Pondering “7 Habits of Highly Effective People: The Art World Edition”

Window of OpportunityAn article from Fine Arts LA, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: The Art World Edition, grabbed my attention today as I was taking a break from writing a paper on cultural diplomacy. I should tack these to my wall, because habits one-to-seven speak to my experience thus far in the museum field, both in the academic realm and based on my professional experience. Before I stick this list on the ‘fridge, I’m adding my own “notes to self.”

Habit #1: Believe that art is the alpha and the omega.
But don’t hate on people that do not.

Habit #2: Network, network, network.
Don’t be a scaredy-cat. Leaders take on challenges, not walk away from them.

Habit #3: Carpe Diem.
See art. Do not get so caught up in working for an art organization that you never see what your persistence and passion revolve around.

Habit #4: Study, worship, and emulate John Baldessari (if you’re an artist) or Walter Hopps (if you’re anyone else).
According to Wikipedia, Walter Hopps’ obituary in the Washington Post described him as a “sort of a gonzo museum director — elusive, unpredictable, outlandish in his range, jagged in his vision, heedless of rules.” Sounds like a role model any Museopunk should aim to emulate. (Update: Approach with caution…see #6 and #7. Sometimes the time is not always right to be heedless to the rules or unpredictable.)

Habit # 5: Rise above the fear of not knowing “how.”
Fear is paralyzing and can flatline even the most fervent of ambitions. We should not pretend the fear is nonexistent, because it often gives us the drive we need to “do all those things that we are not easily moved to do…,” according to Rilke.

Habit #6: Don’t try to reinvent the wheel; find your own niche.
I have to admit that a particular annoyance of mine is when people, in a fit of trying to sound really smart I think, attempt to discredit current modes of doing things. It is as if they believe that by talking about it in a frenetic and faux-intellectual manner sans action will solve anything. Often you are presented with a pre-established framework of policies and practices at an arts organization, and it has been my experience that if you are willing to work within this framework while adding your own variations on a theme and taking a leadership role, you may just be a more effective administrator in the long run. At some point in my career, opportunity and experience will align to open up that unique experience of reinvention, but until then, being effective is often my best bet at effecting change.

Habit #7: There isn’t a formula; carve your own path to success.
While it is constructive to learn from others in the field, I understand that there is not “one” road to success or a 1+1=2 formula that can be applied to my life just because it worked for someone else. I learn from others in the field of museum management, but ultimately it is my unique background, knowledge, and experience that guides me, and not the need to fit within a generic mold of what some deem to be success.

I am working up a special, new series of interviews with emerging leaders in the arts and museum sector. Keep an eye out for the first post coming soon!!

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2 responses to “Pondering “7 Habits of Highly Effective People: The Art World Edition”

  1. Great post. I like it a lot. I have been coming across a lot of similar blog posts lately that track the attributes of highly successful business people, but I like this one most because it gives a uniquely cultural and artistic perspective, and of course such people measure success by a wholly different barometer. Thanks, MJ!

  2. Good list. I wonder how these could be applied to relationships? Especially when you encounter a “Walter Hopps.”

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