Vince Lombardi’s 5 Motivators Will Kick-Start Your Creativity

Visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame recently, I was intrigued by a display featuring Vince Lombardi’s “Five Motivators.”

Vince Lombardi is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in football history. He mastered the game and knew how to get the best from his players. During his years as head coach for the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi kept his Five Motivators posted in the locker room and preached them to the team. This inspiration paid off with five NFL championships and two Super Bowl victories.


Here are Lombardi’s motivators — along with examples of how they can also play winning roles in boosting your creativity:

1. Operate on Lombardi Time.

As Packers coach, Lombardi ran operations 15 minutes ahead of schedule, which became known as “Lombardi Time” in Green Bay.

Lombardi’s technique provoked eagerness in his players, which in turn fostered passion and commitment. Eagerness is also an ingredient of creativity, kindling the curiosity and ardor needed to trigger imaginative thinking and bold ideas.

Olafur Eliasson, the Danish-Icelandic artist celebrated for large-scale installations, is known for his fervor and zeal. Writer Jonathan Safran Foer told The New York Times that after spending an hour with Eliasson, he needs a nap. “Somehow he lives his entire life with the urgency of someone who just walked out of the doctor’s office with a dire prognosis,” said Foer.


2. Mental toughness is essential to success.

Like professional football, creativity isn’t for sissies. It takes mental fortitude to overcome those tiny voices inside our heads telling us we can’t be creative, won’t be successful and shouldn’t trust our talents.

Concert pianist Jeremy Denk’s parents once presented him with the journal that his piano teacher wrote in when Denk was 11 years old. After reading those old instructions from his teacher, Denk had problems performing. While playing onstage, he would hear a voice telling him to slow down or straighten his body or watch his concentration.

“It took me weeks to silence the voice and play normally again,” Denk wrote in The New Yorker.

Are negative voices broadcasting in your brain when you’re generating ideas or working on creative projects? If so, try writing down the messages — “I’m not smart enough” or “I’m too tired” or “People will laugh at me” — whatever you’re hearing. Simply examining and staring down at those words in the light of day will often diminish them and help you surge ahead.


3. Control the ball.

A football team diligently executing its game plan and focusing on details comes out ahead time after time. Likewise, paying attention to details pays off in creative arenas.

When creating “Lion King” for Broadway, director Julie Taymor insisted that elegant glass crystals rather than cheap plastic beads be used on costumes. When the play’s financial folks protested that no one in the audience would be able to tell the difference, Taymor concurred — but she then pointed out that the actors wearing those costumes would know and the attention to craft would positively affect their performances.

Take control of your projects and focus on those details that will enhance your ideas.


4. Make that second effort.

Football is a game of inches, Lombardi stressed, and persistently pounding out those extra inches produces wins.

Persistence is equally important to creativity. Environmental artists Jeanne-Claude and Christo, who created “The Gates” in Central Park, the 25-mile fabric fence in California and the massive orange curtain in Colorado, were once asked how they was able to have so much creative freedom.

“If you are willing to work 17 hours a day, seven days a week, put all your thoughts and money into your art, you will be able to do what you want,” Jeanne-Claude said in the Los Angeles Times.

Remarkable things occur when people don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens. When developing his cyclonic vacuum cleaner, James Dyson built over 5,000 prototypes before creating the Dyson bagless vacuum that soon became wildly popular in the marketplace.

Exercise your imagination through interactive games and challenges, sharpen your brainpower with puzzles and brain teasers, and find inspiration when you need it most in Creative Stuff by David Gouveia and Christopher Elkerton.

5. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

Make those second efforts and plow ahead, but also call a timeout now and then.

Shifting away from projects relaxes mind and body – and gives the subconscious a chance to get in the game. That’s why ideas often pop up when we’re in the shower or out in nature.

Breaking away allows brain space for fresh ideas, according to Shelley Carson, a Harvard University researcher and psychologist.

“If you’re stuck on a problem, an interruption can force an ‘incubation period,’ Carson told The Boston Globe. “In other words, distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.”

A walk in the park may also reduce negative fretting that reduces energy available for creative thinking. A recent study at Stanford University showed that subjects who strolled on a quiet, tree-lined path had improved moods and were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they were before the walk.

Looking for more creative insight & inspiration from Sam Harrison? Check out IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers—available as an eBook in MyDesignShop.