I find it interesting how we often set our sights on the accomplishments of others to serve as targets for our own personal goals. Recently, I was having a discussion with a budding screenplay writer who listed some names and awards of seasoned writers he wants to emulate, noting their resulting fame and fortune. In the discussion, the question arose as to what the appropriate goals for a creative professional should be. How does one actually achieve his or her best?
Honestly, I think that we often short ourselves by seeking to merely follow in the footsteps of others.We think that attending the same institutions, using the same tools (whether they be pencils, gear, or software used by artists or even shoes worn by famous athletes), and even mimicking the same creative actions will bring us to an equal level of stardom. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.
Most young creatives set their sights on one of a few items as they form their goals for success:
- The art form itself
Let’s think through each.
Is money bad? Not in itself! One of my favorite business & money gurus, Dave Ramsey, wrote a powerful book that teaches people how to make money & enjoy life as an entrepreneur, Entreleadership; he continues to influence business leaders through a website by the same name at entreleadership.com. I remember Dave saying that while money isn’t everything, it certainly makes life enjoyable! However, I will admit that money has a strong tractor beam that, if left unchecked, can suck us into focusing on building our wealth, and as financial hoarders there is a very lonely life at some point down the road. The presidents and famous individuals on those crisp bills filling your accounts may feel good in your palms, but they can’t talk back, serving as very poor friends in darkened castles and squandered possessions.
The same goes for power and influence. Everyone admires strong leaders, yet those who actually get to the top realize once they get there that others are continually vying for their claim to the same hill. Fighting to be and then stay Numero Uno, The Best, the Big Daddy, the CEO, COO, or any other big name can become a perpetual battle that destroys the very thing you set out to do! Look at all of the young artists, athletes, and business owners who began getting noticed but then put gloves on and started duking it out with everyone else, only to leave themselves burned out from the very thing they once loved.
Likely one of the purist elements young professionals can claim as a motivation on a human level is their art in itself. There’s so much joy in doing the one thing you love! You are passionate & inventive; you love pushing the envelope and experimenting with the new. Certainly, there is a level of fulfillment in being in your element. We often fight it at first, but then it comes; you get that spark and you begin to sculpt, to play, to brush or pen each stroke, to dance; their is magic in that moment!
My Aunt Marta taught me much about the passion she has in capturing the world, applying her perspective on it, and constructing her art for others to see. I can remember often, when she would set my twin brother and myself down at a table with pencils and have us draw what she placed on the table. While she may have simply been trying to build a way for us to be quiet so she could get away from our typically busy preschool antics, I believe she meant more as she established an eye in each of us for shape, light/shade, perspective, and even curiosity into why things are they way they are.
All this said, art, craft, sport, profession… each of these is a void unless it is shared. Each gains so much more meaning when observed and valued by others. I so much enjoy my work when I’m done with it, but honestly, each commercial and film project I complete finds immensely more (and even occasionally less) value when it is observed and I get to enjoy the responses of others.
HOWEVER, I must say that living for a particular art or skill, too, can be futile. What happens when one cannot create or perform at the level he once could? Does his life now lose value? Is he or she left simply to reminisce on past accomplishments? Or, say one NEVER achieves perfection in his profession, has that person failed?
I offer yet a fourth target that will allow those entering the creative world to find their success… God’s glory. In the beginning, what did God do? He created! Mankind, God’s highest creation on earth, is quoted as being made in God’s very image. Hence, each of us, as a creation of God, is creative in some way, and when we act, sing, dance, draw, (fill in the blank for what you do) with the Creator as our audience we can find true fulfillment because it is done for His glory. In fact, I will go a further and say that this very element frees a person from the need to hit the income targets of others; it reduces the stress of attempting to match or surpass the accomplishments and influence of others; and it makes one’s art a higher form of living when done for the Creator, rather than simply for others or in celebration of the art form itself.
Interestingly, one of the greatest Renaissance sculptors & painters, Michelangelo, spoke to this, saying, “The mind, the soul, becomes ennobled by the endeavour to create something perfect, for God is perfection, and whoever strives after perfection is striving for something devine.” Certainly, his heart and mind were clear on creating that which would be pleasing, not just for those who celebrated his work, but for God’s glory. It is this approach, and the freedom which flows from it, that actually raises the bar to a potential that far exceeds prior accomplishments by others, as the individual who creates for “an audience of one” begins to emulate and flow synchronously with the creativity of the God who has endowed him or her with such ability.
So, as you make your steps forward, seek your number one goal — God’s glory. From this, the rest will actually begin to fall in place with proper perspective. You will continue to love your art, you will gain and utilize your platform to influence others, rather than merely seeking those highly coveted positions, and your needs are met as you bring Him glory. Yeah, it’s a total reversal of emphasis from what you will ever hear in Hollywood and most other business systems built, but here’s the encouraging news: it works. No, it’s not some dreamworld without pain & hard work along the way, but a sense of fulfillment, joy, and needs met throughout the duration.