9 things I learned at 99u



Just like your hamstrings or your brain, you can develop your genius muscle with training and dedication. Einstein expressed it best: genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, he said.


That very concept was the motto of 99u, a conference focused on making ideas happen. Behance, an online platform dedicated to creativity, organized the happening in NYC on May 2-3, and I was lucky enough to attend. After two days jam-packed with inspiring speakers, I am not afraid to claim that the creative process is much like working out. If you want to bring and idea to life, develop a routine, follow these 9 steps and see the results for yourself!


1. Get Started

It has been scientifically proven that smiling will make you feel better. In the same spirit, we all know that the best way to start running is to run and the best cure for writer’s block is to write. Take AJ Jacobs’s advice: doing something will change your mind, so walk the talk!


2. Get organized

Scott Belsky has the winning formula: greater impact will come from the right combination of creativity and organization. Consider the equation.

Take 5 minutes of creative work, times 0 minutes getting organized: 5 X 0 = 0. Increase creative work to 100 minutes while keeping organization time at 0 and guess how much impact you will achieve? But use 50 minutes on creativity and spend 2 short minutes getting organized… 50 X 2, means your work equation generates 100 impact. Find the formula that creates the impact you want.


3. Failure is the most important part of success

As Tina Seelig explained during 99u, in science “failure” is “data.” Why should it be any different everywhere else?


4. Constrains and goals are equally important

Sebastian Thrun put it into perspective: you don’t climb a mountain to stay a long time at the top, he explained, you climb because you like climbing. The path today may be full of surprises, but the summit is always visible from where you are.


5. Stay humble

Test, listen and be open to adjustments. Just like you would in a yoga class.


6. Share

A few speakers mentioned George Bernard Shaw, and his grand teaching: “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”


7. Perseverance and patience

You will need both for the next point.


8. Practice, practice, practice

Training and practice can teach you anything. If you develop a routine that fits your body and lifestyle, you can reach any finish line. Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh was the most moving speaker at the conference. As an interior designer turned chemist and inventor, she offered the right advice: you don’t have to be an expert, just learn it!


9. Passion can be found

No passion? No fear! One of my favourite 99u speakers was Cal Newport. He turns the concept of “following your passion” upside down, arguing that passion is a side effect that comes from practice, practice, practice. So work on the points above and find an activity you love.


If you want a 10 out of 10, all you have left to do is to uncover your 1% inspiration.






Images for this post come from Cool Hunting and 99u.

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