Kick-Start Your HR Creativity – Two Lessons From Jared Leto


The Thin Red Line. Fight Club.  American Psyco.  These are films that solidified Jared Leto‘s success as an Oscar-winning actor.

Then, as his star was rising, he basically stopped making movies.

“I think it was about focus. I knew that I needed to commit everything to music at that point in my life,” said Leto.

Fast Company interviewed Jared Leto and his buddy Tony Fadell, CEO of Nest, to determine how creativity emerges from different people.  The common theme?  They both spend time thinking about how to approach the creative process.

In our daily HR lives, it can be hard to just “spend time thinking.”  For one, your work space is never really your own. “Do you have a minute?” is code for, “Let me bust up whatever you’re doing and talk about my ER issue I’ve been ignoring for weeks.”

Why do we as HR pros need to be creative?

  • Organizational needs can be demanding and require creative solutions
  • New business opportunities are born from creative thoughts
  • Finding, attracting and winning over talent demands creativity
  • Navigating economic downturns and industry ups and downs necessitates resourceful thinking

Leto and Fadell both offered a couple of lessons which translate into the HR business world.

Create Periods of Quiet.  “I rock climb, and there is an expression: You can only climb as hard as you rest,” said Leto.  He qualified—it’s not just about taking a vacation.  It means taking time with creative people or working on something outside of your normal profession/passion.

Take a rest from HR and volunteer to work on a marketing project. Do a short-term assignment in another part of the business. Got laid off? Don’t jump back into what you’re used to doing. Switch industries. Take the opportunity to supplement your HR career with a related, yet different path.

Oh, and get some rest!

Use Your Time Well.  So many HR pros LOVE what they do, so often, work isn’t “work.”  I get it. It’s very easy to become submerged in what you love. This makes using your time to be most productive even more critical.  When you don’t—there’s stress, anxiety, unfinished projects and the worst feeling of  “I should be doing X vs. jacking around with Y.”

How do you do it all then? You can’t. You have to say “no” more than you want to. “You have to self-edit. I have to engineer my calendar every day and every week,” says Fadell. “What am I going to do, what am I not going to do?”

There are also a number of tools to help you make the most of your time.  Pocket, Todoist, CamCard are a few favs.

Creativity rarely just happens. You have to make space for it.

30 Seconds to Mars is Jared Leto’s successful band he made space for. In addition to music, Leto is an avid investor and contributor to creative and innovative companies like Slack, Uber, Nest, Airbnb and Blue Bottle.

“Commitment means sacrifice.  I just charged ahead and did what I had to do,” says Leto.

Charge ahead by creating your own periods of quiet and become damn good at using your time well.  The creative juices needed for your HR gig depend on it!

FOT Background Check

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).


  1. HD says:

    Great read, Kathy! I also think it’s interesting and inspiring that after Let’s film hiatus, he came back with force in Dallas Buyer’s Club, reclaiming his Oscar status. His period of quiet manifested in continued success even after stepping away because he was recharged vs. burnt out.


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