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Does Deprivation Foster Creativity?

  • Dan Miller
  • 2012 26 Mar
Does Deprivation Foster Creativity?

A few years ago, Pinon, Arizona Middle School science teacher Rochelle Silvers asked her seventh-grade students if anyone would like to do a science project for the state science fair. The only student to raise his hand was Garrett Yazzie.

Garrett, a Navajo Indian, thought maybe he could get a trip off the Indian reservation where he lived.   While 13 years old at the time, Garrett also dreamed of being able to help his little sister who suffered asthma from the fumes of their coal burning stove.  The trailer he and his family lived in had neither running water nor electricity.

For his project, Garrett made a solar-powered water heater out of 26 aluminum cans and a car radiator from a 1967 Pontiac, which he had found at a junk yard. His heater was able to heat water for bathing and could raise the inside air temperature by 45 degrees Fahrenheit.   Now known as “the junk-yard genius” Garrett’s efforts attracted the attention of Extreme Makeover, resulting in a new green home for his family and a new Ford SUV.

This reminds me of the story of William Kamkwamba from Malawi, Africa, who also lived in a house with no electricity or running water.  He salvaged parts from junk yards as well to create a windmill that powered a single light bulb in his village.  His book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, is a wonderful story.

We know that “necessity is the mother of invention” – but what I wonder is, does living with plenty numb the brains of the rest of us.  Would we be more creative if we needed more?  Does having every luxury imaginable cripple our creative thinking?

What does it take to trigger your creativity?  With people like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Bill Gates having gone before us, is there any motivation for new thinking today?  Are we helping our children by providing so much or would we wake up their brains if we put them out in the desert in an unheated trailer?

 Dan Miller is today's leading authority and personality on careers and 'Work You LoveTM'. As bestselling author of 48 Days To The Work You Love, and now No More Mondays, Dan reaches over a million people every month in his newsletter, podcast, and blog with the best trends and opportunities in the workplace and small business. For more information, visit