Editors note: this post was originally featured in 2014, new blog posts on The C2C return September 11th, 2017.
You look around.
You see everyone doing the same thing. The expected thing. All the same stories, the same clothes, the same ideas.
Tired, old, worn-out.
You feel trapped, suffocated.
You wanna dance, but you’re in a middle of a business meeting.
You wanna laugh, but you’re in a courtroom.
You wanna smile, but the teacher is speaking.
Life is boring. Life is trying. Life is predictable.
The status quo. The machine. The system. The adults in the room.
You don’t belong, but you pretend.
Put on a tie, but you wanna wear a black shirt splashed with paint.
Comb your hair, but you want it to be wily.
Sleep, when you want to stay up all night.
Walk, when all you want to do is run.
They write the things that have been said–you crave to shout something new.
You’re stuck. In a slump. In a dry spell. A fallow period.
That’s because you’re eschew. This train is too tied to the track.
Where’s the path no one has tread on?
You want to travel there.
Where’s the meal no one has tasted?
You want to swallow it whole.
Where’s the experience no one has felt?
You crave to feel it.
Reaching for something no one else can see, they call you crazy, but you’re just thoughtful.
You crave to push through the limits. They say you can’t. You say: “You can’t, but why can’t I?”
They call you a rebel. But you’re just being your natural, creative self.
But no wonder the world is so boring and predictable: everyone just plays along, meanwhile, creativity dies a slow death.
The Story of Starbucks
In 2008, during the economic downturn that we now refer to as The Great Recession, Howard Schultz took reign once again of the company he initially founded in 1971: Starbucks. Schultz reinstated himself as CEO and vowed to re-energize the company he founded and keep it from falling into oblivion like so many other companies that had evaporated during that time.
Today, it is clear that he succeeded: we are still surrounded by the ubiquitous Starbucks shops. But not many know how Schultz and his team succeeded in doing what, at the time, seem quite impossible: reinvent a worldwide known brand and save it from ruin.
As he chronicles in his book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul, Schultz goes into great detail on all the measures he took to restore the company’s once stellar standing among consumers–and protect the company’s future.
It is interesting to note that the most surprising thing one finds when you read Schultz book is not the fact that he saved Starbucks: the most surprising thing is learning how he saved it.
In order to save the company, Schultz had to push hard up against the conventional wisdom of how one ought to protect a business from financial ruin. For instance: instead of removing the healthcare of his workers to reduce costs, he kept this benefit, and vowed to protect it at any cost. In addition, instead of holding on to the same way of doing things, for fear of losing customer loyalty, Schultz also introduced innovation after innovation to the company: installing new coffee machines in every store and introducing new types of coffee drinks to customers.
Finally, instead of sticking to familiar territory (and avoiding risk), Schultz plunged right into unexplored territory–in fact, he invented new territory for the company by introducing a new Starbuck’s-inspired instant coffee that many believed was a huge mis-step and antithetical to Starbuck’s brand. But Schultz knew that this move would help the company capture an entirely new market that would end up profiting the business in the long run.
It was these and many other steps taken by Howard Schultz that demonstrate to the reader of his book that creativity was one of the key elements to saving Starbucks.
A concept that has always been revered as “holy” among artists–feared by almost everywhere else in every other discipline–is a practice that one of the most successful CEO’s of the modern age embraced in order to save his company.
Howard Schultz embraced creativity fully. Completely. Almost religiously.
And because he embraced creativity, Schultz succeeded in bringing Starbucks back from the brink.
You can thank creativity for the tall soy latte you are now sipping as you read this post: after all, it was Schultz initial creative idea of bringing high quality coffee to the masses that led to that warm feeling in your belly. Everyone thought he was crazy at the time, when he first founded Starbucks back in 1971: such a company never existed in the U.S. before, and he had to go against popular convention to make his dream a reality. He had to trust in the power of his own creativity, and because he had this trust, Schultz triumphed… and then, later, when he returned as CEO to the company, he triumphed again.
The Secret To Being More Creative: Be A Rebel
So, what was Schultz’s big secret to being a more creative CEO? What is the secret for anyone to be more creative?
It’s very simple: be a rebel.
Look at what everyone else is doing, and then do something different.
Look at what everyone else is talking about, and then talk about something else.
Look at what everyone expects, and challenge their expectations at every turn with something wildly unexpected.
Rebels don’t give people what they want. They give people what they need, and then show them that this is what they wanted all along.
That’s right: rebels don’t ask for your permission. They just do things because they know, instinctually, that it is the right and the best thing to do. Then they help all the rest of us catch up to this truth.
Rebels are insightful and are often several steps ahead of the rest of us.
They don’t lead us because we follow them; we follow them because they lead us.
They can lead us because they trust in the power of their own creativity. They know that if the old is not working, the strategy should not be to reinforce the old, but to mold the new.
They crack the mold–no, they decimate the mold. And they do so with pleasure.
Destruction isn’t always a bad thing: sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes we must annihilate the shackles of custom and what is expected, in order to inspire a new movement, toward a better way of life.
Many people will never know how many different ideas were tried–and how many failed–to make Starbucks what it is today. All we see is the “final product”: we see what worked, not what didn’t work and was scrapped. But failure and mistakes led Starbucks to where it is today. To get to the right answer, “D.’, Schultz and his staff had to first try WRONG answers “A, B, C.” What we see today is the manifestation of right answer, “D.” We don’t see wrong answers “A-C” but, even so, these wronger answers were instrumental to get to right answer: “D.”
Being a rebel means you are willing to try everything to get to the right answer.
Rebels know that success lies in being able to extend beyond the readily knowable. They say: “If I can find it in a Google Search, then it is not innovate enough. I must push harder.”
Pushing harder means trying that, then that, then that, then that, and that, and that and that…. until you get to this.
The right answer: the answer that works.
A rebel doesn’t stop. He keeps going. He keeps trying new things.
A rebel doesn’t listen to anyone else. He listens to his soul.
A rebel doesn’t play by the rules of your universe, he creates his own universe, and tells us the rules of his universe–and convinces us all to follow them.
Then, he chuckles quietly at the magic trick he just pulled on you.
This is what Howard Schultz did when he invented Starbucks in 1971, and when he re-invented it in 2008.
Now, you may not see Starbucks as rebellious since it is so ubiquitous today, but this wasn’t always the case, and that’s the rebellious part of it:the universe of Starbucks did not exist before 1971, until Howard Shultz created it.
Now you live in his world.
You never knew what tall, venti, or grande meant before Schultz came along, and you never imagined using these words in your every day vernacular, until Schultz convinced you it would be a cool thing to do. And, eventually, you realized he was totally right.
He invented a reality that didn’t exist before and made it commonplace.
That’s the power of creativity. That’s the power of being a rebel.
A rebel knows that he has the power to bend the present reality in order to create a better future.
Go, Be A Rebel
Creativity can only be unleashed if we rebel against the status quo.
Only then can creativity be used as a lethal tool, a tool that can annihilate the shackles of the past, empty the cup of the present, and fill it with the warm, creamy richness of a once unimaginable future.
much rebel love,