david bowie singing holding a mic stand

By Heathen_Tour_Sterling_Campbell/Mark Jeremy derivative work.

Today, I’m taking a break from leadership, learning, and personal stories of life to offer some encouragement to other creatives out there in light of the death of entertainment icon, artist, and fellow creative, David Bowie.

In memoriam of David Robert Jones, aka David Bowie (1947-2016)

The news of David Bowie’s death left an empty hole for the music industry and admirers.  Many around the world did not even know he had been battling cancer.  He lived a life of distinguishable, unparalleled oddity and artistry to the end.  Even in death he was creative, and so predictably yet undeniably “Bowie”.  Here are 5 Lessons for Creatives from David Bowie’s Remarkably Imaginative and Prolific Journey.

Produce until you die and even still, keep going.  Be Creative and keep creating, so that even after your death you’re still prolific and you’re still speaking.  I remember explaining to someone once that it’s my hope to leave a legacy for my son. That legacy would include of life lessons and teachings, faith, and memories, but I’ve also always believed in the eternal power of writing, and publishing books and articles. For me, a good book on a library shelf, resting on a mantle or by the hearth, or even in archives online is a way to leave a legacy.  Written content can be read time and time again.  When we open a book written by someone who’s no longer with us, it’s like holding their hand for a bit while they share their wisdom or creativity with us one more time.  Keep making whatever your own unique, creative soul wants to create.

David Bowie’s death actually coincided with the January 8th release of his 25th and final album “Blackstar”. Of course there are dozens of other albums and projects that will live on.  If you’re committed to never stopping, then whatever it is you’re dedicated to will continue long after your gone.  Every creative has the potential to leave a legacy.  Are you producing things that will make a noticeable impact, and will those things outlast you?

“I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.” –David Bowie

Be willing to change but remain true to yourself.  It is indisputable that David Bowie thrived on change.  He was more than willing to evolve, create, or reinvent. He did all he could to forge a reality with his incredible imagination.  Most each time he did so it was a success, or at least it created a stir.  Over the decades David Bowie reimagined his art, his music, and his creativity.  I’m not sure Bowie’s commitment toward fluidity, change or flexibility was necessarily strategic, but he always remained true to himself. He was simply never afraid to try new things.  Changing while staying the same is a challenge but it will make a difference in the long run. What new or innovative things are you imagining? Is there anything you’re considering changing right now?

“I had to resign myself many years ago, that I’m not too articulate when it comes to explaining how I feel about things. But my music does it for me.  It really does.” –David Bowie

Be unique.  Aside from being creative and continually producing solid content or projects, or whatever your creative outlet, creatives have to find ways to stand out.  Scores of people in every business or industry are doing similar things.  Albeit, some people are creating better content than others.  Still it’s crucial to find something that sets you apart in the midst of all the noise.  Sure, the argument could also be made these days that “excellence” is also unique these days.  What is it that sets you apart in your space?

“I find only freedom in the realms of eccentricity.”  –David Bowie

Explore what others are doing.  Early on Bowie listened to everything from Elvis to Little Richard and beyond, and over time learned a dozen different instruments.  He was able to produce and express his creativity and ingenuity across musical genres. So what about you?  If you’re a writer you need to be reading other authors.  If you’re a sculptor you need to visit some galleries or some shows regularly, or even take a class.  I’ve never understood why so many creatives avoid taking classes, courses, or webinars.  There’s so much to learn, and I’m a firm believer that very few people if any ever “arrive” to the point they couldn’t learn from what others are doing.  Who are the mentors and influencers in your life?  What’s the last new thing you learned? 

 “Frankly, I mean, sometimes the interpretations I’ve seen on some of the songs that I’ve written are a lot more interesting than the input that I put in.”  –David Bowie

Stay humble.  Don’t accept recognition just because, and if by chance you do get recognition, don’t let it go to your head.  Hard work, commitment, and dedication, are pre-requisite to success for creatives.  My teenager was always confused and confounded when he’d receive a certificate, trophy, or ribbon in sports for simply participating.  Set your eyes on bigger things.  Focus on the goal or the dream you’re after and don’t get side-tracked by trivial, or fleeting recognition.  When you reach the pinnacle of achievement in your area, you may or may not even realize it, but that shouldn’t be why you do it.

In 2000, Bowie turned down a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) recognition and famously responded, “I seriously don’t know what it’s for.”  Just a few years later he was extended the honor of being knighted by but he refused that as well.  Creatives don’t simply produce just to produce, neither do they create things for fame.  Every creative has a mysterious, relentless drive to imagine and do—and the most important thing to us is that people appreciate the creation or even the process.  The most intrinsic need of any creative or artist is the need for people to appreciate their art. I love it when people read something I’ve written and it stirs a question or a realization in them, or it inspires them in some way. That’s success.

“Fame itself… doesn’t really afford you anything more than a good seat in a restaurant.” –David Bowie

Farewell, Ziggy Stardust.

Who is Chester? A creative and a music-lover who is also a leader in education, non-profit advocacy, parenting issues, access, policy, and blogging culture, Chester has been quoted in major media outlets such as CNBC, Yahoo, the Washington Post, Forbes Leadership, and others. He is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and Edutopia. You can learn more about Chester and his Amazon #1 Best Seller at www.purplepeopleleaderbook.com or www.chestergoad.com. He and his wife live in Tennessee with their teenage son. 

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