Creativity Is About Being Fearless
As someone who grew up listening to Queen’s music, I remember how good they were in their prime. I especially remember their performance at Live Aid back in 1985, as I watched it on TV in my living room in Hong Kong. When Mercury and Queen came on, they electrified the crowd - both those sitting in the audience at Wembley, as well as the millions who watched from their living rooms around the world. In fact, there were two acts that stole the show that day and Queen was one of them. (The other was U2 and their performance of “Bad”.) Freddie Mercury was the reason - and he held all of us watching in the palm of his hand for those 20 or so minutes. We talked about it for days (and years) afterwards.
So I was excited to go see the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, over the weekend. It was billed as a creative masterpiece and, I have to say, it really was. It was absolutely fantastic. As a piece of film making, it was extremely well done and Rami Malek played Mercury to perfection. (Are we going to debate who gets the Oscar for Best Actor?)
In addition, the story of his career (despite liberal creative license on the part of the film makers) was both inspiring and moving. It was a lesson in how to go after your art, how to seize your opportunities and become who you want to be in the professional sense.
It got me thinking about what I could take away from his life, what are the lessons that great artists of this caliber can teach us. To my mind, there’s at least 10 key lessons:
Believe In Yourself: It starts and ends here. Believe in your talent because if you don’t, know one else will even give you the time of day
Take Risks: Dare to be different. Dare to entertain. Dare to flaunt the conventions of your space. It’s when you break those conventions that you become truly legendary
Dream Big: Screw small steps. Want more. Expect more. Don’t settle. Don’t accept the status quo. Go after the big dream, even when others don’t think you deserve it.
Put In The Work: 9 to 5 isn’t going to get you to greatness. You can’t change the world during regular office hours. Sweat, strain, commit yourself. Sacrifice. This isn’t an option.
Be Fearless When It Comes To Creativity: To be truly creative is to put yourself out there, to take a risk and be willing to risk ridicule. It requires a level of bravado that most of us are unwilling to exhibit for fear of what others will think. But it is at this level of fearlessness that breeds greatness.
Surround Yourself With Good People: This is essential. You are who you surround yourself with. Work with people you trust, those who will have your back. At the beginning, you need folks who will believe in you. As you grow, you will need people who will tell it you like it is. Honest, open, committed.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Downside: Sure, it could go wrong. Sure, it might not turn out exactly as you’d like. But it might be even better. It might be different but still take your world to another level. You could achieve the change you’re seeking to make in a different way. So don’t be afraid of the downside. Just do it anyway.
Be Willing To Walk Away: People will tell you to do it their way, that they know what they’re doing, that they’ve done it all before. They may be right. But if your gut tells you otherwise, if you really believe in what you’ve done, if you stand behind your art, stand up for it. At all costs. Because remember, no one will listen, much less remember, a 7 minute record that meanders from soft to hard rock, includes operatic harmonies and odd verbiage such as “Galileo”, “Figaro” and “Bismillah”. Especially not when you’re going to call it “Bohemian Rhapsody”!
Ignore The Haters: They will always be there. Someone will always put you down. Someone will always think you’re too big for your britches. That’s what they do. Because that’s the only way they can ensure that they can justify the miserable lives they’ve chosen to live. Fuck. Them.
Be Yourself: Screw self-consciousness. Screw artificiality. Screw trying to be something you’re not. Be real. Be genuine. Be honest. That’s all those who need your art want. Be you. It’s (more than) enough.
I’m sure there’s more to add to the list. But we’re off to a very good start if we stay true to the principles above. They’re worth remembering when we take on a piece of work, a new initiative or a new venture.
In the words of Freddie himself, “You can be anything you want to be, just turn yourself into anything you think that you could ever be.”