Thursday, June 14, 2012

Positive and Negative Approaches to Creativity

I've seen both of these videos featuring Fred Rogers and David McCullough, Jr. being passed around Facebook and Twitter, not to mention local and national news stations. Based on the millions of hits each has received over the past week since they were posted on YouTube, most of the interwebs have probably already seen them. I just wanted to point out some comparisons between the two.

Interestingly enough, both videos were posted on June 7, and it is now one week later, June 14. I'll throw out the easy comparison this allows us to make, that over the one week they've been up, Mr. Rogers' video has pulled in over 4.3 million views, while Mr. McCullough's video is at 1.1 million views. The obvious popularity of Mr. Rogers' as someone so many of us grew up with is evident in the not-quite 4:1 view count between the two videos. Also interesting are the like/dislike stats. Mr Rogers' video has 25% more likes per view, with only two-thirds as many dislikes per view.

I think the biggest problem with Mr. McCullough's video is the overwhelming negative tone of it. They're both saying the same thing, that you should do things you love and be creative, but I'm guessing most people don't get through the negativity of the first eight or so minutes, before finally getting to the point in the last three or four minutes, where Mr. Rogers jumps right to the good stuff.

Mr. Rogers' video, of course, is more concise, much catchier, and to tell the truth much more creative, although quotes from Mr. McCullough would make a more attention-grabbing headline.

The fun part is how Mr. Rogers is used in a negative way in the second video as an example, along with Barney, of someone who is overly optimistic and coddling. I think you can be positive and provide a message that motivates people to be creative without being sickly sweet or patronizing about it. Take a look at the following excerpts from the two video and compare the differences.

When I quote here, I'm not including ellipses and brackets and quotation marks to do it all properly, just suffice it to say that I've chopped out portions that were less relevant, such as Mr. McCullough's diatribe against weddings and quoting the statistic that half of them will end up divorced and Mr. Rogers' piece about the scary cat eyes. Although, even there, I'll throw out the similarity that weddings and an unknown animal's eyes glowing in the dark are equally scary.

From Mr. Rogers:

Do you ever imagine things? Imagine. Every person that you see is somewhat different from every other person in the world. Some can do some things. Some can do others. Do you ever think of the many things you've learned to do? There are so many things to learn about in this world, and so many people who can help us learn. Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind? You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. It's good to be curious about many things. You can think about things and make believe. All you have to do is think, and they'll grow.

From Mr. McCullough:

None of you is special. You're not special. You're not exceptional. Contrary to what your U9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing 7th grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mr. Rogers, and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your paternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you, you are nothing special. Even if you're one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion, that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you. Your planet is not the center of its solar system; your solar system is not the center of its galaxy; your galaxy is not the center of the universe; in fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it. If everyone is special, then no one is.

If you've learned anything in your four years, I hope it's that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning. You've learned too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. Second is ice cream. I also hope you've learned enough to recognize how little you know - how little you know now. It's where you go from here that matters. Do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a a consequence, a gratifying byproduct; it's what happens when you're thinking about more important things.

Now, if someone would make a shorter, catchier, autotune version of Mr. McCullough's speech, we could really compare the two.

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