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Disciplined Creativity: A Paradoxical Approach to Being Creative That Will Unlock Unlimited Success

As my mentor Brendon Burchard always used to say, there are only 2 ways to change your life.

Either something new comes out of you or someone new comes into your world…

Well someone new has come into my world this week and it’s already gotten me buzzing.

His name is Erik Wahl, a former graffiti artist who’s now become one of the most in-demand high-paid speakers on the corporate circuit right now.

Yep — you heard me right.

He has built an incredible career painting graffiti, live, on the stages of major corporations. For which they pay him. A Lot.

Who ever said you can’t build a business around your art.

I was so inspired by what Erik has done in his career that I invited him to speak to this year’s new class of Mentorship students to support them in re-imagining what’s possible in business… and I pre-ordered all my students a signed copy of his new book, which hasn’t been released yet, called The Spark and the Grind: Ignite the Power of Disciplined Creativity.

So even though I haven’t met Erik yet or read his book, the title alone has gotten me thinking about “the power of disciplined creativity”.

Disciplined what?

I know. Those are two words that aren’t normally said together…

Most people imagine creativity as this wild uncontrollable force…

But not many people talk about disciplined creativity… and just hearing that term has made me realize how much “disciplined creativity” has played a role in our business success… and up until now I didn’t have the words to really describe our secret sauce.

You see, I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur.

I was always the impractical and idealistic artist in the family.

And the rest of the family? Well, not so much. My dad’s a macroeconomic advisor. My brother went into Management Consulting at a big New York firm right out of college. And my mom is a PhD-trained professor.

No one ever thought I was going to make money.

As a girl, I spent my days immersed in books, writing and crafting…. I still remember the first time I was introduced to design on our very first computer. My dad bought the Print Shop program and I’d spend hours making stationary and printing it out on our giant dot matrix printer — the one that would feed the paper through the printer through all the sprockets on the side?

What I’ve come to realize along the way is that what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur is pretty similar to what it takes to succeed as an artist.

Let’s call that je ne sais quoi “disciplined creativity.”

Creativity is when you can make connections in your brain between things that are not usually connected (like the words disciplined and creativity). And studies show that you can access creativity when your brain has the space to relax, reflect and talk to itself.

Now I believe that “disciplined creativity” is about focusing and harnessing the creative process (i.e. making new connections) around specific goals or results that you’d like to realize, for yourself and for the world.

Before I became a professional, I used to create art for the sake of art. Then in the documentary film and nonprofit world, I got more disciplined and started creating art in service of social change…

Then once I become an entrepreneur, I got more disciplined still and applied my creativity to creating products, services and programs that would really move the needle for my students, customers and clients and provide a unique experience of transformation, while pushing the envelope of what business could look like and feel like…

And that has really allowed us to stand out in the most crowded market the world (and the internet) has ever seen…

So if you find yourself struggling to get noticed online and off, perhaps it’s time to apply a little bit of “disciplined creativity” to your business.

This is not the same thing as creativity “gone wild” or being different just for the second of being different. It’s about meaningful differentiation and innovation in service of a larger goal…

I hope this helps my fellow artists out there since it too me over 30 years to learn how to discipline my creativity and channel it seamlessly into my business.

But, since I have, I gotta say it’s an absolute joy to create everything from this blog post, to our products, to our marketing campaigns…

I hope you can bring your business mind together with your creative heart.

Now go out there and Live Your Message!

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. denise Avatar

    LoVe It!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd


  2. Virginia Reeves Avatar
    Virginia Reeves

    Marisa: thanks for sharing this term as well as the insights about creative discipline. As a writer I would guess that most of us in that field would say that description fits. It would be the same for any artistic or creative endeavor. While you ‘free-form’ to an extent – there is practice, guidelines, and focus that go along with your actions.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Absolutely! Especially if you want to build a sustainable business or career out of your creativity. 🙂

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