3 Lessons I Learned from Art That Work for Business

monet's waterlilies

I’ve recently been listening to podcasts that feature interviews with successful artists. As I was taking my morning walk Wednesday morning, I realized that much of the advice they were giving worked in the business world as well as the art world. 

  1. Nothing beats being there. Many artists work from photos. I do it, myself. However, a photo can only transmit so much information – a small percentage of the actual scene. The color of the sky, the way the sun sparkles, all that is flattened in a photo. To really know what’s going on, you have to be there.

    In business, reading reports or talking only to managers won’t provide the nuances of a client’s dissatisfaction or your employees’ enthusiasm for the current project. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction, walking around, seeing the details.

  2. Stand on the shoulders of giants. Take a process, study it, and make it yours. Add, subtract, and put your own spin on it. You can never exactly replicate someone else’s business because you aren’t them, you aren’t in their building, dealing with their clients. You don’t have to “think outside the box”. Take the box and make it yours.

    The same, of course, is true of artists. We can paint water lilies all day, and we may do a really good job of painting water lilies, and we’ll still never be Monet. But there’s a lot to be learned by studying Monet’s paintings.

  3. Lots of people will offer advice. You can’t take everyone’s, so be careful who’s you do accept. Some advice is malicious, some is ignorant, and let’s face it, some is just dumb. Choose the advice that works for you, your current situation, and your goals. Refer back to number 1: you can’t see all the details of their experience, they can’t see all the details of yours.

Yes, the path you have chosen is hard. It’s hard to become a doctor. It’s hard to bootstrap a startup to a billion dollar company. It’s hard to become a good artist. Life is hard. Discard the bad advice and the advice that doesn’t pertain to you. Consider the good advice and take what’s useful. Make it yours.

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