6 Quotes to Inspire Creative Leadership

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / November 22, 2014


You probably don’t think of making a sandwich as a creative act. And yet when I asked my 10-year-old son for an example of a business he considered creative, he said Subway.

When you think about it, every aspect of Subway’s business model is highly creative — from the order flow to the pricing to the way the bread is prepared. Subway has positioned itself as the go-to place for a sandwich like you would make at home. And with more than 40,000 stores around the globe, it’s the world’s largest sandwich chain.

It takes imagination to see how a sandwich assembly line could expand to have more locations than McDonald’s, but those 31 million combinations of sandwiches started the same way any business starts.

“Begin with an idea,” says Fred DeLuca, co-founder of Subway. “There’s probably a good one right under your nose.”

DeLuca was only 17 when he created Subway. He didn’t know what he didn’t know, but he never gave up. He succeeded, he says, because he just did it. He took concrete steps toward achievable goals and adjusted as he went. Most people probably have an idea for a business, he says, but they never do anything about it.

If you haven’t declared yourself a creative person, take some inspiration from these brilliant thinkers to tap into your inner artist.

1. “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein

Business has skewed too far to the linear, ROI-driven ways of solving problems with knowledge. Yet some of the best solutions come from the intuitive, creative side. These aren’t answers you can find in an Excel spreadsheet or Gantt chart. Entrepreneurial success belongs to those who can dance comfortably with uncertainty and shape things as they go.

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2. “If you want to be an entrepreneur, fail as fast as you can. The longer you go without that experience, the more afraid you will be of it, and then you will never do it!” – Jeffry Timmons

Timmons was my entrepreneurial management professor at Harvard Business School and one of the wisest entrepreneurs I’ve met. I took his advice and started my first company while in school, and it forced me to tap into both my creative and analytical sides.

My business was selling CD towers to places like Brookstone, The Wiz, and Tweeter, and I had to harness my creativity to build a business and still graduate with my MBA. For financing, I took out more student loans. For product design, I bartered with a design student. For shipping, we found a local storage place where UPS picked up and made that our office. Sometimes you have to look beyond business conventions to find creative workarounds to achieve your dreams.

3. “It’s impossible, that’s for sure. So let’s start working.” – Philippe Petit

Philippe Petit was the man who walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Petit prepared for the walk for six and a half years. He and his friends snuck onto both roofs with several hundred pounds of cable. He called his performance “the artistic crime of the century.”

Petit’s crazy dream and the risks he was willing to take to make it come true speak to every entrepreneur. Ask yourself, “What is the last impossible thing I achieved?” If you don’t have an answer, do something impossible today.

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4. “Creativity is the depth of the honesty you express towards your possibility.” –Paramahamsa Nithyananda

When we tap into our creativity and allow it to flow freely and without judgment, we tap into our true nature, which opens up possibilities beyond the immediate problem we’re solving. But the more we say to ourselves, “I am not creative,” “It’s not the best use of my time,” or “It’s not practical,” the more challenging it becomes to take action or make an impact.

5. “I didn’t follow the policies of those already in the business. If I had, I would never have made a go of it. Instead, I started out with the determination to make a better nickel chocolate bar than any of my competitors made, and I did so.” – Milton Hershey

Milton Hershey succeeded by breaking the rules and defying conventional wisdom. But there are many other great businesses that began that way. Take it from Dell, Apple, Starbucks, FedEx, and Virgin Group: Doing things the way you’re supposed to do them will only get you as far as the others. But doing things in a way that’s coherent with your overall vision and opportunity is how to create a world-class experience.

6. “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up” – Pablo Picasso

When my 7-year-old daughter and her friends were playing with clay and paints at her birthday party, I asked them, “Who here is an artist?” The hands flew up.

As we grow older, however, we learn to complicate things. When I ask adults that question at conferences, less than 25 percent typically raise their hands. We think we’re not artists because we’re not Picasso. It takes a lot of work to change that mindset, but I would challenge you to work to embrace your own artistry. Every aspect of business has huge possibilities for creativity and innovation.

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We remember big innovations like the iPhone and the Tesla Roadster, but small innovations can also be huge. Your company can thrive by being innovative across the spectrum — in monetizing its services or designing its products.

Keep building until you see you have done the impossible. You may be surprised by the results.

Paresh Shah is an experienced entrepreneur, executive, yogi, life coach,and budding headbanger. He’s the founder and CEO of Glimpulse, the Human Expression Company that creates products to challenge, inspire, and equip people to be happier, healthier, and more giving through authentic expression. Prior to Glimpulse, he co-founded a wireless multimedia company and raised $130 million. He has served as an adjunct professor in strategy and entrepreneurship and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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