After a particularly difficult week where I stressed about the balance of art and business, I met with one of my  business mentors who suggested I look up a guy named Malcolm Gladwell. You know, the guy who wrote The Tipping PointRight…I’d never heard of him either.

My mentor pointed me to one of his videos about success and mastery (couldn’t embed it, sorry), and it was exactly what I needed to see:!video_idea_id=26500

In the video Gladwell clarifies the difference between success and mastery.  Gladwell attributes his own success not to “spotting’ an opportunity, but being stubborn enough to do his own thing until the world recognized his audacity and avenues opened up to him. I understand this obsession to do meaningful work, but I also recognize it as a struggle with great risk. 

Gladwell also states mastery is achieved after around 10,000 hours of honing your craft.  I’m well on my way to achieving mastery in a very specialized area of graphics; specifically 3D graphics for video games.  But I’m also incredibly focused on building upon my background in traditional art and media.  Art and art history are crucial; even more so in a world where technology is changing by the second.

If I want to make it in the digital world, I better know the tools of crafting digital media  and understand the principles of art and design.  Some days I’m overwhelmed by new techniques and trends. I’m jumping around from CGI lighting and rendering to motion graphics; from architectural visualization to character animation.  It’s too easy to be all over the map!  The hours need to be focused.

Remember   Marien Bantjes whom I mentioned in a previous post? She spent a year on Bowen Island making art and discovering her artistic voice.  A dream for any artist! She worked very hard, remained focused and successfully put her stamp on current design trends.  She created a space for herself to try things out, to create whatever her inner artist desired and with whatever medium she was drawn to in the moment.  She had the chance to differentiate herself from the pack and this mastery is what led to her success.

This is  exactly what Gladwell is talking about when it comes to mastery, and the mastery can lead to success. You’ve got to put the time in to get good at what you love. Hopefully the world will reward you for it. The reality is they may not. It is a monumental risk. If I’m focused only on numbers and revenue, I will forget about my passion to design, animate and create; essentially I’ll start making crap for whatever brings in money. On the other hand, if I start disregarding opportunity because it doesn’t fit my artistic goals, then my business will be compromised and I could easily wind up the starving artist.

As for my own ideas of success, I look no further than the reasons I left my former life of cubicles and office politics  behind. I want to wake up every morning and have a say in what I will create.  I want to love my job and look forward to Monday mornings.  I want to make remarkable art and be proud of my work.  I want to greet my daughter after school, go to her recitals and have dinner with my family every night.  I also see success as paying the bills every month and covering the mortgage payment, having a steady stream of clients coming my way and building a sustainable business.  Is all of this possible?  I don’t know – but I’ve jumped in head first!

What are some of your thoughts on this video?  How do you view success and how do you create space to become a master of your craft?