My wife shared a quote with me the other day, and it revolved around the idea that highly creative people aren’t always the best CEO’s of companies. The notion being that sometimes you can have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t execute as a business person, you’re going to struggle. I commented to her that I feel like I have the opposite problem.
All of my life I’ve wanted to be a creative-type. As a kid I loved music, photography, and creative writing. I wasn’t terrible at any of them, and growing up I showed some level of talent. However, as I grew into adulthood it became more and more apparent that I simply wasn’t that gifted in the creative realms. On a couple different occasions I tried joining bands, and I was able to putz along enough to have fun, but I wasn’t growing as a musician, and I simply couldn’t make my hands do the things that I was hearing in my head. This became very apparent the second time I tried to join a band, in my 30s, leaving after a few months because I just didn’t have what it took.
I’ve also been doing photography for almost 30 years. I’ve gotten to a point where I think that many of my shots are pretty good, but I struggle with that “natural eye” that many other photographers have. It’s only because of having so many years of experience that I’m able to push myself hard enough to see ‘enough’ to get decent shots. I envy the natural talents of friends of mine, who actually learned the mechanics of photography from me.
Creative writing is also an area where I blossomed as a child, but as I got older I lost the touch for it. During the course of this blog experiment I’ve tried a couple of times to do some fiction writing, and it’s been OK, but it’s always a struggle, and I never feel like I come up with things that are really outstanding. Again, I feel adequate, but not great.
Yet, at the same time, I can write non-fiction with ease. I have written hundreds and hundreds of academic papers, as well as more words on this blog than I can count. I’m often told my academic writing is really well done, both in professional and casual settings. I also get complimented on my writing at work, and my ability to convey ideas in a way that people easily understand.
It’s the same with photography. I’ve taught more people than I can count about the mechanics of photography, and every one of them has gone on to use that knowledge to make amazing things. I understand all of the aspects of posing, and to this day I can pose formal wedding photographs in my sleep. I also know all about photo processing and have become pretty darn adept at Lightroom.
With music, I’ve found that I’m not half bad at helping people produce their music. I often give good feedback, and could probably handle producing an entire album pretty easily. It just comes naturally for me to hear how things come together, despite my lack of talent to actually make it happen myself.
So all of this to say that I’ve found myself in a bit of a quandary as I look at the second half of my life. I feel like I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m good at running things, and leading a vision for the future. I’m just not that skilled in the creative areas to be an outstanding individual contributor. So where does that leave me? Should I be focusing my thoughts on the future on how to be a better administrator and leader? Should I be trying to partner with creative types to help them bring their vision to life?
Obviously, this is just musings right now, but it has me thinking about how I can find more happiness in what I do in the future. Can I find a way to be a part of something I love, even if I’m not the ‘thing’ that creates what I love?