Conflict only fuels your creativity.
Scott Belsky, founder and former CEO of Behance (acquired by Adobe), now a general partner at Benchmark Capital wrote a piece titled “Creativity is Nourished by Conflict” that really spoke to me.
Maybe that’s because I’m going through a stage in my life where there’s a lot of inherent conflict. I’ve been through this phase before multiple times and while it’s daunting in the moment, times of conflict have channeled in me some of my best and most rewarding work because I was able to dig deep and truly reflect on what’s important to me and how I’ll get to where I hope to go.
I have no clue what the future holds, but the only thing I have at my control is how I perceive what is happening to me the best way I can, work my ass off on products that I truly love and believe in, and invest in the things that hopefully will create more value for myself, in one way or another, in the long term.
Regarding conflict, Scott argues using emotion:
Art, in its rawest and most moving form, is born of struggle. While creativity is mostly the combination of genuine interest and initiative, the emotion in the art that engages others (the listeners, viewers, customers) comes from somewhere deeper and darker. Emotion pushes us beyond what is familiar and safe. Emotion is inherently uncomfortable. It short-circuits our brains to escape pattern recognition and repetition, and literally makes us interpret the world in new ways.
He also speaks on using vision. In an earlier interview with now Billboard-charting singer and songwriter Rachel Flatten of “Fight Song” fame, he says:
Creativity thrives on conflict-born-emotion and abhors comfort. But conflict alone won’t cut it. You need hope and a vision — something towards which you can channel the dark energy.
(Flatten says) “When I get determined about something, I am really stubborn. So I just didn’t let it go. Through all the ‘no’s’, ‘you’re not good enough’s’…I just kept the visualization of my success in my head. …I visualize myself achieving my goal. I make it so real that I can see every detail, the sounds, tastes, visuals, etc… and I literally just imagine it and meditate on it for about ten/twenty minutes whenever I can…”
This sounds amazing and I’m thinking of spending a few minutes in my day to do just that. Admittedly this is harder to do when you’re not entirely sure what you want, but I suppose one can imagine an ideal situation and use that as their drive.
On facing and engaging with conflict:
When you face conflict it becomes a part of you, for better or for worse, and it can nourish you indefinitely so long as it is not suppressed. The only way to work through pain is by bringing it to the surface — and engaging with it. Choose to create or choose peace, but don’t fool yourself into believing you can have both in full force. Greatness is sparked in dark places.
On channeling conflict to fuel the journey:
When you really give a damn, you’re willing to fight for it. Conflict accompanies passion. With teams, the leader’s role is to channel conflict to fuel the journey. Seek to resolve but do not restrain conflict. The tensions are the magic touch. They force us to question ourselves and explore the full terrain of possibility. The tensions keep us uncomfortable enough to keep trying. Hire people that are willing to fight, and fight apathy ruthlessly.
I hope to keep these things in mind throughout the span of my career. I’m fortunate enough to really love what I do and passionate enough to work on the products that I really care for.
And I hope that never changes.