Lady Gaga's Secret to Creativity

Josh Linkner
July 10, 2022

Josh Linkner

Five-time tech entrepreneur, hyper-growth CEO, NY Times bestselling author and venture capitalist.

Just before she won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, I watched Lady Gaga dazzle the live audience with a pitch perfect performance of her hit "Shallow." From her stage skills to her vocal ability, the talented performer made it all look so easy.

When we see people performing at the top of their fields-- from Broadway to business--they often make it look simple. But people who achieve Lady Gaga levels of success arrive at the top by way of rigorous training. They refuse the elevator, preferring to take the stairs.

The romantic notion of a wildly talented genius who effortlessly reaches the epitome of achievement has about as much practical validity as the Easter Bunny. Rather, it's the unglamorous, repetitive practice regimen that unlocks creative brilliance.

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, now known as Lady Gaga, was born on March 28, 1986, into an Italian American family in New York. Her ascent to stardom was less about raw talent and more closely aligned with her relentless work ethic. She began playing piano at age four and became driven to become a star before her tiny legs could reach the piano pedals. In a 2009 interview, she told a London reporter, "I've always been famous--you just didn't know it yet!" She already viewed success as part of her being, which drove her to extreme levels of training and practice.

While her elaborate outfits and theatrical performances may appear to be the child of whimsy, Lady Gaga is meticulous and deliberate about every aspect of her music and brand. Growing up, she spent hours honing her craft. Pushing aside the customary pleasures of childhood, she studied piano, singing, and dance with the intensity of a Zen monk. When she wasn't practicing performance skills, she studied the legends of fashion design, theatrical staging, choreography, and visual artists. Her training inputs were a strange mix--from David Bowie to Bach, from Andy Warhol to Cher. She drew inspiration from an eclectic mix of artists, later weaving their ideas together into her own unique style.

"To be completely candid, the creative process is approximately fifteen minutes of vomiting my creative ideas," Lady Gaga said in a 2011 Gagavision interview. "It all happens in approximately fifteen minutes of this giant regurgitation of my thoughts and feelings, and then there are days, months, and years spent fine-tuning." To put this in perspective, if creating a hit Gaga song takes five hundred hours in total, the ideation process is only .05 percent while the vast majority of her creative time is spent shaping and refining her work. And if you include the thousands of hours she invested in deliberate practice before the song was initially spewed onto the page, the contrast would be even more glaring.

It's the ritual of refinement that's often the difference between mediocre and legendary work.

It's been said that the one thing all great authors have in common is lousy first drafts. The difference between a bad book, a decent book, and a breakaway bestseller is often directly linked to the amount of time invested in the refinement stage. When a writer quickly dumps her ideas onto a page and ships them to print, the end result isn't usually her best work. In contrast, her masterpiece comes by doing the reps in the unglamorous and painstaking process of refinement.

We all know that doing the reps is required to build physical muscle mass in the gym. Regrettably, none of us are born with "six-pack abs." Yet most of us garble the translation when it comes to creativity, thinking that it is a fixed talent rather than a malleable skill. And skills of any kind only become deeply ingrained by way of repetition.

At age sixteen, Stefani began working with famed vocal coach Don Lawrence, who had also worked with Billy Joel, Christina Aguilera, and Mick Jagger. Behind the glitz of her dramatic performances, Lady Gaga still does the reps and continues to work with Lawrence. For a single high-profile performance in 2017, she trained with her coach every single day for six months leading up to the show.

Today, her training regimen continues with enviable discipline and consistency. To keep up with the physical demands of the job, she exercises five days a week doing yoga, Pilates, and strength training. She carves out time to write music and rehearse daily. Lady Gaga is the product of intense and consistent practice, an amalgamation of her countless hours doing the reps. Each Big Little Breakthrough she achieved fused together into the megastar we now love. In the words of Aristotle, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

Bestselling author Seth Godin might have put it best when he said, "Lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you're not in the mood."

The post Lady Gaga’s Secret to Creativity appeared first on Josh Linkner.

Josh Linkner

Want Josh Linkner for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
New Thinking for the New Era of Business
Josh Linkner
Josh Linkner
July 31, 2022
Albert Einstein famously noted, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used ...
When an Astronaut Needs a Pen
Josh Linkner
Josh Linkner
July 24, 2022
Ever get stuck on a problem, only to realize you’re solving for the wrong thing? That’s exactly what happened ...
How Shake Shack Drives Innovation
Josh Linkner
Josh Linkner
July 17, 2022
Do you prefer the crispy mozzarella, tempura watercress, and black garlic mayonnaise cheeseburger or the ...
New Thinking for the New Era of Business
Albert Einstein famously noted, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them." In our post-COVID world of skyrocketing inflation, supply chain meltdowns, the great resignation, geopolitical turmoil, extremist politicians, and an impending recession, there's never been a more important time to rethink our...
Read More
When an Astronaut Needs a Pen
Ever get stuck on a problem, only to realize you’re solving for the wrong thing? That’s exactly what happened when the rocket scientists at NASA were trying to make astronauts’ pens to work in the zero-gravity environment of space. According to Scientific American, “During the height of the space race in the 1960s, NASA scientists realized tha...
Read More
How Shake Shack Drives Innovation
Do you prefer the crispy mozzarella, tempura watercress, and black garlic mayonnaise cheeseburger or the pumpkin mustard, bacon, cranberries, and sage hot dog? For something sweet, would you rather try the black sesame milkshake, the pancake and bacon frozen custard, or stick with a cold brew float? What sounds like a scene from the Culinary Ins...
Read More
Lady Gaga's Secret to Creativity
Just before she won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, I watched Lady Gaga dazzle the live audience with a pitch perfect performance of her hit "Shallow." From her stage skills to her vocal ability, the talented performer made it all look so easy. When we see people performing at the top of their fields-- from Broadway to business--they o...
Read More
Creativity: Does Size Matter?
For some reason, we've been taught that for creativity and innovation to count they need to have a magnitude the size of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. As you may recall, earthquakes are measured on something called the Richter scale. According to the American Heritage Scientific Dictionary, the Richter scale is "a numerical scale for expres...
Read More
The Lexicon of Creativity
There's more confusion around the meaning of the word innovation than the chaos at the airline ticket counter after a cancelled flight. Is there a difference between creativity, innovation, and imagination? Let's start with imagination. Imagination is the raw material that can be formed into creativity and innovation. Think of imagination as our...
Read More
The Brain Science of Becoming More Creative
When we hear stories about iconic leaders like Salesforce.com's founder Marc Benioff, or widely celebrated virtuosos like Lin-Manuel Miranda for that matter, we immediately think these people must have some special gift that we normal folk are missing. As if the skies opened for a brief moment and the gods anointed the chosen few with heavenly p...
Read More
Correct the Overcorrect
When the misguided leaders at Enron, Tyco and Worldcom committed fraud and marred their shareholders with huge losses, the Securities and Exchange Commission rightfully swooped in to prevent future cons. The problem is that the corrective measure came in the form of legislation known as Sarbanes-Oxley, which became a stranglehold on business. It...
Read More
Learning to Color
Fact: Creativity has become the most needed skill in business. It's gone from a nice-to-have to becoming mission-critical. Fact: Creativity is a learnable skill. All humans have enormous creative potential and can unlock a reservoir of dormant capacity. Fact: Most of us don't feel all that creative. Most of us have radically underdeveloped inven...
Read More
Playforce
As kids, we go out to play. Later in life, we play sports or play music. But then, in sharp contrast, we leave our homes each day and go to work. The term “work” implies uninspired, tedious and generally yucky things. Parallels of going to the dentist, waiting in line at the DMV or filling out endless forms come to mind. Trading our souls for m...
Read More