3 Little Words

It was Mrs. Roth’s third grade class field trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art, and I was there, playing the role of ‘class clown’. I can’t remember what exhibit we were going to see at the museum. I don’t remember if I was eight or nine. We might have been visiting in the fall, winter or spring, but that day continues to have a huge influence on my life.

Modern Art and the lesson I learned from it
Red Blue by Ellsworth Kelly, Cleveland Museum of Art

As Mrs. Roth was ushering in her class of children with the aid of the museum’s docent, we stopped just past the main desk to view one of the museum’s proud acquisitions, Red Blue by Ellsworth Kelly. The painting is enormous, seven foot by six foot, dwarfing all of the children in the class. I’m sure the docent was going on-and-on about Ellsworth Kelly, why the painting is so important, and why the museum was so proud to have it as part of their collection. All I could think was, “I could have done that!”… as ‘class clown’, I couldn’t just think it, I had to say it too. I guess the words came out much louder than I intended, because not only did my classmates hear me, Mrs. Roth heard me, and the docent heard me. Shocked by the rude, brash child the docent stopped her presentation, mid-sentence.

The docent glared at me, as if I personally insulted her and her entire family, including distant cousins, and pretend aunts and uncles. Finally, after a long, awkward, uncomfortable silence, she maintained eye contact with me and said firmly, “…BUT YOU DIDN’T!”

Those who are talented and skilled at what they do have an ability to work in a way that appears effortless. High level talent works with speed and efficiency at the elementary levels, allowing them to devote more time and effort on those things that separate them from the rest of the pack. The deceiving part is that it’s usually those elementary levels that the lay-person is most familiar with, and where many believe a majority of the hard work resides. Couple that high level efficiency with the world of creative-on-demand, where it is perceived that creatives have an easy job of, ‘coming up with stuff’. Since children routinely use their imagination and ‘come up with stuff’, how difficult could it be? What the lay-person doesn’t understand is that an experienced, talented, high level creative can make coming up with something unique, stunning and on-demand look as easy as walking across the room. Most others would take considerably more time and effort to achieve results that are not as refined.

Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by the talented creative that pulls magic out of a hat, without batting an eye. Contrary to what is believed, creativity on-demand takes more than a magic hat or even luck. Instead, give the creative that came up with that incredible piece of work a nod-of-the-head, because after it’s all done, you might think that you could have done it yourself… but you didn’t.