by any other name -- and to what end?
I'm in a bit of a dilemma.
Since going back to working full-time on my own work, I've been concentrating on how best to amplify what I do. I revamped the website to make it feel more like me. I've been trying to up my photography game on Instagram. I've made an effort to craft stronger blog posts. It's required me to increase my concentration, but the truth is, I've been loving it. The renewed focus is for things that I love to do anyway. And I don't remember who it was who said that if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life -- but I sort of believe it. I've always believed that if you pour your passion and hard work into something, success is inevitable. A sort of "if you build it, they will come" mentality.
Then yesterday, I signed up for a free online course on how to "expand your email list." The course was actually pretty good -- the person leading it clearly knew her stuff, having used her email list to grow her business to barely surviving to over $1 million per year revenue -- all before the age of 27. Her presentation was clear, and lucid, and even funny. And yet, as I listened to her and took notes -- she had some really interesting ideas -- I couldn't help but feel a bit uneasy. Even though everything she was doing was clearly ethical -- and some might even argue a clever way to ensure that her customers were able to access her work in the best way possible -- there was something about it that felt a little like gaming the system. Like, maybe the point was that skill in your craft needs to take a back seat to skill in your hustle, in order to become successful.
So I've been a bit uneasy about this -- and honestly I'm not entirely sure where I come out. I mean, I can definitely think of people who have become famous because they focused on their craft, and others whose hustle toward fame is unparalleled (Kardashian family, I'm looking at you). Maybe it has something to do with your motivation -- are you wanting to achieve success because it's the means for getting your work to as many people as possible, and thus changing the world for the better? Or are you wanting to achieve success because it means fame and fortune? And is one better than the other? I think maybe the trick is something in between -- to make your craft beyond reproach, but understand the game, as well. To know the game well in furtherance of helping to change the world.
I don't know.
Anyway, as part of my thinking about it, I stumbled upon this delightful TED talk by artist Shea Hembrey -- he became passionate about the need for accessible art in the contemporary art world, and so he created it -- in the most incredible, focused, and over-the-top way. It made me think: did he do it because of his purpose, or did he do it to become more famous? And does it matter -- since it's arguable that he made the world a better place as a result?
Click here or the image below to watch.
(Incidentally, I loved his criteria for good art -- the three H's, "head, heart and hand" -- requiring interesting, intellectual ideas and concepts, passion and soul, and great craftsmanship. Would that all our creations, in whatever our work, contained all three, yes?)
So I'd be interested in your thoughts on this: how do you reconcile the tension between great craftsmanship (art) and great hustle? Do you find you're good at one and not the other? And which one should win out?
Talk to me, good people.