Book notes: Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis

Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis book summary review and key ideas.

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Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life by Chase Jarvis


Life isn’t about “finding” fulfillment and success – it’s about creating it. Why then has creativity been given a back seat in our culture? No longer.

Creativity is a force inside every person that, when unleashed, transforms our lives and delivers vitality to everything we do. Establishing a creative practice is therefore our most valuable and urgent task – as important to our well-being as exercise or nutrition. 

The good news? Renowned artist, author, and CreativeLive founder, Chase Jarvis, reminds us that creativity isn’t a skill – it’s a habit available to everyone: beginners and lifelong creators, entrepreneurs to executives, astronauts to zookeepers, and everyone in between. Through small, daily actions we can supercharge our innate creativity and rediscover our personal power in life. 

Whether your ambition is a creative career, completing a creative project, or simply cultivating a creative mindset, Creative Calling will unlock your potential via Jarvis’s memorable “IDEA” system: 

  • Imagine your big dream, whatever you want to create – or become – in this world. 
  • Design a daily practice that supports that dream – and a life of expression and transformation. 
  • Execute on your ambitious plans and make your vision real.
  • Amplify your impact through a supportive community you’ll learn to grow and nurture.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

I think I first heard of this guy because he was featured either on Ramit Sethi or Tim Ferriss’s blog. I know he has his own the podcast on entrepreneurship for the creative arts people and I actually watched one of the video episodes with Ramit. I honestly don’t know what to expect with this book, but I chose it because I feel like I’m going to be pursuing a lot of creative endeavors this year. 

Key notes:

“You cannot use up creativity. The more you use the more you have”

Maya Angelou
  • Creativity is as essential to health and well-being as exercise, proper nutrition, and mindfulness
  • Creating consistently actually makes us feel better
    • We feel awake, fulfilled, and whole
    • By creating regularly, we access a new source of vitality
  • Creativity is the practice of combining or rearranging two or more unlikely things in new and useful ways
  • Three distinct premises:
    1. You are creative by nature, endowed with a near limitless capacity to make and grow new things
    2. Accessing this capacity requires a creative muscle that must be strengthened to achieve your full potential
    3. By identifying as a creative person, accepting the world around you as your canvas, and manifesting your ideas regularly, you will intuitively create the life you truly want want for yourself 
  • Creativity isn’t just art. It’s not limited to specific crafts
    • It is the ability to make your ideas manifest in the world

Step One: Imagine

Imagine what you want to create without limitation

Chapter 1: Hear Your Call

  • Developing the capacity to create something allows us to create anything
  • Our soft intuition that we’ve been taught to ignore is actually our most powerful gift
  • Creators create. Action is identity. You become what you do
  • Book reference: The Hero With A Thousand Faces

 Chapter 2: Walk Your Path

  • The most important thing is to just start
  • D.E.A.R.
    • D = deconstruct
    • E = emulate
    • A = analyze
    • R = repeat
  • Two things happen when you stop holding back and you start pursuing goals that you actually want to achieve”
    1. People want to help you
      • Others will want to join you and you’ll find your tribe and community
    2. This path will start to pull you as you find joy in it
      • When you are on your chosen path you’ll find that you rarely need to push yourself to work
  • Pursuing your creative calling will always be risky and you’ll encounter failure, but so what?
    • It’s an illusion that society’s plan for you is any safer
    • Absolute economic safety has always been a myth, but the promise of stability in a soul sucking, full-time job you hate has never been more obviously false
    • The problem is the human brain evolved to keep us safe, not happy
    • It’s going to resist your efforts to walk your own path because creativity challenges certainty
  • Ask yourself whether the ideas you cling to you about money and art are based on reality or parts of society’s script 
  • You will eventually have to stand up for your work in terms of creative control and vision

Chapter 3: You Stand Out

“The things that made you weird as a kid make you great today”

James Victore
  • Instead of trying to rebel or conform, simply choose to be your authentic self 
  • Focus ruthlessly when you find what you are good at intuitively instead of taking a scattershot approach
  • Your life has two arcs:
    1. Acquisition
    2. Contribution
  • Our mind is very attuned to the labels we give ourselves
    • Labels matter
  • Trying to be liked makes you less likable
    • When we hide what makes us unique in order to get people to like our work, we neuter the work 
  • We improve as artists by taking chances
    • If you never fail to do what you set out to do, you’re not learning and you’re not growing
    • Mistakes are a sign that you’re pushing yourself to the limits
  • Fluency as an artist ultimately boils down to developing the skill set to make things look, sound, and feel the way that only you can
    • If you keep making a lot of stuff, you will develop that style
    • It always goes back to your authentic self, stuff that makes you weird
  • Forget better or even different. Think only
    • There’s only one of you who has lived your life and has your point of view
    • Figure out how to share that with the rest of us
      • Your point of view is the highest value you can bring
  • Incremental improvement is valuable, but the only way to stand out is to double down on you
    • Always look for more ways to bring yourself into your work

Step Two: Design

Chapter 4: Develop Your Systems

  • Small daily actions create outsized results
    • Consistent creative action
  • Your mindset matters most

“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts”

Marcus Aurelius
  • Being out of alignment with our authenticity drains the vital energy required to make and share creative work
  • Rare but powerful tool: quitting stuff you weren’t meant to do
  • Your job is to figure out which behaviors feed your soul and which leave you running on empty
  • A stable creative mindset is a strong foundation for the creative process and happiness
  • It is essential that your goals align with what you really want in life
    • Goals with a meaningful “Why” behind them energize us
  • Key principles about goals:
    1. Write your goals down and refer to them regularly every day
    2. Keep your goals few in number, three or four at most so you can focus them
    3. Assign each goal in appropriate window of time.
  • Creativity is a habit that can be strengthened little by little overtime
  • He follows his 10 minute meditation with a three minute gratitude and visualization routine 
  • Movement is a creativity catalyst
    • Fresh air and outdoors is a plus
    • Creative inspiration comes from other creators and creations
      • Diversity brings growth

Chapter 5: Make Your Space

  • He recommends creating every day even if only in small amounts and in whatever medium you want
  • Establish regular work sessions to practice your craft and be thankful when creative inspiration arrives
  • Ask yourself: what is the smallest effective amount of creative work I can do?
  • Understand your energy cycles
    • As you lay out your creative schedule, place sessions that require intense concentration and focus wherever you’ll be most likely to have that
    • Place sessions with more mundane, back-end work at the times of day where you are not at your best
  • Create positive head-space
    • Remove psychological clutter
  • Whenever he is stuck on creative block, he goes back-and-forth between five different projects
    • One big, one medium, and three small

Chapter 6: Do Your Best Work

  • Assign yourself the task you wish you could be hired to do in creative work
  • Mastery and growth starts with the volume of work
    • Repetition is the mother of skill
  • Establish a starting ritual
  • Visualizing before doing the work improves performance
  • Experiment with pre-work and intra-work music playlist
    • And use them consistently to help establish the ritual and make starting more automatic 
  • Remove physical clutter from your work space as they are distracting to the mind
  • Keep a log and time how much you spend on work
  • The Pomodoro Technique is 25 minutes work and five minutes break
    • Do four sets of these Pomodoro’s and see the results
  • Utilize Shitty First Draft (SFD)
    • Give your self permission to create an initial bad first attempt
  • The creative gap is the distance between what we want to create with our minds eye and what we are actually able to create with our current skill set
  • Volume of work is the metric that matters most when closing the creative gap

Step Three: Execute

Chapter 7: Make It Until You Make It

  • You cannot think your way out of a rut
    • Start by taking action, changing your environment, putting words onto a paper, whatever the next step may be
    • Eventually, you’ll get back into that flow state
      • Your best bet is always to turn up the volume and make more stuff

Chapter 8: YOU-niversity

  • You must develop the meta skill of learning
    • Learning is the lifeblood of creative work
    • The more you know how to do and the better you become at doing it, the deeper the understanding of your work and the richer and more interesting it will be
  • The way most people approach school with trying to get through it so they can start a career is the opposite mentality of a lifelong learning mindset
    • Mastery is never an end of itself, it’s always a byproduct
  • Mastery to get mastery
    • Masters tend to be good at multiple things because they know how to learn
  • You don’t need experts, you probably don’t need school
    • What you need to do is create, learn, and repeat

Chapter 9: You Must Fail to Succeed 

  • To a system, any change feels like a threat
    • The system, and each of us as part of the system, will protect itself
    • Genuinely new ideas encounter resistance proportional to the size of the change they represent 
  • Three Stages of Truth:
    1. Ridiculed
    2. Violently opposed
    3. Accepted as self-evident
  • Book reference: Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang
  • High performers always manage to operate at the edge of their capabilities, whether consciously or not
    • They usually feel as though they are out of their element one way or another

Step Four: Amplify

Chapter 10: Find Your People

  • Be the fan you wish you had
    • Engage in your chosen communities to get more engagement
  • Find a collaborator who’s skills are as exciting to you as your are to them
    • Reciprocal collaboration is powerful and energizing form of creative work
  • You’ll first join 2 communities: your craft community (ex: photography), and your focus community (ex: action sports)

Chapter 11: Build Your Audience

  • Half your energy should be spent on creation and promotion
    • The other half should be on building your audience
    • To succeed you need an army of people who love what you do
      • To build that army, you’ll need to engage with individuals thoughtfully and contribute to the overall conversation meaningfully overtime
  • Every interaction you have with your following either charges or drains their trust battery
  • Your audience isn’t something you leverage, it’s something you cultivate, nourish and sustain
    • You do this by providing value
  • Always focus on giving
    • Will you give doesn’t always have to be educational, but it does have to provide value
  • Determine your smallest viable tribe
    • Ask:
      • What’s the most narrow, most focused tribe I can build around my work?
      • How can I engage with that tribe consistently, every day if possible?
      • Do only what you can commit to doing regularly
  • You are a creator, not an influencer
    • Influencers become anything they need to be to hold onto their audience
    • A creator holds onto his or her path and then the right people come along for the journey
  • Get in front of your community in real life events as much as possible
  • Always add value first to any potential mentor ship relationships

Chapter 12: Launch!

  • Don’t try to win over the haters
    • Focusing on those who respond positively to what you do is the name of the game
      • Nurture those connections even if it’s only a handful
  • Enthusiasm is more powerful, and ultimately more valuable than confidence
    • Confidence is developed by repeatedly orchestrating successful outcomes
    • Enthusiasm is inspires confidence and energy in others
      • It’s effects are potentially far more valuable
  • With both things, all you need left is courage to get started
    • Courage is the ability to do what frightens you
  • Negativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy and is contagious
  • Relentless positivity and creativity have always been his secret weapons
    • The kindest, most successful, and happiness people you know are positive people
    • You have to choose happiness and make it a habit, though it doesn’t come naturally

Main ideas / Themes:

  • Creativity starts with identity. You have to identify yourself as a creative person
  • Pursuing goals you want to achieve and being in alignment with your authentic self not only gives you energy and makes you happy, but you rarely have to push yourself to work
    • It’s an illusion that society’s plan is any safer
  • Mastery and growth come from diversity, volume, consistency, operating at the edge of your capabilities, and taking chances
  • Your point of view is the highest value you can bring
  • Remove physical and psychological clutter
  • Establish starting ritual, leverage visualization & movement, and understand your energy cycles
  • Learning is the lifeblood of creative work
  • Join and engage with your chosen communities to build your audience
    • Your audience is something you cultivate, nourish, and sustain, not leverage
  • Always focus on giving and adding value
  • Confidence, enthusiasm, and courage are extremely powerful in creative endeavors
  • Choosing positivity and happiness needs to become a habit

Closing thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! (I’m trying to find other ways to say “I absolutely loved this book” because I say that too often, lol). But seriously, it was one of those books where I thought I knew a good amount on the topic, but this book synthesized and put all of the ideas related to creative pursuits in one spot. It’s pretty much a must-read for anyone who identifies as a creator.

Actually, everyone creates. As the author says, expressing your creativity is just as necessary to your health as is good nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness. Although we all don’t create the same in the same mediums, we all create nonetheless.

I really enjoyed how the book takes you through the mindset, strategics, and techniques for creators. There’s a lot of practical application and helps you hone in on the key things you need to do. A lot of it is volume, consistency, self-awareness, and constant learning. And in a few servings of enthusiasm, confidence, and courage, and you’re good to go. Basically, it’s simple, but not easy.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

While there are many great takeaways in this book, and implementing even one would be a game-changer, the one I want to focus on is:

  • High performers always manage to operate at the edge of their capabilities

I think this is a good reminder to myself as a creative that I have to constantly keep learning, trying new things, and operating at the edge of my comfort zone. That’s where I’ll find growth and eventually mastery.


Chase Jarvis explains why pursuing creativity is necessary for a great life, as well as the mindsets and steps to do so.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.


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