I met with artist and sculptor, Lucien Simon, for coffee, this week. We’d had a brief conversation on the phone and I had looked at his web site, but I really didn’t know what to expect when I met him in Leicester Square.
I would hazard a guess that his lack of formal art school education is why his passion and creativity are so uninhibited.
He has to be one of the most understated artists I have met. No flamboyant clothes, no outrageous hair-do and no mysterious formula, which-I-can’t-possibly-share-with-you, for success. He is quite simply a (very talented) hard worker. His output has been prolific for more than twenty-five years and continues to be so. He works successfully in the mediums of sculpture and painting, demonstrating a versatility of style in both these genres. Simon was once told by an authority in the art world that he couldn’t successfully present himself as both a sculptor and painter. I wonder if they would have the grace, now, to admit how wrong they were?
Simon is self taught. He started working with glass, explored other mediums and found he could create equally extraordinary pieces, using metal, acrylics and canvass. I would hazard a guess that his lack of formal art school education is why his passion and creativity are so uninhibited. Being answerable to no one, there was no one to tell him he couldn’t, or shouldn’t, experiment. He has tried what appealed to him and made it work. And I do mean, made it work. When he is working, Lucien Simon puts in a lot of hours and says that anyone could be successful, in whatever they tried to do, as long as they stick at it. He professes that even after this impressive career, he would like to be better at drawing and is working to improve his skill in this area. It’s not just about natural talent. He has seen promising young artists devastated when their piece de resistance fails to be snapped up for the ambitious ticket price, at their end of year show; their ego cannot cope and their career as an artist quickly fades away.
Tenacity is a more important ingredient for success than talent. I was amazed, when visiting an exhibition of Rodin and the Victoria and Albert Museum a few years ago, to see dozens of almost identical stretches of a hand, that the artist had been trying to perfect. To me, there was barely any noticeable difference but clearly Rodin wasn’t satisfied with what he considered to be mediocrity. I had no idea of the dedication this artist had to his work. I had always naively assumed that artists were just gifted and everything they created was brilliant. Tenacity is the ingredient, in every field, that will create results. Lucien Simon has something of the terrier about him, so it is no surprise that he focuses his passion so successfully.
Obviously, the principles of success are the same for any arena but talking to someone from a different field gave them a different nuance, making me look at them from a new, fresh perspective.
There is so much new learning and technology in every field that we need to keep ourselves up skilled to stay at the head of the game – which is why you need to be inspired by what you do and constantly hungry for more.
Talking to Simon reminded me of some essentials of business success that it is imperative to master:
1) Make sure you are creating a product that the market wants. Glass work, the medium that he started in, was not as popular medium as sculpture and painting, so Simon explored materials he found equally as rewarding to work with and got busy.
2) Put in the hours. There is no substitute for hard graft, however unsexy that may seem. It’s short term pain for what will hopefully be long term gain.
3) Don’t let the so called experts kill your passion. While I advocate finding mentors and coaches, they need to be great – people who will enable you to explore your own unique, brilliant ideas, not people who want to be seen as the established expert and fit you into their box. Too much raw talent is suffocated that way – in business as well as art.
4) Get used to rejection. It is highly, highly unlikely that your first product, service or business is going to be a success overnight. My first entrepreneurial venture was a coaching company. I had so much passion and, with a phD(c) in Coaching Psychoneurolgy, a considerable amount of expertise. Coaching had made such a massive impact on my own life that I hadn’t considered that people wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about its potential results as me.I hadn’t realised that in the UK, coaching wasn’t taken very seriously and that people didn’t differentiate between my expertise and those of someone who had taken a weekend course in coaching (which takes us back to point 2 – produce something the market values). It was a terrible knock to my confidence to have people dismiss me as a good-doer life coach, or offer to trade me coaching session for a massage. Like Lucien Simon, I reinvented myself and developed a reputation as a respected learning and delivery consultant and, thankfully, that market also respects my coaching skills, so nothing was wasted, in the long run. But it was the long run. I was tempted to go back to the safety of full-time employment a number of times but, thankfully, my passion for helping people apply new learning in life changing ways kept me on that run. (See my article In Love with Leadership, here at WATC for more on this subject).
5) Determine to be the best in your field. There is no room for complacency in this world. There is so much new learning and technology in every field that we need to keep ourselves up skilled to stay at the head of the game – which is why you need to be inspired by what you do and constantly hungry for more.
Take inspiration from artists. Galleries and centres for the performing arts are some of the most inspirational places in the world. They are a constant reminder of the creativity and beauty of the human spirit, which kindles in us the desire to create something worthwhile, in our own way. And thank you to, Lucien Simon, for reminding me of the ingredients of success from another perspective..