The Ultimate Guide to Failure: How to destroy a child’s creativity

Recently, I went out with some Indian people.

We got talking about family life.

“Where’s your daughter?” I asked my friend.

“Oh she’s at home working, not able to come out today, she’s studying for her exams”

What grade? I asked.

“Oh, she’s in grade one”


Point 1. The tiny little Indian children are made to stay at home and study for their exams in grade one.

No time for play.

No time for having fun and being creative with crayons, or making paper christmas chains or doing messy hand painting on butchers paper.

Tiny little kids across Asia are busy studying for stressful exams in maths and science.

‘Moonlit night’ (2001) by Simon Brushfield Acrylic & Oil on paper 80cm x 60cm (Sold: Private Acquisition)

To Asians, a good education means life or death. Examinations are extremely important for them. According to the parents, kids must get good grades to survive their future.

In Australia, I was scared sitting my year 12 exams erroneously thinking my life was on the line, at the end of high school. Imagine how kids feel during their first years at primary school having to sit serious examinations.

The kids are barely out of their nappies!

This got me seriously thinking…

Why isn’t India far more advanced as a country, if all the children are put through such a strict educational system?

Furthermore, my friend continued our conversation… “all the students are pushed by their teacher to be number one in the class.” Indians call it, becoming a ‘topper’.

The competition is absolutely fierce.

And it starts for kids in grade one.

Asian students are taught strictly, word for word, from a textbook.

Rote learning.

Giving educational space for new ways of thinking and learning to solve creative problems is not part of the curriculum.

Here’s a common problem…

Point 2. Creativity is thought of as a luxury, rather than an important necessity.

Due to the incredible population numbers in Asia, parents are fearful of competition for their children.

Therefore creativity is sidelined.

Deemed less important than the ‘more important’ maths and science subjects.

So the students grow constrained and mechanical in their thinking.

Despite parent’s best intentions, the students are severely limited in creative survival skills for their future.

Not exposed to the freedom and experimentation of creativity. But rather, they’re taught to repeat old ways of competitive textbook thinking. An out-dated educational methodology.

Point 3. The traditional Asian education system slaughters innovation and creative thinking.

The result…

Much of Asia grows up being brilliant at copying and being suspicious of each other, but poor in their own individuality and creative problem solving ability.

Asian students, although very obedient, are not well equipped to deal with the complexity of adult life, because a large part of their creative arsenal is missing.

Furthermore, children and young adults stay under the authority of their parents in the same household for a very long time.

This has a damaging impact on the nations of Asia. It’s no surprise they’ve become known for a lack of individuality and copying the west.

The Asian education system and parents mindset is dominated by competition.

Moonlight over The Opera House 1024x763 The Ultimate Guide to Failure: How to destroy a child’s creativity

‘Moonlight over The Sydney Opera House’ by Simon Brushfield (2005) Oil & Acrylic on Canvas 1m x 1m (Sold: Private Acquisition)

So here we go…

I’ve got an outrageous theory.

And I want to share it with you, related to this point. Prepare yourself, because I can get a little passionate on this topic. My theory goes like this…

I believe the unhealthy competitive mindset is strongly linked to poverty.

Here’s the reason why…

Point 4. The creative process has the potential to produce highly valuable and important commodities for individuals and countries.

Which can have enormous economic benefits.

However, people in a constantly competitive mentality, are not cultivating something original and beneficial for themselves.

I have many personal experiences of this problem in Australia too.

Many times people in authority have tried to motivate me by way of competition.

As a child, some adults would purposely place me in competition with other children, hoping I would perform.

The strategy never worked.

In fact, it had the reverse effect and I became demotivated.

I’ve discovered that creating a competitive culture only results in suspicion, envy and jealousy. People quickly begin to feel a sense of desperation, hopelessness and exhaustion in trying to compete.

Here’s the reason why…

Not all people are motivated by competition and everyone is unique. With strengths and weakness in different areas of life.

Especially creative individuals.

Surprisingly few people in my life have understood that I’m primarily motivated from within.

I’m not driven to feel jealous, envious or suspicious of other people. I have no desire to beat them. And I have no need to prove that I’m better, faster, smarter, wealthier or better looking.

Point 5. I know who I am. There’s no need to compete. Like my paintings, I’m original.

But this is what really motivates me…

When I see injustice. For example, people who’ve been poorly educated in 3rd world countries.

They’ve been taught that life is a competition. ‘If you don’t fight for you’re piece of pie, you’ll never eat’. A poverty mindset.

I want to help people who have been told these lies, which only result in people (and nations) feeling like they’re losers, because unhealthy competitive cultures create unnecessary losers.

Here’s what I’ve discovered…

Point 6. It’s the people who are driven from within, that others want to compete against.

For example, Picasso was a yardstick. Peers saw his originality and wanted to compete against him.

Real leaders don’t need an earth bound competition for drive and motivation. They have a deep purpose within. Picasso was so far ahead of the pack, nobody was ever nearby to compete.

Competition is for followers.

Creativity is for leaders.

My dislike for unhealthy competition, which robs people of their internal creative drive, is one of the reasons why I’m an artist.

Nobody can compete with me for the originality of my art. Does one artist win and another loses, or is one artwork right and the other one wrong?

Of course not.

Yes, in mathematics there are right and wrong answers. But in art, it’s a different story . For me, art is closer to the reality of life.

When grade one primary school students in India are taught life is an intense competition, massive problems arise for the country.

Here’s the reason why…

Point 7. One student wins and all the others in the class, feel like losers.

What an insanely ridiculous way to educate children.

Right now there are a lot of people dragging themselves around Asia thinking they’re losers because of an unhealthy experience they received in school.

Encouraging children in a classroom to become ‘a topper’ is teaching all the others who can’t reach that high, to believe this lie…

“I’m a loser.”

For this reason, many children’s openly receptive minds are damaged for life. It’s happened to many adults I know in Australia too.

Their individuality, creativity and personal growth is stunted.

Severely harmed because of low grade thinking received from school. Education systems, teachers and parents who believed it wise to exclude creativity, but drill their children with “life’s a competition” mentality, because that approach will actually help them in life.


Second rate thinking.

‘Red Landscape’ by Simon Brushfield (2010) Charcoal, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas 1m x 1m Framed $5,500

Unhealthy competitive thinking is the perfect mentality that creates another ugly enemy of mine – greed.

Most graduates after leaving mainstream education systems are superbly well trained in greed. So children grow up chasing money as their number one priority in life.

Actually, they never truly grow up. The pursuit of money deforms their wholesome development as a creative person.

And yes, everyone is born creative.

But some schools do an excellent job of extinguishing any originality or creative spark within a child.

Students are disciplined into conforming to a sterile system, encouraged to beat the other students, get the highest grade and collect the most money.

At all costs.

Go to a good university, get a good job, have a good wife and enjoy a good life following the billions of other blind and desperately unhappy bland professionals greedily competing over who’s got the most expensive car. Exhausted people, trying to please their boss, who was also educated in the same low-grade thinking school system.

But here’s the really silly thing…

Even the students who managed to become ‘a topper’ (head of the class), end up feeling like losers too, because the classroom situation was a manipulated distorted reality, far from the truth in life.

In summary, here’s what happens…

Point 8. Competition destroys creativity. But it also destroys people’s lives.

Competitors are too busy competing with the Jones’ to stop and smell the roses.

They want to win at all costs and totally destroy the opposition.

Competitors are looking over their shoulders with hostile intentions, hoping to beat someone in a silly immature game of life. They’re not free to develop new creative ideas and original thinking skills.

Competitors are less able to use their imagination and think beyond earth bound limitations. They must keep a close eye on their opponent, at all times. Unlike Picasso, they’re not looking forward to new ideas, but behind, towards people.

The competitors mind is focussed on a physical battle.

Competition is earthbound and carnal. A mental and physical activity that severely limits mans true potential.

Final Point. However, creativity is spiritual and godly. It’s from a higher realm, where no limitations exist.

That’s why I’m an artist.

Everyday, I’m engaged in the spirit.

Increasingly unaffected by earthbound restrictions.

So if you’re interested in owning something original and creative, free from competition and produced from a higher realm, click here.

© Copyright Simon Brushfield – The Ultimate Guide to Failure: How to destroy a child’s creativity
About Simon Brushfield

Simon Brushfield is an artist whose work has been described as ‘poetic, enigmatic and dreamlike’ (Michael Berry, "Selected Contemporary Artists of Australia" book). His paintings have been exhibited and sold across Australia and internationally. If you enjoyed this post, sign up to Simons VIP list and have posts sent directly to your inbox.


  1. Powerful stuff.

    What struck me was “Creativity is for leaders.” So true. We’re in need of more creative, unique and innovative leaders rather than beaters of past achievements.

    And adding on to your statement, unhealthy competition provides no lasting satisfaction at the end of the day, only emptiness and insecurity that we’ll be ‘toppled’ or outdone by others.

    In the Asian environment, a creative community can also be highly competitive. What usually happens is creatives coming up with similar products with little innovation. Oh, how we need more teachers who would encourage originality and uniqueness.

    Thank you for this blog entry as it is something we all need to know.

  2. Sambhram Patel says:

    Good article,until the very end which i don’t agree with,which says earthbound physical and mental activities are at a lower realm than creativity.

    The rote learning system prevalent in schools has truly destroyed people’s lives.I suggest to anyone who is reading this to also watch this documentary about the ill effects of the education system in Ladakh,India.

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