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The art of perfecting your art The art of perfecting your art
by Joseph Gatt
2020-06-23 05:38:08
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“I want to become a singer-songwriter but the industry is so focused on money they don't allow creativity!”

“I want to become a writer but the publishing industry is so profit-driven they don't allow you to thrive!”

OK. I hear younger people (and older people) complain that “the system is rigged” or that you can't make it in sports, art, business, journalism or any other industry because the system is so corrupt, or nepotistic, or profit-driven, or rigged by some obscure force.

Here's the deal. Let's take painting as an example. If you lock yourself up in your room and paint, with no feedback, no social interaction, no interaction with the industry, I'm afraid you're not going to make it.

arrt0001_400If you are going to paint and interact with society, but are stubborn about your “creativity” and don't want anyone to give you advice on your painting, don't want anyone to tell or suggest you what you should paint, or how you should paint, I'm afraid you're not going to make it.

If you are going to paint and spend your time in painter hangouts gossiping about other painters, harshly criticize the art industry, and call the people in the art industry all sorts of names, I'm afraid you're not going to make it in the painting industry.

So if you want to make it in the world of art, business, politics, writing, non-for-profit, academia, you name it, here are a few ground rules:

-Your “art” is going to be a lifelong “work-in-progress.” Your mission does not end when you get elected president. Your mission does not end when you sell a painting for a million dollars. Your mission does not end when your book or product sells millions of copies.

-You're going to have to get used to working every day. There are many ways to go about “working every day.” For some, it's repeating an almost rigid daily cycle. For others, every day is a little different. For others, every day involves very, very different activities.

-Socializing is going to be a big part of your game. One mistake a lot of former A-list actors or “rock stars” or others did was to let their agents or PR firm do their socializing for them. Socializing means you will attend lunches here, dinners there, charity events here, ballrooms there, barbecues here, wedding parties there. Some socializing will involve one-on-one meetings, others will involve group events.

-Advice on socializing: if you meet people one-on-one, you want to meet those who are very well connected or those who play a “lynchpin” role in the community. At group meetings and events, you want to remain “cool” and “calm” because sometimes weird things happen at those events. If you get denied a seat with your “good friends” and are forced to sit with people you've never met before (which happens sometimes) enjoy the meal and don't make too big a deal out of it.

-Myth: “I'm not an extrovert; I don't have an extravagant personality, so I'm not good at this socializing thing.” A lot of the world's most famous and social creatures are actually introverts. Sometimes very, very shy people. You want to be “famous” for something - usually involving a mixture of “importance” and “talent” - and people who are talented at doing important things are not always the most extravagant people!

-Perfecting your art. Art is a mixture of socializing, “genius” (or “talent) and “sales”. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book about this (the tipping point) but what Gladwell gets wrong is that he says that one person takes care of the socializing, another person of the creativity, genius or talent and yet another of the “sales” part. Unfortunately, a lot of times, the person in the leading role will have to do a little bit of socializing, creating, and selling.

-How do I become good at this socializing thing? You'll notice that people come and go out of social circles. The longer you stay in the different social circles, the more “experience” and “seniority” you will gain in the social circle, the more people will come to you asking you about “the history of the social circle” and “your early experiences in the social circle” and so on.

So pick a few social circles. Stay there. First month will be super awkward. First year will be kind of awkward. By the second year you will have enough seniority to guide newbees. By the fifth year people will come to you asking you all kinds of stuff.

-How do I become good at this creativity thing? Again, seniority, drive, determination, focuses and so on. That is your first works will usually be “mesh” but the more you work on your “product” the better it should be, once you've tried out and tested different methods.

In the art world, connecting with your audience is super important. Your art should connect with your audience, and this means you should be in good harmony with your “producers” and with your audience. A lot of artists disagree with their producers and start producing their own stuff, and a lot of times the audience disconnects.

In the politics world you want to get along with everyone, and avoid “tight-knit” alliances with anyone (a lot of people will come to you with all kinds of offers for an “alliance” of sorts). That is you should be visible enough that people come talk to you, but invisible when people try to force you into “contractual obligations.” Try to work with the party/parties rather than form alliances with individuals.

In business you want to keep an eye on the different departments (production, sales, marketing, distribution etc.) while maintaining close contact with your clients. Two big mistakes: disconnecting from the different departments, and disconnecting from the client base. 

-Finally, a few big mistakes when perfecting your art:

Mistake number 1: ranting at your audience. Or just ranting. College students like to rant (and that's OK) and young professionals like to rant (and that's OK). A lot of strange stuff goes on around the world, but if you start ranting at the system, the system will tend to drop you.

Mistake number 2: Taking people to court. Take people to court if you have an excellent case. Otherwise, try if possible to solve most disputes amicably.

Mistake number 3: Organizing your days around rituals so rigid you can't get out of the rigidity. A lot of organizations and independent people have rules so strict, that their audience/clients end up leaving because they don't fit into those rules.

Mistake number 4: Not following the rules/not abiding by the law. For most artists/businesses/politicians etc. there will be 5 excellent years, 5 years of growth, before, peeeesht, the balloon bursts. That's OK. Happened to the greatest. Winston Churchill did not get re-elected in 1946 after leading the UK in World War II (really? Really.) De Gaulle did not get elected president of France after liberating France from the Nazis. Every big politician/businessman/entertainer/artist has gone through a couple of years (or a few years) or droughts before making a big come back. Just don't do anything illegal to get back into the game (no alcoholism, no drugs, no revenge etc.).

Mistake number 5: Finally, never get comfortable and take anything for granted. I like how Richard Branson tells the story of how he created Virgin as a record label and thrived in the CD-era music industry before things got a little shaky in the “download” era music industry. Branson did re-invent himself, but a lot of people don't know how to re-invent themselves.

Let's take this example: right now I'm very useful because Korea is on the map, Turkey is on the map, the Middle East and Israel are on the map, the US and France are on the map. But let's say next year Mongolia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Surinam are the big countries on the map. I'd be almost completely useless then. You get the idea.   

Bonus mistake: disconnecting from your job to focus on your hobbies. I know a lot of CEOs/artists/A-list actors/big name politicians who picked up a few good hobbies and got so addicted to their hobbies that they forgot to show up for work. Don't let that happen to you.

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