Lessons from a creative summit...

lessons for clara

  Dearest Clara,

Every once in awhile, I like to get outside of my own box. It seems strange that as a management consultant that I would bother to spend time with photographers or writers or other creatives.  But while I enjoy what I do for a living, my true passions are outside of that.  I indulge them by spending time with others who can and do choose them for a living.  I admire that group of people so much---and sometimes there's nothing like getting out of your usual cadence to really gain perspective.  This weekend I attended a conference with hundreds of other people much more creative than I.  Sometimes I certainly wish that passions could be more for me, but at least for the immediate future, events like these will be as close as I can get.

Here are a few thoughts from some of the most creative people I have met, who also happen to be some of the best advisors for life as it turns out:

  • "The only risk is not taking any risk": A reminder from one of the most risk-taking designers out in our time that if you don't have the courage to put your ideas and thoughts and frameworks out there to push the boundaries and make something happen, then ultimately the biggest thing at stake is that nothing at all will happen.  And life is about making things happen.  You get to choose the path that will be best for you, but have the courage to choose something.  Don't live your life by default.
  • "You might as well spend time learning how to hustle since that is what you'll be doing from here until eternity":  I think some might look at this statement and find it demotivating.  After all, there's something about looking at a life of hustle that is akin to looking at a treadmill with no end of the road in sight.  But I see this differently.  Ultimately, life is about hard work, and that never really goes away.  If you learn to do the work---be thorough, pace yourself, know how to prioritize, know when to say no, know how to go after opportunities, know that no return comes without investment---then the work doesn't seem so daunting.  Learn how to do the work right.
  • "You  might be judging me but that's not any of my business---you do what you like and I'll do the same": You'll find soon enough that the world is full of judgement---I'm always ashamed when I find myself on the giving end. I know from being on the receiving end, that often that judgement stings.  I found this young artist's perspective so touching when she openly acknowledged her awareness of people's judgement and her gracious, character building way of disregarding it---she regards judgement as the problem of the person giving it, not the person receiving it.  Have faith in who you are as a person---don't be defined by the judgement of others.
  • "It's better to be disliked for who you are, than to be liked for someone people only think you are": It is so easy to get caught up in who we think we should be based on what others think we should be.  You'll know when you're doing it because you don't quite feel yourself, because you always have this nagging feeling of being left behind, and because you only feel that you're moving ahead when others give you permission to. . . look for those signs.  You won't want to admit them but trying to be someone else will eventually wear you out and wear you down---it's better to be known for who you really are, even if it comes at the cost of admitting who you are not.
  • "I stopped comparing myself to others when I realized I was comparing my insides to other people's outsides": It's tempting to compare.  And if we're insecure, it can even be addictive.  But when we do, we know our full gifts and limitations but we don't necessarily see the full picture with others.  We don't know what's going on behind the scenes and we only see part of the picture (which incidentally is what we want to see).  It can only make you feel bad about yourself since a comparison is, in that sense, ultimately unfair.
  • "Your success is built on incremental growth, and sometimes, every once in a while, magic might happen": I thought this was a tremendous insight and can be applied to nearly any project.  With information coming at us quicker and quicker, we might see the success of others and think it came to them overnight.  Every once  in a while that might be the case, but I assure you that it is extremely rare.  Most people have been working at their dreams and talents for years if not a lifetime, and for most people, success comes in small increments at a time.  Every so often, we're gifted a bit of magic - perhaps a collaboration, or flattering press, or some other injection that gives us some accelerated growth.  But that wouldn't happen without our foundational increments to support us.  When it seems like your due will never come, just keep working---the more solid your foundation, the longer your success will ultimately hold.

I know your successes will be many in this world, and I, for one, can't wait to see you achieve them.

All my love,