How to be creative (Even if you think you aren’t)

Shed Simove spent five long years writing a book about how to be successful. Then he spent another year trying to get it published.

But once it was released, the book languished at #35,000 on Amazon’s list of bestsellers.

“I was really depressed about this because I think [the book] has worth,” says Shed, a novelty product entrepreneur.

After that experience, Shed tried a different approach. He developed a new book idea, and just nine days later it ranked 44th on Amazon.

The book, called What Every Man Thinks About Apart from Sex, is completely blank inside. “[It’s] become a worldwide phenomenon,” says Shed.

In his Mixergy course, Shed’s shares the creative process he’s used to create his products and sell more than a million units. Here are three tactics you’ll learn in the course.

1. Be a MythBuster

Self-imposed rules and commonly held beliefs kill creativity.

Human rules “come from someone’s brain,” says Shed. “And I always find it fascinating how we are entrenched with certain beliefs. I think you’ve got to be very careful about beliefs because sometimes [they] strongly direct our actions, and you’ve got to be aware of that.”

For instance, Shed wanted to create his own currency, but thought it was illegal. So what could he do?

Put myths to the test

When Shed thinks his own ideas are impractical, impossible, or illegal, he stops to question his beliefs.

So instead of immediately dismissing his currency idea, he researched it.

“I found out it’s not illegal to make your own currency,” he said. “Gift vouchers that companies like Walmart give…are in fact their own currency. They’re just a piece of paper that translates the paper into product.”

Shed designed and printed his own note, then tested its value on eBay. “Amazingly, this sells,” he says, “and now has an approximate value of 1.52 pounds, which is a better exchange rate than most currencies.”

2. Add a Twist

To be successful, your idea can’t just be creative. It also has to inspire people.

“And in order to be inspiring, you have to be inspired,” says Shed.

But there’s no clear-cut way to “get inspired”. And just because something inspires you doesn’t mean it’s going to inspire your customers!

So how do you come up with an idea that will be a hit?

Spin off a success

Put a new twist on a popular idea.

“Look around you at what’s engaging people,” says Shed. “Can you twist it for your own ends? Because if it’s good idea and is popular with people, maybe there’s something you can do that’s similar.”

For example, Shed saw that a lot of companies sold candles that spell out “happy birthday”. The candles were selling, but they weren’t very clever.

“I did much more fun phrases like ‘Lost Count’ and ‘21 Again’ and my best-seller, ‘You’re Old.’ ‘You’re Old’ has sold over 300,000 units.”

3. Don’t Just Tell Them

Everyone knows what it feels like to share an exciting new idea, only to be shot down.

“[That] can take the wind from your sail and stop you from developing your new idea,” says Shed.

In fact, it happened to Shed so often that he coined a term for it: negative magnets, or negnets. “A negnet is when you tell someone your idea and their negativity and the crease of their brow or even their outright words [say], ‘That’s a rubbish idea’” says Shed.

But the real problem isn’t that your friends are all jerks. The real problem is that it’s difficult for people to imagine what your product will look like and how it will work.

So what’s the best way to share your idea and avoid rejection?

Show them

Build a cheap prototype before you share your idea.

“Any idea in the whole world can be brought to life cheaply,” says Shed. “Everything can be done. For a movie, you can do a short video on YouTube. For a skyscraper, you can do a 2-D visualization.”

Once you have a prototype, people are more likely to understand your idea and collaborate with you, rather than shooting it down outright.

“It’s really important to avoid negnet, get your idea going, and even if you notice it’s not so good halfway through, that’s fine,” says Shed. “Then get other people involved when you’ve brought it to life in a 2-D or 3-D way, and they’ll help you make it even better.”
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Written by April Dykman. Production notes by Jeremy Weisz.

  • Mark

    like your game, and have something to add. but you need to send me $1- and I will tell you. money back guarantee

  • Geoffrey L. Barrows

    Andrew- I tend to use these cheat sheets not for their intended purpose but as a flag for curated content, e.g. if you (or others) selected a course for making a cheat sheet, then it should be on my short list of material to consume.

    Have you thought of making a more detail of the “top 20” (or whatever) or most popular interviews / courses, maybe by topic?

  • Jeremy Weisz

    Brilliant job Shed (and Andrew). You are always inspiring and get a bunch of ideas swimming in my head. You are also hilarious!

  • Andrew Warner

    Thanks for making it happen, Jeremy!

  • Andrew Warner

    What topic would you want us to do?

    Is this the format you want:

  • Andrew Warner

    Mark, what’s up?

  • enginethemes

    Hi Andew, Always feel very interested in what you wrote. People don’t think that they have ability to be creative, form your post, I found out my beginning again.

  • Geoffrey L. Barrows

    I saw that trio of interviews relating to copywriting and that definitely helped (I did listen to the three). I was thinking of maybe a single table or even a spreadsheet- first column the name of the interviewee and link to the interview/course, the second column a word or phrase summarizing the topic, the third column one or a few sentences that indicate what is unique about that particular interviewee. The third column would be “second order stuff” (forgive the math term) and capture the interest of people open to thinking a bit laterally.

    I’ve no topic in mind in particular, I just like to learn from good interviews. For example, I have no desire to “raise VC funding” and so on the surface Oren Klaff’s interviews may seem not applicable to me. But I saw him at the top of one of your pages and thought “Andrew put it there at the top so there must be something about it- why not?” and it was fantastic and, yes, it turned out to be quite relevant to my business after all.

    You’ve done 800+ interviews already. There is a LOT of valuable meta information in there that goes beyond the contents of the individual interviews. Lots of gold and gems. Going out on a limb with metaphors: 800 computers is just 800 computers. But 800 computers connected together in a network changes the world. How can your interviews be connected together like that? (If I knew the answer I’d put it here.)

    PS. In case it is not clear, the above is a compliment, not a complaint!

  • Romi TheMighty Singh Gill


    I enjoyed your Creativity course on Mixergy. Your thinking is similar to that of Seth Godin as in doing something different.

    Andrew: Thanks for connecting us to amazing talent.

  • Andrew Warner

    Thanks! I need feedback like this.

  • Your City Office

    Great points, all of them. Something that I have always found is that you are your own worst critic when it comes to how you judge your ideas. Some of the best ideas that I have ever heard came after the phrase: “I know this is going to sound stupid but what if…”

  • Andrew Warner

    Some of my biggest regrets are unpursued ideas that start with “this is going to sound stupid, but…”

  • Maegan Anderson

    No one will be successful by following the work of other people. In making a new product, it is very important to think of ways to make your product stand out from other competitors.Thanks for this very informative article!

  • Andrew Warner

    Send me a link to your project when it’s up. I’d love to see it.

  • Jennifer

    Great ideas! I really like the idea of showing them. I am a hands on person myself, so to be able to show them what it will look like would definitely have a bigger impact!

  • Pingback: 3 Most Important Aspects of a Business | RestartBusiness()

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