Love The Mud [on Two Artists Tuesday]

maturity with background copy

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” ~ Picasso

It would seem to be a no-brainer. Mastery comes from a lifetime of doing. Trial and error. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule: success is nothing more than practicing the task for many hours over many years. As the old joke goes, it’s how you get to Carnegie Hall.

Efficiency. Ease. Body knowledge. Body of Knowledge. Flow. Wisdom. The blossoms of a long-body of experiences. The farmer, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of land, knows the signs that no one else can see. They sense the storm coming. They smell the time for planting. They waste no time; their 10,000 hours having developed a solid relationship, a kinship with their environment and work.

An artist, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of music or paint or dance, knows the signs that no one else can see. Artistry is efficiency, a single line saying more than 20. A musical phrase capable of reaching deeper into hearts than was once possible. Like the farmer, their 10,000 hours becomes 20,000 and then 30,000. Their worth, their work, after so many hours of hands in the soil or fingers on the keys, is incalculable.

Awash in abstractions, organizations play by a different set of understandings. Bottom lines are blind to mastery. You’d be amazed (or not) at how many people I know who’ve been “let go” because a younger, less expensive person, might “fill the role” and “cost less.” Mastery as deficit. You’d  be astounded (or not) at how many people I’ve coached who were punished because they became highly efficient. Their life-of-experience made their work look too easy. They were either squeezed for more or released as unnecessary.

What happens when all of the organizational knowledge, the ease and efficiency that comes via experience, becomes a liability? Wearing my consulting hat I’d routinely shake my head at the standard folly of leadership – people in power suits and ties a hundred miles from the dust and grit of the boots-on-the-ground – determining with pencil and paper the time and worth of a task. Abstracting the worth of a life. Budgetary efficiency driving the carefully calculated undervaluation of experience. Actual efficiency red-lined by abstract efficiency. As John would say, “Penny wise and pound foolish.”

Maturity in season of life. It comes from a job description that came across Kerri’s desk. Maturity as a job requirement! A search for someone with the experience necessary to paint like a child. Seeking the mastery that results from years and years of plowing the same fields.

I wonder if the hiring committee merely tossed out flowery language or actually understood that their ideal candidate would come through the door with boots made muddy from a lifetime of walking the fields?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MATURITY IN SEASON OF LIFE

 

buffalo adirondack chair website box copy

 

Explore The Human

photo-2

my latest work-in-progress. No name yet, approximately 5ft x 9ft.

Standing on the stair to her studio, Pam said, “I’m not sure where my work is going. I’ve pulled out all of the old paintings so I can see where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, and maybe that will help me live into what’s next.” Like me, Pam has been a painter most of her life. She’s been through this transition many times before and recognizes the necessity of fallow artistic fields. Rather than push or panic, she’s matured as an artist and knows enough to value the emptiness.

With maturity comes faith. The muse never leaves. She rests. Artistic cycles are no different than seasons. Like a farmer living through the winter months on the harvest of the fall, Pam will spend hours sitting with her old work, thinking nothing, drinking in the nutrient of her artistic yield, allowing her inspiration fields to recharge and rejuvenate. She will allow herself to go empty, creating ample space for the new work when the muse reawakens. And then, one day, she will pick up a brush and be surprised by what comes through her.

Hans said, “An artist matures when he or she ceases working from their pain and begins exploring the human condition.” Working from the wound is necessary as adolescence is necessary. Most artists in our western tradition begin in rebellion, pushing against, making statements. We celebrate the outsider, the margin-sitter and so the wound can be difficult to escape: artistic pain becomes a role, an expectation. In practice it is akin to a developmental stall. The only place to go when pain is the norm is into the intellect: to produce, to make statements. Pain isolates and ultimately, an isolated artist is ineffective. Artistry, like all things vital, must occupy a shared space. It is communal or it is impotent.

Potency comes when the eyes turn out, when the question of “we” becomes more vital and interesting than the question of “I.” Artists mature when they reorient, when instead of the art expressing their pain, they serve the art and, make no mistake, art is another word for “human condition.” Art is bubbling life in all its forms: visual, kinesthetic, aural. As Hans said, “I want to fall deeper and deeper into the music. I want to find the edges and follow where it takes me, give myself over to it.”

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

DSC_1196 copyGo here to support the kickstarter campaign for my play, The Lost Boy.

Serve

A painting from my archives. This one  sold in 2007.

A painting from my archives. This one was 4′ x 4′ and sold in 2007.

Jim asked a world-class question: When did customer service become a firewall against serving customers? If you’ve had to call about a mistake on a bill or to try to get some support from your insurance provider you’ll appreciate his question. How many buttons do you have to push to get to a person? How many levels of supervisor do you need to ascend to get to the person who has the authority to serve you?

What does it meant to serve?

Quinn once told me that the world was ruined with the advent of the salad bar. He was far sighted (and funny) and recognized that it might at first be attractive to build a salad your own way but the trade-off, the loss, would be much greater than the free-will-illusion that the salad bar provided. Service would become equated with efficiency; it would become a cost saving strategy. Quinn suggested that the “salad bar concept” would forever redefine the essential relationship of the business; it would reduce the word “customer” to something consumable for the business. In other words, it would no longer matter whether or not a customer was happy because there would always be someone else to sidle up to the salad bar. In a salad bar world, the word “service” would forever be subject to a strange ongoing cost/benefit analysis. The society would shift the emphasis from service to others to service to self. Do you remember, after the introduction of the ATM, having to pay a fee to your bank if you needed to talk to a teller? Serve yourself. Save time. Do you remember when the airlines started charging travelers for bringing luggage? Or recall the introduction of extra fees for extra legroom? It may seem as if we have product choice but Quinn would tell us that we are forever standing at a salad bar.

What does it mean to serve others?

Martin Prechtel writes that transcending self-interest to put your life in service to the greater communal interest is called maturity. In order for the community to thrive, to grow and renew, the members must be oriented toward serving something greater than their own individual need. Without this necessity of service the society descends to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy.

What does it mean to serve something greater than you own self-interest?

I’m preparing to go over seas and do a workshop on “team,” so I’m asking many questions of people who are trying to facilitate teams in organizations. “What’s the greatest challenge you face?” I ask. The response is universal: trying to get employees invested in something other than their own personal gain. In my mind I can hear Quinn laughing; he’d call this  salad-bar-blowback. When customers become consumable, employees also become consumable. The essential relationship in business, the one it has with its customers, is merely a reflection of the relationship it has within itself. Vested action is not something that can be manufactured. One must care in order to be invested. Vested action is the blossom of service to others.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go here for hard copies.