A fellow blogger, Joe Pineda, (a.k.a. The Bard of Steel) wrote an insightful article about walking the tightrope between creating shallow, meaningless art, and being egotistical and preachy. In writing this blog, I feel like I am constantly walking this tight rope, and chances are I often fall on the side of the latter extreme, not intentionally, but in my quest to make a difference with my art.
In today’s world where we all have access to publishing our work worldwide instantaneously, we have to somehow deliver our message without looking like we are shouting “Hey! Look at me! I’m so cool, so I deserve your attention!” I think if our intentions are right, however, over time our work will speak for itself. So we have to learn to just ignore what people think of us.
I’ve recently been studying the life of Eminem. That’s right, I am inspired by the lives and work all sorts of people, from Plato to Kierkegaard to George Lucas to Vin Diesel. And even Slim Shady. At first, he wasn’t accepted in the hip-hop community because of the color of his skin. But eventually, the quality of his work stood out, and of course now he is internationally recognized as one of the greatest rappers of all time. That story is a good parable for the work of an emerging artist. At first, people question us. Then, they get comfortable with us. Then they realize “Hey, this guy’s work is good.” It’s a gradual process. It takes time. There is no such thing as overnight success.
Of course, it’s not just people’s perception of us that changes, but we also become better at what we do. When Eminem started out, he was a work-in-progress. A diamond in the rough. He had a few friends who believed in him and supported him, but probably everyone else thought he just some weirdo idiot with a big ego and foul mouth. What, a white rapper? Come on, Vanilla Ice already tried that, fool. It didn’t work.
In studying the lives of truly successful people, I’ve found a common thread: they were all weird. That’s right, everyone who has succeeded and changed the world started out as a weirdo heretic. At least, in the eyes of the world. But the truth was that they weren’t really weird at all. Instead, they had a vision that the rest of us couldn’t see. If the people who treated Marshall Mathers like an outcast in the beginning could magically peep a few years into the future at what he would become, they would have viewed him in a completely different light.
Most people don’t have the courage to be seen as weird. They care too much about what others think of them. This lack of courage is exactly what precludes such people from realizing their potential and changing the world.