Artist, Entrepreneur or Both?
Artist/Entrepeneur – Entrepeneur/Artist
I am often accused of being a strange “type”. When people find out that I am both an entrepreneur and an artist the standard response is some combination of disbelief, mixed with a tad bit of shock, a sprinkle of confusion and topped with what seems to be a little envy.
My artist friends express a wish that they understood business. My business friends wish they could be more creative. Each of these physical manifestations of the opposite sides of my brain wants to be like the other. They seem to feel like they are missing something that other people have.
Well – I’m here to tell you, as a guy who migrates both worlds (and sides of my brain) with a certain amount of ease and comfort – that everyone I know who is involved in art and/or business are remarkably alike. Artists and entrepreneurs are cut from the same cloth. Even when some of that cloth is pressed and dry cleaned while the rest is covered in dust and dried paint. Granted, they may talk a little differently than each other. And they do tend to land on opposite sides of many of our modern topics of debate. But the thing that I have found to be the most interesting about them all – is the fact that they ALL think alike when it comes to their passions. In terms of their personalities and their drive it can be hard to tell who is an artist and who is an entrepreneur.
There’s more. Here’s a few other places where the artist and the entrepreneur meet:
Art and entrepreneurship are about creating something where nothing existed before. This means you have a willingness to fail and get back up again until you succeed. When you stop failing you stop innovating. Successful artists and entrepreneurs know that the secret is to get in
there and fail fast, fail cheap, learn from your mistakes and get back to work.
We are all mythical creatures.
The artist’s studio and the proverbial garage of the entrepreneur are where all that “magic” happens. We are the “lucky” ones. The “gifted”. There are only three professions I know of where you can work harder than everyone you know and still be told how lucky you are to get to do what you do. The entrepreneur, the artist, and the pro athlete. I don’t know any pro athletes personally – but I do know how hard they work to get to where they are and how they are viewed by much of society, so we will count them amongst us. The hard fact is – most people overlook our dedication to our craft and consider us to be some sort of magicians manifesting great ideas of thin air.
We do not settle.
Living the traditional life (you know, working an 8-5 for 40 years until we retire) is not enough for any of us. We have lofty goals, visions of future successes, and a force that pushes us to see every win as a new starting point rather than an end. We can’t stop ourselves. There is always another mountain to conquer. Another idea that needs to be shared. There is no such thing as retirement for people like us. We can’t turn it off – and most of us wouldn’t want to.
We work. Always.
Much of the myths surrounding artists and entrepreneurs are born from the fact that we work as hard as we do – but it’s not always in the designated “8-5 world” people expect. They see you in the coffee shop at 10am and think, “what a life they have. It must be nice to sleep in and work when you want to.” They miss the fact that we are there working. They also fail to consider that we were up at 2am because an idea crammed it’s way past our sleep defenses and woke us with such force that we had to get up and write it down, think about it for an hour, plan an assault on it for the next day, and then get back to sleep somehow before the alarm goes off. Artists and entrepreneurs understand that good ideas come to you when they come to you and you better be ready to get busy when they show up or the next person in line is going to snag it and beat you to the punch.
We have something to say, and we actually get up and say it.
How many times do we all hear people bemoaning the fact that they have this idea…this really great idea…and if someone would just hear them out then the world would see just how great this idea was and carry them off into the sunset as a celebrated hero of all mankind?? I hear this all the time from both sides of the artist/entrepreneur dialogue. It just never comes from artists or entrepreneurs. It’s something we all hear. And then immediately wonder, “well…why don’t you do something about it?” As dedicated creators of things we all know that inspiration is a small portion of what makes a successful idea. To quote a brilliant (and hugely successful) artist, Chuck Close, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Ideas are the easy part. We understand that the really hard part of what we do is getting up and doing the work.
We are socially isolated.
This does not mean that we are hermits or forced out of society. Most of us are very active in our communities, churches, and homes. We are isolated because of the choices we make. When you put in 80-90 hours a week there is very little time for traditional social events. If you add in a family to that you have mere minutes to be social, if you even get that! When you combine the intensity of our workloads with the intensity of our personalities it is little wonder that most artists tend to associate with other artists and entrepreneurs with other entrepreneurs.
Amazingly, this is a very small list of what I have discovered to be the shared traits of artists and entrepreneurs. One of the most beautiful and rare events in nature is to get this diverse bunch of misfits together in one space to attack one problem. The energy is amazing. What we can all learn from each other makes us tremendously stronger. When I am able to teach an artist a few of the skills inherent in the entrepreneur they push their work to new levels. Skills like management, finance, organization, and strategy are present in both fields but only expected in the entrepreneur. When added to the toolkit of the artist, look out! The same thing happens when I am able to teach the entrepreneur the skills of the artist. Creative thinking, process, fearlessness, symbolic thinking, and practice are things we all do – but are expected to be the domain of the artist. If you can open an entrepreneur to the assets these skills provide, the sky is indeed the limit.
If you look at the most successful self made people in the world – they combine both sides of the brain and become this social anomaly that is the artist/entrepreneur. It is time to embrace the modern renaissance person. We can no longer neglect the care and feeding of one side of our brain for the benefit of the other.
If you are the business type, meet some artists. Get to know them. Look at how they do what they do. Learn how they harness their creative energy. If you are an artist, hang out with some business types. Look at their dedication and attention to detail. We all have a lot to learn from each other. Together we are the driving force behind most of the innovation the world has ever seen. Together we have, we do, and we will continue to change the world. So here’s to you my artist and entrepreneur friends! You make this world a wonderfully intriguing place to live, work and play in. Now if I can just get you all around my dinner table from time to time….