Who has NOT heard it?  If you want to be creative, the ubiquitous They tell us, you have to “think outside of the box.”

The only problem is, it takes a different mindset to get out of that other-people-imposed box than our more usual ones. It makes sense that you do need to train yourself to climb or crawl out of that box in the same way that you train yourself to do some sort of physical discipline or other that isn’t just regular walking.

It occurs to me that Parkour players, martial artists and master craftspeople or performing artists are made, not born.  They work at developing and improving their unique skillsets until they achieve their own kind of mastery.

There are all kinds of things you can do to train up your creative “muscle.”  Guidance for doing that abound these days. There are all kinds of courses and coaches, blogs and books about it.

“Out of the Box” by Holger Prothman via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
One such book is CREATIVE TRESPASSING:  How to Put the Spark and Joy Back into Your Life and Work by creative disruptor, writer, social media marketing maven and public speaker Tania Katan.  It was published in 2019.

Katan is also the co-creator of #ItWasNeverADress, a social movement that “inspired over 50 million people worldwide to see, hear and celebrate women as superheroes,” it says here.  The aim of the campaign is to shift perceptions of women working in male-dominated fields.

What got me hooked on the book was the quote from our beloved Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geissel) that starts it off:   “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?

Wo!  Oh, yeah!

“Out of the box!” by Paul Engelfield via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]


Katan wrote the book after she figured out, as she says, that “We don’t need to work in a job or field that is uniquely creative in order to be uniquely creative within our work.

In it are her 21 “Rules for the Creative Trespasser.”  None of them are unfamiliar.  All of them are ways that an ordinary mortal can impact every part of a workday routine to fabricate and fashion extraordinary and exciting projects and initiate grand adventures that sparkle up the place.

The book is all about how you, too, can live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.  Me, I’m really down for that.

When I went through that rule list, my whole gut kept going, “yup, yup, yup.”  There were few sour notes.

My top three favorite Creative Trespassing rules are these:

  • #3 – Take permission – ‘cause no one is gonna give it to you.
  • #19 – If all else fails, keep rehearsing.
  • #21 – Show up.

The other rules in the book are also useful, but it seems to me these ones are foundational.  You can build a framework for your life on these three rules.

“Construction Katie” by Walt Stoneburner via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]


As Katan points out in her book, “Someone will always give you a reason not to pursue your dreams if you ask them.  So don’t ask.”

Motivational speaker Lisa Nichols agrees in this short 2021 YouTube video, “Don’t Ask Permission to be Great,” uploaded by Fearless Soul.  In it she gives her take on what to do instead.

You might also want to check out my post, “Set Up Your Own Rules” by clicking on the button below.  In it I explain the kaona, the inner meaning, of rules and how you can play with them so you can get yourself to where you want to be.  If you know how to do that, you won’t need to worry about asking for permission.


Also, if you really, really want a scientifically proven technique or something, take a hack from American professor Brené Brown, author of DARE TO LEAD and a pioneer in positive psychology.

Brown uses the permission slip — that form your parent (or guardian or other person designated as being responsible for your elementary school self) had to sign so you could go on a class field trip to a butterfly farm or something else equally cool – as an in-your-hand, physical metaphor.

You can make up personal permission slips about how you want to behave or feel or act in a situation that makes you feel excited or uncertain or positively daunted.   For example, you can use those permission slips as a reminder that you want to act on the life options that scare you as much as they thrill you.

  • Go ahead.  Make up your very own permission slip.  Print it out.  Decorate as you will.  Read it over and then sign it.  (After all, you are responsible for and in charge of you, right?)
  • Keep it in your wallet or in a pocket or something so when you hit a place where you have to decide whether to go or not-go, you can pull it out and remind yourself that it is your intention to be brave.

It’s a simple, nitnoy thing.  It does work.

Don’t know how to create a permission slip?  You can test-drive the free permission slip templates on Canva.  (Click on the company name to see the sample).

As a counter-weight to all this airy-fairy positivism, you might also want to ponder on this maxim I got from one of my mentors:  If you need permission, you probably should not do it.

“Huh?” by Wordshore via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
One of my earliest mentors when I was first starting out in real-estate was a well-respected real estate broker and developer on the island.  He conned me into becoming a property manager mostly because he didn’t want to do it and he knew I was OCD enough to get behind it.  (The buggah double-DOUBLE-dared me and bribed me besides!  How could I resist?)

The thing is when anybody came to him for advice about “getting into real estate” he would usually try to talk them out of it, candidly telling them about all the pitfalls and all the reasons why they should NOT do it.  Most of the wannabes would wander off and go do something else.  He hired on the ones who didn’t.

I asked him once why he kept doing that.  That was the first time I heard the maxim.

It took a while, but I finally realized that very often people will chase after whatever works out well for other people.  They see this one or that one getting very good results from doing something or other and immediately want to get in on that action.

They don’t stop to ask themselves whether this is a thing they truly want to do, one that makes their hearts sing or anything like that.  They are just dazzled by all the gold and the goodies the other person is raking in.

“Copycat” by Nathan Rupert via Flickr [BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When it all turns to hard-scrabble struggle and either implodes or wisps away because the wannabes are not getting the results they are expecting, they inevitably go looking for yet another new and shiny something or other that is surely going to lead to that big old pot of gold.

“…will I find that pot of gold?” by [-ChristiaN-] via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Making dreams come real is a tough road and only you can say whether it will be worth all of the effort you are going to have to put into it.


Katan understands the value of being relentless.  Every time you fall down, you stand up again.  You can’t keep on going if you’re all curled up in a ball and rolling around moaning or whining.

“…curl up into a ball” by Laura Pontiggia via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
[Well…actually…I suppose you could make some sort of forward progress if you just kind of push off and roll around all over the floor mostly in the direction you want to go until you find a good place where you can stand up again.  Hmmm….]

The stack of hacks in Katan’s section on Rule #19 are as follows:

  • Question rejection. (The corollary to that one, Katan says, is “Rejection is just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”
  • Beta-test your life.
  • Practice absurdity.
  • Put it to the test.
  • Lead the charge on changing your mind.

All of these hacks do work.

Practicing these things over and over again help to prepare you so that when you do make egregious mistakes (or possibly fail) you still have the freedom to figure out what you’re going to do about it next.  You can look at what has gone before as a rehearsal or as experiments and explorations that show you what doesn’t work.

“Rehearsal” by Shigemi. J via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Here are a couple of other hacks along these lines from other people that also work:

  • The best way to be the best at what you do is to never stop learning, never stop questioning, never stop trying things that help you improve and hone your skills and broaden your knowledge base.
  • You do need to completely own your mistakes and flubs and wandering off in wrong directions. It’s the only way you’ll be able to figure out the most effective ways to stop doing the same-old stupid things.

The coolest part about doing these kinds of exercises in counterintuitive thinking and behavior is that when you come to a place where you really feel you need to do something, you will become comfortable enough to react or respond without hesitation and as you see fit to the situation in which you are involved.

“Limbs Every Which Way” by Bill Gracey [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
And very often that immediate response will have a greater effect than all the stalling and pondering and re-thinking and analyzing and talk-talk-talking that most of us are prone to doing in uncertain times.

Working on these sometimes-silly exercises can make you ready to move when your gut says YO! and your heart says YAY!  By consistently trying to do them, your mind will have gotten used to dealing with the assorted aftermaths of casting your vote for your dreams and for the things that make your heart sing.

This 2020 YouTube video, “This Choir Sings In Harmony From Their Cars to Keep Everyone Safe” is a wonderful example of what can happen when you are determined to keep on rehearsing.  It was uploaded by the Sunday TODAY show.

As somebody or other once pointed out, “You’ll figure out what to do after you’ve taken action.  Until you take action, it will all be hypothetical.  But once you act, it becomes practical.


About her final rule, “Show up,” Katan says, “Let relentless curiosity be your guide as you forge a unique path toward a totally kick-ass life!”

She recommends that you bring along your magic and your humor with you everywhere you go because, as writer Toni Morrison has admonished, when you want to fly “you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.

Katan points out that every day brings with it new opportunities to practice leaping into the unknown.  The first step, of course, is showing up at the edge of Possibility.  If you can get to there and you’ve done what you can to get yourself ready to fly, you’ll figure out and do whatever comes next.

In 2020 filmmaker Eddie Pinero posted a motivational YouTube video, “Keep Showing Up.

In it he points out, “Those waiting for life to hand out miracles will always be left behind by those who simply show up and do the work.”

A thing to think and act on, I say.

Here’s a poem.


Parental discretion should have been advised, I think.

(Not that I would have listened.)

Probably this would not be

Something recommended for children.


Living in good faith:

Being steadfast and true,

With sincerity and impeccability,

Balanced and trusting too.


It’s been my best ideal,

The one I’ve tried to follow.

It makes you want to fly.

It turns your insides hollow.


It’s funny how wise you can be

When you’re innocent and young,

When the world has not yet grabbed you,

When you’ve only just begun.


I’ve followed after this glimmer

Of a thought that might be real,

And in all of this following,

My fate, I guess, is sealed.


I’m never going to fit into

The way things seem to be.

I’ll have to find my own way somehow,

The one that just fits me

By Netta Kanoho

Header Photo Credit:  :  “In the Box” by Loves_TaiShan via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you…)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.


  1. Hi Netta,

    What an inspiring article!

    The book Creative Trespassing by Tania Katan is probably one of the best I have ever read and has truly reminded me on a daily basis how good my life really is.

    It wasn’t until I read this book and then started to look around for a little on the author that I found out how amazing she was and some of the big companies and Fortune 500’s that she has been involved with.

    I have used a lot of her principles in this book within my own work around leading with compassion, good humor and respect.

    Thanks for this great article.

    I have now bookmarked your site.


    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Mark.  I do agree that Katan’s book is a great one to keep handy.  Her handy dandy, down to earth “rules” make sense!  And the lady walks her talk too.

      I’m most pleased that you bookmarked my site.

      Please do come again.

  2. Hi. I like the idea of writing yourself a permission slip. It isn’t exactly exercising the creativity if you go and download one from Canva though, or maybe that is just me thinking inside my box. 

    I work with a fairly diverse group of people, and there is one thing I have found. I am thinking of those group situations where we are all brainstorming and trying to think outside the box.  If you dig a little bit you will often find that people have different ideas of what the box is, or rather the boundaries that confine our thinking and that we are trying to escape. 

    Once you get out of one box if you keep looking you will find there are even bigger boxes, still holding you in.

    Cheers, Andy

    1. Andy, thanks for your visit and thank you for that expansion on my own thoughts.  You are surely right.  Very often you jump out of a box only to find that it is inside a bigger box that you need to jump out of into yet another one.  

      Somebody got carried away with the surprise-package wrapping, I bet.  (Hey!  Does that mean WE are actually the surprise gift inside all those stupid boxes?)

      I agree that the Canva template thing is a bit lame, but, hey, not everybody’s comfortable with just making up their own forms.  Some folks like to follow precedents and established rituals and stuff like that and if it helps them take the first step, then why not give them something to look at?  Springboards help divers and trampolinists jump higher, neh?

      Please do come again….

  3. Stephanie says:

    As I was reading your post, I was immediately reminded of my college years and how I changed career paths from nursing to social work, it was because of this.

    I wanted to help people understand that it is possible to live life outside the box; the outside world is just a giant planner in which we can all modify to fit our views, morals and beliefs.

    We’re so used to live following specific social rules that we forget to live for our truths and desires. This was such a great reminder to always put our priorities first because if we don’t, no one else will do. 

    1. Stephanie, I am very much taken by your comment that “the outside world is jut a giant planner in which we can all modify to fit our views, morals and beliefs.”  I do agree.

      Please do come again.

  4. This is very inspiring. Wish I could read that sooner. That was really something that reminded me of a time in my life I wish I had back.

    I loved it. Thank you very much. Beautiful article.

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed the post, Gate.

      Please do come again.

  5. Georgiana says:

    Hello Netta,

    Your post on exercising to attain your goals was interesting.

    You said that performers are created, not born. Yes, I do somewhat agree that they had to hone their trade and that they initially had something unique. In order to continue being a successful blogger, I would prefer to exercise more self-discipline.

    It is true that you can acquire the knowledge you need and improve your skills to work effectively in your field. Being truly outstanding at anything takes time and work; becoming something great and magnificent is not an easy journey.

    Long-term, it is worthwhile to invest the time and effort, and it eventually pays off.

    1. Georgiana, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  6. Thanks for passing along this article. Good read – totally on board with the idea that creativity isn’t just for certain jobs—it’s a skill we can all work on, no matter what we’re up to.

    Those 21 rules the author laid out for creative folks are great too, especially the ones you pointed out: taking permission, persistence, and just showing up. They really hit home, reminding me how key it is to be proactive, stick with it, and stay in the moment while chasing after what you love.

    1. Ben, I am so pleased the post resonated with you.  Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *