Stay on Your Grind

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

Of course, the non-gentrified reading of Mr Roosevelt’s statement would be, Opinions are like a*holes, everyone has one.

As a creative, the issue I have with critics who make snap judgements with no real context or background is that some feel that they’re entitled to a reactive, knee-jerk opinion before taking the time to understand what it is they’re judging.

You took that one lit class in uni, read that one Wiki entry on Manet or dabbled in ikebana and suddenly you’re an expert? Suddenly you know better than the chef who spent 25 years at his craft all to be declared “overrated” because he made you a bad starter?*

Watching CSI in your jammies every Monday night does not a forensic scientist make.

In this digital age of fast likes, love or hate is an instant impulse. It’s as easy as double-tapping a picture or scrolling to the next photo/review/article/show/song.

Instead of taking the time to understand what a music artist is trying to tell us in in a body of work, we cherry pick songs off iTunes and forget about buying complete albums. (Guilty of this, to the absolute horror of my partner).

Of course everybody judges, of course art is meant to inspire, provoke, challenge, confront. But really. Do you think you could have done a better job? If so, what’s stopping you?

Instead, and this is a note to self, to celebrate the fact that someone is going out on a limb. That takes balls, surely. Let’s focus on the good – on courageous creative endeavours, on the hard work and preparation. Let’s appreciate something other than our own smug opinions for a change and understand before we diss; give constructive feedback in a way that motivates each other to do better next time. Maybe, just maybe, even wait to be asked for our thoughts before soapboxing?

As Jenna Lyons says, “Giving feedback in the creative world is so delicate. I spend a lot of my time picking my words carefully.”

So why be a douche when you can be awesome?

And that’s the beauty of life. If you feel the need to contribute something bigger than yourself, well, nobody’s standing your way. The value of other people’s words is what you determine it to be.

Dear reader, you don’t need anybody’s permission to shine. Just do your thang.

* And hello, since when are mistakes a bad thing necessarily?

A Passionate Life

I’m sick of all the reasonable people: they see all the reasons for doing nothing.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Freaks and Unicorns

We all take delight in looking at gorgeous visuals or having beautiful encounters, but sometimes the most inspiring, deeply motivating things come from the insight of others.

I adore the following except from an interview by Hearst’s head of digital, Troy Young in Fast Company. The emphasis is my own but it is something I’m sure you could probably relate with too:

In a recent interview with Ad Age, you said that when recruiting staff, you’re “really focused on finding the freaks, the unicorns, the people who can bridge disciplines.” Why do you feel these qualities lead to success, and where do you find them?

I go to the Unicorn Farm. No–it’s the kind of people who don’t always give you the standard answers. They come from a place of passion, they talk about things in a kind of personal way that to me always feels like they’re craftspeople first, they really care about what they’re doing. You look at maybe a nontraditional career trajectory, what they decided to do from an educational perspective, and you just kind of understand the person. If you get the DNA right, if you get the core, really passionate people who want to build things, it tends to grow from that and they reject anything that doesn’t fit. It’s really important that the core is right, and that we reward people for really caring about the craft and the product.

These things matter. Having pride and passion in your work. Doing all things with integrity. Being unapologetic for being you. At times, I’ll wonder why I am where I am but am resigned to the idea that beyond all that hard work and no-job-too-small attitude, somebody, somewhere was watching. So this is for anyone who feels like a freak when they’re really a unicorn. Hang in there! You too will soon find out why you were handpicked to be on this adventure. x

Success according to Jiro

That’s the key to success, and is the key to being regarded honourably,”  Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Why Creative People Sometimes Make No Sense

Love this post, Why Creative People Sometimes Make No Sense written by Matthew Schuler and originally posted here.

According to Schuler who summarises Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, here are the 9 contradictory traits that are frequently present in creative people… See if you can recognise a few in the creatives you know.


Most creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but are often quiet and at rest. They can work long hours at great concentration.


Most creative people tend to be smart and naive at the same time. “It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure, and that most creativity workshops try to enhance.”


Most creative people combine both playfulness and productivity, which can sometimes mean both responsibility and irresponsibility. “Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not.” Usually this perseverance occurs at the expense of other responsibilities, or other people.


Most creative people alternate fluently between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. In both art and science, movement forward involves a leap of imagination, a leap into a world that is different from our present. Interestingly, this visionary imagination works in conjunction with a hyperawareness of reality. Attention to real details allows a creative person to imagine ways to improve them.


Most creative people tend to be both introverted and extroverted. Many people tend toward one extreme or the other, but highly creative people are a balance of both simultaneously.


Most creative people are genuinely humble and display a strong sense of pride at the same time.


Most creative people are both rebellious and conservative. “It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it’s difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic.”


Most creative people are very passionate about their work, but remain extremely objective about it as well. They are able to admit when something they have made is not very good.


Most creative people’s openness and sensitivity exposes them to a large amount of suffering and pain, but joy and life in the midst of that suffering. “Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake. Without this trait, poets would give up striving for perfection and would write commercial jingles, economists would work for banks where they would earn at least twice as much as they do at universities, and physicists would stop doing basic research and join industrial laboratories where the conditions are better and the expectations more predictable.”

Sometimes what appears to be a contradiction on the surface is actually a harmony in disguise. My problem has been primarily one of communication. I am learning to let people know what I am thinking and why, and explaining myself in a way that helps them understand why I am discussing multiple perspectives instead of just cleaning stating my own. At first it might not make sense, but give me/us long enough, and it will.

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