All Art is Autobiographical

Last night, John and I went to a meeting with Crosspointe's creative team.

First, I have to say that being in a room with dynamic, creative people and feeling the flow of that energy is unique. The chemistry of groups is fascinating and I'm curious to learn why some groups spark and others drain. (If one could develop a skillset to be able to manage that flow...I wonder if it would be possible to transition a draining group to a sparking one?)

In any case, part of our discussions centered around the personalities of organizations. Ron Martoia repeated an interesting quote by Robert Quinn from his book, Building the Bridge as You Walk on It.

Organizational excellence tends not to be a function of imitation. It tends to be a function of origination. It begins with one person - the one in ten who has the capacity to create productive community.


As I've mentioned before, I've learned to pay attention when there are repetitive themes in what I'm reading and in the conversations occurring around me. Just as it is significant for individuals to become who they really are so that they can be something unique and different in the world, it is important for organizations to do the same.

Dale Carnegie, in his book, How to Worry Less and Live More (1944), relays the story of an interchange between Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.

When Berlin and Gershwin first met, Berlin was famous but Gershwin was a struggling young composer working for thirty-five dollars a week in Tin Pan Alley. Berlin, impressed by Gershwin's ability, offered Gershwin a job as his musical secretary at almost three times the salary he was then getting. "But don't take the job," Berlin advised. "If you do, you may develop into a second-rate Berlin. But if you insist on being yourself, some day you'll become a first-rate Gershwin." Gershwin heeded that warning and slowly transformed himself into one of the significant American composers of his generation."


Carnegie goes on in the chapter to tell about Gene Autry ridding himself of his Texas accent and dressing like a New Yorker to try to become successful in radio--which of course seems ridiculous to us in hindsight looking at the popular singing cowboy who had such a tremendous career.

While individuals struggle to embrace their uniqueness--and typically find great satisfaction and success when they do, the same is true of groups. Being able to embrace your personal history and unique DNA as a group creates organizations and companies that are compelling.

Much of my day job is in working with churches. It has always been an interesting phenomenon to watch certain church models be duplicated with varying success. The thing is that the ones who are being copied are the ones who are deeply unique. The trailblazers. The ones who stepped out in faith without a map to follow.

Perhaps one of the most significant skillsets in creating successful companies and organizations is in being able to identify and tell the story of who you really are.

What Carnegie said is true. Whether looking at individuals or groups, all art is autobiographical. And original artwork is always intensely more valuable than the copy.

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Sidenote: David-the-Artist-Pastor (Yes Wahlstedt, you now have a tagline) loaned me his pen set to use in my scribing. For my ideation of the meeting, click here.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall