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Chase Jarvis and Brandon Stanton on Creativity as a Practice
by Alexa Peters

When Seattle-based photographer, creative coach, and entrepreneur Chase Jarvis was in the second grade, he overheard his teacher say that he was better at sports than he was at art.

Speaking to an audience at Seattle’s Town Hall on Monday night, Jarvis said the feedback persuaded him to focus more on sports and disconnected him from his creative inclinations. It wasn’t until his grandfather died and left Jarvis all of his photography gear 15 years later, that Jarvis rediscovered his creativity.

Now Jarvis is a world-renowned photographer who’s worked with companies like Volvo, Nike, Apple, and REI, the cofounder of the online education platform CreativeLive, and the author of a new book about creativity entitled, Creative Calling. His appearance at Town Hall Seattle was in promotion of the book and moderated by Humans of New York’s Brandon Stanton.

As the night began, Jarvis, 48, and Stanton, 35, sat on-stage beneath an arched stained glass window dressed in identical black t-shirts. Like two old school chums, they teased each other about their humble beginnings (Stanton, apparently, was doing drugs and sleeping on a mattress on the floor before Humans of New York got going). They also touched on how they met, filming a segment for CreativeLive.

After 7 years of building a platform for teaching creativity, called CreativeLive, Jarvis said he’s found one major takeaway in successful people. They acknowledge their creativity. Hence, the “basic frame” of Creative Calling is the idea that everyone is creative, despite the fact that our culture trains creativity out of us.

For Jarvis, is larger than art. Creativity is in everything—engineering, math, even the most mundane daily task like cooking. From there, the larger implication of honing your sense of creativity is that with it, you can build a successful life.

I.D.E.A: IMAGINE, DESIGN, EXECUTE, AMPLIFY

Fostering creativity comes down to Jarvis’ “I.D.E.A.” system: imagine, design, execute, and amplify.

First, imagine what’s possible. Jarvis discussed finding “gaps in [your] life,” which he defined as the chasm between where you are and where you want to be. Creativity, he asserts, is how we traverse those gaps, and the first step is to imagine what is possible.

This also requires getting out from under society’s expectations of us, he says, and throwing out what he calls the “map.”

“We’re given a map: go to school, get a job, etc.,” Jarvis said. “We’re sold this because it’s simple and convenient. A map creates averages. You aren’t an average."

According to Jarvis, maps keep us from dreaming too big and promote a safe but unsatisfying middle road. Instead, he says you’re better off to use a compass. Pick a direction and go that way, in spite of fear.

“It’s scary for most of us to walk blindly in a direction, but when that compass is your heart, it’s your calling,” he said

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“It’s scary for most of us to walk blindly in a direction, but when that compass is your heart, it’s your calling.”
- Chase Jarvis
Chase Jarvis and Brandon Stanton on Creativity as a Practice

Next step is to get detailed and design the life you really want. But don’t over-design your life, because spontaneity is also inherent in creativity, Stanton asserts. “Humans of New York came from thousands of tiny evolutions inside myself, from doing what I loved every day,” not from over-planning things like social media engagement.

Execute, comes next. Start acting on your design, Jarvis says, without compromise. “You have to be willing to be misunderstood for a duration of time to do what you’re called to do,” he said.

And finally, amplify the work you do. That’s where connecting with your community comes in.

Overall, though, Jarvis delved less into the final two steps as he spoke, and more into getting started with the idea of yourself as a creative person.

“Tell me, and be brave, let me see a show of hand of how many people here don’t have a sense of their ‘thing” yet?” Jarvis asked the audience. “About 30% of you raised your hands.”

Hope isn’t lost, he says, if you’re one of that 30%. “If you don’t know [what sparks your creative fire], it’s okay, but go looking for it,” he said.

Afterwards, Jarvis had garnered new fans clamoring to get in line for his book and a meet-and-greet dinner. One new fan was Aly Schoonover, a Creative Director at Imago.

“I didn’t know about Chase before this, but his tips really resonated as a practical approach for people to explore creativity,” she said.

Additionally, psychiatrist Katie Kern really “loved how he stayed in the heart,” and took away one major thing: “You are your [own #1] fan,” she said. “His talk gave me the confidence to go after my life work—opening a healing clinic.”

To learn more about Chase Jarvis and his work, or potentially catch any additional talks on his book tour, visit chasejarvis.com.

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