Oh, so much good stuff in one small book. Steal Like An Artist was the perfect feel-good read for me. I am convinced that Austin Kleon and I would be best friends if we met, and please be advised that from this point on I will refer to him as my best friend in my head (BFIMH). He joins an elite group of BFIMH that include Brene Brown, Michele Obama, Ava DuVernay, and Tabitha Brown. In all seriousness, this book motivated me, the principles outlined are applicable to not only the digital spaces but also to personal interactions. This felt like a personal instruction manual for me. I have highlighted the three that most resonate with me in this season of my journey.
#2 Don’t Wait Until You Know Who You Are To Get Started
I wrote about “Imposter Syndrome” a few weeks ago on FaceBook. It was a time that I was feeling in over my head and was doubting my decision to pursue my Doctorate. I was convinced that I was the only person with these doubts. I was fighting feeling like a phony and having no idea of how to proceed. Kleon states, “None of us do. Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth: THEY DON’T KNOW WHERE THE GOOD STUFF COMES FROM. They just show up and do their thing.” (2) I arrived at the same point. The way forward for me is to continue to show up as my authentic self and do my thing. The good stuff will come.
#3 Write The Book That You Want To Read
My goal since I was old enough to put words on a page has been to write a book. Over the years I have many unfinished manuscripts and it is still an unachieved goal for me. My reasons for not finishing these books have always been lame excuses. I was so inspired by this passage, “Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use-do the work you want to see done.”(1) I need to sit down and write the story that I want to read.
#8 Be Nice (The World is Small Town)
Now I will admit that when I first read this principle, I thought that it would address the importance being a good person and how your actions are important because you never know who is watching but it really wasn’t about that. The focus was different but just as important. I often say to people that I want to work with people that are smarter than I am. I called them my “Wednesday through Monday” people. It is widely known in my professional and personal circles that Tuesday is my brilliant day. I operate at an impressive level on Wednesday through Monday but on Tuesday’s, my brilliance overflows. It is always my desire to, as Kleon calls, “stand next to the talent”. There is no better way to stall your growth than to be the smartest person in your circle of influence. Seek out those that have more experience and possess more knowledge than you do. Kleon sums it up beautifully, he says, “If you find that you are the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room” (3)
Let’s not overlook the principles from the deleted scenes. Here are four of my favorites and my commentaries (Kleon didn’t provide any, so I added my own):
1. Be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.
This is a tough one for me. I am a giver to my core. If I have it and you need it, it is yours. Unfortunately, this includes my current most precious commodity, my time. I am learning that hard way to say “no” to the things that interfere with my work.
2. What do you want your days to look like?
There is a saying that is on my wall in my office, “She Designed a Life That She Loved!” It used to be my preferred hashtag. What draws me to this phrase is the belief that we have the ability to determine what kind of experience that we have daily.
3. Do it wrong.
There is meaningful growth in getting it wrong. It is so important to try even at the risk of not winning or not being right. This is a courageous approach to learning.
4. Go Deeper
Step in with both feet and allow for an immersive experience. Stretch yourself beyond your level of comfort.
Do any of these principles from the deleted scenes speak to you?
I’d like to leave you with one additional principal that I believe to be equally as transformative as the ones outlined above. Sometimes it is necessary to “just be quiet and think. It’ll make all the difference in the world”. (4) This speaks to the need for us to slow things down and allow the stillness to center us and think before acting. In the book Stillness Is The Key, Ryan Holiday offers stillness as a means to mastery of discipline, focus and clarity. Do not shy away from the stillness and the self-discovery that may emerge. And as my new BFIMH (best friend in my head) suggests, “Go Deeper” Loved Ones!
1.Austin Kleon, Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative (New York, New York: Workman Publishing Company, 2022), 28.
4.Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is the Key (New York, New York: Penguin, 2019), 47.