David Bowie has been on my mind since learning of his death this week. I wholeheartedly admire Bowie’s uniqueness and his ability to change and take risks with his art. He was a fascinating and unusual person who through his art and music always gave me the feeling that it’s more than okay to be different and to think differently.
Being comfortable with who you are and willing to change things about yourself is a tough combination. There are quite a few people out there who are very comfortable with themselves yet not at all willing to change or grow. This is a dangerous thing for people in power and it plays out as a stagnant life for us normal folks.
Re-inventing yourself, your art, your work is as tough as it sounds. When I started my own business, it was mostly for reasons of being tired of working for other people whose vision of life was different than mine. I didn’t have any money, and didn’t really know how to do anything but design and it was, frankly, terrible timing for my personal life. The business side of design was a push for me and it still is an almost daily push. I’m not a business minded person by nature. Sending clients their billing statements every month is painful for me. The thought of any type of corporate culture, office management, employee handbooks or even networking with other designers is extraordinarily annoying to me. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I’d like to think of myself as an artist at heart who doesn’t need those things. Maybe I’d like to think that it’s possible to have a different approach to life and to business.
There’s a great article by Ruth Blatt in Forbes (No, I don’t regularly read Forbes (shocker)) called “How to Lead Like Bowie: Thoughts on the ‘Exhibition Is’ Exhibition“. In it, there’s a great quote by director Hamish Hamilton about David Bowie that I find interesting: “Bowie constantly explored new creative territory and took massive risks. He was willing to fail, and there are superb lessons in that.” Being willing to fail – being okay with things not working out. Being okay with having to try something else. Being okay with everyone knowing it. It’s such a funny part of being human, isn’t it? Our pride can keep us from achieving so much.
“All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it,” David Bowie.
I love this as well – I think we all understand this on some level. Whether it’s through trying to please someone who can’t be pleased or even the clients I have worked with who are so worried about re-sale value that it compromises the design. Or even myself, who struggles with blog posts because I am worried about how I am presenting myself as a business owner and designer.
Being willing to change and grow outside of your comfort zone is an impressive and life-altering achievement, especially while keeping your inner self intact.
This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You’ve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare