I had never heard of Austin Kleon before this year’s South by Southwest – but now I have, and for that I am glad.
Austin is a writer who draws. What does that mean, you ask? Well, he is perhaps most famous for taking New York Times articles and blacking out everything except carefully chosen words, thereby forming print/sharpie clad poems. As an early blog adopter and aficionado of words, doodles and humanity, his was the first keynote I attended in Austin this year and, in addition to wanting to be his new best friend, I really enjoyed what he had to say.
Here’s an example of one he showed during this presentation.
He talked about, wait for it, Vampires and Human Spam. Allow me to elaborate. These tragic creatures were once lovely humans, existing on planet earth just like you and me. Somewhere along the way though, something went awry and they were given the very false life manual where competition and self promotion rule. When you spend time with vampires, they suck your energy stores dry, use them for their own selfish, vampirey benefit and leave you lifeless. Jerks. Human spam, conversely, ramtheir stuff- projects, events, whatever- down your throat as hard as spamingly possible, forever shoving harder if you, by some miracle, evade them during the first go around. Once they’re in, don’t expect even a flicker of reciprocity. It’s simply not in their nature.
Austin went on to discuss the more human like qualities of creativity and it’s purest derivative: collaboration. He noted we are all part of a ‘scenious’ – or a group of like minded people, consistently fostering and encouraging one another toward a common goal. In theory, our goal as artists is to get noticed. In practice, our mindset should be how we can contribute to our scenious – as opposed to standing out as a genius. A scenious is nurtured by collaborative sharing. You cannot have a healthy scenious with the presence of Vampires or Human Spam.
nice photo, I know.
How can we then, make the transition to effectively contribute to our scenious – to better serve it, ourselves and one another? Let me count the ways:
1. Listen. Pay attention and take stock. Find gaps worth filling and find ways to fill them. Improve scenious efficiency and wholeness. Become a citizen of any community before you attempt to influence it.
Find gaps aka opportunities in your scenious. Fill them.
2. Don’t be a hoarder. Share your stuff. Similar interests will be attracted to it – and you.
3. Share. Other people do awesome things. Share them and make a habit of it- but give credit. Steal like an artist – don’t be a Vampirey or Spam-like.
4. Find people of like minds. <insert sports analogy here> In baseball, all pitchers are competitive. No one shares their secrets for fear of falling short on the mound. This is true for all but one: the knuckleball pitcher. This unruly pitch is so unpredictable that like-pitchers have formed a brotherhood of sorts. Knuckleball pitchers share experiences, secrets and share a cross team bond unlike any other position in the sport. Find your knuckleballers, teach what you know, learn what you hear.
All in all, Austin jives very well with a concept we’ve been working a lot on at EFM and that is the idea of ‘collective intelligence’. Essentially, this concept reflects our belief that like minded people with similar beliefs can do more. They can do good. They can harness a usually ignored energy that comes from within. This energy is selfness, it is non competitive, it is purpose driven and it is unbelievably powerful.
No matter what scenious of which we are a part, or what purpose we have committed to, we should always live to contribute, share, embrace and flourish for we can, as Margaret Mead once said, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Follow Austin on Twitter if you feel so inclined. I highly recommend it.