Business as a Creative Process TEDx Talk Jen Aly
| | |

Embrace Business As A Creative Process: A TED Talk for Creatives & Creative Entrepreneurs

Jen Aly TEDx talk business as a creative process

This TED talk for creatives and creative entrepreneurs will support you to heal past challenges with creativity and embrace the components of business you may be resisting.

This TEDx talk supports you to heal your relationship with creativity and to unlearn values school taught you that no longer serve you. You will see business as a creative process and embrace business like you never have before.

This TEDx talk is a TED talk for creative entrepreneurs.

Below is a transcript of “Harness Creativity As Your Greatest Business Asset” by Jen Aly. Presented in Asheville, North Carolina September 2019.

How many of you remember grade(report) card day in elementary school? I bet there are a lot of different kinds of memories here for that one.

For me, it wasn’t a big deal until one day in the third grade. I was sitting my desk… No big deal. Got my grade card, opened it up, and I saw something I did not anticipate. In Mrs. Ray’s handwriting a big fat “C.” My first bad grade.

I felt ashamed because the way I measured myself as a good girl was through my grades. I was mortified to tell my mother. This little girl(see image below) had gotten it wrong and she was afraid of losing her good approval rating.

This was the beginning of a psychological block for me regarding anything to do with numbers, and this was perpetuated in years of math classes.Image of speaker Jen Aly at 8 years old

Twenty years later, I found myself in a similar situation, but a bigger ordeal when I started my business as a life coach in California. You won’t be surprised to hear that I avoided numbers and finances. I did the bare minimum at the very last minute in order to file taxes.

What was happening was my (previous) math experience was sabotaging my business.

As I avoided looking at the real numbers in my business, I went into significant debt.

This led to months of being contacted by creditors and my close-to-bottom moment came when I was in my office with a client.

I heard a knock on the door, I answered the door to receive a summons regarding my debt. Summons in hand, I wanted to disappear at that moment, but I turned my red face around to face the client in my office who hired me as her business coach.

My real bottom moment came when I found myself cooking the very last food in my house, a jar of beans, I realized I had had for five years. No matter how many hours I cooked those beans, they would not soften. My only chance for meal was inedible. I’d run out of food, money, and options. So I took most of the jewelry, I had inherited from my grandmother, and I pawned it to pay rent.

Then I got a job and I filed for bankruptcy. I had gotten it wrong again when I came to numbers. My approval rating was at an all-time low.

My resistance to numbers, and trying to get the right answer had led me down the road to failure. I’ve been trying to get it right. I was coming from my head and trying to get approval, instead of from my heart and my creativity.

Today, I’m offering a new perspective on business, one that goes beyond traditional models and leverages the creative process to create thriving businesses.

To understand where I have been coming from. In my first business, I began to unpack what I had learned in school. Some of you may relate to the idea that school didn’t exactly promote and encourage creativity. There are amazing teachers out there and those who are teaching and promoting creativity, and tons of alternative education options that also promote that, but the system itself focuses on teaching conformity, following directions, and getting the right answer, and it’s not so great for teaching entrepreneurs.

Imagine a child in math class for a moment. This child loves math, totally geeks out on it, has a 99 average, and sits in the front row. Now, imagine telling this child, “I’m sorry. There have been some budget cuts, there’s no more math class.” The message to this child is that math isn’t important. The thing this kid loves is not important.

This is a message that creative leaning students receive every day when different subjects that actually cultivate and support the creative process are cut, and there’s no clear measure in the achievement tests for creativity.

This sends the message that it’s not valuable.

To meet our potential in business, we need the opposite of what school gives us. We need innovation, honoring our creativity and self-expression, and learning to lead from vision, to honor our innate abilities, and to lead from our heart, not our head.

Open your right hand and imagine for a moment that your right hand is all the stuff that school taught you to value. Getting the right answer, conformity, following directions, and limited self-expression. Now open your left hand and imagine that your left hand is that unencumbered creativity, the kind that children have when they just make up wild stuff and there’s no limit.

For a moment, take your right hand and close your left hand and place your right hand over your left hand. If it’s true for you, acknowledge that this is the feeling of having your creativity repressed and buried by the system. Now take your right hand off and let your left-hand fly free. Let it do whatever it wants, to move and groove and flow. Now give your neighbor a high five.

It takes courage to change. To move beyond the system. It takes courage to value creativity.

To take the right hand off the left as an ongoing practice, to reclaim our creativity daily as a practice. To succeed, I needed to rediscover my own creativity.

Years after my first business failed, I was teaching writing in Hawaii at the University of Hawaii, Maui. On Sundays, I would go grade papers at this great cafe, along the coast in a shaded courtyard. After I graded hours of papers, hundreds of pages, I would reward myself by going to the bead store next door. I would peruse and collect gemstone beads and I never knew what I find.

This is where I discovered my favorite stone, labradorite. Isn’t it gorgeous? (see image below)

close up image of labradorite flash in blues and greens

That’s a rock. It’s so amazing. Even though I was in a creative field, teaching writing, I found that no matter how much I emphasized the creative process or creativity, students still focused on the grade, as I had. Eventually, I burned out on teaching and I moved to Asheville. I collected more gemstone beads. A lot more. So many so that I had to start a business.

And when I first started, I had never been in such an amazing creative process in my life, at least not since as a child. I kept making stuff like crazy, having tons of ideas, and I was sketching like crazy. I had so many ideas, and I thought my creativity would run out. It was a fear that was chasing me that my creativity was going to run out. But it didn’t.

Seven years later, I have created thousands of pieces of jewelry with assistance, and I still have ideas. This is my current studio(see image below) in an amazing community of artists where I make tons of jewelry, with help.

Jen Aly in jewelry studio in Weaverville, NC 2019

Unlike my earlier business, in this business instead of becoming crippled by debt, I tripled my income in three years.

What was different? Instead of being led by my head and my ego, I was led by my heart. I had a vision, a vision for women to be empowered through expressing themselves more fully, through gemstone jewelry with intention.

I also had a vision to get out of education completely, for good, to live a life of creativity and get paid for it, and to hire other creatives along the way.

These motivations inspired me to get out of my own way.

I also realized that previously, I had been doing this thing where I was rebelling against the system, thinking that business was that thing on top of my creativity, but in reality, what I was doing was sabotaging myself, my contribution, and my potential.

If I was getting into the game of business again, I needed to really learn business in new ways. To me, (the idea of) business was so boring. In college, I didn’t even know where the Business Department was. This is what business looked like to me: goal setting, planning, strategy, and just tons of spreadsheets. Not my idea of a good time.

I had learned as a business coach that you can take your strengths and fortify your weaknesses. What if I could take my newfound passion, and belief and trust in the creative process and put that into business somehow?

First, let’s look at what business is.

Business is self-expression through a product or service that provides value in the marketplace. The currency in business is money because if you don’t make money because if there’s no profit, it’s not a business. Money is a measurable form an appreciation based on perceived value.

So how do you apply the creative process to business?

Just like the creative process, when you’re going to create something from nothing, you have a vision to start.

Business As A Creative Process TED talk by Jen Aly
TEDx Talk Asheville Photo by Erica Mueller

This vision from this place, you gestate, you plan, you dive into creating it, as you go along, you learn new things, you’re stepping into uncertainty with every single step, and each imperfection leads to new evolution. In the end, it never turn felt like you planned. Sometimes it’s even better, and then it goes out into the world that has an impact and grows beyond you.

So business is the medium in which you take your vision and you bring it to fruition.

Instead of paper and pen, or paint and canvas, you have production, marketing, and sales. If you only have production, you have a hobby. So adding marketing, sales, and a profit makes it a business.

With this new perspective, I felt empowered and I felt that I related to business. I was willing to take a risk.

First, I realized I needed to unpack some of the voices in my head that had sabotaged me before about business. They said things like money is evil, and it’s hard to deal with.

They also said, sales is sleazy, marketing is manipulative, and this whole business thing is all greedy.

I’m not saying I teamed them completely, but we have a new relationship.

When I began to see my business as an offering to the world, my vision pulled me.

Dr. Michael Beckwith has this amazing quote, that says “Pain pushes until vision pulls.” My vision began to pull me into a new mindset.

I was able to creatively reframe the components of business, I had resisted previously. Money became a tool to create freedom and expression. Marketing became visibility and education. Sales became connection and service.

Jen Aly reframing components of business on the TED stage
TEDx Asheville Photo by Erica Mueller Photography

With these mental reframes, I felt empowered. These are more aligned with my values. I had less resistance and less desire to rebel. And a miracle happened.

I became a spreadsheet junky. Now, I use spreadsheets and financial planning for stress relief and visioning.

Who knew?

After years of hearing other creative entrepreneurs talk about money and business and feeling frustrated, I began coaching again. I have a new vision. I added a vision to my life. A vision for creative entrepreneurs to harness their creativity as their greatest business asset. The ripple effect of this has an impact on our culture. We create a world where we can openly value creativity and infuse it into everything we do.

Now, I support creative entrepreneurs to leverage their creativity and to fully embrace business. I support them in ways that they can integrate and that are aligned with their values. This reduces resistance to the components of business.

All the time I hear entrepreneurs say things like, “I don’t know the right answer.” “I’m not sure of the right thing to do.”

In business, there are no right or wrong answers. Business is a process of experimentation, learning, innovation, adaptation, and evolution. It’s a process.

One client came to me after being in business for decades. She had a vision for a new business. She knew that if she wanted to create this new vision, she needed to up-level her mindset and her skills. So, we worked together and she was able to overcome some programming from school. Her experience in school was especially intense because she had three learning disabilities, including those with numbers, reading numbers, and writing them. So for her, it was a whole ballgame.

We worked together, fueled by her vision and leveraging the creative process. She was able to break through those limitations and financing for her second business, which opens in a few weeks.

What if unlearning some of what school taught us is one of the keys to our success?

And reclaiming our creativity and leveraging it in everything that we do? This will allow us to push through our resistance. When we lead with vision and trust the creative process, there’s no limit to what we can do.

The world needs this now, when we come from more of a place of healing, empowerment and self-expression, it changes the culture, changes the dynamic. Infusing this into business has the power to change the world.

What are you afraid of doing wrong?

Are you willing to reclaim your creativity and do whatever it takes to make your vision as a creative entrepreneur happen?

You have the power to create a life beyond what you’ve imagined. [End Transcript]

You can watch my TEDx talk for creatives here:

Image of version of Jen's TEDx Talk

If you’d like a behind-the-scenes perspective on my experience of doing a TED talk, check out my blog, Doing a TEDx Talk: The Truth About My Experience.

Thank you for reading my TED talk for creatives. Have you received your free welcome gift yet? Check it out.

Similar Posts