If there’s one thing I wish I had known early in my career is that success is something that happens on two levels. In other words (perhaps with only a few exceptions) creative people have to think about operating on more than one level:
1) The level of their creative art (writing, composing, painting, filmmaking, etc.)
2) The business, administration, or donor areas to make that dream work.
For instance: An artist can’t just paint. To be successful they have to sell their work.
A musician needs to sell albums to pay the bills.
A writer wants to sell books.
A filmmaker wants to sell movie tickets.
Even The Salvation Army does remarkable work around the world, and yet their leaders can’t just focus just on doing what they love, they also have to focus on fundraising, donor development, administration, and leadership.
A pastor just can’t focus on preaching. A pastor has to think about church administration, hiring, firing, budgets, and all the other things to make a church work.
It’s the same for a museum director, a college president, a CEO, or the leader of a great cause.
If you think all you have to do to succeed as a creative person, visionary, leader, or dreamer is to follow that dream, then you’re like I was years ago: Dead wrong.
The sooner you start thinking about BOTH levels (and become good at both) the sooner you’ll reach your goals. And just in case you think you’re so creative you don’t have to worry about anything but your “art” consider this:
– Michelangelo never stopped worrying about funding. He argued with the Pope constantly about money while painting the Sistine Chapel – now considered one of the greatest creative works of all time.
– Vincent Van Gogh never found proper funding, and partly as a result, committed suicide. Certainly he had other issues, but part of his struggle was that he was never able to bridge the gap between talent and his audience.
– Orson Welles directed the classic “Citizen Kane,” considered by many the greatest motion picture of all time. But he never went beyond that success. He even left a trail of half finished and poorly edited projects because he could never deal with the not so creative business of making a movie.
Maybe you do both, or find a brilliant partner. Either way, the next time you launch a project, think about the two levels.
Your talent needs to be heard, read, or seen. Make sure you’ve covered all the bases to make that happen.