If you’ve been listening to Adventures in Creativity, you’ll have heard me talk about how recently I had a shift in mindset in terms of my approach to the show. If not, give a listen to that episode here.
It was a move to focus more on the famous quote from Albert Einstein, “Don’t try to be a man of success, rather try to be a man of value”. My mantra has become “Be a man of value”, it’s even the wallpaper on my phone. Pretty nerdy, I know!
Be a man of value
Sure, it’s easy to say. But what does it actually mean?
How can we change our mindset and actually practice what we preach?
I really do believe the answer is actually pretty simple. To explain, let me step back for a moment.
A while back I read the fantastic book from Eric Gorges, A Craftsman’s Legacy: Why working with our hands gives us meaning.
The book is fantastic and I highly recommend it, but this isn’t a review of that book. Eric touches on something more than once throughout the book that is a critical part of being a man of value.
To paraphrase, it’s the idea that as a craftsman and creative, the legacy we leave behind isn’t the stuff we make. Our art may or may not be remembered when we are gone. That hand crafted lamp may be sold at your estate sale for a quarter when you pass. It’s just stuff.
What we leave behind of value, our legacy, is something all together different.
I was reminded of this thought this week while listening to my good friend’s podcast, Because We Make. Vincent, Ethan, and guest Brandy, were talking about this very subject of legacy from Eric’s book.
I believe it was Vincent that said “Our legacy isn’t the stuff we make, it’s the knowledge we freely share and pass on to other makers”.
The stuff we make is just stuff. No matter how amazing the art is, there’s a very solid chance it’s forgotten and discarded once we are gone.
What lasts is the knowledge. It can live forever.
Take this famous quote from the one and only Mister Rogers.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 645-647)
Fred Rogers was someone that children every where grew up with. True, he didn’t really MAKE things. He had his trademark sweater and that infectious smile.
But his legacy, his value, was in the knowledge and life lessons he passed on. Not only to the children that were entertained by the characters on his show. But to the parents of those children.
That knowledge and those lessons have been passed down through generations even though Mister Rogers is no longer with us.
His legacy, his true value, was in the KNOWLEDGE he freely passed to anyone that would listen.
One of my all time, most inspirational, favorite artists is the late Bob Ross. Known for his mellow moods, 70’s afro and beard, and sayings like “Look at that happy little tree.”, many people kind of think of him as not being a serious artist.
Sure, he was known for his show teaching people the Joy of Painting. But his paintings are not known as true “Art” the same way as someone like Van Gogh or Caravaggio might be.
To me, his value, his legacy, is NOT his art. It’s not a series of paintings. It’s the fact that he dedicated his life to sharing freely of his knowledge. He encouraged anyone and everyone to be their best.
He believed that painting and creativity were something to be enjoyed and celebrated. The idea of a starving, angry, depressed artist probably seemed completely absurd to Bob Ross.
Much like Fred Rogers, he also passed on lessons and knowledge that, while veiled in painting and art advice, were true life lessons.
Quotes such as:
“Didn’t you know you had that much power? You can move mountains. You can do anything.”Bob Ross
“If you do too much, it’s going to lose its effectiveness.”Bob Ross
“Go out on a limb — that’s where the fruit is.”Bob Ross
All excellent advice for painting and creating art. But also great advice in the “life lessons” department.
His value and legacy are the amazing lessons and knowledge he freely shared with whoever would listen.
The real secret behind legacy and value
The more I think about it, the clearer it becomes.
We all have knowledge. In the years spent pursuing my own creative pursuits I’ve managed to build a large amount of knowledge.
I don’t know everything.
In fact, one of my greatest joys is the continued path of constantly learning.
But the photographs I make, the words I write, they’ll be forgotten when I’m gone.
Sharing freely any and all knowledge I manage to learn however, that can last forever.
It sounds a little vain to say you want your legacy, your knowledge, to last forever. It’s not that at all.
To be a man of value, practicing what I’m preaching, we, I, need to be an open book.
Much like Vincent said in the episode of Because We Make that I linked above, being able to pass on and inspire someone to get up and create something because of information or experience that I have shared is truly fulfilling.
Be a man of value
It all comes back to Einstein.
My promise to you is to do everything in my power to share my experience and knowledge with anyone willing to listen. Anyone willing to go on the Adventure with me.
All I ask in return is that you pay it forward and share freely of your knowledge to others as well.
After all, the knowledge you share is the only thing that will carry on from one generation to the next. The art you create… it’s just stuff. Inspiring someone, that lasts forever.
That is the true meaning of being a person of value.
THAT. IS. YOUR. LEGACY.