The Creative Life

Sunday, August 8, 2021
First Aired: 
Sunday, November 25, 2018

What Is It

Parents and students alike often think that a college major defines possible career options. Yet what distinguishes today's work world from bygone times is that it's quite common for adults to have a variety of different careers in a single lifetime. So what can students do now to ensure happiness and fulfillment in all possible future careers? Are there some majors that cultivate greater creativity in our career choices? And what unique life skills can an education in the humanities offer those about to embark on adult life? Josh and Ken get creative with Scott Forstall, inventor of the iPhone and a Tony award-winning Broadway producer, in a program recorded live at Stuyvesant High School in New York City.

Listening Notes

Recording in front of a live audience of creatives at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Ken and Josh discuss whether creativity is innate or whether it can be cultivated through practice and study. Ken argues for Stanford Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck’s view of a “growth mindset”: the idea that anyone can become more creative with effort and training. Josh is skeptical, suggesting that some people are born with creative genius that others can never hope to achieve.

Scott Forstall, creator of the iPhone and Tony award-winning Broadway producer, joins Ken and Josh to discuss what he has learned about living a creative life. Scott explains that whether it is technological innovation or theatre, the creative life inevitably requires significant risk — namely, the possibility of failure. Scott also weighs in on the debate over creative potential, taking the middle ground that while anyone can become more creative, different people are suited to certain creative outlets. 

In the last segment, Ken, Josh, and Scott take questions from students in the audience. One student asks whether true creativity must be original or whether it is a process of rethinking prior ideas. The hosts point out that today nearly all creative acts are somehow derivative of past ideas, but successfully adapting old ideas into new creative media is genius in itself. Another student wonders why creativity as a skill is not more emphasized in American education. Scott responds that the most successful people are not only educated with cookie-cutter tools but also have broad interests and a propensity to question everything. Finally, Scott shares some habits to foster creativity in everyday life, including thinking in the shower and pursuing a multidisciplinary education and career. 

  • Roving Philosophical Report (seek to 6:00): Liza Veale talks to Stanford University alumni about how they foster creativity in their daily lives. It turns out that web designers, graphic novelists, and even the famed astronomer Johannes Kepler agree that creativity is a mechanism to overcome obstacles and synthesize disparate ways of being in the world.
  • Sixty-Second Philosopher (seek to 46:50): Ian Shoales discusses the job of a “creative.” While artists used to be adored and supported by society, pure artists today are hard-pressed to make a living. Instead, artists become corporate creatives, adding value to start-ups and conglomerates with their creative ideas.





Josh Landy  
Is creativity something you're born with?

Ken Taylor  
Or can it be cultivated?

Josh Landy  
What can young people do to prepare themselves to live more creative lives?

Comments (4)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, November 9, 2018 -- 10:55 AM

Creativity is either a

Creativity is either a blessing or a curse---that much is perfectly clear. If you are lucky enough to attract the attention of some foundation or organization, dedicated to recognizing and furthering the cause of your creativity, they will ultimately do all they can to set up hurdles and generate red tape, designed to stifle expression and incinerate the vary creativity they had expressed an interest in. It is, then, mostly about living on other people's terms; accepting their editorial preferences and generally watching your talents wither on the vine. All this may require more creativity than you can muster...

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, December 14, 2018 -- 11:24 AM

Some of us appear to have a

Some of us appear to have a faculty for analysis, from an early age. With others, the learning curve is arduous-even painful. For the rest? They may as well pound sand. Nothing IS easy: it requires little or no thought and no action. Everything else, especially that which is worthwhile, is difficult.

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Sunday, August 1, 2021 -- 12:24 AM

It's a bit difficult to blog

It's a bit difficult to blog a response to a show with no book, thesis, or proposals. Here is an open to philosophize that is probably best left unanswered. However, I won't follow that advice as these are questions that confound me, and I can answer if only for myself.

I used to think there was a choice in life—free will to decide one's path along with the opportunity to pursue whatever fork presented itself. I no longer believe this is the actual state of things.

That doesn't mean life isn't worth living. Or that justice isn't worth dispensing. Without free will, there is still purpose.

If you have children, start there. If you don't let me offer the binding thought that drives my current view, sync. Sync confounds, challenges, and pushes my life.

If you are married, start there. If you aren't, then begin wherever the heck you are, but let me warn you now, don't have kids and don't get married. Synchronizing one's life to children and relationships are two monsters that are impossible or, at best insurmountable.

As the student in this show asks – and Ken and Josh answered – nowadays, it is hard to create new objects, actions, and ideas. There is, as the hosts suggest, much goodness in tinkering with the old ones. Less and less like Einstein or Hume, or Nietzsche, it is likely that students who create today and build careers and live beyond our words will do most of their creation in teams.

Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton uprooted our world view individually and in lockstep by syncing with the Islamic thought and medieval priorities in what amounted to teamwork stretched over a century creating the Copernican revolution. The pace of current creativity is meted out in quarters, days, and minutes (maybe even seconds for some.) The change in world view will be equally great.

Whatever you do, we are thankful for this team of scholars who set our heliocentric lives straight. This is the promise of tomorrow's creativity and teamwork. A deeper path is needed to give us any future whatsoever that resembles the opportunity and wonder that the renaissance handed over to the modern world.

There is a way to harness this synchronicity, and that way is to know your limits and those of your team. Don't take the most complicated path; take the challenging but attainable path that is before you. Focus on your thoughts and match them to the world, lecture, or blog post you read. Synchronize and push yourself. The world is your classroom; your interest is your major; the humanities is your path. Whether you take humanities classes in school, take a job to pay your bills, or wander somewhere else, we have created a human world; and, it is anthropocentric for the time being at least.

In the western world, the metacognitive aphorism is 'know thyself.' In eastern thought, it is 'respect your elders.' In between, there is 'be one with creation.' Sync to this. You can't go too far wrong. Between these is your path to a creative life.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, October 4, 2021 -- 7:15 AM


Your final two thoughts sum it up nicely. Creative lives emerge in all sorts of endeavors.:art, literature, music, science---the list is longer, even if subdivision is possible. We find our paths; find forks in the road and take them. My friend in South America might have become a physicist. He ended up in neuroscience instead. So, one path is aborted, while another is born and thrives. How's that for metaphor?

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