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Creativity (Part 2)

7 min read

Note: This is a reprint of a previous Emergent Marketing Newsletter. If you're not receiving our email newsletter, you can subscribe here.

Happy Friday.

You've probably heard the saying that “no plan survives contact with reality.”

Well, we had a plan for today's email…

… and we thought it was pretty damn good.

But then a funny thing happened…

Instead of the outcome we expected, we discovered an insight we didn't.

Before that will make any sense, however, we need to back up and start from the beginning.

(We also need to mention there's a time-sensitive offer in this email you'll want to read before next week.)

Two weeks ago we published Part 1 of a two-part series about creativity. (Read that first if you haven't already.)

Part 1 is an in-depth look at the first two parts of the creative process identified by Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Herbert Benson, explained in his book The Breakout Principle.

Today's email — Part 2 — was supposed to focus on the next two parts of the creative process (and don't worry, we will).

But, after some conversations this week, we've realized that's not enough.

There's something VERY important missing from Benson's work — and from creativity, as an idea, in general.

That's the insight that connected with us like a metaphorical piano falling on our heads.

If you've struggled with consistent, creative output, we think today's email will help you understand why (and point you in the right direction).

But first, let's continue our exploration of the creative process through the lens of The Breakout Principle.

After the struggle and release phases of creativity (discussed, in depth, in Part 1 of this series), we move on to the ‘Breakout.'

If you've ever had an ‘a-ha' moment, you know what a breakout feels like. All of a sudden an idea appears, fully formed, in your mind.

Often when you're thinking about something else. (Hint hint!)

Breakouts (aka ‘a-ha moments') often happen when we're in the shower, driving, walking, exercising, and other times when we're not actively thinking.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, you make a connection you hadn't seen before, have an insight that completely changes your perspective, or, all of a sudden, feel like you understand something in a fundamentally different way.

These moments are amazing!

They feel magical, like a surge of electricity from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes.

Boom…out of nowhere, an idea

Understanding you didn't have a second earlier…

A new insight.


When people talk about creativity, the breakout is often what they're talking about.

But, here's the thing. You can't DO this part of the creative process.

A breakout is not deliberate.

It emerges from struggling and releasing. (Discussed in Part 1.)

(That's THE most important insight to take away from The Breakout Principle. Struggle, Release BOOM, something amazing happens.)

The thing that's so freakish about a breakout is how predictable something that feels like magic can become.

Do the work in the struggle phase, release (let your mind let go completely), and, like clockwork, ideas, connections, insights, and ‘a-ha' moments will predictably follow.

What could be better than magic on demand, right?

The fourth and final phase of Benson's four-part framework is called the ‘New Normal.'

New ideas and ‘a-ha' moments lead to an expanded understanding of your world. After that, there's no going back.

Once you've had a breakout, you're standing another rung or two higher on the ladder.

You see the world differently, and you can't un-see it.

Then, the cycle repeats:

  • Struggle
  • Release
  • Breakout
  • New Normal

Every time you repeat the process you climb even higher (with a little less effort).

Your perspective expands.

Your intellectual foundation grows.

(If you've been in our world for a while you'll recognize that Benson's breakout framework functions as a flywheel — Jim Collins' name for a series of steps that lead invariably, one to the next, generating ever-increasing momentum every time the flywheel turns.)

We love the framework Benson describes in The Breakout Principle…

… it's a scary-accurate description of what the creative process feels like to both of us.

And, once you understand that you can engineer ‘a-ha' moments on demand, everything changes.

Do the work, let it go, and then watch what happens. It's as simple as that.

But, as much as we appreciate this view of the creative process, there's something really important missing…

And, full disclosure, we didn't see it at first as it relates to The Breakout Principle.

It revealed itself when we were working on a visual to explain our creative process for our upcoming Ideas to Assets update.

That brings us to the time-sensitive part of today's newsletter (which requires some context).

Two years ago we spent a week in a two-bedroom suite outside New York City creating a customer-acquiring front end for one of our $20,000/month consulting clients.

We turned that experience into a mini-course we called the Ideas to Assets MasterClass. You've probably never heard of it because it hasn't been for sale, except once, for Black Friday weekend in 2019.

Next week we're releasing a new, updated and expanded version of Ideas to Assets.

In addition to all of the original content (which has been a lot of fun to revisit), both of us have recorded in-depth overviews of our individual creative workflows, including the tools we use, why we use those tools, and how we use them.

ITA is a very personal look at how we have constructed our days (and our lives) for creative work (individually and collaboratively).

You'll see our physical and digital workspaces, the tools we use (and how we use them), habits and practices we think are most valuable, and collections of resources we use for inspiration.

We've also recorded a deep dive into our collaborative process, from idea generation to turning those ideas into tangible assets like emails, articles, courses, and workshops.

That brings us back to the insight we discovered this week that completely changed our plans for this email…

When we reviewed visuals illustrating our creative process, it didn't map directly to Dr. Benson's four-part Breakout Principle format.

(That was the first clue.)

We kept trying to jam our process into those containers, but it just didn't work.

We were talking about the same things, but we kept talking past each other.

(That was another clue.)

Is Dr. Benson wrong?

We don't think so. The Breakout Principle represents decades of research, and it matches our experience of creativity.

Is our creative process wrong?

Well…we don't think so because it works! We create a lot of content (and we do it consistently). We've never experienced “ideas block.”

And that's when it hit us…

Benson's view of creativity isn't wrong — it's incomplete.

The Breakout Principle describes the process for generating ideas — but generating ideas isn't enough!

“To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.” — Steve Jobs

We generate ideas, AND we turn our best ideas into tangible, valuable assets for our audience.

That extra step — making our ideas real — makes all the difference.

Next week, in a series of four emails (Monday — Thursday), we're going to explore our creative process in depth to everyone who is interested and raises their hand.

Then, on Friday we'll reopen enrollment for the updated version of Ideas to Assets until midnight PST on Cyber Monday (Nov 29).

We do not know when ITA will be available for purchase again.

If generating high-quality ideas and turning those ideas into assets for your business is important to you, we think you'll find a lot of value in Ideas to Assets.

We're wrapping up an incredible year with a 2021 Year in Review which we'll send on Dec 3.

Then we're turning out the lights, closing the doors, and taking a long, relaxing break until January 3. Yay!

We have a huge announcement for 2022 as well…something so big we almost can't believe it ourselves. You can try and guess, but we think it'll be easier to win the Lottery than guess correctly.

We don't want to ruin the surprise, so we'll save that announcement for January…

Enjoy your weekend!

—Shawn & Andr√©