Creative grads: It's time to risk reward

The co-founder and chief creative officer of Johannes Leonardo gives his top three tips for kicking off a rewarding creative career

For all of the young creative talent that has just graduated and is on the hunt for a job, it’s time to risk reward. The first risk to take is to sacrifice the immediate reward of landing a "better" job than your peers. Because when you’re looking for a job, competing with other new talent, intimidated at how few of you will go on to have the creative careers you want, it’s hard to look ahead with any real clarity. 

Yet this is the time when having clarity is so important.

To lighten that weight on your shoulders, remind yourself of what someone much smarter than me once said: Life isn’t what happens, life is how you react to what happens. As soon as you're able to see clearly and set your sights where they should be, you'll quickly realize it isn't so much your choices that'll get you where you want to be as much as it is the way you react to what happens along the way.

So have the confidence to put the creative vision you have ahead of short-term gain. Here's how: 

Remember that passion is the world’s most redeeming quality. Passion can overcome almost anything. There are a lot of people who like to pretend they have unnatural talent handed down from above. The truth is, being great at anything takes giving it everything. Don’t be intimidated by people you’ve met for who it all appears to come so easily. Never let that make you lose heart. The most talented people I have ever met want it, and work harder for it, than anyone else.

 During times of doubt, when you're unsure if you have what it takes, make sure of one thing — don’t let the type of work you’re passionate about die in the process of getting a job. Don’t get a job, but lose something much more valuable — what makes you different. And never forget raw passion trumps raw talent every single day. Passion will prevail above all else.

Crave the struggle, not the glory. Ask yourself: What are you prepared to fight for? What pursuit will not dampen your spirits a thousand rejections in? What process can you imagine yourself falling in love with?

Behind every piece of work you’ve loved, there was a messy struggle, somewhere. So learn to fall in love with the part that happens before you put something out into the world. The moments you're not at your best, the rejections, remind yourself they're all just necessary steps to get to where you want to be. Use those moments to develop your own habits, your own ways of working your way out of the issues. Bring your art to the process, not the outcome.

Read between the lines of great writing. Learn that writing isn’t about vocabulary, it’s about choices. Music isn’t about trends, it’s about setting a mood. And as you go through the sell-in, approval and production process, learn to identify the one thing about your idea you cannot budge on. Protect and hang onto it with everything you have.

In this era of collaboration, learn to place value on being alone, with time to wipe away all the clutter and think about the problem at hand, armed with nothing but a pen to write down your thoughts.

Over time, you'll see it becomes less of a struggle, because you entered it like a pro and knew that behind every glorious end result, there was always an un-glorious path there.

Listen: It’s the most powerful creative weapon you have. No one talks about the most important creative skill there is. Because in a world of self-expression, it's counter intuitive. But the ability to listen to yourself is at the heart of all creative achievement. There are no prodigies; instead there are some people who learn to listen to themselves earlier than everyone else.

Creating by your own rules, not those determined by someone else or an industry, starts with listening. What sort of creative person do you want to be? What impact do you want to have? Creative industries today are rife with so many dangling carrots in the form of awards, that we’ve become consumers of ourselves. Caught in our own trap. A word of caution - don’t squash who you can be in the pursuit of the same thing everyone else is after. 

Change your thinking. Question the traditional definition of talent. The group of students you graduated with, I would argue, is not comprised of talented and untalented people. Your success isn't dependent on how good or not that person applying alongside you is. It's not even entirely dependent on how good or not you are. Your success is almost entirely dependent on how you react — to competition, to criticism, to writer’s block, to self-doubt, to never having enough time, to having the courage to do what everyone is telling you not to. 

So as decision time comes, don't forget to take some time to clear your mind, set your sights, and chart a course armed with the ‘talent’ to react to whatever tries to take you off course along the way.

Risk reward. If you do there will be a much bigger prize waiting for you down the road. 

Leo Premutico is co-founder and chief creative officer of Johannes Leonardo.

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