Art school lessons for business

The creative process brings to surface a lot of our deepest hidden parts we don’t like to show. We come up against our own fears, insecurities, doubts and yes, mostly our egos. As the nature of our current creative work at “Tribes” becomes more personal, I’ve noticed we’ve been getting very sensitive about our ideas, our projects and what the future holds for them. Is it the personal nature of the work that has us getting so touchy, or is it the process of creating itself?  Either way, we keep getting stuck in the discussion stages of what we’re about to make. Getting super sensitive, feeling like someone shot down an idea right away or feeling like we need to over explain ourselves to our audience and defend our recent artistic pivot (as if our audience even cares). 

Associating with our egos, and thinking that our ideas, or our unfinished work for that matter, are somehow who we are as a person, is true resistance at work. This is where we begin to get very uncomfortable. What if our audience doesn’t get it, or like us on instagram, or God-forbid someone actively criticizes our work? My SELF as I know myself to be, might not be any longer!

Oddly, this is where the creative process begins to get fun for me. Masochist? Yes, probably very much so. Stay with me though. If we can take a step back, look at the bigger picture and what’s playing out on the stage, we begin to see our thoughts and ideas, insecurities and egos interact together, making one big mess of a jig. It’s entertaining and all, but you know the one thing that isn’t happening? 

Right. Your work isn’t being created.

This entertaining dance of our egos intertwining with the work that’s fighting to be seen, makes me very grateful for art school. The painful lessons I learned after years and years of enduring Feedback Fridays, are now super useful for my creative work, for business consulting, and heck even relationships. Here are 4 of my favorite takeaways from art school, which can be applied to anything and everything:

1: Kill your babies

Ok yes, I went to art school in the south for the most part, and yes, this is a saying.

If there’s something you’re really holding onto, take a closer look: That idea that no one seems to understand, the project that doesn’t land for anyone else, or the detail that you feel is so precious and central to your message? That’s the thing you have to give up. The thing you hold on to is most likely the thing that is holding you back. Frustrating, I know. 

Yes it will seem painful, yes it will feel like you are killing a part of yourself, or your baby. Implied in the title, I know. See- you got the reference, and this sentence is now overkill. Like what I did there? (let it go Celi)

That feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are losing a battle, or that you might be wrong, or that you’re not seeing your own idea clearly- will go away faster than you can imagine. If of course, you can just let go! Maybe listen to feedback, trust your team or just imagine what life would be like without your one precious idea. It could very well possibly be the opening to something all-together new and more exciting.  I know, roll your eyes. And then just try it.

2: Don’t apologize for your work

The moment you start apologizing about your work, especially before you’ve even shown it, you not only show me your doubts, you also give me permission to discredit your work. The whole point of this process is for me to give you feedback so you can grow. I can no longer do that if you don’t take your work seriously. I can’t believe you if you don’t believe you. Also, your excuses tell me you’re not ready for feedback, so then, what are we doing here? 

If you want feedback and collaboration and growth, keep it simple and let your work speak for itself.  Let me experience it before you apologize for where it’s at.

Apologies are subject to look like: ‘I’m not finished,’ ‘I’m still going to add XYZ’, ‘it’s not really ready’, showing up late to the meeting, not showing the work at all and only talking to me about it.

3: Don’t waste your breath getting defensive-

Now comes the fun part, the graciously accepting of the feedback. Just breathe. Let it be. Stand there and smile and accept where you are, I mean, where your work is. You may not agree with all the feedback you get. You may not agree with your friends’ opinion, or aesthetic, or choice of language, or approach, or point of view, or you may even, gasp, feel misunderstood. You know what?  It’s ALL ok. It is in fact all part of the creative process. Would you like to know what makes the process more painfully tedious and slower than it could be?  

When you get defensive. If you take things personally, or feel like you have to get someone to see things your way, you just waste so much energy that you could be putting into- that’s right- making your work better. This isn’t politics or even a debate. This is art and creation and juicy and fun and a fluid process. And you will have much more fun when you can just smile, and say, “Thank you. I hear you. I will think about your feedback.”

4. Get over yourself, even if for just a little bit- 

You’ve probably noticed a theme here.  Creating work, whether you’re an artist or not, is ultimately an exploration of who you are in the world. Fellini said that we are always making the same movie over and over, because ultimately we only have one story to tell.  Our own. 

So don’t think it’s so important that it has to be perfect before sharing it, or that it can’t withstand a little feedback from others. Ok yea sure, putting our work out there is scary.  It hurts a little and in my case, has even taken me years to do. For instance, I love to read about a book a week but hate my own writing. So here I am, taking my own advice and getting over myself.

The main lesson: You’re not that precious, you’re not breakable, and this is all a part of the journey to becoming more fully you. So put it out there, be ok with it, and keep it moving. The getting over yourself and your identification with your ego, as Freud might say, will be a really healthy exercise for you as a person. 

Wait, is it Freud or Jung? I can never remember. And you get the idea. 

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