Think artsy folk singers and splattered painters are the legit opposite of whatever serious business you’re trying to get done? Bad attitude, and today, it’s bad business too. A full third of Fortune 500 CEOs have a so-called “useless” arts degree—and creativity, in any medium, might be the most important skill of all. Luckily, there’s a little Picasso and Hemmingway in each of us, says Ron Tite, author of Everyone’s an Artist: How Creativity Gives You the Edge in Everything You Do. Tite tells us the lessons to learn from artists of all kinds.
Comedians: They pan for silver, work for gold
It all seems very new and natural when Seinfeld takes the stage, but the whole truth is, a good comedian is following a familiar formula. “They have their ‘gold bits’—proven, don’t-mess-with-it material they do over and over again,” says Tite. Mixed in, however, is new stuff they’re just trying out. In business and comedy, doing the same thing every day/night will inevitably leave you lagging behind. Into your best practices, try out some new ones, and pick up those that work to incorporate into perfection for the main show. “Over time, your silver will become gold.”
Writers: They hate writing—but love having written
The famous Dorothy Parker quote is very true for most every writer, but the biting satirist missed a more optimistic lesson here: “Writers are pulled through the process for months and years by the exhilaration of their vision of what might be at the end,” says Tite. Keeping the end game in mind, despite the sometimes painful process, is a lesson in commitment for the rest of us.
Musicians: They make facetime count
Recall the old “I hear they suck live” joke, and ask yourself the last time you forked out cash for a just-ok set. Musicians have survived decades of upheaval by labels, producers, retailers, Ticketmaster and Spotify by selling a live experience that you can’t get from an illegal download. “If you love U2 and see them every other year, they work hard so you’ll be happy to survive on digital crumbs till the next time they’re in town.” Now apply this to two years of curt reply-all emails in your office and the one time you grab a coffee in real life.
Fine Artists: They know inspiration is everywhere
A widespread misconception is that the artists’ talent is superb drawing, painting or sculpting. “That’s just plain wrong,” says Tite. Look around at today’s art in every fashion and form to see the real talent is “finding inspiration in the world and using it to express themselves.” Similarly, as when Uber noticed that waiting for your lost cab totally sucks, the best business ideas are a direct response to the market that needs them.
Actors: They never let themselves be typecast
“Just like a manager can have one initiative and totally nail it, an actor can have one amazing role that’s perfect for them,” says Tite. The problem is, your next assignment or role will be different, and acting the same old way isn’t going to cut it. “Actors know this is a recipe for disaster—your career ends the day you go looking for the same role.” Instead of chasing a past success, always be evolving into your future ones.