By Charlie Garland
If you’re a creativity-oriented person like I am, then you’ve probably experienced a lot of what I’m about to tell you. But, then again, you’ve probably also learned by now how to deal with it in life. Know the feeling you get right after you offer up a creative suggestion, an innovative idea, and outside-the-box thought? People around you invariably give that eye-roll, or perhaps that deer-in-the-headlights sort of “Huh?” response. Or maybe they just slump into that all too familiar “Oh, man, not another one of these wacky ideas again” body language. Yep…we’re the oddballs in almost any setting. Our friends, our family, our co-workers – they’re all the normal ones, and we are the outliers. The “creatives” who don’t really fit in totally with the norm and within that comfortable zone of not rocking the boat. The life of a creative can be a lonely place, indeed.
But I had one of the most unique experiences of my life a few weeks ago, and it happened – of all places – way up in Buffalo, New York (which is actually quite beautiful in early June, I must say). Every year, CPSI – the Creative Problem Solving Institute – is held and it is truly the highlight of any creative person’s annual planning. The only difference here, however, is that you as a creative are no longer the “wacky one in the crowd”; on the contrary, CPSI is chock full of creatives. Hundreds of ‘em. All types, ages, languages, backgrounds. It’s simply amazing. The creative types find themselves at CPSI no longer the oddball. You are surrounded by wall-to-wall creativity, inventiveness, wackiness, humor, spontaneity, curiosity, and of course…passion. It’s a creative’s dream-come-true.
This was my very first visit to CPSI. The woman whom I just met at coffee break, another first-timer, has an ear-to-ear smile on her face. “They all just get it here,” she said in glee. “It’s like I just landed on another planet – only this time, everyone around me is imaginative, curious, and incredibly fun!” I couldn’t have agreed more. The feeling you get is like it’s a new home. A new family. A group of people who understand you, seek new insights and learning just like you do, ask questions – lots of them – and have tremendous fun doing all of that. They all have intriguing stories to tell – teachers, students, adults, kids, masters, and neophytes alike. It’s an amazing feeling to be completely surrounded by those who share that same thirst for new knowledge, new tools, new methods, and new experiences in innovation, problem-solving, and creativity. What a place; what an experience!
So ever since then, even after returning to my real world – the one with all the run-of-the-mill “normal” thinkers – I don’t feel quite so isolated any more. Am I still surrounded by amazing, energetic innovators now? Well, no. But I have already made so many connections with new friends I made at CPSI – people I know I am going to have very long, very valuable, very interesting relationships with from this point forward – that now I always know they’re out there. Only a phone call, an email, a text message, or a Skype session away. And I’ll most certainly be back next year. The experience is something brilliant and exciting to look forward to. And thankfully, still in this solar system.