Interview with Laurence Boldt, Self Help Author of Zen and the Art of Making a Living and How to Be, Do, or Have Anything

Interview with Laurence Boldt about
How To Be, Do or Have Anything

Webmaster (WM): Your new book is called How to, Be, Do, or Have Anything, that’s a pretty ambitious title. How can any one book cover all of that?

Laurence Boldt (LB): Well, as I said in the introduction, no book, especially in today’s world of rapid technological innovation and change, could possibly give detailed, specific knowledge on how to do everything. What this book focuses on is the process by which things are created. Buckminster Fuller talked about the difference between know-how and know-what. Know-how is specific knowledge needed to do a particular task, while know-what is a more general knowledge of process. This book focuses on the know-what of the creative process. In other words, on knowing what to focus on at every given stage of the process of creating results. Knowledge of process gives you information about when to do what, as well as confidence in your ultimate success.

For example, if you were planting a vegetable garden, you wouldn’t go out and dig up the seeds the next day to see if it was working, to see if things were really growing. You understand that there is a process and at different stages of the process you need to be doing different things. There is a time to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, to water, to fertilize, to weed, to harvest, and so on. In the same way, there is a process in the act of creating. There is as well a sequence to these events and it is important that they be done in order. Understanding and exerting a measure of conscious control over this process is empowering.

While the act of creation always retains an unconscious component, there are things we can do to trigger this unconscious element as well. Again the analogy holds, we can’t make things grow, nature does this in a mysterious way. But we can create the conditions in which things will grow. When it comes to creating results, some people recognize this process—these conditions of growth—intuitively. Yet I think it’s valuable to articulate the process in a simple step-by-step way that anyone can understand and apply. And that is what I have tried to do in this book with what I call “the manifestation formula.’ I like to think of the eight steps of the manifestation formula as the eight essential amino acids of the creative process. Just as our bodies can spontaneously produce the rest of the amino acids necessary for protein synthesis from the essential ones, so by mastering and applying the eight essentials of the manifestation formula we can spontaneously generate the particulars that we need to fill in the body of our manifestations.

WM: You’ve talked a lot about creativity. How do you define it?

LB: In the simplest terms, I would define creativity as the ability to manifest, or bring into form, things or results that either did not exist before at all, or that did not exist before for you. Creativity is an attitude, an approach to life.

WM: In the book, you say that all human beings are naturally creative? What makes you believe that?

LB: It is the definition of Homo Sapiens, of modern humans. Although physiologically, we are virtually identical with fossil remains that date back about a hundred thousand years ago, anthropologists generally mark the advent of truly modern humans with the period of approximately 40,000 years ago, which is the period when the first signs of art make their appearance. We, as species, then, are identified with the flowering of the creative imagination.

We see our innate human creativity manifest in the ability of our species to survive, and indeed thrive, in the most extreme climates and geographical settings—from the Inuits, or Eskimos, of the Arctic north to the Bedouins of the Arabian Desert. Human beings not only survived in these extremes—they produced a rich cultural life and made beautiful artifacts. For example, the Piautes Indians lived in the Great Basin, an austere environment that has little more than wild grasses. Yet they took these grasses and produced incredible basketry that is not only woven so tightly it can hold water without mortar but also widely recognized as some of the most beautiful in the world. Human beings have this incredible ability to respond creatively to the environments in which they find themselves.

Or, to look at it a different way, Einstein said that every child is born a genius and I think that’s right. In fact, we could say that the creative person is one who has retained or rediscovered his chidlike wonder and zest for life and uses his adult capacities to express it in form and action.

WM: If it’s true that we are all naturally creative, why do so many people feel as though they themselves are not? Why do we think of creativity as something special?

LB: This is something I have thought about a lot. I think it’s a combination of things really. Certainly, a part of it is sociological. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, people stopped growing and making things. Increasing specialization meant that we worked only on parts of things. Few people today work on anything from start to finish—we do our parts and pass it on to the next person. The effect of this on our creativity was something that the economist Adam Smith foresaw. While he thought specialization was good for the “Wealth of Nations,” Smith warned that from the standpoint of the individual, it would have a stifling and dulling effect on the human imagination. And I think he was right. Today, few of us have an experience of making things in our work.

In our entertainments, as well, we have become extremely passive. Instead of making up our own stories, songs, and dances, we passively watch television. Even reading a book requires using our imaginations in a way that watching a movie or a television program does not. But reading is on the decline. So many of us are not using our imaginations in the course of our everyday lives. And just as muscles grow flabby from lack of exercise, so our imaginations grow rusty from lack of use.

Also at the dawn of the industrial era, we began to make this distinction between the so-called “fine arts” and the arts of everyday life. We began to think of creativity as something limited to a select group of people who perform certain activities or work in a few occupations—writers, painters, musicians, dancers, and so on. Once creativity began to be defined in terms of specific activities or occupations, people began to say to themselves “I’m not working in a creative field, therefore I must not be a creative person.” I think this kind of reasoning is altogether misguided, but we can understand how people can think this way.

So there are a variety of reasons people don’t think of themselves as creative, some of it is individual and psychological—related to a person’s background and upbringing, and some of it is related to the broader social context.

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