Growing up, many of us receive a horde of unwanted advice in the name of our supposed wellbeing:
“Study accounting or management so you can get a paying job!” “Learn cooking rather than singing!” “You'll do it this way because that’s how it's always done!” “Let others change the world; you just focus on your career!”
I’m not in favor of rebelling for the sake of rebelling, but I do feel all the emphasis on following the “safe” route can have a dampening effect on creativity. So many young people everywhere are discouraged from pursuing their talents or following their dreams. There are certain “sensible” paths to follow, and they are expected to stick to them. A lot of schools have rigid ideas as to what constitutes talent in the first place. (I should know—they failed me in art. Art! Isn’t the whole point that it’s subjective?? But they were obsessed with straight lines and pretty designs, and didn’t understand the profoundness of my paint splotches and unidentifiable sketches…)
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that sometimes seemingly “useless” pursuits can actually be very impactful, so it’s not necessarily smart to discount them.
Innovation stems from creativity (and often also involves ignoring naysayers). Take the example of the simple but brilliant idea  that led Maya Ajmera to create the Global Fund for Children, and the defiance of conventional wisdom  that resulted in Kiva.org. Banker, poet or carpenter; anyone can be an inventor or a changemaker. What’s important is being able to stray from the beaten path and take risks. And it’s that kind of thinking which, I feel, is far too often discouraged by risk-averse advisors.
The good news is that society seems to be increasingly recognizing the importance of thinking outside the box (apologies for the cliché, but my creativity seems to have abandoned me…). And Saptarshi and María’s  blogs about new social business models are a good example of this.
Recently, I read a great report from the International Youth Foundation, titled, “Nurturing Young People’s Creativity (PDF). ” The report quotes author Daniel Pink, who wrote a book called A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. He writes:
“The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers…—will reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”
Lastly, while we’re on the subject of creativity, I encourage all of you to apply your imaginative skills to the Youthink! Earth Day Photo Caption Contest . We want your wit and wisdom on the photo below, and the winner gets a Youthink! bag plus a surprise gift. Email firstname.lastname@example.org  by April 21.
Photo by Fareeha Yasmin Iqbal
This isn’t just monkeying around. Small things can change the world .