In my late 20s, I read How To be A Star At Work, 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed by Robert Kelley. I was a tax accountant at an accounting firm and wanted to be a successful. At that time, ultimate success meant becoming a äóìtax partner.” That meant that you became a part owner of the accounting firm, have your own clients, and be a trusted business advisor. I wanted to be a tax partner.
You know how you plan for one thing and end up with another?
25 years later, as I’m setting up for a photoshoot in my studio one Saturday morning, I happened to glance at this same book on my bookshelf. I’ve kept it all of these years. I picked it up and opened it.
Navigate the White Space
This book has a lot of excellent advice. One that caught my eye, now that I’m an artist: Initiative: Blazing Trails in the Organization’s White Space.
That’s an interesting choice of words. From an artist standpoint, white space is all about negative space äóî a term that refers to the äóìairäóù around the subject that you paint or the thing that you photograph. Actually, in this blog, we talked about negative space as the spacing in the spreadsheets. Watching your negative space is one factor in creating professional looking spreadsheets.
In Robert Kelley’s book, white space refers to the äóìgapsäóù between job titles in your department and your company. What is not getting done because it doesn’t fit within the official job responsibilities that people have?
Robert Kelley recommends that one way to be star at work is to look for the White Spaces between all of the job titles. It’s usually in these äóìgapsäóù where an ambitious employee can shine and become invaluable to everyone at work.
But what has this got to do with Art?
I’ve concluded recently that part of this white space is Art, or more specifically the Artist Mindset. By having an artist mindset at work, you are able to find this White Space better. Take the following things for example.
Courage to Create Something New
Good artists are fearless. They try out new things. They view mistakes as part of the artistic process. That’s how art is made according to American cartoonist Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert comics:
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Creating something newäóîwhether that’s a new management report, a new product, a new work processäóîrequires you to be vulnerable. That’s just part of the game. To present something new opens you up to criticism and rejection. It’s like an artist creating new work that nobody notices. Courage to create something new and be open to ridicule is a province of the artist’s life. Creating something new in the office is an artist mindset.
Connect The Dots Across Unrelated Areas
Artists have a way of combining different things from different influences. Picasso came up with the idea of combining the multi-perspective paintings of Cezanne with the geometric simplicity of African face masks. Picasso combined these two previously unrelated areas and painted his groundbreaking work in 1907, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which gave birth to cubism.
So at work, one way to do this is to find that intersection between your interests and work. Is there something in your hobbies that could be used in some way at work? Could you use that as a springboard for creating your own path in the office?
For example, I’m a photographer. I’m always concerned with the singular image: how do you create an image that communicates a message in -one- arresting frame. I’ve discovered that this artistic ability translates well to creating spreadsheets, powerpoint slides, and business dashboards. It even influences the way I present to an audience. That is a äóìvein of goldäóù that I intend to mine in this blog over time.
You could do the same thing.
Is there a hobby or interest that you have that could be applied to work?
It’s Your Turn
Let me know what you think. If you enjoyed this article, why don’t you follow my accountant/artist blog by subscribing below. I will continue to unpack the idea of Thinking Like An Artist At Work and how it can pay dividends in personal growth and career successäóîon your own terms.
I didn’t become a tax partner after all. I became an artist instead.
Find that white space in your office. It’s there.