If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away. The more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to say, “Bye. I have to go. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.” And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently.Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
“Passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.”Cal Newport
Passion is something you discover after the work has been done. You can’t possibly know what you’re passionate about without experimenting first.
You may have an idea about what you like. That’s a good start. Now put it into practice and then ask yourself the tough questions:
- Are you naturally good at it? If so, are you likely to get bored?
- If you’re not a natural, is this something you can get good at with time and patience? Do you like it enough to persist?
The above questions are essential to discovering whether or not you’re actually enthusiastic about something.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.Steve Jobs
Passion emerges through a diversity of experiences that allow one to tie it all altogether. A beginner’s mind, an open mind — are essential ingredients to railing against monomaniac passions that keep you in one place.
If you have an idea, test it. Test it not just to see if it works but also to see if it excites you and if it’s something really worth pursuing.
I realized why I need to start a new company. Not for the money. Not because I’m ‘bored’. But because a company is a laboratory to try your ideas.Derek Sivers
Figuring out what you love to do takes a combination of gut and experimentation. Like a frog hopping between lilypads, it may take a few jumps before you discover which vocation makes you feel most alive.
“I’m a big believer in boredom. … All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.”Steve Jobs
Boredom adds to the mystery of life. When we sit alone with our thoughts, the world breaks open. Nature comes alive. Time slows down and insights emerge from dormancy.
The ransacking of human attention has been virtually unstoppable ever since the iPhone came out. Technology makes us hyper-attentive all the time, so much that we end up paying attention to nothing at all. Mobile screens drown out the dull, mysterious thoughts and replace them with bytes of cotton candy.
Don’t get it twisted: the mind is alive and well, especially when it has nothing to do.
art via davidmichaelchandler
“We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us,” said philosopher Marshall McLuhan. Twenty years ago today, Steve Jobs released the original iMac. I own the exact one Steve Jobs presents on stage. And he’s right, the back is still just as beautiful as the front.
Writes The Loop:
The original iMac popularized technologies like USB in computers, and help end others like the floppy drive. I remember being so happy to see Apple go back to its all-in-one roots with the iMac, but they did so much more than copy an old idea.
Apple reinvented what it meant to have a computer. It wasn’t a beige box you hid under your desk; it was an atheistically pleasing piece of your home or workplace that people were eager to show off. That philosophy has been with iMac for the last 20 years.
People have asked me over the years what is my favorite iMac. I have to say its the original because I believe it saved the company. That gave Apple the room to invent iPod, iPhone, MacBook and all of the other products. Without iMac, Apple would not be the company it is today.
You can watch the presentation in its entirety below:
Product designer and mechanical engineer Tamiko Thiel turned computers into sculptures in the early 1980s before the Macintosh came out. Said Thiel:
“The general image of computers was IBM computers, racks of electronics. They looked like refrigerators or heating units. They didn’t have any identity”
Years later she found out that Steve Jobs wanted to hire her to design the NeXT computer. But she had already gone on to Germany to be an artist.
Nevertheless, her geometric reinterpretation of the computer continues to inspire the modern yet futuristic hardware designs we see in iPhones and gadgets today.
The Connection Machine machine now features in MOMA’s exhibition Thinking Machines: Art and Design in the Computer Age, 1959–1989.
There inevitably comes a time when our ideas, no matter how prolific, become extinct and get replaced by new ones. Just look at the emergence of autonomous cars. Writes former product head of General Motors Bob Lutz:
“The auto industry is on an accelerating change curve. For hundreds of years, the horse was the prime mover of humans and for the past 120 years it has been the automobile.”
There will always be a niche of traditionalists that want hands-on control, just as people still prefer to read hard books, string a brilliant guitar riff, and think with their hands in writing analog.
But the volcano of ideas are all digital. As Lutz quips: “I think probably everybody sees it coming, but no one wants to talk about it.”
There is no cart, there is no horse, there is no wheel. As Steve Jobs once discovered in Scientific American: “The man riding a bicycle was twice as good as the condor.” Humans build tools to maximize efficiency.
Steve Jobs died six years ago today. He was 56 years old. His uniqueness, unconventional leadership, and big-picture thinking will never be forgotten.
Jobs made tech fashionable. He made sure to remind us that we are the creators.
Below are some of my favorite Jobs’ quotes along with a video (see above) where he shares his vision of the world:
“Make something wonderful, and put it out there.”
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.’
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
President Obama talked with historian Kearns Goodwin at the White House for one of his last open-ended interviews before leaving office. The two discussed the president’s legacy, Lincoln, the importance of long-term thinking and Obama’s ‘writer’s sensibility.’ But the discussion over FDR’s ambitions and his struggle with polio is particularly interesting.
GOODWIN: For example, young F.D.R. seemed a pretty ordinary guy. At 28 he’s a clerk in a law firm. He hasn’t done anything particularly great in college or law school. He gets his first chance to run for the state legislature, and somehow, when he’s out there on the campaign trail, something clicks in. William James said, “At such moments, there is a voice inside which speaks and says, ‘This is the real me.’ ” And F.D.R. knew then that’s what he wanted to be.
OBAMA: I think F.D.R. is a great example of what I mean. If you look at his early life, it is ambition for ambition’s sake …
At some point in life, meaning trumps ambition. You still want to be successful but you want to do it with more authenticity, i.e. true passion. In FDR’s case, enduring life with polio only strengthened his resolve, an attitude he echoed in his first inaugural address: “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”
As Steve Jobs would later say during his fight his cancer:
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Of course, death is not a pre-requisite for chasing meaning. Your fearlessness may depend on well you love yourself. Perhaps Bill Murray said it best:
So what’s it like to be me? You can ask yourself, What’s it like to be me? You know, the only way we’ll ever know what it’s like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can, and keep reminding yourself: That’s where home is.”
In short, we all know what we’re born to do. It just takes time getting comfortable with ourselves while we figure out what our role is.
Do what you love. Love what you do. These cliches, however, are missing important pieces: Do the work and be good at what you do.
People think they can write a book, but they never set aside the time to work on it. People want to get in shape, but they never hit the gym. People aspire to be an artist, but they never go to the studio to paint.
“Everything is work,” writes Brianna Wiest. She continues:
“People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.”
Instead of doing what you think you love, do something you’re already good at and that other people find useful. Never underestimate your innate talents. “Do what you have to give,” Briana implores.
Briana’s advice is the opposite of a book I read this summer entitled Grit by Angela Duckworth. In it, the author praises the ethics of pertinacity. The book’s message is trite but true, assuming the person succeeds. Other times, it might be wiser for people to quit and move on.
But there’s also a third way to look at careerism. Instead of accepting your God-given skills or striving for success, you try new opportunities that come your way so you can grow your mindset/skillset. You decide to challenge yourself, fail, and learn quickly which takes a lot of courage.
People that excel at their job still need to be tested. Skills get you places. But so does curiosity and reflection. Remember Steve’s wisdom, “don’t settle.”
There are some basic principles of every art. Take the rule of thirds or rule of odds for painting and photography for instance.
Mastering the fundamentals helps guide the creative process. But learning how to make art prevents more creativity than it unleashes. True art goes beyond the basic skills in the back pocket. It improvises and disrupts the existing framework.
Einstein and Steve Jobs rejected traditional thinking behind science and technology. It wasn’t just marketing that made Madonna the Material Girl or Michael Jordan the Jumpman. Both artists became idols because they excelled at playing the game differently.
People shine brighter when they cultivate their own originality. Resisting expectation gives others the confidence to do the same.