Author Kevin Chesters reveals the ‘nudges’ we all need to overcome fears and free our creative side

In early 2019, Kev Chesters, 48, and his long-term work partner and friend Mick Mahoney, 54, collaborated to write their first ever book. The Creative Nudge explores the social and evolutionary reasons behind our human fear of stepping outside of our comfort zones, and trying new things. Based on ‘nudge theory’, the book explores various behavioural practices that can be incorporated into everyday life to help you overcome those fears and reach your full potential. 

The message behind The Creative Nudge holds particular relevance these days, since lockdown encouraged many of us to get in touch with our creative sides – even if this was something that we had not done before.

According to the Open University, 61% of adults said that they’d taken up or rekindled a creative interest, and registrations for their online creative course subjects spiked 622% during the first lockdown. Similarly, in the UK, visual discovery site Pinterest also saw a 130% increase in viewings of ‘how to’ videos that taught people how to sew gifts.

Keen to carry this creative spark beyond the pandemic season, Kev Chesters opened up about his experience of writing The Creative Nudge, the theory behind the book, and what he hopes readers can take from it.

Kev’s journey from marketing strategist to author

Mick and Kev have been friends and business partners for over five years. They previously worked at London-based advertising agency, Ogilvy, before founding Harbour Collective (an independent communications consultancy) together in 2019. Writing a book was completely new territory for them both.

Having worked in the advertising and marketing industry all his life, father-of-two Kev explained that he never considered himself to be what society deems a ‘creative person’; before going on to say that our understanding of what ‘creativity’ means is part of the problem. He says, “Mick is what you’d call the ‘creative’ one. I’m the scientist, the strategist, and the analyst. But neither of us had ever written a book before.” 

Yet, The Creative Nudge suggests that society’s mainstream view of creativity – that it’s all about the arts, and assumes that only some people are creative – is totally wrong. Kev says, “If you look up the word creative in any dictionary, it’ll never mention poetry, painting, dancing, art, and so on. But the same word comes up every single time, and that’s the word ‘original’.

“Being creative is about doing new original things, and that’s what’s absolutely key – anyone can be creative! You could be an original-thinking lawyer, an original-thinking teacher, or a creative-thinking mum. Anyone can do it. 

“Maltese physician Edward de Bono famously said, ‘Creativity makes life more fun and interesting.’ Who wouldn’t want their life to be more fun and interesting? Particularly after the last year we’ve all had. 

“As children, we all draw, write, and paint – but why do we stop? If we’re all able to be creative, and creativity is good for us and makes us happy, then why don’t we do it? That’s the question we asked ourselves when writing this book. We wanted to talk about what creativity actually means, and why it’s so frustrating that most people don’t think they’re creative.”

Exploring the evolutionary and sociological reasons why humans find it so hard to be creative

Kev and Mick worked alongside behavioural scientists to produce The Creative Nudge. They unearthed the fascinating truth that the reason humans are so scared to try new things lies in our evolutionary and social makeup.

Kev explained, “All of our evolutionary makeup stops us from doing new and original things. If you did anything new back in the day when you were a caveman, you got killed. What taught humans to survive was not to do new things – it’s why we suffer from a thing called neophobia, and it’s why we’re scared of the dark and invent things like the wardrobe monster. We’re more scared of the unknown than the known because of our evolutionary makeup, which stops us being creative.

“Society also plays a role. Throughout history, if we are different, chaotic, or creative, we are shunned. Society tells us all that we need to knuckle down, stop being creative, and get ourselves a ‘proper job’. We’re all conditioned to do the same things – to go out and work, wear the same shirt, watch the same shows, and do the same things. Everybody does it.” 

“I might not be artistic, but I can think creatively. We can all do it”

Kev explained that he didn’t co-write The Creative Nudge for the creative industry, but for his mum and everyone else like her. He says, “There’s all those people out there who probably wrote stories, did drawings, and had dreams of becoming something when they were younger, but then life got in the way. 

“My mum’s told me all her life she’s got a novel in her head that she really wants to write. But she’s never written it because she’s got a little voice in her head that’s telling her she can’t do it – but she can do it. We can all do it. Creativity is not a job title, it’s not even about being an artist. My business partner Mick always says, you can be creative in any field that you’re in – even if that’s a big muddy field. 

“One part of being creative is doing creative things like singing, dancing, and painting. But the other part is applying creative thinking to life. So I might not be artistic or be able to draw or paint, but I can think creatively. If an idiot like me can write a book, anyone can do it!”

“You can’t help being scared of doing new things - that fear is instilled in all of us. You just have to break it, and in order to do so, you just need a little help - a little nudge”

The purpose of The Creative Nudge is to help people overcome these societal and evolutionary obstacles.

Kev says, “We want to absolve everyone from blame for their fear of trying new things. It’s so important to remember that it’s not your fault – it’s evolution and society’s fault! You can’t help being scared of doing new things – that fear is instilled in all of us. You just have to break it, and in order to do so, you just need a little help – a little nudge, which is where our book comes in.”

Nudge theory is a concept in behaviourial science which suggests that humans can influence their subconscious decision making by altering – or ‘nudging’ – their behaviour. Each chapter of the book addresses why you’re scared to try new things and offers various ‘nudges’ that you can incorporate into your daily routine to overcome those fears.

These nudges start off small in chapter one – for example, with a simple re-routing of your walk to work, or to the supermarket. By stepping away from the norm and gently altering the brain’s pathway, these gradual nudges are designed to help you step outside of your comfort zone and achieve new and original thinking.

Kev says, “This book has given me a get out of jail free card. It’s given me freedom in the knowledge that it’s not just me who is scared – it’s everyone, and it’s because of evolution. It’s also taught me that with a little nudge, we can achieve anything. I hope it gives everyone that sort of emancipation.

“Remember, attitude doesn’t change behaviour, behaviour changes attitude – so the only way you’ll be able to change is by doing these new things.”

“If the pandemic’s taught us anything, it’s that we can achieve things with new and original thinking. We can’t let all of that creativity slide away now.”

When we were all in lockdown, many of us took the opportunity to invest in activities such as DIY card-making, photography, gardening, baking, and writing. At Rest Less particularly, the pandemic sparked a unique relevance for ‘how to’ guides and creative home activity ideas.

Kev says, “There’s been a wave of creativity unleashed by lockdown. I absolutely love that something so negative brought about something so interesting at the same time. I don’t want it all to slide back and have people thinking they’ve got to go back to their ‘real lives’ and put away that novel, knitting, or painting.

“This was our generation’s Blitz moment, and we did what humans always do: we applied our creativity and adapted. If the pandemics taught us anything, it’s that we can achieve things with new and original thinking.”

“I want everyone’s creativity to be freed. It’s never too soon to start”

Kev says, “Society is obsessed with the young. There’s always that thing about being young, being creative, and trying out new things. Then suddenly you get to 40 or 50 and you’re just meant to accept and stick with whatever it is you’re doing? No, no, no, no. This is where it starts – it’s never too soon.

“At Harbour Collective, one of our main clients is McCarthy Stone, where the average customer is between 79 and 83. These are some of the best and most amazing people I’ve ever met in my life. They’re doing brilliant stuff; running businesses, charities, running sports day – amazing things are happening. I want everyone’s creativity to be freed, because it’s what makes the world a better place. 

“So let’s break these chains. It doesn’t matter what you do. You might be a quantity surveyor, a banker, a builder, or a nanny, but why not be a creative one?” 

The Creative Nudge releases in the UK on August 5th 2021. Rest Less members are offered a 35% discount. Simply follow this link and use the code ‘restlessnudge’ at the checkout to activate your discount.

Are you feeling inspired by Kevin’s story? Do you think you could do with a little creative nudge? We’d love to hear from you. Join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum, pay a visit to Rest Less’ book club, or leave a comment below.

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