What is art?

Art certainly can be a painting, but it doesn’t necessarily have to.

Paintings are a powerful medium for art. They cause us to delay: To stop and think and change us for the better.

So if the purpose of art is to change us for the better than why limit it to just paintings or manuscripts or photographs?

Space in a museum is finite. If we use the criteria that it must be hung on a wall or displayed in a museum, we are severely limiting the amount of art in the world.

What is art then?

Art is any kind of human work that brings emotional labor resulting in a connection.

It’s putting on a show. It’s putting a smile on someone’s face. It’s anything that brings us closer together.

Art is a gift. It always has an element of generosity when we spend our time making something that needs to be made for someone or helping someone who needs to be helped.

Artist don’t make art for credit or money or fame. They aren’t busy keeping score about magical digits and bits compared to other people. There busy making a difference.

Some of us will read this and go, “What are you crazy? I need to make money.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t get paid for your art. You should get paid. But it’s not the primary reason we do it. We do it because it matters. We do it because it brings meaning. When we feed the network often enough, the network will turn around and feed us back.

Anything can be art. So it is to our advantage to see the art in everything.

Sometime you don’t know what to write

But you write. And you write some more. Especially when you don’t feel like writing. That is what professionals do.

If you do enough bad writing, eventually you will want to start doing good writing.

Right now, maybe every 10 posts I’ll think to myself that I had a wonderful insight.

The discipline though is to write. Good writing. Bad writing. Doesn’t matter.

It is not for you to judge. Your job is to make better art. If someone finds it bad, that’s okay. It’s not for them. We can try again tomorrow or find someone who will get the joke.

[Ellen Langer has written, “All it takes to become an artist is to start making art.”]


You don’t do improv once you’ve learned the script. You do improv and then you are able to find the words to say something.

No one is good at improv the first time you try it. Improv is always changing. It is something you can never be competent at. Overtime, you can get better and better at incompetence.

People are really good at following the script. When we walk into the library, we make sure to keep quiet. When we graduate from school, we find a job. When we eat at a restaurant and we are charged $12, we pay them $12. We have social norms and rules to follow.

But what we are finding is that following the script leads us to a place of predictable outcomes. And predictable outcomes have made us afraid that we won’t find something better than the hand we have been dealt.

So okay, some of us will say let’s throw away the script. Then we find that having too many choices paralyzes us from making any decisions. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know what the next step is. Too many of us would rather stay where we at than rock the boat.

Ellen Langeur has pointed out, “All behavior makes sense from the actor’s perspective or else the actor wouldn’t do it.”

Following the script is a very safe and reliable formula. Throwing it away is an opportunity for something better. Yeah, you will be judged. Sometimes you might fail. If it can’t fail then there is no opportunity for doing something meaningful.

Culture of hurry

We live in a culture of hurrying to get things done. Often times though, we choose to get the wrong things done.

For instance, anyone who spends an hour a day watching television has just demonstrated that they could spend an hour of their time to help someone who needs to be helped or make something that needs to be made.

If we can make that choice, a whole bunch of things open up for us.

One, we can take that opportunity to write something or to paint something or make something better. We can also look to make a connection with someone or learn a new skill.

But too often, we put aside our art thinking tomorrow will be a better day to begin. And too often, we are busy telling ourselves that we have other things to do. We have to be adults. We have people who are counting on us. Ironically though, we fill our time with debt and distractions.

Second, I think we make ourselves busy so we can make tension go away. We try to make everything okay. But everything is not always going to be okay.

I think in the long run we will be surprised to discover that slowing down will enable to see more clearly. And when we are better at seeing what is actually happening, we have the ability to get more work done—the kind of work that matters.

And so the tide changes

Maybe the economy is in a recession.

Maybe the political environment is unstable.

Maybe this isn’t the time to make a leap.

It didn’t seem like a good time for Karl Benz to launch the car in Europe. There were no roads and gas stations and it was against the law to drive.

It didn’t seem like it was the right time for Gutenberg to launch the printing press when he did (98% of Europe was illiterate).

The thing is; the tide raises all ships. And vice versa.

Maybe the problem isn’t the political or the economic environment.

Our mothers fought so hard to give us choice. But choice doesn’t come with guarantees.

Without doubt or uncertainty or failure, there is no choice.

And so the tide changes.

The tools are the same

The thing about people’s brains and hearts is that you cannot tell them apart.

If you have seen one normal, healthy brain, you’ve seen what most brains look like. (Same as the heart.)

At first glance, all brains and hearts look ordinary.

What makes them extraordinary though, is in their actions.

It is how they are used.

Most of us start with the same tools.

The difference is how we use them.

It’s the choices we make along the way that makes all the difference.

Who can we become?

Our past doesn’t have to define us.

At the end: God cares more about who we are and who we are becoming more than who we once were.

Its ordinary people doing small and simple things—day in and day out—that can bring about extraordinary results.

Overtime, weak things become strong by being better today from yesterday. And then we can do it again. We can do better tomorrow from today.