What do crayons, money, square pegs, and Twitter followers have in common? According to Marc Eckō, they all have something to teach us about creative entrepreneurship.
I became an immediate fangirl of Marc Eckō when I heard him speak on Wednesday at The Art of Marketing conference. I've known about the Eckō fashion brand for a long time, but it was my first exposure to Eckō, the man - the designer, entrepreneur, artist and philanthropist. Here are four gems he offered up for creative entrepreneurs.
1. Take back your crayons.
There was a point in time, maybe back in second grade, where you probably considered yourself an artist. But as you grew up the world told you that art was silly and you had to get serious. Right?
"It's like you retired your crayons in second grade," says Eckō.
He wants us to get creative again. Creative business is good business. "Embrace the inner creator", he says. "Get messy."
He says that while entrepreneurs hustle hard, many of them aren't creative enough. He says Thomas Edison's 1 per cent inspiration 99 per cent perspiration formula for success is the wrong way to go. The problem with that, he says, is that "you can easily mistake sweat for actually creating shit".
The take-away? Quit hustling so hard. Get off your hamster wheel and go make something.
2. Get over the "starving artist" thing.
Eckō talked about the romanticism of the "starving artist" - the idea that one has to suffer for art. He's calling bullshit on the whole notion.
"Never feel bad about selling your creations", he says.
By the same token, he says you shouldn't feel bad about creating stuff that doesn't sell. Your art doesn't have to be what pays the bills. Also, getting really good at something requires iterations. Maybe your stuff won't sell at first, but keep at it. You'll get better.
3. If you're square, be square.
Eckō told a story about how he tried reeeeeally hard to make the fashion industry more inclusive of sport and street style. You know what he got? Crickets. Nobody wanted to hear it.
He said it was a classic square peg / round hole problem. He was trying to force something that just didn't fit. It was a lesson for him.
When you try to fit a square peg into a round hole you end up having to shave off the edges, and you lose something in doing so. "Don't shave your edges," he says. Brazen and uninhibited, he's the very personification of this idea. Edgy is good.
So if you're square, be square. The last thing the world needs is another round peg.
4. Quit counting.
Eckō wants us to quit counting Twitter followers, quit counting Facebook likes, quit counting social shares. Just quit counting.
"Don't be a data brat", he says. "Don't get trapped in the pursuit of quantitative gymnastics and lose sight of the qualitative purpose."
"Qualitative excellence cannot be hacked", he says. "Quit counting followers and likes. It's how you make people feel that matters."
I'll reluctantly admit that when I get another social share or Twitter follower I get a little bit excited. Or worse, I worry that I'll be irrelevant if I don't have these things. Clearly, I need to get a life. Maybe you do, too.
We've become obsessed with data, especially in the business world. We scramble after the numbers and hustle for more. We're constantly told to run the numbers on this or that. It's exhausting. And it doesn't matter. As it turns out, there are some things you just can't run the numbers on.