How do you discover the work you’re meant to do? According to Scott Perry, founder of Creative on Purpose, you first realize that you are creative, and you figure out how to serve others with your creativity. He’s dedicated to helping people identify their purpose so they can achieve greater fulfillment. Everything he does is informed by Stoic philosophy, which has nothing to do with being deadpan and unaffected by anything. Listen in, and Scott will explain what this beautiful and common sense ancient Roman philosophy is, and why its experiencing a revival lately, for good reason.
Relevant Links: Find Scott Perry at https://creativeonpurpose.mykajabi.com
Books mentioned: “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William Irvene https://amzn.to/2vk58ET
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius https://amzn.to/2n9XXeY
Find other episodes at https://schoolofconnection.com/podcast
Rana Olk (Host): Three, two, one. Hello my friends, my fellow earth dwellers. We are in for a treat today. I am thrilled to have our guest. In fact, as soon as I had done on this conversation, I pretty much have to run out the door to get to the airport and anyone who knows me knows that I’m one of those people who would rather be at the airport three hours before my flight. Then a more reasonable one hour, but when this guest said that he was available at this hour right now. There was no way I was gonna put this conversation off.
So, who is he? Scott Perry is the founder of creative on purpose, he’s also a coach in Seth Godin’s marketing seminar which is how I met him. I brought him here because I wanted him to share his unique wisdom about, blending the creative life of a musician with the very rational ancient philosophy called Stoicism. It’s all about what it means to be human, and how to express your fullest potential. At least that’s how I put it, I think that he can enlighten us further on that and put it much better. And all I know is that, we all want to reach our fullest potential and be the best we can be. So, let’s listen in Scott thank you so much for being here. Welcome to the School of Connection.
Scott Perry: Thank you Rana Olk (Host): It’s a pleasure always to speak with you and let me just say at the outset, that I’m deep deeply grateful for the opportunity to speak with you but also very grateful for the great work that you’re doing.
Rana Olk (Host): Oh, thank you. Thank you very much. Coming from you that means a lot. So, Scott I want to start first of all with something that seems obvious to many of us, but actually isn’t. Define creativity and what it means to be creative? I think most people misunderstand it.
Scott Perry: I think that you are correct. Statistically, most polls show that 50% or less of the people on the planet identify themselves as having a creative capacity or impulse, which is both sad and tragic. The fact of the matter is that, creativity is simply the ability, and the instinct, and the impulse to bring something forth into the world that did not previously exist. So, every time you send a message, every time you make a meal, every time you make a mess, every time you make amends, you are engaged in an act of creation. So…
Rana Olk (Host): We just don’t appreciate that, why not?
Scott Perry: Well, there’s I think the reasons are maybe in some ways different for different people, but by the same token. We live in a world where, you know we live in a world where institutions including our education system, our jobs, you know our system of employment, our government, our social institutions have invested interest in maintaining the status quo. If you’re interested in maintaining the status quo. One of the ways you can do that, is to rob people of their creative impulse. And so, I think in some ways we train it out of people, but so…
Rana Olk (Host): That is weight, that is huge. Scott, I never thought of it that way. So, we in a sense our creativity is being repressed or suppressed and it’s really not, it’s not even overtly it seems. So, okay. Sorry, I just wanted to…
Scott Perry: I will unpack it just a little bit more. So, if you are a person that feels that does not possess a creative capacity or impulse. I would ask that you reflect back to your childhood, and tell me how you learned to walk or talk? What was your relationship with your stuffed animal collection, with crayons and paper, with paints, with I mean, with learning how to write. Okay, anything that’s worth doing, draws upon our creative capacity, because the creative compare creative impulse is to try things, to fail, to take that the lessons of that failure, and try again in a new or better way. And so, the way that we learn anything that’s of importance or meaning to us, is by employing our creative capacity. So, if you had and you did obviously have a creative capacity when you were a child, and you have lost that creative capacity.
Even though, I am not blaming institutions, I don’t I’m not a conspiracy theorist,
Rana Olk (Host): Sure.
Scott Perry: They’re doing all of this on purpose. It’s just it’s an inherent part of living in a society, and a culture that has a vested interest in preserving the status quo. What happens then is that, now as adults, as responsible human beings we have the opportunity to choose. Now, you can choose to buy into what the system wants you to buy into, which is that you don’t to repress or reject your creative impulse, or you can choose to reject their desires, and instead in engage with employ and develop your creative capacity. And the creative on purpose approach to becoming a… to thriving by developing yourself, by enhancing the lives of others, through meaningful work is all about employing this creative impulse on purpose.
Rana Olk (Host): I love that. I love it, because I think when you said go back to when you were a child. I remember being a child and enjoying coloring, enjoying crayons, enjoying painting, and when you’re a kid you don’t worry about whether anybody is going to like it, you don’t worry whether it’s going to be judged. And then suddenly you go to school and it’s all about learning letters and obeying the rules, and being the good kid in the class and getting graded and report cards, and pretty soon it’s all about how our others going to react to what I’m putting home.
Scott Perry: Well, and so, that’s an excellent point that you just made. In it so, as a child it wasn’t just enjoying creativity, it was being a fearless creative, there was no filter, there was no worry about what other people thought. And so, again we have the choice to, you know comply with what the system may want from us or to reject it. But, you know when I say that we have a choice, I’m not in any way saying that it’s easy because it’s not, because there are some serious forces working against you thriving and employing your creative capacity. So, to do so, we have to start being less certain and less confident that we… that the way that we’re doing things is the best way. And we have to start becoming a little bit more curious, and a little bit more courageous about how, about the posture, the stance, the mindset that we want to adopt, and the way that we lean into all of the wicked problems that we face in in our lives.
Rana Olk (Host): Interesting. So, I’m gonna get into the reasons why it’s hard to employ or nurture our creativity as we progress in life, right? But, I want to know first of all, what the inspiration was for you to create creative on purpose, why is this important to you?
Scott Perry: Well, creative on purpose as it exists now is kind of the current iteration of a project that began two years ago, when I graduated from Seth Cohen’s program the alt MBA. And it was iterated and improved through another program of sets called the marketing seminar twice, through session one in system four. And as you very kindly indicated, I’m now a coach in that program during the fifth session. And so, what happened, the way this journey kind of unfolded in a kind of just a thumbnail sketch description is, you know I entered the alt MBA as a musician and a teacher wanting to max, kind of leverage those talents that I have. I came out of, I graduated from that program with an entirely new idea about what I wanted the rest of my life to look like. And it was, I had to, all I had was two ideas. I wanted to merge my lifelong pursuit of being a creative person as musician and as a teacher. And I wanted to merge that with my lifelong pursuit of purposeful intentional living that’s informed by the ancient Hellenistic philosophy of stoicism.
And it took most of a year and a half, for me to come to this place we’re Creative on Purpose as a brand, and as an approach to developing excellence by enhancing lives of others through work that matters you know has come. But, that’s where I’m at now. I’ll just be honest, you know I’m in my mid-50s. I began my 50th birthday to really think long and hard about the fact that you know my life probably if I’m lucky, my life is probably half over. I’ve got and the second half is often based on you know the people that I that the family I was born. And it’s not as active, as first half and I, you know I want to do whatever I can with whatever time I have left, to enhance the world, to enhance the lives of other people. I believe that you know, we are, I mean people might, may find I did say that we live in difficult challenging or scary times. But, I think that within this, the current our current situation. The human condition as it exists now, we have an extraordinary opportunity, to transform the way that we engage with ourselves, with others and with the world around us. And that’s really what my work is all about, it’s transformation.
Rana Olk (Host): Wow. Well, there is a lot to unpack there, but I really want to hone in on this. What I’m hearing here, first of all, I feel like if somebody you’re not just helping people who are musicians. This is about being anybody who wants to be a creative on purpose. Also, you said that basically what you do is informed by this ancient philosophy called Stoicism, which is what I wanted to introduce too, because some might say well you’re doing this quote/unquote irrational thing of making a living being a musician, right? And that’s, kind of getting back to what stops us from pursuing the creative life, but yet this philosophy is in fact very rational. And you have blended those two, so tell us how you blend those two, and what it means when you say you’re informed by Stoic philosophies?
Scott Perry: So, I would start by downplaying this. So, you are correct what you said, is correct about Stoicism being a practical pragmatic and ration philosophy that draw our rational capacity, that is correct. But, because the current, the way that we that, speak English understand the word stoicism.
Rana Olk (Host): Yeah, we should maybe define it first.
Scott Perry: Actually, completely at odds with what the ancient Stoic philosophers taught. Okay, so stoicism as in common usage means maintaining a stiff upper lip, or you know grim determination in the face of adversity, right?
Rana Olk (Host): I come from Norwegian [inaudible 00:14:00]
Scott Perry: Exactly right. Now, stoicism is an ancient Hellenistic philosophy. The most enduring of the ancient Greek philosophies, and that that actually has roots ago earlier than the Socratic tradition. That simply answers the three basic questions that we’ve always tried to answer as long as human beings have walked the planet, what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be happy? And how can I be more of both? And like other traditions that were either earlier, at the same time or afterwards. The answer that the stoics came up with, was, is best defined by a Greek word call that you Eudaimonia. What eudaimonia has been so, most ancient Greek words are very difficult to translate in terms of just like one simple word because they’re very nuanced. So, one translation of eudaimonia might be happiness, but we have to be careful because we don’t mean ecstasy, or joy or just this idea of just being happy all the time. What eudaimonia meant for the ancient Greeks and for the ancient Romans was, the ability to experience a sense of human flourishing, in any situation or circumstances.
It’s not just when things are going well, but when things are not going well. That human flourishing is possible for prisoners and slaves in bursts, and everybody in between that we all have the ability to thrive, no matter what situation or circumstance we find it. And the way that the Stoics, this… the philosophy is built on two basic assertions, that we have the capacity for reason, the capacity
Rana Olk (Host): Ya, doesn’t mean always employ.
Scott Perry: Doesn’t mean that we always employ, and we have an inherent impulse and instinct to be social creatures that we have to do, we have to, we have to do our work in the world with other people. And that we should do, and in that our lives are to be actually led in service to our fellow human beings.
Rana Olk (Host): My fellow earth dwellers.
Scott Perry: Exactly.
Rana Olk (Host): Okay.
Scott Perry: So, and just sort of kind of wrap up the simple definition of stoicism. What the Stoics decided that was different than other philosophies was that, number one the only thing required for eudaimonia, for human flourishing was the cultivation of your character or your virtue. And that, the way that we can do this is to accept and accept that some things are within our control, and other things are not. The things that are within our control are how we perceive our situation circumstances, our surroundings and other human beings, and what we decide to do next, what action we decide to take. And that, even though everything else is outside of our control, between what’s within our control and what’s not within our control, is a whole kind of great area of things that are within our influence.
And if we act if we build ourselves with intention, if we maintain a generous motivation, and if we have a purposeful aspiration that is that serves ourselves, as we serve other people, that we have the ability to develop our potential and deliver on our promise, in service to other people and that this is the path to human flourishing.
Rana Olk (Host): So, it’s about finding a purpose that is going to serve others, not just me, not just myself. I’m trying to serve others and what about this notion of passion. Well, you know because nowadays, right? Everybody’s trying to find what’s my passion? What am I passionate about? How do I make a career out of it? But you’re talking about purpose.
Scott Perry: So, yeah and the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The ancient stoic speaks very persuasively about the passions, and then for the ancient Greeks and Romans the passions were negative emotions. But, there’s also healthy passions and the most important and the Stoics also recognize that much, that emotions are not things that we have to reject suppress, that to do so would actually be unhealthy. What we have to do is learn how to be aware of our emotional state, to accept the situation as it is. And then, to work purposefully to not attach ourselves to negative emotions, and instead to cultivate positive emotions.
Rana Olk (Host): So, that’s easier said than done.
Scott Perry: Absolutely, so the Stoics. Again, it’s a very pragmatic philosophy and so the Stoics have a number of kind of pithy anecdotes and Maxim’s that you can keep top of mind to help you stay in the here, and now and to remain mindful and unattached to negative thoughts and actions. They have exercises, that they engaged in to help build their character and to all built these abilities. And…
Rana Olk (Host): Sorry. But, since our time is, I mean this is a deep topic. We could, you know I certainly would love to bring our audience much more about this, but if they did want to get more information on these practices and Maxim’s. First of all, this philosophy is not it’s not like digging into normal you know philosophy books, where it’s difficult to read or understand like you said it’s very pragmatic, very practical. If they wanted to find out more about it there are books that you would recommend that they go to, correct?
Scott Perry: I believe that this the Stoics are, stoicism is a philosophy that it doesn’t require a gatekeeper or an interpreter. It’s written by everyday people, in everyday language. I personally find the meditations of Marcus Aurelius was a number of Rome and a stoic, and an emperor to be both beautifully written and clearly outlines, much of the basic principles of stoic ethics. There are many modern-day books, I think the very best of what’s out there now is a book by William Irvine. And I think I’m going to, I do not have the title top of mind. But…
Rana Olk (Host): We should get that later and put it in the show notes.
Scott Perry: So, his book I think is the best in modern introduction to stoicism. And if people are interested in learning, kind of the seven essential storage principles and practices. I have a little mini course.
Rana Olk (Host): Wonderful.
Scott Perry: A free mini course on my site that people can access. And if you do access that, you get a free resource guide that leads all of my favorite ancient texts, all of my favorite modern texts, all of the best websites blogs, apps, and videos on stoicism.
Rana Olk (Host): Wonderful. How has it changed your life?
Scott Perry: I was introduced to stoicism at a very early age. I was in the seventh grade, when I first came cross Marcus Aurelius. And his meditations and it has informed my entire life’s journey sense, because it is about cultivating one’s character, and trying to become the best human being that one can be. And to be a human being that is in service to other human beings. It’s informed my life as a student as an employee when I was one, as a husband, and as a father, and as a musician, and as a teacher, and now in my work creative on purpose. Because, it’s a philosophy that helps teach the… you know just essential things for human happiness like mindfulness, non-attachment, awareness, empathy, compassion, all those things that create a truly thriving enterprise.
Rana Olk (Host): Yeah and I was introduced to it relatively recently, because it’s been it seems like it’s getting a revival out there with certain names, podcasts and such mentioning it, and there are some contemporary books written on it. But, as you suggested the original texts the you know meditations by Marcus Aurelius, it’s probably the best place to go. And I have been reading that based on the conversations that I’ve had with you, and seen in the marketing seminar. And you guys, it really is very, very thought-provoking stuff that makes you sit up and say okay, yeah this is so simple, but why haven’t I thought of it before? And this is something I want to stay mindful of every day. It really is thought-provoking stuff. And like you said meaning of life, we all want to be happy.
Scott Perry: And one of the interesting things about stoicism is how so many people that are Buddhist, or Taoist or you know engaged in traditions outside of the Western tradition. So many points of it section with stoicism and so all these, you know whether it’s philosophies or religions or movements. I mean, anybody that’s wrestling with the big questions, you know they’re going to see similarities and the way the storks approach things, too the way the Buddhists approach things, and the way the I also approach things. It’s something that comes up over and over again, I would in your… You are correct the modern stoicism movement is a real thing. It’s huge in the Silicon Valley, it’s their Ark, there’s an annual conference called stoical, that’s attracting thousands of people every year.
Rana Olk (Host): Wow. Great.
Scott Perry: But, I would advocate that people go to the source first and then after you want to connect with. Like, because there’s varying degrees of connection to the ancient philosophy, by modern Stoics. And so, go to the source.
Rana Olk (Host): Well. Yeah, it’s the wisdom of the ages, right? I’m glad you brought up the Buddhism and Taoist philosophies, because when you see mindfulness, and presence, and virtue, it does remind me of those things. But, I personally found stoicism more practical, and less intimidating. And you know, it’s really worth digging into, and there’s a reason that it’s experiencing a revival.
Scott Perry: It’s a philosophy built for tough times.
Rana Olk (Host): Yeah. And it’s universal stuff, I mean no matter who you are, right? Every walk of life, universally humans want to be happy. So, Scott before I ask you one last very important question. I’m sorry that this conversation is nearly over, alas our time is limited. Where can people find you for more information?
Scott Perry: So, I have a website that’s becreativeonpurpose.com, where you can access all of the work that I’m engaged. And I keep, I blog weekly at the very least, I have a podcast of my own called The Creative on Purpose Podcast. You can access the early episodes, that where I interviewed the primary leaders of the modern stoicism movement. I also interviewed thought leaders like Seth Godin and Michael Bungay Stanier and many other people, there’s 50-plus episodes. It’s all there at Be Creative on Purpose. And there’s, you know you can sign up for my email list and get the weekly updates. And I am, I treat my list with the same degree of love and respect that I want to be treated with by people whose lists I sign up for. So, there’s lots of extra goodness that goes out to the people that sign on to become members of the site and sign up for the newsletter.
Rana Olk (Host): Love that. The extra goodness, that’s how we change the world, right?
Scott Perry: That’s right.
Rana Olk (Host): Not being afraid to put out extra goodness. So, Scott my last question. End of every episode, all this is so that you can actually apply the wisdom that we gained from these conversations. What is one thing somebody listening out there can take into their lives starting today to apply these principles, or improve their lives?
Scott Perry: So, one of my heroes is Viktor Frankl who wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. And he has a great quote called, between step that goes between stimulus and response there is a pause. And in that pause, lies our freedom. And so, I have an exercise that I developed many many years ago, that’s just three simple words isn’t that interesting. And what it is, it’s a way of creating a pause when you find yourself in a difficult, challenging or frustrating situation, where you make your impulse maybe to react in a kind of a nature negative emotionally charged matter.
Rana Olk (Host): Sure.
Scott Perry: And by injecting this this exercise, this impulse to instead of doing that, to pause for five minutes and say isn’t that interesting. You’re able to contextualize your situation, you’re able to look at a little bit more objectively, you’re able to disconnect yourself from negative emotions, and to look at things with a greater degree of clarity, and frame or frame a perception of the situation, that will enable you to at the very least if you can’t flip the situation, find a way around over or through the situation, you can use it as an opportunity to practice something that will improve your virtue, something like humility, patience, acceptance. If you go to becreativeonpurpose.com, I have a two or three-page little pamphlet, that you can download again for free, that explains the exercise how it works and how it can help you thrive more, and stress less, in any endeavor worth engaging in.
Rana Olk (Host): Perfect. And everybody be sure to check out the show notes, where you’ll be able to get more of the information on this. And this makes me thinks, Scott that so an example of what you said would be, for example I’m not going to be, but if I were late to the airport and I missed my flight instead of getting really upset, I say hmm, isn’t that interesting? But, it’s so true, we think that’s so hard to do, but I mean once so many of the things that we stress about, and get upset about, and stomp our feet about, are things that we cannot change. And all we do is just add to our misery, by our reactions, right?
Scott Perry: Wait, you know. The marketing seminar we were taught to ask the question what’s it for, and that you know that ability to in every moment in every situation, to make sure that you are engaged in something that is serving you and serving others as opposed to working against your best interests or the best interests of others. It’s a profound way of cultivating the sense of well-being that, you know we can all probably experience more.
Rana Olk (Host): Absolutely. And with that, I guess we’ll say goodbye. Thank you so much Scott and thanks everybody for listening.
Scott Perry: You’re doing fantastic work, really appreciate the opportunity to connect with you again.
Rana Olk (Host): Thank you, have a great day.
Scott Perry: You too.