Do not internalize the industrial model. You are not one of the myriad of interchangeable pieces, but a unique human being, and if you’ve got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you’re learning to say it better.
Our society is struggling because during times of change, the very last people you need on your team are well-paid bureaucrats, note takers, literalists, manual readers, TGIF laborers, map followers, and fearful employees. The compliant masses don’t help so much when you don’t know what to do next.
Living life without a map requires a different attitude. It requires you to be a linchpin. Linchpins are the essential building blocks of tomorrow’s high-value organizations. They don’t bring capital or expensive machinery, nor do they blindly follow instructions and merely contribute labor. Linchpins are indispensable, the driving force of our future.
Great schools might work; lousy schools definitely stack the deck against you. Why is society working so hard to kill our natural-born artists? When we try to drill and practice someone into subservient obedience, we’re stamping out the artist that lives within.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a school with a sign that said: “We teach people to take initiative and become remarkable artists, to question the status quo, and to interact with transparency. And our graduates understand that consumption is not the answer to social problems.” And yet that might be exactly what we need.
Teaching people to produce innovative work, off-the-chart insights, and yes, art is time-consuming and unpredictable. Drill and practice and fear, on the other hand, are powerful tools for teaching facts and figures and obedience. Sure, we need school and we need teachers. The thing is that we need a school organized around teaching people to believe, and teachers who are rewarded for doing their best work, not the most predictable work.
Leading is a skill, not a gift. You’re not born with it, you learn how. And schools can teach leadership as easily as they figured out how to teach compliance. Schools can teach us to be socially smart, to be open to connection, to understand the elements that build a tribe. While schools provide outlets for natural-born leaders, they don’t teach it. And leadership is now worth far more than compliance is.
Most of all, art involves labor. Not the labor of lifting a brush or typing a sentence, but the emotional labor of doing something difficult, taking a risk and extending yourself.
Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re busy hiding out in the comfortable zone.
Art, at least art as I define it, is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person.