Steal Like Picasso – Creative Inspiration

Steal Like Picasso: How Outside Inspiration Can Fuel True Innovation

Picasso’s apocryphal line, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal,” can apply to any industry, not just art–and it can create real innovation, not just derivative knock-offs, if done correctly.

Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, has quoted Steve Jobs, who cited Picasso’s apocryphal line, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” No one knows for sure exactly what Picasso meant (or, for that matter, if he ever even spoke those words), but what is not in dispute is that Picasso was very clever when it came to theft. Instead of stealing from the celebrated artists of his day, which would have made him a second-rate version of Cézanne or Van Gogh, Picasso stole ideas from artists far outside his own milieu.

In 1907, he saw an exhibit of African art and promptly stole the exaggerated features and non-perspectivized visuals for his own work. When Picasso unveiled Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, his first work influenced by African art, he was hailed as a groundbreaking artist, at least by those who didn’t call him an immoral heretic.

Instead of copying abstract expressionism, Andy Warhol stole not only the content of commercial art–soup cans, Coke bottles, and images of Marilyn Monroe–but also the industrial means of image making, the silk screen. Some of the old school critics denounced him for “capitulating to consumerism.” But Warhol’s appropriations of commercial art were instrumental in changing the art world forever.

It’s no accident that many cutting-edge artists have been considered pioneers because they were equally clever at stealing concepts that had not yet existed in the fine art canon. Cindy Sherman stole the tropes of Hollywood film stills for her Untitled Film Still series. Basquiat stole the aggressive, scrawly primitivism of street art and graffiti for his paintings. Damien Hirst stole the design of museum display to create his installations of sharks, cows, and calves submerged in formaldehyde.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.Pablo Picasso

And, of course, to create never before seen ideas, those in business and other fields can follow the lessons of Picasso and Warhol.

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, who we interviewed for our book The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well, told us that his dream was to appropriate the PLUR concept of rave culture “Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect” and apply it to the workplace. The result? A unique, people-driven company culture at Zappos, where employees love to work, and find such value and meaning in it, that in the process, they’ve turned the online shoe store into a billionaire-dollar business.

When Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral, hiking in the Alps, returned home with burrs stuck to his clothes and his dog’s fur, he examined the burrs under a microscope. Noting that the burrs had hooks that stuck on the loops of his clothes and his dog’s fur, he went on to steal the hook and loop configuration and created Velcro.

Twitter’s genius? To simply swipe the concept of short message service for mobile communication systems (SMS) and apply it to the Internet.

And when fan-fiction writer E.L. James grafted pornography onto the romance novel and came up with the Fifty Shades trilogy, she not only created a new genre but put the publishing industry on steroids.

So instead of putting your efforts into derivative ideas, say a round iPad or an auction site called eBoy that only sells items for men, why not do as the Picassos and Warhols do? Look at stuff that has nothing to do with what you do. If you work in social media, study anthropology. If you work in finance, look at great architecture. Whether you are an artist, an entrepreneur, or an aspiring muffin maker, if you want to generate novel ideas, look outside your field. Read fiction and scientific journals, watch movies and even cartoons, study old phone books or Sears catalogs, go to strange museums, take apart a toaster or an eight-track tape deck. Of course, any hybrid ideas you might generate would be just the beginning because bringing an innovative idea to fruition is a long hard slog with no guarantee of success.

There is a wonderful Leonardo Da Vinci quote in Scott Berkun’s The Myths of Innovation that sums up everything you need to know about seeking inspiration from where you may have never looked before: “Stand still and watch the patterns…. Stains on the wall, or ashes in the fireplace, or the clouds in the sky, or the gravel on the beach…. If you look at them carefully, you might discover miraculous inventions.”
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Reframe Your Perspective

6 Simple Mindfulness Practices To Reframe Your Perspective

Get familiar with the Holstee Manifesto and join the fast track to a better understanding–and appreciation–of your work, your life, and the world around you.

This is your life.

Do what you love and do it often.

If you don’t like something, change it.

If you don’t like your job, quit.

If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV.

If you’re looking for the love of your life, stop; they’ll be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If so, you might be one of the 100 million people who’ve read and shared the Holstee Manifesto.

Have you ever wondered, how did this manifesto come to be? (I certainly have.)

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the guys at Holstee to dive into why Holstee exists, to hear more about how they are reframing the way we look at art with their latest product on Kickstarter (check it out–it’s awesome), and learn where the company is going next.

Where it all began is in 2009, in the midst of one of the country’s worst recessions, when brothers and cofounders Dave and Mike Radparvar quit their jobs to dive headfirst into building a dream company with good friend and founding partner Fabian.

Rather than write a business plan, they sat together on the steps of Union Square to write down the things in life they wanted to work toward, value, and not forget. From this, came the manifesto.

What they didn’t expect is that the declaration of truth that they originally wrote for themselves would eventually pen the direction of the company, and inspire millions along the way. It’s just now, four years later, that they’re able to articulate why the company exists.

“Holstee exists to encourage mindful living,” Mike says. “We grew up in an age where faster, cheaper, and bigger were valued above craftsmanship, values, and quality. We hope to change that for future generations.”

What exactly is mindful living, you may be wondering?

In a world where multitasking and information overload are the norm, mindful living, as defined by Holstee, is “to be fully aware and to appreciate the impact of one’s actions.”

“Mindfulness inherently makes us more curious and encourages us to ask why.” says Mike. “We live in an age where transparency and authenticity are the new kings.”

So how does one integrate mindful practices to enhance quality of life?

Here’s how the guys at Holstee practice mindfulness, which you, too, can begin implementing today:

1. Presence.
When in conversation, give someone your fullest attention. Put the computer away, turn your phone on silent, and get lost in the moment with that person. Be fully interested, rather than interesting.

2. Architect your life.
Be considerate and intentional with your life decisions. Rather than let life happen to you, author the story of your life. Author and philosopher Howard Thurman says it best with, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

3. Personal time.
Taking time for yourself creates clarity and renewed energy. At Holstee, they strongly suggest all teammates take their birthday day off each month. In a startup culture where personal and working hours tend to get blurred, this creates space and perspective.

4. Ask “Why?”
Why am I doing this? Why are we creating this product? Why is this a design principle? Asking “why” encourages you to go deeper and become more aware of what’s driving you, and whether or not you want it to be driving you.

5. Know your food and appreciate meals.
What are you eating and where did it come from? As a society, over the last 50 years, we’ve created a knowledge and geographic gap as we’ve distanced ourselves from our food. To stay aware, the team at Holstee cooks in the office almost every day, and meal times are savored without work.

6. Understand the impact of what you buy.
Transparency is slowly being built into the operations of many forward-thinking companies. This movement is a direct result of the increasing number of people asking questions about the clothes they buy, where their electronics come from, and brands they choose to support. Before buying, understand the impact.

What practices have been most valuable for you? We’d love to know! Leave your tips in the comments below.

Travasaa Hana, Maui

The magic of Travaasa Hana lies less in the accommodations — as lovely as they are — than in the feel of the place. A personal touch is evident in every detail, allowing guests to experience the clever blend of healthfulness and adventure that defines the Travaasa brand. First they created the unique Travaasa Austin in the remote Balcones Canyonlands Preserve; now they’ve brought the same spirit to Hawaii.You can find the intangible essence of Hana in people like Jolynn, a rodeo expert who took us horseback riding along the untamed coastline and invited us to canter across an open field populated with lounging bulls. Or Jan, whose therapeutic lomi lomi massage gave me everything I needed after a 45-mile bike ride. Or Dave, the construction manager who offered to give us one of his bicycle tires when one of ours failed.
Travaasa Hana can feel like a private Hawaiian home; above is a Sea Ranch Cottage. The guest quarters are large and comfortable (starting at 650 square feet), with a variety of options for couples and families. Depending on the suite type, there are vaulted ceilings, private hot tubs and views of the bay. I stayed in a Sea Ranch Cottage that had soaring exposed-beam ceilings and large windows that overlooked the waves crashing against the black lava rock. It’s hard to get more of a feeling of Hana than that.After just two days of peace at the resort — no televisions, clocks or phones in the rooms, and spotty cell phone service — everything that had seemed so important (and stressful) began to fade away. The only sound that woke us at night was the patter of rain on the corrugated tin roof over the lanai that housed our hot tub. We began to yearn for the physical activity and psychological tranquility that Travaasa Hana is all about. It’s a place to be active without feeling frenetic, and that alone makes it different from anything else in the islands.

We’ll be back.