Work of Art


So my annual Christmas vacation is coming to an end.

Every year I tend to loosely follow the School year calendar when it comes to Christmas vacation. We’ve been programmed to do this since childhood and unless you work in retail it’s really a great time to slow down, spend time with family and get a few things done around the house. This year, because my wife is working in the school system I decided to follow it exactly, I left my office on Friday December 19 not to return until this coming Monday.  It’s the first full two week vacation I’ve taken in about 8 years!

But I’m an entrepreneur at heart. So regardless of whether or not I’m physically in the office, my work is never very far from my mind. Over the break I have continued to maintain my social media presence, as evidenced by this blog post, did a slight redesign of this web site, (ain’t it pretty?) and read 3 and half books.

I left the office two Friday’s ago with an empty inbox and a clean desk but I will return with a to-do list the length of my arm and a renewed sense of purpose and vigor that I haven’t felt in years! In short, I can’t wait to get back to work!

Why?

Because I’m an artist and the work I do is the canvas I paint on.

is it art

One of the books I read over the break was “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber. For lack of a better term, Gerber is a business coach, his organization, E-Myth Worldwide, is dedicated to helping small business owners develop businesses that work even when they don’t want to.

The E-Myth, according to Gerber is that small business owners are entrepreneurs with big visions about what I means to run their own show when in fact most are merely technicians who got sick of working for someone else and figure that because they can do the work they could run their own shop.

But running your own shop requires a skill set that most technicians don’t have, it requires the ability to step outside of yourself and view the business as an entity in and of itself. Running your own shop is more about developing and over seeing a system and a set of tasks than it is about doing those tasks. Once you reduce your business to a system that anybody can run you are free to step away and work on other things, expand into to new markets and new product lines or retire while the business continues to churn away and make you a whole bunch of money.

If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business – you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic! – Michael E. Gerber; The E-Myth Revisited

As I read through this book I started to notice that I’ve been doing this kind of thing all my life. I have always been a systems oriented kind of guy. Just about every task I have in my business has been reduced to a set of check lists in my mind.  Here is what the first hour or so of my day generally looks like;

  • Read Social Media Feeds – Check

  • Write blog post – Check

  • Get Dressed – Check

  • Go to Office – Check

  • Listen to Voicemail, Read E-Mail, Review Calendar for the day – Check

And that little list only takes me to about 9:15 am on most days. To get me through the rest of the day I’ve written a series of daily tasks down on a set of yellow post-it notes that are stuck on the edge of my desk.  When in doubt, I return to the list.

I’m a systems guy because I’ve found that if I don’t follow a system I tend to get bogged down in the mundane busy work that is required of me and I never get a chance to develop or produce anything of lasting value.

The most menial work can be a piece of art when done by an artist. So the job here is not outside of ourselves, but inside of ourselves. How we do our work becomes a mirror of how we are inside. – Michael E. Gerber; The E-Myth Revisited

I love my systems. They keep me focused and they allow my creative mind to wander. I’ve even built time into my system to experiment with the things my creative mind comes up with while I’m physically going through the list of tasks that the system dictates. One day, when the business has grown large enough to support more staff I’ll be able hand off a portion of the system to someone else with little or no training because the system itself is what drives the business not me.  This will then free me up to develop more systems and do even more interesting and creative things.

I can hardly wait. Running a business is like creating a work of art. Like all art forms the value and the beauty is in the appreciation it receives from others. If people appreciate the business I have built it will be profitable and it will also be copy able, I’ll be able to do it over and over again, because of the system.

Is your business a work of art?

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and the art we help create for our clients write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Daily Rituals; How Artists Work – Book Review


daily rituals

Sooner or later the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It’s all very depressing. – V.S. Pritchett (art critic and writer)

I’ve worked for and with artists off and on for decades but I’ve never really considered myself to be one. Artists devote their entire lives to their art. They paint, or sculpt or write with a singular devotion to the task at least boarding on obsession and in extreme cases, insanity. But a few months ago I read a review of Mason Currey’s recently published book “Daily Rituals; How Artists Work” and was intrigued. I thought maybe I could learn something from these people that I could apply to my own writing projects.

The book finally became available through my local library last week, (I’ve been on the waiting list since February), it is clear that there have been a lot of other people interested in learning what makes artists tick too. I thought I was getting a book that gave some general descriptions of the way in which some of the greatest artistic minds work and possibly some instruction and encouragement on ways in which the rest of us mere mortals can learn from them. What I found instead was a collection of 162 vignettes describing the daily work habits of everyone from Francis Bacon to Stephen King with very little commentary or insight on why or how they work the way they do.

The more I read however the more I started to identify with these characters. Maybe I am an artist after all. Maybe in some weird way we all are.

For the most part the great artists Currey researched were/are driven by routines that are not at all dissimilar to my own. Many, like Mozart who made most of his income giving music lessons to debutants and other young members of Viennese society, were forced to hold down various day jobs throughout their lives in order to pay the bills and were only able to fit their creative efforts into their day at set times and in short bursts.

I do that. I’m up a 4:30am every day, I go out for about an hour and half to deliver newspapers in order to earn some extra income and am at my computer by 6:00. I catch up on the news and write for about 2 hours. Then it’s off to my day job and the routine of a fairly regular life.

Many others, like Mia Angelou and Richard Straus treat their art like any other job, they get up in the morning, go to work in a studio or other office like location for several hours each day and then head home. These are not the “mad scientist” artists I had expected to find. They’re business people who work hard at their chosen vocation and take time to relax in the evenings with friends and family.

Perhaps the life of an artist is best summed up in a quote from composer John Adams. Adams is best known for his 1987 opera “Nixon in China” and a choral piece he wrote to commemorate the victims of 9/11 called “On The Transmigration of Souls” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. In an interview around the time of the Pulitzer win Adams said;

My experience has been that most really serious creative people I know have very, very routine and not particularly glamorous work habits. Because creativity is very labor intensive.

 So yes, maybe I’m an artist after all. And maybe you are too. What kind of creative routine do you have? I’d be interested to hear about it, write to me at: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com