Bumpers are for bumping — taking a learner’s mindset

By Monique Seitz-Davis

Posted on 09-15-2020

As creatives, we spend a lot of time perfecting our craft. Sometimes it’s deliberate time well-spent, while other times it’s inadvertent, exploratory, and invigorating. You know, the moments when we really lean into our expertise. Or when we willingly get down with the weird, wacky, and wild.

Those times are great. They’re rewarding and fulfilling. They remind us of all the reasons why we do what we do.

But what about the times in between when we know that we want and need to step outside of our comfort zones? We seem to hesitate. Because, let’s be honest — we’re a little fearful of those moments. Maybe we’re worried about failure, about being totally bad at being creative.

It’s understandable. We don’t want to be bad at something we’ve spent oodles of time attempting to perfect. We don’t want to disappoint ourselves, and others even.

In other words: it’s a lot of undue pressure.

Alright, hold the phone, please!

That pressure didn’t always exist.

Once upon a time, maybe not that long ago, there existed a sense of adventure. I had a sense of adventure. You had one, too. Of recklessness and excitement. Of “there-is-no-try-only-do.” Of putting it all out there. We were aware of the failure, but our desire to get our hands covered in paint, ink, and grime was more important than being perfect or fulfilling a prescribed notion of success.

Soooo, what happened to us? Where did our zeal and imagination go?

I’ve got an idea. Are you ready?

We thought we were living freely, only to realize that we had bumpers on when we thought we were living bumper-less. And that’s not a bad thing! We just became hyper-aware of our bumpers.

[Lol wut?]

Okay, bear with me!

Bumpers exist for a reason. Like the bumper of your car or the bumpers on a bowling alley lane, bumpers help you figure out where you are in relation to everything else. But for whatever reason, it seems that once we’re aware of their existence, life becomes a little more stressful, especially when you start thinking about the consequences of what might happen when you hit the bumper. An “if this, then that” sort of thing — the “if I do this, then that’s what this means.” As in …

“If I hit the bumper, then it means I’m a bad bowler.”

“If I hit the bumper, then it means I don’t know how to parallel park.”

Woof, y’all. That’s some nasty negative self-talk.

Because here’s the thing! Bumpers are for bumping. You’re supposed to get friendly with what you’re not supposed to do. Or what doesn’t work. Or maybe how you can even use the bumper to your advantage to send your bowling ball ricocheting off, causing you to get the most epic strike in the world?!

Seriously though. How else are you going to learn and grow?

So OK, no, this doesn’t give you license to go around kissing everyone’s car bumper when you try to parallel park. If you don’t fit in the spot, you don’t fit in the spot.

But yes, it does give you wiggle room to make errors and figure out what works best for you.

In order to be innovative and creative, you kind of have to get down with your “bad” self. You gotta bump some bumpers. In other words, as the infamous Miss Frizzle said, you have to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

Keep in mind, taking a learner’s mindset is a unique experience for everyone. So not everyone’s experience is the same. There are barriers of entry, along with any variety of valid, real-life systems or hurdles in place that obstruct and obscure safe self-discovery and what it means to get down with your “bad” self. To that end, we want to acknowledge the uniqueness and need for safety in taking a learner’s mindset.

So, without further ado, these are some of the ways the Creative Brand Team at Lucidpress suggests that you can wisely yet messily bump some bumpers.

Learn from your failures

“It’s trite and super annoying to hear, but you learn so much more from your failures than you do your successes. So yes, you’re allowed to be annoyed, but whenever you feel annoyed, just remind yourself that failure makes you better. It’s like that Beckett quote (kind of). ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’”

Step away from the computer

“Getting out helps me clear my head. Time away from the computer, phone, or tablet can do wonders. For me, screen-free time helps incite newfound creativity and vivacity. It’s easy to find inspiration in the world around you, regardless of whether I’m taking a walk through New York City or walking a trail in Colorado.”

Use your imagination

“Kids are weird and funny little creatures. Don’t get me wrong, they’re smart and great. But they also have a unique way of connecting the dots, reading between the lines, and such. Their imagination knows no bounds. So whenever I’m feeling stuck and imagination-less, I lean into my inner kiddo. I ask myself a lot of “why?” which is … sometimes less than productive. But, it often makes for some real weird and abstract creative ideas that translate into cool concepts. As a kid, I don’t remember having a sense of failure, and even if I did, I leaned into it. Like, you don’t know what could happen if you don’t try. And that’s when the magic happens.”

Ask yourself, “so what?”

“Sometimes I have to step away from the best practices, rules, and such and ask myself, ‘So what? What’s the point? Is this really how people talk to each other?’ Not like, in the existential crisis sort of way. But in the what-really-matters kind of way. Otherwise, I feel like a robot.

“A friend recently reminded me about the ‘Say it straight, then say it great’ approach. It’s so easy to get lost amidst marketing strategies and jargon. Ultimately, it’s a helpful exercise when I’m feeling swamped by marketing needs and don’t have enough clarity or creative ideas of my own. It’s not always glamorous or pretty, or I don’t always walk away with exceptional ideas, but sometimes it’s the best way to get the ball rolling.”

Do something new each week

“Set a goal to learn something new each week. Don’t pick ‘learn Adobe Illustrator.’ Start small. ‘I want to learn how to use Illustrator, so this week I want to learn what the different tools mean.’

“Learning something new is refreshing and brings some excitement. Go watch a three-minute video tutorial, take a course, use a new program, try out a different medium.”

Cut yourself some slack

“Impostor syndrome is r-e-a-l. Plus, the internet and its never-ending scroll tends to make it tenfold easier to compare yourself to others. So, cut yourself some slack, be kind to that impostor syndrome that’s trying to keep you safe and sadness-free, and give yourself a break.”

Stop comparing yourself to others

“I have no great insights into creativity as I don’t feel that I’m very creative. (Hi, imposter syndrome? That you?) But the one thing I have to do when I’m working on something new or different is to stop looking at what other people have done as a point of reference or performance.

“I know research — competitive, market or inspirational — is an important part of the production process at first, but at some point, I just have to close myself off from other influences and do what makes sense to me.

“I find that if I keep poking around and looking at other people’s stuff, I either get into a dark hole of comparison (also known as ‘the thief of joy’) or try to mimic something that’s not me and ultimately comes off flat. Neither of which is helpful. You are worthy!”

Bump some bumpers

By giving yourself room to flop, flail, and flounder, you ultimately set yourself up to learn and be free. And while fear of failure is a productive and valid counterpart to keeping you safe, it also prevents you from stepping into your “better” self. The key difference is knowing what is constructive fear and what is simply a piece of (so to speak) programming. So, go on, what are you waiting for?! Go bump some bumpers.

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