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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

How to Always Stay Creative, Straight From the Pros

Cody Wanner (R) discuses social media with Taco Bell Marketing Manager Kirk Anderson (L)

Imagine trying to do something creative every day. Putting pen to paper, paintbrush to canvas, music to melody, or even idea to film. Just the act of committing to creating something new sounds incredibly challenging and time-consuming.

But, that’s just what Cody Wanner does.

He started his YouTube channel on January 1st of this year to inspire creatives and encourage entrepreneurs to get out there and make stuff. Since then, he’s made a vlog (video blog) every single day, and in that time he’s racked up over 1.3 million views, picking up almost 43,000 subscribers.

On top of that, Cody recently won the contest we ran with Taco Bell and got to visit their HQ in Irvine, California to get a little taste of how creativity fuels everything Taco Bell touches. Here are his biggest tips and takeaways.

Be a Doer

Cody believes that the future of creativity is in the hands of the doers. It’s about being fearless and getting your work out there, no matter what, whether it succeeds or fails gloriously.

“Creativity is a lot of remix,” he says. “We’re so influenced by everything around us. In order to create now, generally you’re taking a lot of raw materials that aren't actually completely raw, they’re created by other people. And then you combine them in a new and different way that remixes it enough that you can call it your own.”

It’s not unlike working for a creative agency or a design team, and during his tour of Taco Bell, Cody saw a lot of remixing. “They’re looking at what's going on around them, and they’re saying how can we play a part in it, in a very authentic way,” he says. The first thing you notice as you take a peek behind the curtains at their headquarters is that innovation is in Taco Bell’s DNA.

There’s the test kitchen where they try out all of their latest, top-secret offerings, and visitors can even make some of their own Taco Bell-inspired creations. But it’s not all tacos and Crunch Wrap Supremes®. Their in-house design team TBD is hard at work, not just creating and designing packaging, but working on brand collaborations like Beach Bell, the Mexican-style lager they brewed with Four Sons Brewing.

Their brand content team makes videos on a near-daily basis for their social media channels, and they’re staffed with incredible creatives—music video directors, horror filmmakers, writers, illustrators and photographers—who are taking the brand to exciting places. They even have a conference room decked out with a wall full of flatscreen TVs that are recording tweets in real time so they can react and innovate around what their customers are tweeting or Instagramming.

Unblock Yourself

But just like any other creator, Cody can find himself in a creative rut.

“The best way to get over it for me is to just stop thinking about the results and what I want from it, and if it’s going to be successful or not,” Cody says. “I’m going to get out there and have fun and let the creativity follow from that. Because I have to upload every day, something needs to happen.”

It’s not all that different for, say, an in-house design or brand content team. With a global brand like Taco Bell, just like a YouTuber, you have to put something out into the world consistently.

So how do you keep it fresh? Taco Bell’s in-house design team has challenges where they spin a wheel, and whatever topic it lands on, the design team has 20 minutes to create something around that topic. It helps them get the creative muscles pumping and the hot sauce flowing.

Despite the peaks and valleys every creative experiences from time to time, Cody has found his groove with YouTube.

“A lot of people say, 'Oh, daily, that must be hard.' In a sense it’s very relaxing because I have to do it,” he says. “If all that happens is I went to the office, I did some work, and I thought about some stuff, I get that down on video, and I upload it, and that's fine. It’s just a matter of coming back to it again and again and again.”

That means letting go of some things, and that’s an incredibly hard lesson to learn as a creative. It’s never going to be perfect, but you have to put it out into the world.

Create With Purpose

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with getting to create something new every day. But for Cody it’s not just about getting locked into a creative flow, it’s about inspiring others to do the same.

“For me it’s everything,” Cody says, “It’s passion and purpose. When someone says I’m starting this thing because you encouraged me to start it, that’s everything.”

Above all, he wants to keep telling stories, whether that involves extreme unicorn tubing in Toronto or taking a tour of the test kitchen at Taco Bell HQ. It means finding other doers and getting to share their journey. “I just think there are a lot of stories out there that for whatever reason aren’t being told and I’d love to get the chance to tell them to my audience."

“To think I might have played a small role in that person's story arc,” he adds, “that they’re going to accomplish something very big? For me that’s amazing.”