Atonement and Intention

by seanlow on October 7, 2015

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of talking to many wedding professionals in Los Angeles as part of Honeybook’s Hive Educational Series.  Really a wonderful event and an awesome experience.

Originally, the talk was supposed to be about how to get your groove back for your creative (and, in this case, wedding) business.  However, by happenstance it was September 23rd, Yom Kippur, Judaism’s Day of Atonement, and also Greater Eid for Muslims, celebrating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah and the end of the Hajj.  The two events almost never coincide, making it extra powerful for me.  So I decided to focus not on reinvigoration but instead on atonement for past sins and intention to start anew.  I offer five thoughts on the subject:

1.            Honor Your Creativity – You get paid for what is between your ears.  You earn a living with what is between your hands.  If you do not have a business that honors this axiom, you will suffer.  Why?  Because you are telling your clients to believe in the opposite of what you do — creativity trumps craft every time.  I will forever be a broken record when I say that process is everything, the end inevitable, and, therefore, irrelevant.  You will all come through in the end AND your clients are predisposed to want you to succeed.  Failing a client takes a lot of work, much more than amazing them.  What if your mission was simply to listen, relate and elevate?  And what if that is ALL you got paid for?  Would you still be arguing about why the couch is $20,000?  Or would you be able to explain how it fits as part of design and overall budget?  If you honor your creativity – what it means to listen, relate and elevate, surely you would.

2.            Be The Sherpa You Are – All creative business is a process.  Your client comes to you with a need for creation and your work is to manifest the need far beyond the imagination of your client.  In every instance, your work is to guide your clients up the mountain as only you can.  You know the way, the best way for them and, as much as they might be brilliant at what they do, climbing Mt. Everest is not their daily existence.  It is yours though.  Respect your experience, your expertise and your knowledge of what both you and your client know and do not know.  Translation: your client does not get to decide how your business and/or their project runs.  Only you do.  Whether you guide people with a gentle nudge or a strong grip is completely up to you, so long as you are forever the guide.  Truly, nothing else matters.

3.            Stop Getting Paid What You Can And Get What You Need – If you fully grasp the depth of number one and two above, you understand creative businesses have no competition.  Only you take your clients on your journey.  There might be other ways to get to the same place, but none as satisfying to your clients as the way you do it.  If you are getting paid relative to what others are getting paid, you exist in reflection.  Maybe it will be enough, maybe not. The only way to stand in the Sun is to honor what you need to create what you do, how many times you want to create it each year.  Any other method of value is a pointless exercise in mental masturbation.  Your value is what you say it is.  Full stop.

4.            Own Your Niche – One Size Does Not Fit All – Only those who care about why you do what you do and how you will do it for them matter.  If you believe in the first three thoughts, you know that finding those who drink your Kool-Aid is key to your ability to create your very best work.  Here is a shocker: having the opportunity to create your very best work on your terms is the very thing that will get you MORE opportunities to do the same.  You are not a deli or a diner.  Speak to those who matter in a language that they and they alone will understand.  Ignore the rest.

5.            Get Real With Yourself – Do What It Takes Or Move On —  This is the hardest truth of all.  If you are unable or unwilling to go through the excruciating work that one through four above demand of you, your art and your creative business, you need to gracefully exit the stage.  I am of the belief that the power of art, of creative business, is to transform.  Whether that is through an amazing event, interior design, photograph; for a minute or eons, makes no difference.  The point of it all is to inspire, exalt and, yes, elevate.  The responsibility is yours to own.  Your conviction in your talent is not enough.  You must also be convicted in the way your creative business expresses that talent.  Neither will enduringly exist without the other.  There is no shame in admitting that you simply cannot rise to the responsibility, only your refusal to see it as yours.


The World In Pain

by seanlow on September 16, 2015

Everywhere I look these days, there is profound human suffering.  Sometimes it is at the hands of Mother Nature — earthquakes, wildfires, Ebola, etc.  And while completely tragic and horrific, these natural disasters/outbreaks pale in comparison to what mans’ inhumanity to man has been in recent times.

Without judgment on relative import or which side might be right, civil war in Syria and the Middle East and Europe’s growing refusal to accept those that have been forced to flee, Donald Trump’s desire to rid America of its “immigrant” problem, race relations in the U.S. – the Charleston killings, Baltimore riots, unbelievable police brutality largely based on race in the U.S. and abroad, even a Kentucky marriage clerk refusing gay couples the right to marry and being lauded for doing so. I have no answer other than to acknowledge that hate is alive and well, thriving even. Us vs. them, have vs. have-nots, all of it pervading our sense of community and justifying abject indignance to another’s worldview.

I know I cannot be alone in feeling that we can and should do better.  The role of creative business is, at heart, to shine a light on those we so readily seek to dismiss.  Go read Vicente Wolf’s description of his travels to Syria in his book, Crossing Boundaries and its influences on his interior design projects; discover Eduardo Kohlmann and the brilliant event/catering work he does in Mexico; have a look at Tara Guerard’s first book, Southern Weddings: New Looks From The Old South, and you will see the best part of the South.

You may dismiss Vicente, Eduardo and Tara’s work as only for wealthy people to the exclusion of other.  Sure, but then you deny that there are those that want to see the beautiful parts of their world, to celebrate what is possible or even what is impossible for them, but alive nonetheless.  The sheer existence of beauty, of art, matters when all that surrounds someone is the exact opposite.

To that end, I would like to think that EVERY creative business can own the responsibility to create beauty, to celebrate the best of human creativity and community.  Dismissing your role as a mere product or service provider is a cop out.  Go further because you can.  If you are willing to see your art and creative business as one of purpose and meaning, so too will your clients.

Here is a part of a note my client, Erick Weiss of Honeysweet Productions, wrote to his team (and shared with me) on the eve of the opening of the World Lacrosse Championship in Syracuse, New York this Friday:

“The next 5 days are going to be difficult.  All I want to say to you all is that we are making history.  We are making a difference.  We are going to produce a sporting event that has a real story to tell.  Not a story about a wife batterer.  Not a story about a drug addiction.  Not a story about a broken family. We are telling a story about a proud nation.  We are peeling back the layers of a story that has not been told.  We are telling the story of a people mightily abused by American history.  And we are telling the story of a Nation that is proud to adhere to its higher calling.  The calling of healing, friendship and world peace.  Thank you all for everything you are doing to make these world games the best they can be.”

If you believe you, your art and your creative business matters, that it can move people no matter the forum, then it does and it will.  For that responsibility, you will be paid and we will all be so much richer.


The World Continues To Shift

September 10, 2015

In 2004, I binge watched The West Wing to catch up to the current episodes (it ran for two more seasons).  I used my Netflix account to get the DVDs.  Super cool for me since I grew up in a generation where if you did not watch a particular show it was gone unless you [...]

Read the full article →

Gay Marriage

June 30, 2015

In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage legal throughout the United States, I wanted to take a moment to revisit the issue.  Marriage equality has been near and dear to me ever since my time in law school (1992).  I never understood the right to discriminate and all things that [...]

Read the full article →

We Did The Best We Could

June 22, 2015

What does it mean to say we did the best we could?  For the most part, those who are saying it are saying it in the context of failure, personal or professional.  Those in the midst of success rarely say we just did the best we could and look what happened.  No, they are basking [...]

Read the full article →

Back To Basics

May 18, 2015

With creative business in full swing – tis the season after all — it is easy to get lost in the doing and ignore what lies underneath.  Yes, at a point, it is all about chop wood, carry water.  You can just never forget you are not farmers, you are artists.  There always, always has [...]

Read the full article →

Humility vs. Humiliation

May 7, 2015

Nobody is perfect.  Not everything you do as an artist and creative business owner works.  You will be wrong.  More to the point, you will be wrong more often then you are right. The goal is not to be wrong less, it is to be really really right when you are right and slightly wrong [...]

Read the full article →

A Pig In A Snake

May 1, 2015

If you are a regular reader of the blog or talk to me for ten minutes, you know I love my analogies.  The Apple Tree, Rowboats and Motor Yachts come to mind.  The one I have been having the most fun with of late is the idea of a pig in a snake. There are [...]

Read the full article →

Bet On Black

April 16, 2015

In the life of a creative business, you will have a choice: you can keep doors open to all possibilities or bet on black.  For non-gamblers, bet on black refers to going to a roulette table and choosing to bet on the little ball to end up on a black number not a red (or [...]

Read the full article →

Your Core

April 2, 2015

I have just finished rereading Good To Great, Jim Collins’ awesome five-year study of companies that went from good to great.  He studied what made these companies great relative to their peers (and the market in general — the rock stars of business) and how they stayed that way.  Much too much to talk about [...]

Read the full article →