An Important Lesson About Business that I Learned from Art

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

I spent a glorious weekend in Kansas City, MO recently.  It was filled with some of the best food I have eaten anywhere in the world.  It was a well deserved and desperately needed break away from the stress and roller coaster of starting a business.  While I'm not complaining about the challenges of starting and growing a business, I also speak often about the benefits of stepping away for a couple of days to refresh and recharge.  So, this was a fantastic R & R weekend.  I, however, do have trouble just letting go.  I seem to find lessons in life and business everywhere I go.  Often, I'm not even looking for them, they just show up.  Since my brain rarely shuts off, I often reflect on situations and surroundings and how they relate to my life.

This weekend was no different.  We were eating at a popular Italian restaurant.  The pasta was freshly made and the wine flowed freely.  The candlelit room was intimate with space around each table so private conversations could be kept as such.  The ceilings were very high and poised, in three different points, were these large lighting sculptures.  They were, well, interesting to my untrained eye.  They were huge and, although I liked them, I believe the market for the sculptures was probably small and the restaurant was taking a bit of a risk with incorporating them into the decor.  So, why would an artist take a risk such as this?  Did a designer commission the pieces with this vision in mind?  Did the restaurant say, "give me the biggest, oddest sculpture you can come up with and then throw a light bulb in it and, oh by the way, give me 3 of them"?  I doubt any of these situations happened.  What I believe, is that the designer said something like, "give us a statement piece, and we'll need 3 of them, that provides soft ambiance lighting and share your designs with me for approval along the way" and the artist went to town, doing his or her thing.  

I was struck by this piece because it screamed "comfort zone, be damned!".  This artist did not even come close to the mark of creating something safe when they created this piece.  He was hiking the wild side of the mountain with this one.  It's like he threw caution to the wind, looked around the room, found objects that caught his eye and threw them all together, with a few light bulbs in the center.  But, because I know many artists, I'm sure there was much thought that went into color, composition, proportion and dimension.  I'm sure there was plenty of rhyme and reason, but I could not see it.  I'm not an artist. I don't have an artist's eye. But this guy or gal was an artist and, you know what?  The artists didn't care who he pleased!  He didn't care if it was risky.  He didn't care if you or I approved.  He created what he believed was beautiful.  He created a vision that they believed was perfect for the space.  They believed it was an inspiring piece that added to the ambiance of the restaurant.  

The experience reminds me of the saying, "build it and they will come".  Just stop playing it safe.  Stop crafting a product to meet what you think people want.  You have a vision.  You have a purpose.  Create.  Create the product to fill a need.  You will never appeal to everyone.  There will always be people who prefer Apple to Samsung.  There will always be people that prefer the east coast to the west coast.  There will always be people that look at that sculpture hanging in the restaurant and think it's the most beautiful piece of artwork they've ever seen.  See, we have to stop playing it safe because we are afraid that no one will want what we have to offer.  We have to focus on creating our vision.  We have to create the best product or service we can, then put it out there, market our behind off to a targeted audience and go from there.  If we keep waiting until we've created this grandiose product that everyone will love, we'll never do anything.   I think we have this obsession with the grand idea, that one big, perfect idea that will put us on the map and set us up for a life of leisure.  I just don't think that's reality. In fact, that artist, that created those light fixtures, probably has a warehouse full of pieces that he hasn't found a buyer for yet.  Does that mean he stopped creating?  NO!  It means he continued to create and found a buyer.  He didn't walk on the safe side, He didn't say that some people may not like my idea so I'm not going to create anymore.  He just kept following his passion, his dream.  Don't stop until your dream, your own version is a reality.

Keep dreaming.