Image from I Can Read.
Andy Warhol was an interesting character. He famous for making “Pop Art” less about snobiety and more accessible to the people. He was about mass production, not uppity art. About focusing on the message, not the creative medium. And he was about pushing that message out to as many people as possible.
Artists aren’t people who can paint. They’re not people who can draw. They’re curators. They’re people who are able to find beauty where others miss it. They craft a story behind the beauty they find. They draw it out, so that other people can appreciate it.
I went to grab lunch today at a greasy spoon best known for its delicious poutine and delectably inexpensive hot dogs. It’s a small joint. One of those places where the owner works the counter and they only accept cash.
I was standing in line to place my order when the lady in front of me was unable to pay. She only had plastic on her and this place only accepts cash. The nearest cash machine is about a 5 minute walk away. She would have to walk all the way there and back and come back to a cold lunch. Way too much effort.
Instead of making her do that (and risk losing her business), the owner said that it was cool. She could just come back and pay them tomorrow.
How amazing is that? He TRUSTS her.She wasn’t looking for a handout. But he was able to make a quick judgment call that keeps her as a customer, gains her gratitude and impresses the rest of us standing in line.
It’s awesome when people are empowered to make these snap decisions. When corporations allow people to trust their customers and bend the rules. Because when a business or a brand trusts you with something, you begin to trust them. You see your business as a relationship, not a transaction.
With a little consideration and the cost of delayed payment on a hot dog, this place was able to earn the trust or a customer for life. What’s the small cost that you could cover to do the same?
I hate the word imperfect. Things are not imperfect. They’re unique. Perfection is boring. It’s made by factories. It ensures that every car coming off the lot is exactly the same.
For the boring stuff, perfect is expected. The new box of Cheerios should taste exactly like the last box of Cheerios. No changes. No surprises. Just routine. But for the fun stuff, imperfection is exciting. It’s random. It’s unpredictable. It makes things unique.
I was recently given an Polaroid camera. It’s old. Probably at least 20 years. There are probably light leaks. The film that goes with this camera is expired. The chemicals will probably result in weird colours. Or overexposure. Or cracks. I have no idea. But I know that it won’t be perfect.
Flaws are what make us human. They’re what make us unique. They are what make a conversation with one person so different from the next. Imperfections are also lasting. Like a fingerprint.
Our fingerprints are formed while we are still in the womb. From the 10th to 13th weeks of development, the base cells of the skin layer become wavy or undulated. The pattern is never the same between two fetuses. This is because the environment in which a fetus develops contains various salts, nutrients and proteins that are constantly changing. By the 17th week, our fingerprint patters are established for the rest of our lives in the most base epidermal layer. For the this reason, simple cuts do not alter our fingerprints. They are with us for life.
Creativity is empowered by flaws. Errors allow you to discover new ideas, new ways of thought and new process. Imperfections fuel thinking and the creative process. They push us forward through accidental discovery.
The most compelling and creative art actually incorporate flaws instead of avoiding them. The errors in brush stroke, lens focus or grammar show vulnerability. It’s the essence of humanity and emotion. It shows courage. Courage to say, “This is what I made. This is what it expresses. For the good, the bad and the mistakes.”
Sometimes you learn the greatest lessons from your family. My sister and I have been teaching each other things for over 25 years. Over a quarter century, I’ve learnt a lot from her. Here are the top ten nuggets of awesome that she’s dropped:
1. People tell the truth more often than you think.
You just have to listen. When given a choice between honesty and dishonesty, the default thing to do is usually tell the truth. It’s in our human nature. It’s coded into our social DNA through years of conditioning. And even when people are lying, the easiest lie contains elements of the truth. Listen closely and don’t be afraid to trust.
2. It’s alright to have a bad day.
Don’t feel guilty about it. It happens to everyone. Just accept that the day is going to be shit and you just have to get through it. If you’re able to, cut the day short. Head home from work and close yourself off from the world. Take a nap. Watch a movie. Read gossip websites. Tomorrow will be better.
3. It’s good to dream.
Ever since Christmas, my sister has a dream to own a farm. With chickens. And some goats. And maybe even a cow named Isabelle. Is she anywhere near acheiving that? Probably not. But she’s working towards it every day. And having the dream allows her to find happiness in the everyday things. For example, she had to take out the compost. But figured that instead of a chore, it was training for when she owned a farm. The result? Instant happiness.
4. You can change your dreams.
This builds on point #3. It’s okay to change direction in life. Approximately six months ago, my sister’s dream was to go into space. She even started a savings account to put away a couple bucks a week so that in a decade or so she could afford to buy a ticket. Now she wants to own a farm. Both make her happy. There’s nothing wrong with changing directions once the circumstances change and you discover something else.
5. Life experience is better than work experience.
Lots of people take summers to “build” their resumes. We try to gain work experience as interns surfing the internet and filing papers in an office. But you never learn from that. You learn from traveling. From trying new things. From meeting new people. From expanding your network. When people are interviewing you they’re looking for stories, not lines on a resume. They’re looking for social intelligence, passion and adventure. In my last five interviews, I’ve talked about how much I loved beer. I told stories from when I went to Oktoberfest in Munich. And each time I got an offer.
6. Take your time to find your path.
Some people know what they want to do with their life in high school. Some people figure it out in college. Most people start down a path, find out that it’s not for them and then course correct. There is no timetable for you to find what’s right for you. There’s no correct timeline mandated by society. There’s no deadline. Everyone gets there eventually. Some people just need a little bit more time to find their path.
7. It’s more important to be happy than to listen to people’s expectations.
People like to judge. They like to compare. They like to measure you against their expectations. They like to tell you what you should be doing with your life as if they know best. And that can get into your head. It can make you doubt yourself. My sister has the uncanny ability to pick herself up and let those expectations wash over her like a rainstorm. It sucks for a couple of minutes, but then you towel off and get on living life the way that you like it.
8. Fashion is wearing what you like.
Whatever you like. Not labels. Not what matches. Not what’s on Gossip Girl (or whatever the kids are watching nowadays). It’s about finding a personal expression and wearing what makes you happy. If that’s a big sparkly bow that looks like you have a disco ball strapped to your chest, rock on. Fashion is for yourself, not for others.
9. Sometimes you need a muse.
A couple of months ago, my sister decided that she wanted to practice writing. So she started a blog. But then she found that she wasn’t inspired. She needed a muse to spark her creativity and put her in a writer’s mindset. She figured that this “muse” would be a pipe. A smoking pipe. Not to smoke. Just to chew on and to look cool. And to inspire her to write.
10. Poop jokes are funny, even in the most serious of situations.
What? They are.
The great thing about having siblings that they can teach you so much. They teach you about people, about interactions, about love and about the world. They give you the opportunity to learn every day as you’re growing up. And we’re all still growing up.
A big challenge, especially in creative industries, is keeping the fire alive. Staying motivated. Continually delivering. Learning new things. Keeping current. Not becoming a dinosaur.
To your employers, you want to be a choice. Not an obligation.
You don’t want to be the guy that working at the firm from the beginning and is just coasting. The guy who has known the founders for so long that they would feel guilty for firing him. That guy is dead weight. He doesn’t contribute. He doesn’t create. He just complains.
Nobody cares about the award you won 8 years ago. Tenure and seniority are worthless. 20 years of past experience is meaningless unless you’ve proven that you can still deliver today.
So don’t rest on your laurels and regal in tales of past glories. The best days are still ahead of you. Remember … you want to be a choice, not an obligation.
Becoming a choice is not easy. You have to work hard and bust your ass to get there. To take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. To romance ways to bring something different to the table. To challenge yourself to over deliver.
But it’s worth it. Because when you become a choice, you stand out. And once you create the version of yourself where one employer chooses you, you can sure as hell bet that other opportunities will be lining up around the block.