The other week, I was invited to a dinner hosted by a friend. Those attending included people I’ve admired for years. Halfway through the dinner, I silently asked myself, “How did I get here?”
For years, I heard people talk about their influential friendships and subsequent success, and I would seethe with envy. It seemed unfair. Of course those people were successful. They knew the right people. They were in the right place at the right time. They got lucky.
Years later, I would discover that success is born of luck (I don’t think any honest person can dispute that). But luck, in many ways, can be created — or at very least, improved.
The truth is life is not fair. For creative work to spread, you need more than talent. You have to get exposure to the right networks. And as unfair as that may seem, it’s the way the world has always worked.
The good news, though, is you have more control over this than you realize.
. . . .
In his decades-long study of creativity , Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes what he calls a “systems approach.” Since creative work tends to be subjective, he posits a model that includes three systems. They are:
- The Domain
- The Field
- The Individual
In order for a work to be considered Creative (in the sense that it offers some kind of enduring work the world remembers), it must satisfy all three of these areas. Here’s how it works.
First, an individual must master her craft in a given domain (art, science, mathematics). Then, this person must offer the creative work to a field of influencers in that domain who are trusted experts. Finally, the gatekeepers decide if the work is worth being accepted as authoritative into the domain.
That’s the systems approach to creativity.
And as much as I initially winced at the word “gatekeepers” when considering what makes creative work succeed, once I started reading biographies of famous artists, scientists, and musicians, it made a lot of sense. Talent is only part of the equation. The rest is network.
. . . .
Networks. Partnerships. Creative collaborations. This is where enduring work originates, and, incidentally, is how we get works like The Lord of the Rings and The White Album. Creativity is not a solitary invention but a collaborative creation. And communities create opportunities for creative work to succeed.
But how do you apply this approach if you don’t live some place like Paris, New York, or Rome?
Well, of course, you could move. According to Csikszentmihalyi, it’s better to move somewhere new than it is to will yourself to be more creative. And now, it’s easier than ever to transplant yourself someplace inspiring, even if temporarily. I did this eight years ago, relocating from northern Illinois to Nashville and unknowingly implanted myself into what would become a hub of creativity, technology, and entrepreneurship. I’m glad I did.
But you could also let go of your excuses and realize there’s a network available to you right now, wherever you are. This may come in the form of an online mastermind group or a series of events you attend, maybe even one you organize yourself. The truth is there are connections everywhere and always more resources available to those willing to look.
Link to the rest at Medium and thanks to Joshua for the tip.