, who knows two plus two?” We only want to put up our hand when we have the absolute answer.
Chris Ippolito 21:51
Yeah. I think you’re right, you nailed it there. A lot of people make the mistake of misidentifying creativity and artistic ability. Even that in itself really, a lot of people say, “I’m not an artistic person, I can’t draw.” Well, you can’t draw because you haven’t learned the skill. You can still learn the skill, you could become a better drawer. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be world renowned, but that takes a lot of extra work, a lot of extra time, and a lot of extra effort. But if you’re drawing abilities, your singing abilities, or your whatever, more artistic abilities, are lacking, you can still develop that skill set.
It’s the same with creativity, you can develop creativity, I feel. But I would argue actually that you are naturally creative, because look at us as children. Everybody who goes through that stage of life, which is all of us, we were creative when we were children. Because you had to be, you had to pretend your toys were something different. Not that you had to, but you would. Your dinosaur toy was a giant dinosaur. That’s creativity. But then as we get older, like you said, I think we shift more to almost thinking that creativity is a juvenile thing to do, like make-believe and imagination.
There’s probably even tons of evidence of it. The one that always comes to mind is Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein spent most of his free time thinking and being creative as far as developing the theory of relativity. It takes creativity to come up with that, that’s how he did it. Nikola Tesla and all these geniuses of our time, they did it through creativity.
Robert Belle 24:12
Yeah, just two things there. You actually hit the nail right on the head, it goes back to what I said earlier. With Einstein it’s 100% accurate. He spent most of his time thinking. What I said earlier is that we need to spend more time thinking so that our actions are a direct consequence of our thinking. He only went into the lab to try something that he thought about. While most of us would go into the lab and say, “Okay, I need to come up with an idea.” Then after five minutes we have a block, we’re like, “Okay, I’m not creative.” Well, let’s unpack that statement. When we say we’re not creative, I really want the listener to get this because I was exactly there. We don’t understand what we’re actually saying.
When we say, “Look, I’m not the creative type,” what we’re telling ourselves is that, “I have nothing unique, I have nothing to offer, there’s nothing different about me than another person.” Let’s just simplify it. Creativity is, at a very simple level, just something that’s unique. Definition-wise it’s something that’s novel and something that’s useful, but it starts by having something that’s unique, an idea.
When we say we’re not creative, we’re actually telling ourselves or confessing to the world and to ourselves that there’s nothing good that we can produce. If you really investigated when we make such statements, that’s usually where we are in our lives. You have no validation. It’s like you’re telling yourself, “Look, I can’t really do anything much. I can just do what I’m told, I can stick to my lane, I can’t step out of my comfort zone. I’m fearful.” When you usually say, “Look, I’m not the creative type,” it’s that we fear. Truth be told, if you take a sample survey, most of the people who really are sure that they’re not the creative type tend to be the people who have some of the best ideas. In a group of friends, the people who say they’re not the creative type usually are the ones who have the best ideas.
That’s why I called my book Blow the Lid Off, we really need to help such people just blow the lid off that and stop confessing such limiting beliefs about their life. Because you’re right, science actually tells us that being creative is a natural function of our human brain. It’s a natural function of our human brain. If you look at it from an emotional intelligence side of it, there’s a term called amygdala capture where our brains can bypass that logical part of our brain that can connect everything together. When that happens, we tend to be in this cycle of flight or fight, we’re just trying to run away from things.
Chris Ippolito 26:48
Yeah. I like this topic a lot because if people were to really analyze their day-to-day lives, I think they would start realizing that there is a lot of creativity in what they already do, they just don’t identify it that way. I want to help people realize that and, in a sense, like you say, blow the lid off and allow them to really tap into it. Because creativity can become such a powerful resource to them when they really lean into it, develop it, nurture it, and leverage it. What’s your advice to people on that subject of how do I unleash the creativity, how do I blow the lid off and allow myself the freedom to be more creative?
Robert Belle 27:49
That’s a good question. My best advice is what I did. Stop trying to figure out your why and go on a journey of why not. Step out of your comfort zone. You have to just push the envelope. Because you’re at a stage of your life where you’ve built up so many barriers around your thinking, barriers around your confidence. Before we can even just start telling you, “All right, follow your passion, lean into your creativity,” and everything like that, we first need to just clear the space, we need to clear our workspace. Just imagine your workspace, we need to first clear it. This is why we have such expressions such as, “I need to clear my mind,” when you want to come up with a solution. We do these things so naturally and that’s why science says being creative is just the natural way our brains are wired, but we tend to avoid it.
Number one is just clear all those limits that you have on your life. You have to first realize that you have to step out of your comfort zone. You’ve got to come out of the routines that you constantly do. Schedule time to be creative. This is the best way that you can knock your creativity, do something scary, like what I did. I always say that if you’re not doing something scary, you’re not growing. Because creativity forces us to grow. You can’t have an idea and just sit down, “Great, I came up with an idea today.” It’s not a checkbox activity.
If you want to lean into your creativity, you have to really reprogram your mind from thinking that you’re going to leave a 30-minute creative session with something tangible, you’re going to leave with a checkbox. It’s just really preparing your mind. The first few times you do it you’re just trying to overcome the limits and the barriers that you’re doing.
This is why creativity is the number one in-demand soft skill for any career. Your podcast looks at your journey into becoming an entrepreneur, entrepreneurs are innately creative. Employers all over the world, regardless of your job title, regardless of your career, are looking for an entrepreneurial mindset. Because you can’t be entrepreneurial without being creative. It means taking on a risk, it means trying something out that may not necessarily make sense to anyone else even though it makes sense to you, but you’re willing to take that risk.
I mean that’s what entrepreneurship is about. You have an idea, you see the connecting dots even if there’s no evidence that supports that, you build a business case around it, and you pursue it. That’s what every employer is looking for right now. Because we need people who can take the risk, who can connect the dots, not someone who’s just going to be like, “All right, here’s a job description, I can get these done.” You’re being very robotic. If you can only do what you’re required to do, then you’re not adding value into it.
You’re right, when we lean into creativity, it can give us immense value in our life. Creativity is very holistic. Because in order for you to be creative, you must be able to manage your emotions. You must be able to step up to the edge of your comfort zone with all the fear, with all the fright, with all the nervousness, take a deep breath, and take that plunge. You can’t do it unless you take that deep plunge. You can’t be creative unless you’re calm, unless you’re relaxed, unless you’re able to realize, “You know what? I’ve got this. I’m likely to fail, but I’m going to pick myself back up and I’m going to keep going at it.” Which entrepreneur hasn’t failed? Elon Musk, I mean everyone has their failure stories, Sir Richard Branson. It’s just a great part of our life because it challenges us.
Chris Ippolito 31:17
Yeah. I really like that. I want to add a little bit to it just because some of the things that you’ve shared. I started seeing some connections with past episodes I’ve done and books I’ve read. As far as being able to control the emotions, one of the habits that I would highly recommend everybody try and incorporate is meditation. Because that was one of the best ways for me to get a little bit more, I wouldn’t even necessarily say control because I still work on that, as it stabilizes you in a sense.
The analogy I would give is think of your emotions as a roller coaster. There’s ups, there’s downs, there’s ups and downs. If you don’t work on it, those peaks are really high and the lows are really low. It’s good to have high peaks because it’s always great to be very happy. But the really deep lows, those are terrible. When you go from such a big high to a big low, that’s really exhausting.
What I found for myself was meditation allowed me to really smooth out that line a little bit. I would say it’s definitely more on the upper end, there’s a lot more joy than bringing it down. That would be one thing I would highly, highly suggest, anybody who is not already doing it to do it. The cool thing about it is that the practice of meditation is actually the practice of doing nothing. And what ends up happening is, because you’re not thinking or you’re not focusing on anything, your mind actually starts, it’s weird, it almost feels like it’s breaking down these barriers that are in your mind. Then when you come out of it, you feel really refreshed. Those are the times where I feel like I just have clarity, now all of a sudden the creative side of me starts coming out and it flows a little bit more.
I would say those two things could work really, really well together, as far as stabilizing the emotions, then really unlocking that creativity.
Robert Belle 33:34
Yeah. Let me geek out a bit just on what you said, that’s absolutely correct.
Chris Ippolito 33:37
Oh, go for it, I love this.
Robert Belle 33:41
Let me geek out a bit. We’re familiar with the expression, “When you have a big decision to make, you need to sleep on it.”
Chris Ippolito 33:48
Robert Belle 33:50
And the reason why that expression is here with us as human beings is because there’s something that happens in our brains while we sleep, we have four different sleep cycles. The fourth cycle is called the REM cycle, the rapid eye movement cycle. That’s when our brains are now connecting everything that has happened, like what I said earlier, the conscious and the subconscious.
Meditation, that’s what’s actually happening, we are clearing all the junk. As much as it’s doing nothing, our brains are still connecting everything, it’s bringing everything into harmony. That’s why we said to be creative you must be able to manage loosely your emotions because you have to bring everything into harmony. Emotional intelligence tells us that it takes a minimum of six seconds for that information to get to the amygdala to connect what we’re feeling with the logic.
Now this is where the geeky part gets really good. You can’t come up with ideas, you can’t come up with solutions when you’re constantly in this fight or flight mode, when you’re constantly in this panic mode. Like now we’re recording this episode during the COVID pandemic. Everyone, likely so, has a lot of anxiety, has a lot of fear. Well, the way our brains are wired is that when that happens, our brains focus 100% of our efforts and our energy on trying to quash that anxiety.
Everything about thinking, everything about coming up with ideas, everything about seeing the right perspective of it takes a back seat. That’s why meditation and sleep, also, helps us to come up with very good ideas. When you’ve had a very good rest, I don’t know about you, but you wake up like, “I have a great idea,” you start journaling down. That’s why the expert tells us that journaling first thing in the morning is critical, because that’s when our brain has connected everything before we start to get an influence by anything else that’s happening. That’s when the ideas can flow. It may not make sense at that point in time, but you just journal it down. Later on you’ll start seeing the connecting dots as you build up the habit.
It’s just the way our brains are wired. That’s why science tells us that being creative is a natural way our brains are wired, if we follow such practices like meditation, getting good sleep, exercise, and just really getting the oxygen to the brain.
Chris Ippolito 36:06
Yeah, I like that a lot. I can’t remember the number, but I’ve now done quite a few podcasts. It is so crazy how many things, there’s that common foundational advice that we, as all humans, should be doing. Sleep is a pretty obvious one, though a lot of us don’t get enough sleep. My current circumstance of having a six-month-old, that is preventing me from getting the amount of sleep I would love to get. But I go to bed as early as I possibly can, as far as still having a normal lifestyle, because I want as much sleep as I can get because I know the value there.
Meditation is probably the number one recommended activity or habit that I’ve heard from most successful people. Not just from people I’ve had on the show, but if you read books on successful people, if you listen to other podcasts. Tim Ferriss, I was a big fan of Tim Ferriss, I still am actually, and I used to listen to his podcast all the time for years, years, and years. Every single one of his guests meditated, every single one of them. He interviews nothing but the most successful people in the world.
It’s taking time to think, there’s another one. If you talk to some of the most successful people, they always, always say, “I block time off to just think.” The average person would look at that and go, “What? Shouldn’t you be more ‘productive’ with your time?” But the argument being I get more done in that thinking, that hour, two hours, whatever it is, of thinking than you could get being productive in the same amount of time.
I think that’s why I love doing this podcast, it’s the same message. I really just want to drive this home with the audience, the growing audience. Because I feel like the more of us that can start applying these foundational success habits in our lives, the better life will be for everybody. We’re just going to create a better world. More creative people who are looking to solve bigger problems that we are all facing.
Thank you for bringing this up, I think this has been a really fun conversation. One thing I want to add real quick, or more of a question, what are your thoughts on games to help people with their creativity? Because we had mentioned it earlier, kids are probably the most creative out there as far as they’re always using their imagination. But the one thing kids always are doing is they’re playing. Is that something that you normally recommend, or what are your thoughts on that?
Robert Belle 39:30
I hope my children are not listening, because I’m about to give some advice. Just like what I said earlier, playing is very critical, especially when it comes to creativity and just natural normal health of our brains, our emotions, and everything. You see, first let’s define what happens when we play games, whether it be digital or in virtual reality, let’s just categorize all games. You see, when we’re playing, we are mixing reality with our dreams, that’s what’s happening. Just like what you said earlier, your dinosaur, you imagine your dinosaur being something else. We’re mingling our dreams with reality when we’re at play because there’s no limit, there’s no rules per se, we have freedom to think about it. The best type of games are the ones that give you that space to really think through it.
I definitely recommend playing. Because I’ve gotten a lot of my speeches, some of my top speeches, when I’m playing with my children. Something happens and I get an idea. It’s not that I’m thinking about it, but it just strikes me. I would say play with children is more critical. Not just play, but play with children. Because we’ve agreed that we do lose our ability to really play and dream as we should as we grow older. When you play with a child, you see the limitless dreams that go on with them. You’re hanging out with a small child, they ask you a question or they say, “Hey, look, we’re playing a game,” they make a statement and you’re like, “I’ve never really thought about it that way.” Because we approach play and we approach gaming still with a bit of structure, a bit of rules, and we miss that.
Play with children, more particular, is what helps us to spark our creativity, and there’s research to prove it. I don’t have it at hand, but there is that research. When you spend time with children and with a very older person, a senior person, it really helps to spark your brain to things. Play, definitely, but there must be balance. I must put that in. You can’t play for seven hours saying, “I’m waiting for an idea to come.” Sometimes it happens during play, but often it happens away from play because that’s when your brain now starts to connect what’s happening.
Chris Ippolito 41:54
Yeah, I think that’s really critical. I remember when my nephews were a little bit younger. They’re at that age now where they’re just entering teenage-hood and they don’t want to play as much anymore because they’re now forming that adulthood independence, they’re very early on into it. But when they were younger, they’d be like, “Oh, Uncle, let’s go play, let’s pretend this, let’s pretend that.” I’m like, “Cool, awesome.” I was always for it because I loved doing it, it was fun. Then, of course, I’d be the one that would be, “Okay, okay, we’ve got to stop,” or, “You can’t do that, that doesn’t make any sense.” They’re like, “Why not?” I’m like, “Okay, fine, let’s go with it.”
I look forward to being able to do that with my son. At six months old, he is starting to get into the play phase, but it’s not the same as when they get a little bit older and you start doing the make-believe playing. That, I think, is going to be a lot of fun. That will be another way for me to be creative.
Robert Belle 43:07
Yeah. I mean imagine telling a CEO, “Take time to play, take time to be.” I mean he would be like, just like what you’re saying, “I can find more productive uses of time.” Because as we grow older, we think play is so childish. Even the teenagers will tell you, “That’s dumb.” Because we’re so worried about how we’re perceived. It’s our big problem, is how we’re perceived. Because we have this dying desire to fit in, we have this dying desire to be accepted. Well, the creators usually are rejected. I think, yeah, Robin Sharma normally says that when you’re creative, you usually have to become a villain first before you become a victor.
Because what you’re doing is going against the grain. As we get older, we really diminish play, thinking about ideas, drawing, journaling, and vision-boarding because we think it’s dumb, it doesn’t add any value to life. Because we’re so focused on how we’re perceived by others, we just want to fit in, we want to do what everyone else is doing. I love the way you’ve linked all your podcast episodes, we’re redefining the way to success. It’s not about studying, studying, studying, work, work, work. It’s about think, think, think, then work.
Chris Ippolito 44:20
Yeah, I like what you said there because what it got me thinking about was, and maybe I’ll geek out a little bit, is in an evolutionary sense there’s a reason why we have that desire to fit in. Because if you didn’t fit in back in the day, you were outcast and you didn’t get food, was basically the reason. It’s super interesting when you think about it, that creativity is a very natural thing for humans. It’s how we’ve solved problems and gotten to where we have now. We created tools, we learned how to hunt, we learned all these things. It took creativity to do it, but then, like you said, the creatives, especially if you’re really out there, you’re going to be outcast a little bit before you’re brought back into the fold of things.
It’s super interesting that there’s these two aspects of human beings that are so contrary but so absolutely required for our survival. The fitting in part is not as much, I would argue, but in certain ways it still is. Like you need to fit into society to be successful, to earn friendships. But it’s not the same as before where you need to fit in or else you couldn’t eat. But I think there’s almost more value in creativity. That’s just more opinion than anything else. Just because it is the creative people and creative thinking that have gotten us to where we are today. If it wasn’t for creativity, we wouldn’t be talking this way, we wouldn’t have our mobile devices, life in general just would be a very different life. Yeah, that’s super interesting.
Robert Belle 46:20
But, Chris, it’s not just an opinion. The United Nations issued their first report on creativity and they’ve said that creativity is the wealth of nations, it’s the 21st century wealth of nations. Okay, well, this is before corona, even more now they predict that the creative industries are going to be the leading contributors to GDP in a lot of developing countries, in most of the countries. In some countries the creative industries have more revenue than the telecommunications industry.
Chris Ippolito 46:55
Cool. Yeah, I would agree with that a lot because obviously it’s what I said.
Robert Belle 47:04
Yeah. Let me give you a 10-second geek-out. Do you know which color predominantly leads in priming our minds to be creative and coming up with ideas? Just a wild guess.
Chris Ippolito 47:20
I’ll take a guess. I’ll just go with the first color that came to mind, blue.
Robert Belle 47:26
Okay, that’s interesting. Why would you say blue?
Chris Ippolito 47:31
I don’t know, that’s just the first color that came to mind. Blue is my favorite color.
Robert Belle 47:36
Because as soon as you say “ideas,” that’s what your brain thinks about. Do you know why that’s the case?
Chris Ippolito 47:40
Oh, really? No.
Robert Belle 47:41
Yeah. Science tells us that blue, when you have blue displayed around your creative space, and I would encourage people to do that, it really primes your brain to think. Do you know where we see blue almost every day? Well, depending on where you live. It’s the sky.
Chris Ippolito 47:56
If you’re outside, yeah. If you’re outside, yeah, it’s the sky.
Robert Belle 48:01
It’s the sky. We are designed to be creative, everything’s function is for us to be creative. When we sleep, when we meditate, when we breathe, when we go out into nature, this whole life of ours is designed for us to be creative.
Chris Ippolito 48:18
Maybe you know this. Is this why they suggest you eliminate blue lights before you go to bed, because it’s stimulating?
Robert Belle 48:28
Chris Ippolito 48:31
I knew there was something to do with it as far as I knew blue lights had something to do with keeping you awake, but I didn’t realize, and maybe that’s the case, that what it’s doing is it’s getting your mind racing and thinking. Then when you try and go to sleep, you’re like, “Well, I can’t. My mind was racing, I couldn’t fall asleep.” Well, it’s because the blue light was stimulating your mind.
Robert Belle 48:52
Yeah, your brain thinks it’s activity time now, your brain thinks it’s time to work. You’re coming up with ideas, you don’t get that rest.
Chris Ippolito 48:58
That’s super interesting.
Robert Belle 49:00
And that was a key for me. I got darkened curtains. Just like what you’re saying, the successes. When I used to hear these things, also, I was like, “Yeah, that’s just a bunch of whatever, woo-woo stuff.” I started doing that, no device 30 minutes before I sleep. A bit of a struggle with my wife when we first started implementing that, we don’t use our gadgets in the bedroom. If you want to use it, go to the living room or some other room. When you come to the bedroom, it’s sleep time, it’s darkened. We meditate before we sleep, meditate in the morning. Yeah.
Chris Ippolito 49:34
That’s awesome. I had a similar conversation with my wife. But when we had our kid, things have changed. We have now a light in our room because he sleeps in our room currently. But prior to that, I was blacking out everything. Blackout curtains. All the lights in the apartment, I put towels over top of them. It was black. It was great, I felt like I was sleeping amazing. Things have changed, there’s now lights all over the place. But when he gets into his own room, I’ll be doing the same thing.
I’m trying to remember the guy’s name who talks a lot about this stuff. Greenfield, I think, is his last name. But he’s gone into it where he’s dug into the science quite a bit. Blue lights before bed, bad. Blue lights in the morning, good. Red lights before going to bed has the opposite effect, where it calms you down and it gets your brain starting to relax and wind down, in a sense. I haven’t played around with that yet, but I like this kind of stuff. Because for me, if I can optimize my thinking and my performance, then I should be able to have better results in life and be able to provide more for my family.
Robert Belle 51:17
Yeah. It’s good that you’re thinking about that. What happens, most of us, we just accept things as the way they are. Fine, you had a baby, it’s affecting your sleep and your light. Most of us, what we’ll do, we’ll just go with the flow. We ride on that excuse, or we use it as an excuse and we ride it all the way to comfort zone. Like, “Oh, I can’t do that anymore because I have a child.” That’s why creativity is so important, because it forces us to start thinking, “How do I still maintain these basic required ways that I know I need to survive?” Well, not just survive, to thrive. “How do I do it and mix this disruption in my life?”
That’s why you find that creative people are able to stay calm during uncertainty. I was on another podcast and they were asking, “How are you staying so calm during all this pandemic?” I really can’t give you one, two, three, four, but I know it’s heavily built on me tapping into my creativity a lot. I’m able to stay calm when things go wrong. Because when things go wrong, I don’t go wrong with them. I take my time, I breathe, I meditate, I look at the situation. “Okay, is it really that bad? What do I do?,” etc.
When disruptions come in our lives, we tend to just ride them off to Comfort Town without trying to find a way around it. We have to be able to find a way around, “How do I work through this?” That’s what happens as we grow in life. You go to school, you can’t really play too much during class time, then we say, “Okay, you know what? Forget play.” We have to find a way to leverage disruption to still do what we have to do so we can succeed.
That’s what entrepreneurship is about, that’s why I love entrepreneurship. Because look, I mean right now you have a business, we’re going through a pandemic, you have to find a way to keep your business surviving. We don’t know what it is, but you just have to find a way. We have to keep doing that for our personal lives and for our families so we can continue living our best lives.
Chris Ippolito 53:09
Very well said. We went a lot wider than I thought we were going to go and we talked a lot about just various topics. I like to wrap up every episode with a question. Which is with everything that we’ve talked about, what’s that one thing you would suggest the audience take action on to level up their creativity?
Robert Belle 53:34
The one piece of advice I would give is prioritize your creativity. You need to make it a priority. Which means scheduling it, creating time to think, doing creative activities, risking it, both directly and indirectly. Schedule time to sit and say, “Look, this is time I’m just going to write ideas out, I’m going to try things.” But also be very indirect with it. Meet new people electronically, digitally, if you can. Try new activities, try a different recipe, turn your furniture around. Play, if you can, with people around you, if you have people around you. Just keep doing things to keep priming your brain that, “You know what? I need to break out of the mold that I’m doing.” Prioritize your creativity and don’t get into trouble being too productive.
Chris Ippolito 54:22
Great advice, I like that a lot. I’m going to tell my wife, “Honey, Robert said I need to schedule more time to play.”
Robert Belle 54:32
Yeah, absolutely. You will see the benefits.
Chris Ippolito 54:34
Yeah. If anything, I say that very tongue-in-cheek because we, I would say, are a very playful couple, that’s one thing that we’ve maintained in the 10 years we’ve been together.
Robert Belle 54:48
Chris Ippolito 54:49
For me it would be like, “Hey, let’s go play, let’s go do something that gets our minds thinking in a very creative way.” One of the hobbies that we had prior to everything that we’re going through right now was escape rooms because it really gets your mind thinking in very creative solution-solving type ways. Yeah, I think that was great advice.
If people wanted to learn more about you or reach out and connect with you, what’s the best place for them to find you?
Robert Belle 55:24
The best place to find me is LinkedIn. On LinkedIn I am Robert Belle, ACCA. You can connect with me there, let’s share ideas. Just reach out. I post a lot of new research I come across. Any articles, I give my comments and I feed back, I write papers on it. Let’s connect there.
Chris Ippolito 55:43
Great. Well, thanks for sharing. I’ll include that in the show notes, and all the other places that people can find you.
That was a lot of fun, Robert. Thank you so much for being a guest. I have a feeling that we are going to stay in contact because there’s a lot of similarities in the way we think and approach things in life.
Robert Belle 56:03
Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, I’ve enjoyed this conversation very much. We have gone wider than even I expected.
Chris Ippolito 56:10
Yeah, that was awesome. Awesome. Take care.
Robert Belle 56:13
All right, bye-bye.
Chris Ippolito 56:15