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3 Creative Hacks to Kick Start Your Next Project


It’s simple enough to understand that you must instigate to be successful.

It’s much more difficult to put this understanding to use.

And if our logical conclusions aren’t actionable, what’s the point?

Here are a few quick tips I’ve compiled from some extremely clever, creative and successful people on how they created great works (everything from successful blogs, to best-selling books and cashflowing startups).

Note: I took the liberty to elaborate on their original ideas.  If you discovered a different but noteworthy lesson that I didn’t cover, let me know in the comments below!

I hope this helps (I know it’s helping me as I start on my next major book project and an even more epic business project – more updates on that later).


Kick Start Your Next Project with the following Creative Hacks

1)  Are you having trouble finding your voice?  Mimic someone (or something) that inspires you.

Credit: Al Pittampalli (successful entrepreneur and author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting)

In a compelling and insightful interview I did with Al Pittampalli (compelling and insightful because of Al, not my interviewing skills), Al explained the first draft of his book came off a little stiff and lacked personality.

Al knew he needed to find his own voice, so he looked for inspiration and found it, of all places, in the movie Jerry McGuire.  There is a scene in the movie where Jerry, the protagonist, has an epiphany and stays up all night to write a manifesto on his business.

Al did a quick search online and found the actual manifesto (a bit of trivia: the writer of the script, Cameron Crowe, actually wrote out a full length manifesto to help Tom Cruise get into character on the movie set).  After reading the manuscript, he knew it was the perfect style for his book.

“Why don’t I try, instead of using my own voice, to use Jerry McGuire’s voice.” [Al Pittampalli]

For the next several weeks, Al woke up early in the morning (3am) and pretended to be Jerry McGuire as he rewrote his book.

Instead of losing his voice, he was able to refine and develop his own.

Thanks to just a bit of inspiration-seeking, we now have an incredibly powerful book that is uniquely Al.

2) Are people giving you advice on how to change your art?  Ignore them.

Credit: Hugh MacLeod (artist and author of Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity)

The most creative, ambitious, and daring ideas are, by their nature, personal.  So friends, family, and peers can’t help you.

Nobody can understand your art or your project better than you.  You know your art deeply and personally; others only see the surface.

The more mad or bold the art, the less likely someone can give you good advice on what to do, how to do it, or if you should even attempt it in the first place. 

“The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you.” [How to Be Creative]

Instead of asking for advice, go make your project or art the way you want it made.

3) What is the most effective technique for [place description of action and goal here] (for example: write a book, build a business, start a gang, etc.)  Answer: whichever technique is right in front of you.

Credit: Tom Morkes (yea, I’m crediting myself – that’s how I roll).

I’ve listened to hundreds of podcasts, read hundreds of books, absorbed a lot of information from a lot of different people, and put it all to work in various ways throughout my life, including during active duty military service.  You might expect there’s a unifying technique on how things ought to be done if you want to be successful.

The truth is – there isn’t.

Some writers wake up early– others work better midnight to dawn; some leaders yell a lot, others are quiet and contemplative; some entrepreneurs develop multiple businesses simultaneously, others only one and focus their entire energy behind it.

Every single writer, designer, artist, entrepreneur, leader and warrior has his own rituals, schedule, and techniques; no two share the same.

So the point is this: If you’re stuck, don’t worry about figuring out whether Twitter is better than Facebook is better than Pinterest is better than whatever for conversion.

Focus on what matters: the work only you can do, in the way only you can do it.

“Here is what you must do: Write your big stupid book, build your big stupid business, or start your big stupid blog.” [The Art of Instigating]

There’s no one right answer; only a bunch of imperfect solutions.

You won’t know which is best for you until you start (finish, and ship).

Go instigate.

p.s. what are your best creative hacks to get unstuck and kick start your project?  Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Hey Tom,

    Great post today. I like the way you are quoting others in the post and driving eyeballs their way. Paying it forward is always a fantastic way of giving back to those who have given inspiration. As part of my own “The 365 Effect” this year, I have a rather unique and creative solution that is helping me to achieve, that I would love to share with your readers.

    It’s called “My Daily Mirror” and I will be blogging more about it at the end of this first quarter but for the past 10 days I have started each day with this ritual. I look myself in the mirror and say aloud – Good Morning Achiever (or Alan, or goofball or sleepyhead etc, ) I then say aloud 1 action item that I will ACHIEVE today. It sounds silly I know and I had visions of it becoming similar to the SNL skit “Stuart Smalley’s – I’m Good enough, I’m Smart enough and Gosh darn it, people like me” but I have to say after only 10 days of doing this I am hooked. I even laugh out loud in the morning after I vocalize “Good Morning Achiever”…what better way to start my day than with a huge belly laugh and a sound and targeted goal that I am going to accomplish over the course of my day. The trick is to make sure I make that achievement doable. It has to be achievable! It can be as simple as “I will shine my black dress shoes” or “I will read the ebook in my inbox” the key to this entire My Daily Mirror exercise is to build on those successes daily. This pattern of achievement is money in the bank and works to build up your own success mindset. I am loving the results.

    Hope this little trick is one that you and your readers will enjoy.

    • Alan, thanks so much for the comment!

      I think anything that helps us focus on action (whether through affirmations, daily/weekly reviews, notebooks, etc) is truly the key. Sounds like that’s ultimately what The 365 Effect is all about. Can’t wait to find out more about it. Keep all of us posted!

      – Tom

  • Sweet post Tom. I have used the mimicking of other artist to define help define my own style for years, but that idea had been forgotten when it comes to writing. I may have to re-read some of my favorite authors for a little creative kick in the pants to help nudge my writing skills along.

    • Thanks Randy! Let me see what you come up with when you get the chance.

      A couple other creative techniques I’ve used a lot: Austin Kleon’s advice from ‘Steal Like an Artist’: write (design, draw, build, etc) what you want to see, not what you know.

      And from Maria Papova @ Brainpickings.org: art is “combinatorial” – so it’s not so much about originality as it is merging other ideas into your own and building and evolving from that.

  • Even when I finished my venture around Japan by bicycle years earlier,
    the only thing I wanted to do then was to look for a new mission to set out on. A beautiful sunset with its many splendid colors that artist always try and capture.
    For those among us who could cook, a good breakfast did not have to take time or
    be complicated to prepare, but simple like milk over cereal,
    or in my case it had to have a cup of hot tea or coffee along with it.

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