Every time I start to think it may be too late to achieve something exciting, someone reminds me of Colonel Sanders who started Kentucky Fried Chicken in his 80’s
But a recent article by David W. Galenson & Joshua Kotin that originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times, pointed out the difference in creative styles between those who did awesome things in their 20’s and those who developed over time—the Conceptual Innovators vs. the Experimental Innovators.
Young people are often “Conceptual Innovators. They get an inspired idea and often work it into a unique masterpiece. They have a tendency to be the rule breakers. Picasso created cubism at 25. Orson Wells made Citizen Kane at 25. Mozart wrote full symphonies in his teens and 20s. Conceptual Innovators are often driven by the need to express a new idea or particular emotions. The flash of insight comes and they follow their ideas and create a new concept.
But there is another way creativity emerges. It is the trial-and-error experimentation and contemplation that ultimately leads to a unique expression of the collected wisdom and life experience. These people are called “Experimental Innovators” and they seek to describe what they see and hear and understand. They examine the over-view based on their life experience and their personal quest for knowledge, and organize it into a unique and individualized offering.
The list is long of people whose quest for expression involved a long journey. Paul Cezanne was an experimental innovator. After failing to get into the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he left Paris feeling totally discouraged because he felt he could not compete with other young artists of his time. After years spent in contemplation and exploration, he finally came to understand what he wanted to do. He wanted to bring solidity to Impressionism. He was 30 years old at the time. Then he spent the next 30 years, primarily in seclusion, developing his unique style that ultimately influenced every important artist of the next generation.
It’s important to have a goal. It’s important to make a commitment to the problem you want to solve. It’s important to keep on learning and to examine your life experience as you formulate your personal philosophy.
Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer at 41 and Huckleberry Finn at 50
Robert Frost dropped out of both Dartmouth and Harvard, retreated to a rural environment, and published his most famous poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” at 49.
Frank Loyd Wright completed Fallingwater at 72 and worked on the Guggenheim Museum until his death at 91
At 63 Frost observed that young people have flashes of insight, but “it is later in the dark of life that you see forms, constellations. And it is the constellations that are philosophy.”
It is our unique philosophy that we can put into information products that will possibly change the lives of others. I think it’s important that we pass forward the wisdom we have accumulated over the years. If we share our successes and our less-than-successes and others will learn from them. We’ve come too far and know too much to allow ourselves to move into a sedentary existence as we age. Pick up your pen, get on that computer, go to that art class, take the creative writing course, write that e-book, lead that workshop, follow your passion, follow that dream you’ve been carrying in your heart all your life. Now is the time. Now is the time for you to step up to the plate and go to bat for what you have leaned and what you believe. Get active. Get creative. Rejoin that you have finally mellowed into your own creative genius.