Courage to Create

Why do we require courage to create? Creativity should feel like the most natural of actions. When kids play at home or in the park, their games are full of creativity. They are pirates sailing the untamed seas, or wanderers in a fantasy land accompanied by imaginary friends. What happens to us as we age that makes it such that we fear retribution for daring to bring something new or imaginative into the world? Unfortunately, we are educated into conformity and the marketing powers that be, transform us into consumerist beings. Irrational, unconscious phenomena are a threat to the increasingly mechanized world we inhabit. Creativity is not a magical talent bestowed on the random chosen few, but a muscle that needs to be trained to remain healthy and strong and one which, if we use well, can turn our creative actions into a means of production, personal self-care, and overall improvement of state-of-being.

“It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.”
– Albert Einstein

As I researched for this piece, mainly through the works of Rick Rubin, the Creative Act and The Courage to Create, Rollo May, I approached it with the mindset of an investment professional, whose focus is discovering what makes founders tick in the consumer industries of gaming and entertainment. However, it became quickly apparent that the lessons to be learned here were in the first place to be applied to myself. Most notably one of the main outcomes from Rick Rubin’s book:

“Art is a reverberation of an impermanent life”

Do we contemplate legacy when we do the things we do? We live an impermanent life, and the creative act is a means to tell the world, present and future that “I was here!”

Of course, there are many degrees to how we can achieve this. I recall reading that quote on a number of public lavatory doors or etched into the barks of trees in the park, but of course I hope to leave a more telling legacy about myself.

If you are Rick Rubin, your legacy is a litany of smash hit records, spanning four decades across distinct genres of hip-hop, heavy rock and pop music. The more I thought about the notion of legacy though, the more motivated I found myself to be. And the message in Rubin’s book is simple: you can do this too. Firstly, we need to switch our way of being to a producer vs consumer mindset. From little actions, like contributing to communities on social media rather than simply doom scrolling, to participating in industry events like organizing social meetups for your local startup community. Additionally, I personally want to apply this to more meaningful acts: namely my writing, which currently takes the form of these blogs/journals about my discoveries in the entrepreneurship field and my work as an operator in the investment field of venture capital. This article is my effort to clarify what the creative act mindset could mean to me personally, hopefully you can extract something for yourself as I explore this.

Ode to Originality

As I sat in a bar one evening some 20 years ago, the T.V. was showing a celebration of 25 years of a renowned fashion brand. I believe it was Giorgio Armani (but it’s besides the point) who was being celebrated. He was asked what he was most thankful for, and his response was “for 25 years of being original to myself and my designs”. This moment stuck with me, and I rarely find the right context for it, this is because over time I observed how rare it is to be in the presence of true originals, people whose purpose is to create and explore. Our capitalist world tries to take over the artist by buying them. Rollo May says that being original requires a thesis for the world and for our vision within it. It is the courage to relate to other human beings, the capacity to risk one’s self in the hope of achieving meaningful intimacy. Through entrepreneurship I get to meet people who exercise this inner purpose more often than the average person. It is elusive to most people, but so apparent when you meet a founder with this trait, as it shines through how they deliver their arguments, and it flows into every detail of the work they produce. If we do not express our own original ideas, if we do not listen to our own being, we will have betrayed ourselves.

My thesis for writing blogs is that its therapeutic, it helps me clarify new thoughts and arrange them in a way that I can explain them to others through text or otherwise. Critically it makes me think more deeply as I become aware of their impact on my life (more on awareness later). My theory for my professional work, at a high level, is that entrepreneurship elevates society and keeps it progressing. In the last 100 years, humans developed air travel, the internet and life-saving medicines, my journey into entrepreneurship is motivated by a desire to be “in the room where it happens” as the next 100 years of developments take place. This requires me to hone a distinct skillset, my channel is the field of finance, and apply this effectively, and as I have come to appreciate, also creatively. So creative application is not only reserved to the founders who we back through finance, but also for myself as I understand what trends and markets to follow and investigate and which people to be inspired by.

Perceiving and paying attention: Suprarational awareness

I recently was in the market for home improvements. As I researched a new kitchen for our home, suddenly every visit to a friend’s home was an exercise in research. Any movies taking place in a kitchen, suddenly become more interesting and magazines sitting idly on a side-table now had a purpose to exist when previously I not only ignored them, but scoffed[AG1] at their need for existence in a digital world. Rick Rubin asks us to look to nature for endless inspiration, as in its laws and in its forms we find the essence or “source” as he labels it, for everything we seek to do and achieve. Rollo May asks us to immerse ourselves into chaos and to challenge ourselves to put it into form.

Awareness is key to the creative act. Living a creative life requires us to be attuned to not just the moments that take our breath aware, but any sound, sight, phrase or thought that piques our interest. It is a will to give ourselves to the chance encounter with intensity of dedication and commitment. It’s a behavior that requires us to go beyond logic and rational explanation but it asks us to explore feeling alongside observation, May calls it “Suprarational”. For example, the title of Rollo May’s book: The Courage to Create, grabbed my attention. Why courage? The phrasing used made me want to explore why and how. What I discovered is that the technology age is making humans brilliant at solving for problems and building for convenience but we are increasingly become detached from exploring inner thoughts, sharing new perceptions, just asking what if and following the path these questions take us on.

Reducing existence to scientific and mathematical explanations does not capture the essence of being alive and living a life worthy of a legacy. People see sharper and more accurately when emotions are engaged. We need to explore what is beyond logic and capture feeling. These episodes require not only belief, but also suspension of disbelief. The creative act acknowledges the urge for freedom when faced with rigid limits imposed by others or reality. It doesn’t mean we deny the objective reality or rationalization, but we strive to keep alive our subjective experience of the world.

The creative act uses the totality of the senses rather than just the intellect. Rick Rubin refers to it as personal taste, many call it gut feel. Connected to this, when I ask people I consider successful about their life journey, they often hone in on particular moments were they trusted their gut and thanked randomness (or luck) for how things eventually panned out. Those defining moments belong to them becoming aware of a particular inflection point happening in the world around them, which they were attuned to, possessed the skill and mastery to apply and whose time in the universe had come. The pattern is recurring, what changes are the accents that each story places on the components making up the journey towards success.

Leibnitz: “I would walk twenty miles to listen to my worst enemy if I could learn something”

Abundant mindset

As J.K. Rowling authored the Harry Potter stories she built out the world in which the titular characters inhabited by writing pages upon pages of lore and character background stories. Not just for the protagonists, but importantly also for side characters, or non-playable characters (NPCs) who the audience would barely spend a moment with. The importance of doing so is that she was following a path and not a plan in service of the plot. A world feels lived in because it is bestowed with particularities and norms that belong to it intimately. The same should apply to our creative acts. If we imbue them with the essence of what we are trying to create they take the form of something made in our particular taste. The greatness of a poem or painting is not that it objectively portrays its subject matter, but that it uniquely portrays the artist’s vision and encounter with reality.

We can achieve this by becoming connected to cycles and communities. Hip-hop is the sound of the struggle of the inner-state cities and heavy metal is the sound of the angst of the working class. When we travel through the towns that inspired genre defining music the sound seems to rhyme with the vibe of the environment which nurtured it into existence. This happens because artists are the primary audience of their work, and they select for personal taste. And whilst this process may happen time and again to no or little popular impact, a project whose time has come can take flight and become something more and beyond the artist’s own wildest dreams for it. The artist (or founder) is the filter through which the cultural moment or technology application is shared with the world. What is within the artist’s control is developing skill, fluency and mastery of the medium through which the art is channeled, the rest is mostly outside of their control.

An abundent mindset is about being fulfilled with the process of the creative act. The personal satisfaction of bringing that project into the world and sharing it with others is what motivates the artist and allows them to break through the anxiety of releasing to the world. Rollo May shares that the released project will inherently have an “unfinished” quality to it. This is fine as people fill the gaps with their assumptions and biases. What is not present is completed by imagination. The abundant mindset is one which allows us to find continued inspiration because we allow further projects to capture our interest because awareness and our current world thesis are a muse for future creative acts. Many times, the path undertaken to complete one creative act feeds the source for the next, and this is helpful as it allows us to let go, finalize the project and release to the world knowing not that it is perfect, but that we gave it our best.

Only release great

What was refreshing about Rubin’s book is his openness to explaining that there is no way of knowing which project was going to be a commercial success at the time of its production. However, what he insists on making clear is that no project is released until when the team creating the project believe that they are releasing something great. The clue here is that the definition of “great” is a direct consequence of the artist’s (and the project’s entourage) personal taste and that they have some emotional involvement with it. There is no allowance for a track to be allowed on the album simply because that is the current trending sound in the market, it needs to resonate with the message for the album. Rubin talks about “ruthless editing”, removing pieces of the work until when the next piece that is removed feels like removing what is the essence of the project.

Cooperation supports the highest outcome. If compromise means giving in to one aspect so that I can win the argument on another piece, that will not lead to the highest outcome. It is about accepting that a different choice leads to an overall better situation for the project, regardless of my personal preference on that item. The best work divides the audience. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt. There is ample evidence, in both the artistic field and entrepreneurship field that non consensus can lead to the most momentous outcomes, the rise of new realities. Allowing strangers to sleep in your home (AirBnB), the use of psychedelics in the medical field, and music beats that reflect the non-sugarcoated hard life of inner-city America (hip-hop). Appeasing the masses or the central figures of authority is rarely a good recipe to follow. Whenever there is a breakthrough of a significant idea in science or art, the new idea tends to destroy what a lot of people believe (or are incentivized to believe) is essential to the survival of their intellectual and spiritual world.

Picasso: “Every act of creation is first of all and act of destruction”.

Personal taste is a better strategy towards greatness. It requires us to break out of our own shell of conformity and search for a source to inspire us to release our best selves to the world for our legacy to be true to our original selves.

Plato told us long ago that Eros moves towards the creation of form, the making of meaning and the revealing of Being. Eros is force in us that brings to birth both wisdom and beauty.

Author profile: Adrian Galea is a professional in venture capital and portfolio management for early stage startup investors.
For more information:


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt.

Contact us: 044 25 40 40

Mail us: