Expanding Our Definition of the Artist

[Full disclaimer: I wrote this post over a year ago on another blog, and just had to re-post.  It’s still fresh, timely, and of the utmost importance for individuals and brands to fully realize.  Enjoy and comment if you feel so inclined.]

I recently had the pleasure of reading Seth Godin’s newest book, Linchpin and I must say, it was a worthwhile read.  The premise of the book is that our economy is changing to reflect a marketplace in which goods can no longer be made smaller, cheaper and more efficiently (we’ve maxed this out).  Rather, what today’s consumer is more interested in is products, services and brands that are extraordinarily unique, and help them to portray the complex story of their lives as they ideally see it playing out.  As a result, Seth argues that those workers (in any industry) who are capable of producing new ideas and ways of doing things are the individuals who are most likely to become ‘linchpins’ or indispensable employees in their own company.

The book then goes on to explain how a linchpin must think and act in her given field, as well as the obstacles that she can expect to encounter.  Overall, Godin’s Linchpin can best be described as motivating, remind us all that we have a responsibility to go into our jobs ready to produce new ideas, services and ways of getting things done, all things that Seth describes as ‘art’.

This brings me to the topic of this post.  The most inspiring and beneficial chapter of the book is rather inaptly called, “Is it Possible to do Hard Work in a Cubicle?”.  The chapter successfully urges us to consider that, as Roy Simmons put it, “most artists can’t draw”.  More specifically creating great art isn’t really about drawing, painting or sculpting.  It’s about paving new ground, by doing, thinking or producing something “that resonates with the viewer, not just the creator”.  Being an artist is about developing insight and being brave enough to communicate it to the world, without concern over how it will be received.

When we start to open up these terms, we naturally begin to feel a sense of responsibility to produce art, regardless of our specialty.  However, doing so requires us to overcome what Seth and others before him deem to be ‘the resistance’, otherwise known as fear – fear of being rejected, fired, laughed at or otherwise failing at life.

If fear can be overcome then we become free to produce beautiful art, that extends beyond the visual, taking on the power to change it’s recipient for the better.  Many of you may be thinking that there isn’t room for this in your job, and I would argue against that.  Being an artist can be as simple as being the catalyst in a successful brainstorm session or finding a more efficient system for completing expense reports on time or mentoring a new employee as they learn the ropes at a new company – all actions that have the capacity to change an individual or organization for the better (the true essence of artwork).

Seth carefully goes on to point out that there is no map or set of directions for becoming an artist.  Some are born with the creative fire inside themselves, others must learn to cultivate it.  But, as our increasingly divergent culture continues to infiltrate every aspect of commerce, those individuals who produce art in their own right, will be the most highly valued, the most likely to succeed and (in my opinion) the most fulfilled.

[Photo by: Christophe Kiciak]

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