Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Some Creative Content…

Written by: on March 7, 2023

It feels a little ‘tone deaf’ for me to write yet another boring blog post about a book that is seeking to stimulate creativity (and justify the means through which we all become creative: theft).

So…here are a few somewhat random thoughts with creative titles stimulated by the somewhat random book, “Steal Like an Artist.” (1)

All You Need is Love. Kleon quotes Geothe who says, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” This reminded me of James Smith’s recent book that states it even more emphatically: You Are What You Love. (2) For those of you who haven’t read Smith’s book, I would highly recommend it! So much of our Christian discipleship in recent decades has focused on morality and cognition (i.e., Belief) and James rightfully takes us back to the importance of our love and how that gets formed and grown through the liturgies (habits) of our lives. While Smith’s assertion is a strong one, he finds himself in line with the OT prophets who boldly declared that the people worshipping wood and stone idols are themselves becoming like the gods they worship.

Was Kleon’s mom a Christian? If she wasn’t, she was perhaps unknowingly parroting a consistent biblical theme—that we are profoundly influenced by the external realities of our lives. This truth is perhaps put most succinctly by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth: Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character. (3) Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character

If Kleon and Jason Clark got into a fight, I think Jason would win. This is just my system 1 mind assuming Jason (whom I have seen) could take a skinny little artist (whom I have not seen). But why are they fighting in the first place? Well, Kleon suggests that “If you try to devour the history of your discipline all at once, you’ll choke. Chew on one thinker—writer, artist, activist, role model—you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinking. Then find three people that thinker loved…”. (4) This ‘go deep before broad’ philosophy seems to be polar opposite to the breadth of reading and topics that Jason has us doing in this first semester.

Cycling is a gift from God. Kleon makes the comment that, “Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing. I get some of my best ideas when I’m bored.” (5) He goes on to state the importance of hobbies for creatives. While I am not necessarily bored on my bike, riding for 2-4 hours does give the brain a lot of time to sort things out and for the unconscious to become conscious. Not surprisingly, some of my most distinct moments of clarity take place on my bike, as does some of my best praying.

Friedman’s book (6) Summarized in 11 Words. Here they are: “The best way to get approval is to not need it.” (7) Ok, the title is a bit of an over-statement, but I do think it applies—that leaders who are not ‘well-differentiated’ and chase after people’s approval get short-term praise but eventually long-term criticism.

On How to Finish a Doctoral Program. I have read several blogs posts (including my own) where the author has stated that they are ‘busy’. I suspect we all are—in fact, I doubt there are many people applying to a Doctoral program because they are bored and have a lot of free time on their hands. At times, I can be tempted to think incorrectly about my life: “If only I had more time…”, but Kleon makes a great point when he states, “Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time.” (8) While I have a general schedule, I need to further clarify and cement a healthy routine to survive (and pass!) the next 2 years of school. Point taken Mr. Kleon!

Why the Prayer of Jabez got Sewn onto Underwear. Ok…I didn’t actually see any Jabez underwear, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I did! Our society, as Kleon points out, likes to ride a good thing to death. About his own book he writes, “The ideas in this book may have spread a little too far. Our popular culture is overrun with endless spinoffs, sequels, and remakes…” (9) Ironically, at the end of his book there are advertisements for two more of his books in the same vein as Steal Like an Artist! If our culture loves sequels and spinoffs…how much more does the Evangelical community! Every single thing that becomes popular or a fad (like the prayer of Jabez did a few years ago) gets incessantly re-made for new audiences: for teens, for women, for men, for old people, for churches, for Small Groups, and on and on the marketing cycle goes. As culture shifts and Gen Z and millennials (who remains in the church) look for an authentic faith, I suspect much of the marketing mayhem of previous generations will (thankfully) diminish.

How does all of this relate to leadership?
• I want to keep healthy rhythms in my life, so my heart is captivated by God.
• I want to surround myself with good leaders and learn from them.
• I want to be wise and discern what I should be digging into further and what I should be familiar with
• I want to maintain a consistent habit of cycling in the midst of my increased workload.
• I want to be a healthy, differentiated leader who loves people well.
• I want to finish this program.
• I don’t want Prayer of Jabez underwear.

Let it be so, Lord.

(1) Kleon, Austin. Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. New York: Workman Pub. Co, 2012.
(2) Smith, James. You Are What You Love. Ada, MI. Brazos Press. 2016
(3) 1 Corinthians 15.33
(4) Kleon, Austin. Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. New York: Workman Pub. Co, 2012. 9
(5) Kleon, Austin. Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. New York: Workman Pub. Co, 2012. 23-24
(6) Friedman, Edwin H., Margaret M. Treadwell, and Edward W. Beal. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. 10th anniversary revised edition. New York: Church Publishing, 2017.
(7) Kleon, Austin. Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. New York: Workman Pub. Co, 2012. 33
(8) Kleon, Austin. Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. New York: Workman Pub. Co, 2012. 36
(9) Kleon, Austin. Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. New York: Workman Pub. Co, 2012. 45

About the Author

Scott Dickie

11 responses to “Some Creative Content…”

  1. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

    This is a terrific post! I love that you brought in Friedman and these 11 words, “The best way to get approval is to not need it.” Yes, indeed…I agree.
    I had no idea that you love cycling. It is my favorite thing to do and really got me through some tough moments of the pandemic. It is a spiritual outlet for me as I have had some powerful conversations with God while on the bike trail. I have never been able to pass the 30-mile mark. I recently started back after a long hiatus and I’m struggling to crack 12 miles. What is farthest distance that you have cycled?
    BTW… I love the declarations that you closed with. I desire those same things and like you, I also do not want the Prayer of Jabez stitched on my underwear.

    • Scott Dickie says:

      Yes Jonita…love cycling. Mountain biked for decades and switched to road about 6 years ago. Cycling is truly a spiritual experience for me as I unclog my brain and allow the Spirit to direct my thoughts (at least on my longer rides). I generally don’t put spandex on for anything less than 20 miles…my average rides are about 40 to 50 miles…my longer ones are from 60-100 miles. Those ones provide ample time to ponder, pray, and decompress. Enjoy the ride!

  2. Travis Vaughn says:

    I loved this post, Scott. I wish I still loved cycling as much as I once did. Ironically, the person who introduced me to the world of cycling was named Scott. In fact, just for fun, we’ll often reminisce about our rides together, now over twenty years ago. Alas, I don’t get on the bike nearly as much as I would like, but he still rides over 100 miles a week (according to Strava). I’ve switched to running almost exclusively. Cycling just takes up so much time. That being said, it was indeed a significant “side-project” to the point of consuming many hours per week at one point in my life. Last summer, Scott came down to Atlanta for a few days, and we watched hours and hours of the Tour de France from the Lance (yes, I know he cheated) years. We did our own commentary while we watched and listened to Liggett and Sherwen. Those were fun years.

    You quoted Kleon: “Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time.” You are so right. I can’t imagine anyone who applied to this doctoral program was sitting around wondering what to do with their time. You also said, “While I have a general schedule, I need to further clarify and cement a healthy routine to survive (and pass!) the next 2 years of school.” I would be curious to know what your current schedule looks like. Is there anything you STOPPED doing when you began this program last fall?

    I can’t believe I still haven’t read James Smith yet. That will be yet another book to add to the “to-be-read” list after this program is done.

    • Scott Dickie says:

      Hey Travis,

      Yes…Smith’s book is a great read. As to your question, “What did I stop?” Not much…but a reduction of two things…cycling (I’ll likely be about half of my annual distant this year as compared to last year) and parenting…as bad as that sounds! (Two young adult boys needing less time and just one in grade 11.). A new addition: homework while my daughter practices volleyball, which equals about 10 hours a week. That was sufficient last semester….not so much this semester as my NPO research is feast or famine (and primarily famine at this point). Still some schedule sorting to do!

  3. mm John Fehlen says:

    OK, bro. Seriously. This is really good stuff. I’m going to flag this post and revisit it a few times because there are some gems that I know I missed on the first pass-through.

    I was working in a Christian bookstore (remember those) during the height of The Prayer of Jabez, Test-a-Mints, and all things Jesus-JUNK. I can recall that feeling, and I still get it, when you wonder if we are just recycling stuff over and over, perhaps all for a buck, but have lost the edge, creativity, and well, perhaps the whole plot.

    Just last night, my wife and I were driving home, and turned on KLove or something – now, forgive me, because I’m gonna offend more than a few people right now – but, all I could think was “wow, this is boring. can these artists be any more bland, and unoriginal?” Now, bless their hearts, and the hearts of those that are ministered to by them, but I wonder how much we are recycling (again, perhaps for a buck) without a creative edge?

    Makes me think of all the sequels that the movie industry puts out. Why? Because they are predictable and profitable.

    How do we shift this thinking? How do we behave more like our Creator God, who puts within us a creative spirit to display his glory?

    Am I being too critical?

    • Scott Dickie says:

      I don’t think you’re being too critical John….I do think we need more critical thinking in this key area.

      Think current worship songs: 3 chords, with a minor in the bridge….repeat bridge 5 times with slow build of intensity….all so bloody predictable…and profitable! And every once and a while…(by God’s grace) something good!

      The economic driver of evangelical product has been highlighted this past week as a ‘famous’ Pastor had to recant his endorsement of a soon-to-be released book, admitting that he only had read 25-30 percent of the book before writing the review (and dare I wonder profiting himself?). Publishers demand it…why? Famous endorsements equals more sales. Christianity Today wrote an article this past week calling the whole thing into question, and I say, “Yes and AMEN!”

      The evangelical syncretism with wealth creation is absolutely everywhere. How do the very people who supposedly really value the Bible allow Christian celebrities to peddle bibles with their name on it? And why would we think to create “So-and-so Bibles” in the first place? Profit. The Bible is, after all, a bestseller!

      So much of this modern expression of Church and culture, it seems to me, is the actual thing that younger generations are seeing and rejecting. Somehow, simplification of programs and an increased financial and time investment in loving service of the community is perhaps a place to start? But the task is daunting…

  4. Oh some great reflection here, Scott. I really enjoyed it.

    Today, my oldest son and I were talking about an essay he has to write in Religion class (he attends a Catholic school in our area) about treasure. “The teacher wants to write an essay on where our treasure is,” he told me. To which his younger brother quipped “Just look for the X on the map.” Ah but is it not that easy?

    Thinking of your first point around Smith’s “You Are What You Love,” I asked my son if he thought that where you put your money might be where your treasure is. He thought about it for a moment and was indecisive as teenage boys often are about their homework but it led us into a great conversation about your blog post and what makes you … you. It’s who you associate with, what you eat, what you allow to influence you and of course, what you choose to love.

    Thanks for spurring some conversation in the Yuill house. We appreciate it.

    • Scott Dickie says:

      Great conversation Mathieu…and your question to your son is right on track! “Follow the money” (which happens to be one of the primary idols of North Americans–Christian and non-Christian alike) is always going to bring great clarity as to your values, your preferences, your priorities and, ultimately, that which you love.

  5. Jenny Dooley says:

    Scott, I really appreciate how you creatively pulled together so much of our reading in one post! You highlighted Kleon’s wise advice on establishing and keeping a routine. I have very regular routines, but have found this semester quite disruptive. Some routines are stable while other have gone quite wonky! How are you revisiting your routines and making adjustments? Any helpful tips you care to pass along?

    • Scott Dickie says:

      Jenny…I wish I had some nugget of wisdom for you! I think I am coming to terms with my need to move from ‘filling in the various free spaces of my life’ with school work (I commented in another spot that the 10 hours of my daughter’s sports practices each week are now ‘homework’ time for me)…to a schedule adjustment that blocks off a good chunk of time each week that the rest of my life adjusts to. As a write….the word, ‘priority’ comes to mind: If I’m going to actually get the work done…school will need to become a higher priority than it currently is (not that it’s NOT a priority…but it is generally the most flexible part of my weekly schedule…so it gets asked to accommodate the rest of my life too often).

  6. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    It’s funny you bring up sequels and remakes. I agree…have we really run out of ideas? However, I think there has been some really creative ways to retell a story in different ways. I can say that I really enjoyed the Netflix show “Wednesday”. I grew up watching the old Addams Family and I often go into many patients rooms who love to watch all the old shows on ME tv and there it is, Wednesday, Fester, Mortica, thing. What I love about this retelling is that is brings me back to a nostalgic childhood and is told in a very creative, different point of view and with modern sensibilities. I wonder if there is a way to make an old story fresh just by taking a creative new point of view. In seminary communications class we needed to take a bible story and tell it to the class in a dramatic creative way. I found myself leaning into the woman who touched Jesus hem (which is my NPO bible story funnily enough for a much different reason). In the Bible Jesus had just finished feeding the 5000 so I took liberties and told this story from the eyes of this woman who was in my imagination, on the fringe of the crowd watching this miracle. This brought the story to new life for me thinking of observing it from a marginalized point of view. What if we could approach our work this way in light of how Kleon suggests our ability to steal. How do you think we can avoid future “prayer of jabez” moments? Can we, even when younger generation wish for authenticity?

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