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Two years ago, I had a chance to listen to a lecture that truly changed things for me, in the big sense of the word. How often can you say that about a lecture? And what’s more, I found myself there completely by accident – I wasn’t supposed to be in the hall, but I somehow ended up there. In front of us was a guest lecturer, someone who did only this one meeting for a few art students. I was interested in listening to him since he was a successful contemporary artist, and the lecture was supposed to teach us how he’s made it there.
He introduced himself briefly, writing down his hard to spell French name. Then, eager to start and without much hesitation, he put a marker on the whiteboard again and wrote two words: Just Do.
My first reaction was to raise my eyebrows skeptically. Was this really his biggest advice, the secret to his advice – the most obvious thing?
But then he started talking again. “It is easy to stop, to be afraid, to wonder a lot, to overthink and overcomplicate, he said, but sometimes what you need is to strip things down to their essentials and realize that doing is the most important thing”.
In the next hour, he talked about how he got started: how difficult it was to forget his fear and to realize that instead of worrying if you’re good enough or talented enough, what you really need to do if you want to be successful is to just be active. He talked about how he made his first exhibition in his friends’ apartment (“You have friends, right? Well, show four or five things at their place, buy some wine, invite some people, don’t be shy, talk to everyone.” – that was how he met his first agent).
Of course, he wasn’t talking about being an artist, I realized, but about doing anything at all: what you need is to let other people worry if you’re good, you just need to worry about doing your work. He then talked about how you must keep your mind active as well as your hands: how important it is to travel (“If you don’t have money, don’t go big – go to a friends’ house in a nearby city”), and about how you need to talk to lots of different people and get their perspective.
Being there in the room with a person who has started from a living room exhibitions and was now invited to universities to speak about being an artist meant that this idea was a tested one. And of course, it all seemed so logical: forget your fear, do not worry if you’re good enough, just do, meet people, move around a bit and see how it goes. The only thing that is in your control, the only thing you want to think about, is to get things done. To just do.