It’s not a new message; it’s actually a seemingly aged message.

It was new to me, and it’s brilliant.


First, who is John Cleese?

How to be creative by John CleeseJohn Cleese has played all kinds of roles, but he initially “made it” in the Monty Python and the Holy Grail. More recently you would have seen his likeness in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as Nearly Headless Nick.

nearly headless nick john cleese


As a writer, he wrote everything from Monty Python skits to the story for the animated feature The Croods.

The guy is British gold, and he just so happens to have the best explanation on how anyone can be creative in any field.


Below are my notes as I watched his fantastic speech on the steps necessary to get the creative juices flowing.


Creativity is not a talent limited to only a lucky few, it’s a way of operating according to John Cleese.

Creativity is not a talent, it’s a way of operating. It has nothing to do with IQ either. It’s all about getting into a mood and it’s as simple as that mood being either ON, or OFF.


Closed Mode => This is the mode we go about working in most of the time. We’re knocking out tasks one by one, going about the everyday grind. Cleese states creativity does not live in the closed mode.

Open Mode => The creative mode, the playful mode, the expansive and less purposeful mode. Creativity lives here.


The Five steps to get into the OPEN mode.

According to Cleese, there are 5 steps necessary to switch your state of being into an open mode that invites Creativity in.

  1. Space
  2. Time
  3. Time (squared)
  4. Confidence
  5. Humor



The first step in getting into the creative mindset is to go to your happy place. Create space away from demands and seal yourself off from others.



Mark off that space from a specific amount of time (Cleese suggests an hour and a half).


Time (squared)

funny john cleese

Again, this time is important! While your brain starts to relax, a million activities will be begin to go through it. This will pass. And when you think you have a solution to the problem you’re contemplating… go back and ponder some more. Take the time to think of as many solutions as you want! It’s your time.



While your creative juices begin to flow… understand that there are no wrong answers, thoughts, or ideas. Everything is on the table.



Giggle, remain loose, and understanding. Cleese talks about the best times of grieving where also those times when humor could be infused into the situation.


It’s better with multiple folks

There is an undertone of playfulness as a child throughout and Cleese advocates creativity being much greater if you have others to “play” with.



Do not create an atmosphere of defensiveness. Sometimes in group brainstorming sessions, folks tend to squash ideas as not possible (evaluating the reality of a situation).  Don’t do this to others and don’t let others do this to the group.


NOTE: After your hour and a half is over, it’s ok to sit on the ideas for some time period (maybe a day) and come back to them. Sometimes the best ideas come once you’ve moved on… cooking dinner, taking a shower and BAM, it grows. A second, third sessions can be helpful also as your brain works on these ideas offline in the background without you even knowing it, coming back around to them can help with the pondering.


So there you have it… steps for segregating creating a creative environment and get those juice flowing.

If this summary wasn’t enough, here is the full 30 minute – you won’t hurt my feelings, I understand my notes are no match for the genius that is John Cleese.