The First Step to Becoming Brilliant

Len WilsonCreativity2 Comments

Tyson quote
A strophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked at the Connecticut Forum recently what it’s like to be visionary and brilliant. A dumb question, to be sure. His answer was beautiful. He said,

If we had the luxury to pursue a life of what we loved, we’d all be ranked visionary and brilliant.

I about jumped off my couch when I heard him. I couldn’t agree more. One of the core ideas in my upcoming book Two Percent is that each of us has brilliance in our DNA, placed there as part of our God-given identity. In most of us, this potential is latent. We’re just not doing all that we could be doing with our life.

The marketer Seth Godin says that now, we don’t have hobbies. In our postindustrial culture, what we used to call a hobby is now a brass ring to grab, if we have sufficient passion. I am intrigued with the wild premise that our hobby, our creative passion, can become our life, if we let it. Godin says,

One ghetto that we used to reserve for artists was the idea that they made luxury items, entertainments and objects that had nothing to do with productivity or utility. I think that was convenient but wrong, even fifty years ago. Thomas Edison was a monopolist (and an artist). Henry Ford’s slavish devotion to his concept of interchangeable parts and mass production was as much an art project as an opportunity to make money. Madame Curie gave her life to doing the art of real science. And it’s impossible to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. give a speech without acknowledging the very real art (and passion) he brought to his tribe.[i]

 

It is time to redefine what it means to be an artist.

You can make music, but that doesn’t make you an artist. You can paint, sculpt, design or write, but in each of these endeavors you can be a tactician. An artist is not only someone who makes what we traditionally think of as art, whether fine, folk, or pop.

On the other hand, you can make dry wall for a living and be an artist at what you do. The work a person does has little correlation to his or her art. While I communicate as a writer, there is also an art of business, an art of motherhood, an art of the social good, and an art to anything you can dream up. Regardless of our field of endeavor, whenever we create, we become an artist. Being an artist starts with our heart, not our hands. It starts with our passion, which is a hint at our God-given identity and the secret to our creativity.

The reason I call myself an artist is that I have come to realize that, as much as possible, I must resolve the dissonance that is blocking access to this reality. Every artist I know, regardless of their craft, is defined not by their output but by this commitment. Artists seek resolution. An artist is willing to leave money on the table if what they’re doing is not true. What makes you an artist is a sense of integrity to what is true that forces your decisions, as best as you understand them at the time you make them. And I don’t mean truth as in analysis; I mean truth as in honesty.

Being an artist of any kind is in part gaining confidence that the voice in your head – in other words the combination of ideas and reactions and preferences that form your view of the world – is unique. This perspective, this unique form of expression, is the identity given to you by God and the source of all creativity. We come with it preloaded. We’re born artists. As creatures made in God’s image, we are designed by God to be like God, and this means we’re designed to create, not peripherally but as part of our fundamental nature. In other words, in the beginning, we are each given, as part of the warranty of being human, a harmonic calling, the melody of a set of good things to do with our lives. As an image or representation of God, when we create, we reflect the character of God and the glory of God.

We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. – Ephesians 2:10

And what are these good things? God is love, so it stands to reason that as images of God, the good things we create are things that increase love in the world.

But, of course, there’s a problem. We encounter it whenever we listen to a critic or whenever we pursue an idea for recognition or money even though we cannot see truth in it. We introduce dissonance in our life. We start to lose sight of the good art God planned for us to make. This is inevitable and, at first, jarring; eventually, for most of us, it becomes the soundtrack. Along the way, most of us lose our creativity. We are a broken image of God, a torn masterpiece. Perhaps circumstances dictate our choices; perhaps we become too uncomfortable with waiting and uncertainty. But as we seize control of our lives and choices, something odd and ironic happens: we end up taking away the very life that we’d hoped to make. When people party on the weekend, or getaway after work and rediscover themselves with music and a drink with friends, what they’re doing is trying to regain their soul. All day long, they’ve been trading it in for a paycheck.

I don’t want to work, I want to bang on the drum all day. – Todd Rundgren

I’m not saying life doesn’t include hard work and down days. I am also not saying that you should quit your job tomorrow. Well, maybe I am. In either case, the first question to ask is this:

 

How much dissonance can you stand?

Finding your art emerges as you resolve your dissonance. It is part of rediscovering your God-given creativity.

God intends, through the grace of faith in Christ, to re-create us: to reintroduce us to our identity as God’s creatures. When we rediscover this original creativity, we become who we were made to be, whole and complete: images of God. And when, out of this recovered identity, we create, our fulfillment and God’s glory happen at the same time, and the result is that we play our part in changing the world.


[i] Godin, Seth (2012-12-31). The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (Kindle Locations 943-947). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Writer. Story lover. Believer. Branding philosopher. Breakfast chef. Tickle monster. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Creative Director. Occasional public speaker.

Len WilsonThe First Step to Becoming Brilliant
  • Tim Coombs

    Great article. I always liked the concept, I forget who coined it, that if you practice something for 10,000 hours you’ll become an expert. If one discovers what makes you an artist that those 10,000 hours will pass relatively quickly and in joy.

    • http://lenwilson.us/ Len Wilson

      I agree , Tim. That was popularized by Gladwell in Outliers. Not sure if he coined it or not.