Presence, truth telling, and discernment are just a few attributes of visionaries. Another, which on the surface seems obvious, is creativity, innovation. What is not so obvious is what this actually means. I’ve had many clients tell me they are just not creative people, thinking the term describes only artistic people, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We all have creativity inside us, just as we all have a visionary voice. Seeing alternative futures, other possibilities for our lives, our work, and our world, requires creativity. Creating paths to these possibilities requires innovation every step of the way. Problem-solving is in and of itself a profoundly creative act.
And that is one of the reasons becoming a visionary is much easier after age 40. We have more experiences to draw from when solving problems, and a wider network of people to collaborate with and seek advice from. We are often more able to focus our creative efforts on what really matters, having reached a point in our lives when we no longer want to expend limited energy and time with anything, or anyone, that isn’t truly meaningful to us. The creative energy we once required for other important parts of our lives, such as having and raising children, can often be channeled into new pursuits.
The evidence backs this up. As I discuss in an another post, the most successful companies are started by entrepreneurs over 55 years old. And our present and past are full of examples of accomplishments, always fueled by innovative thinking, of people in their 40s and beyond.
- Dorothy Fuldheim because the first woman in the United States with her own news show in her 40s, and invented a new format for television news: weaving commentary and interviews into her news summary.
- Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod at 44, discovered electricity at 46, codrafted the Declaration of Independence at 70, and later invented bifocals.
- Arianna Huffington was 55 when she launched the Huffington Post.
- Willa Cather published her first novel at 40, won the Pulitzer Prize at 50, and after a period of personal despair in her early 50s, bounced back to write what scholars and critics agree were her greatest works.
- Henry Ford introduced the Model T at 45.
- Frank Lloyd Wright built Fallingwater, a masterpiece of architecture, at 68.
- Jane Addams, suffragette, founder of Hull House in Chicago, and founding member of the ACLU and charter member of the NAACP, published her first book when she was 50, foresaw World War I and at 55 started the Women’s Peace Party and the International Congress of Women in an attempt to avert it. In 1931, at the age of 71, she received the Nobel Peace Prize.
- Silicon Valley pioneer and serial entrepreneur Sandy Kurtzig started the software company Kenandy in her 60s, and as already received $10.5 million in early funding
And this is only a small fraction of the examples I could list. Shouldn’t your name be on it?
In what ways do you use creativity in your life and your work? What is innovative about your vision for the future?