4 Toxic But Popular Myths About Success and Creativity

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Most productivity advice on the internet is exhausting and boring. And it’s no wonder why. 

They are repetitions of the same old stuff: Never procrastinate, don’t be afraid to fail, wake up by 5:00 am, work out, the list goes on. 

And though those who promote these ideas mean well for their audiences, these pieces of advice can easily become toxic rather than helpful. 

Look at it this way: Most of the people who go to the internet for advice are not searching for suggestions or inspiration. They don’t pick what they find with skepticism. 

They go looking for prescriptions. And when they find it, they force it into their lives not paying attention to its impact on them.

They rarely think, “Does this idea align with who or where i am? Does waking up by 5 really work for me?”

Creativity should be flexible and intuitive. The most important thing is to first know and understand yourself. There may be things that work for you that haven’t been written by anyone in any book. 

Even worse, there may be things that work for you that might go against what has been written. Here are 4 examples you might have come across. 

“Ego is the enemy”

ego

The idea that ego is a strong drive for success is no strange idea to us. Inherently, almost everyone has a touch of ego to their drive for success. 

A person who feels too big to be asking uncles and parents for money all the time will have no choice but to look for a way to prevent it from happening. 

Mohammed Ali, for instance, kept saying he was the greatest. That’s ego. But here’s the interesting thing: He isn’t going to sit back at his couch and watch NetFlix all day after making a bold statement like that. 

He wasn’t sunk down by his grandiose words. Instead, that attitude gave him something to prove. And since our attitude is way ahead of our success, success inevitably gives way. 

The ego has always been seen as a toxic thing. But the truth is, the ego itself isn’t toxic. Ego, just like anything else, only becomes toxic when it’s too much.

Channeling your ego well can be the best way to engage yourself emotionally and physically with your goals. 

The American author and motivational speaker, Randy Gage explained in The Role of Ego to Manifest Prosperity

“…channelling your ego to develop a stronger sense of self is quite empowering. It gives you the state of mind to attempt more bold, daring and adventurous things.” 

“Don’t be afraid of failure”

“Don’t be afraid to fail” sounds good in theory. But if you’re going to quit your job to become an entrepreneur, you probably should be terrified of failing.

Here’s the thing: 

We live in a world that only wants to hear success stories. Success sells, failure doesn’t.

You are not going to be invited to sit with Oprah because you were courageous enough to quit your job to start a business that failed. 

In other words, we don’t get to hear about the thousands of people that failed to get themselves together after quitting their jobs. All we get to see are the 1% who managed to pull it off (probably because of some favorable conditions). 

The idea here isn’t that we shouldn’t show courage and go after our goals. Rather, let us stop seeing the fear of failure as a weakness. 

Everyone should be afraid of failing. This is what makes us cautious. 

The fear of failure should make you have realistic plans for your life. As Carl Newport tried to make people understand in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, those who quit their jobs simply because of passion often end up failing.

If you must succeed, you must first have a plan, build your skills, and acquire career capital.  

“Don’t procrastinate”

Procrastination itself rarely makes anyone unproductive. It’s the guilt from feeling you’re underachieving that makes you unproductive. 

The fact that actively putting things away can foster creativity shouldn’t be a strange idea to us at all. We’ve all experienced it at one point or the other. 

The reason why procrastination has been given a bad rap is that it is linked with being lazy. But in reality, they are different.

According to Angela Chun Chu, in his 2005 research, people who actively procrastinate are more likely to come up with creative ideas. 

When we have a task we need to do but decide to do it later, it makes our brains go to work, making our thoughts and ideas more organized.

Leonardo Da Vinci, for instance, started his most famous work of art, The Monalisa, in 1503 and ended it in 1517. 

The more time he spent on the piece, the more detailed and finner it became.

As the American Psychologist and author, Adam Grant also explained, when you procrastinate, you give your mind time to wander. As a result, you are likely to come up with unexpected ideas and spot unusual patterns.

Another good example of a procrastinator in history will be Pericles of ancient Athens.

What made Pericles stand out as a leader was his ability to not make decisions when everyone else needed an immediate response. 

Instead, he withdrew himself to his house sometimes for days, after which he came up with solutions and ideas that left people in awe. 

“Being too desperate will ruin you”

Crop payroll clerk counting money while sitting at table

We live in a time that glorifies contentment above anything else. 

Anything that speaks of dissatisfaction or a high hunger for money, power, or status is frowned upon by the court of public opinion.

Because of this trend, we’ve now learned to detest anyone who appears too ambitious or “desperate.”

But as much as being content is a good virtue, another truth that we can’t also deny is that those who rise to the top, for the most part, are usually people who are desperate. 

Jim Carrey, for instance, was asked in a 2004 interview on CBS news where his inspiration and drive for comedy came from, “Desperation” he said, point-blank. He further went on to explain that he had a sick mom in the hospital who was in so much pain and he just had to do anything to make her smile.

As Malcolm Gladwell also interviewed most of the successful people in the world for his book, Outliers, he soon found out that most of them became successful because they were dyslexic. 

As he further explained in the book, their inability to read in grade school made them learn to negotiate with their teachers to raise their grades in class, and with friends to help them with their academics. 

Though too much desperation can lead to a self-consuming, irrational, and destructive hunger for power, when channeled, however, it is precisely what separates those who rise to the top from those who stay below. 

All you need to know

Whether these four ideas are toxic to you or not, one thing you should take with you is that the road to creativity and success often cannot be given to anyone as prescriptions. 

We all must trust our inner voice that often doesn’t speak to use in banal phrases. Usually, they come to us as inclinations, in a language that only we can understand. 

The things you need to do to succeed might go against some of the most conventional success advice. Sometimes you may not find your path in any book. 

The most important thing is to understand yourself and what works for you as an individual. There is no linear path or rule to success. Whatever works for you becomes the rule.


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