In his moving TED Talk on the subject, Kelley tells a story from his elementary school days back at the Oakdale school in Ohio. According to the tale, his friend Brian was making a horse out of clay in third grade, when one of the girls said, "That's terrible! That's not what a horse looks like!" The young David looked down with slumped shoulders, figured he was not the creative type, and tossed his failed project aside. He never tackled a project like that again.
Kelley urges the audience to consider: Do you categorize yourself and others as either creative or non-creative? If you do, you are not alone. But recent research, including that in Jonah Lehrer's recent book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, debunks the theory that creative types are born. New evidence points to the contrary: While creativity comes easily for some, it is a skill that can be honed and developed — by all.
During treatment for cancer — he was given less than a forty percent chance of survival — Kelley arrived at the epiphany that a sudden brush with death often produces: he realized his life's purpose. Kelley explains that during cancer treatments, it became clear that what he was put on earth to do was to help people re-build the creative confidence that they had lost since childhood.
He explains that many adults "opt out" of creativity — a natural part of childhood — because they have come to believe that they are not good at it, or that it will not be lucrative. "That opting out [of creativity] that happens in childhood, he says, "moves in and becomes more ingrained by the time you get to adult life."
The truth is, we are all creative — and creativity is critically important to health, happiness, self-worth, and innovation. The secret to building your creative confidence is to remember that you are creative in the first place — to regain that unabashed love of discovery and innovation that you had when you were small.
Don't sentence people to a lifetime as a non-creative simply because they opted out of that natural state, Kelley advises. "Let their ideas fly; let them achieve self-efficacy," he says. "When people regain that confidence, magic happens."
For more information, view David Kelley's Ted Talk on How to Build Your Creative Confidence.