The origins of the second act

AKA Notes for the Curious, Cynics, Co-Conspirators, and Collaborators-in-waiting…

I started photography in my early twenties, while I landed at Penn. By the time I was 27, I felt the itch at a more serious and deeper level. I studied with Mark Power at the Corcoran School of Art. He taught me how to work, not just on my craft, but how to access and cultivate the Work, the ideas waiting to be surfaced to the world. Soon after this, I connected and showed my portfolio to a museum, and my professional career took off. My work continued to progress, and I received formal “validation” at the highest level. My pieces were bought by national-level museums, and I simultaneously developed an impressive exhibition record. At one point I was in the process of being published in a top-end fine art photography European magazine, but unfortunately it went bankrupt just before my publication date. At the same time, I was “in the drawers,” of a midtown high-profile art gallery in New York.

Cut to: 

Meanwhile, I’m a senior manager in corporate planning at a major east coast utility company, where I was doing strategy and analytics work. I was in a high-stress and demanding job in the energy field, at the same time already on a professional track as a “serious artist” with critical acclaim. People in the art field who knew me personally thought I was a meter reader, surviving in a 9-to-5 day job that supported my “real” identity and calling as an artist.

No one knew I was a Wharton MBA graduate, who started a career with a prestigious management consulting firm, and later on joined a major energy company with a demanding, high stakes job. 

I was a professional manager and strategy consultant during the day, and an avant garde, cutting-edge artist by night. Unfortunately, I was burning the candle at both ends. I didn’t have a “system,” tools, nor the perspective on how to blend these two separate worlds. My sense of identity as artist became increasingly fractured, and became more porous and unstable. This dissonance became an almost insurmountable wall of noise that grew on a daily basis.

Fast forward to:

The death of my mother after a painful, debilitating illness. The sudden death of my older brother. Intense grief, on top of fragile and antagonistic identities battling for control of my actions and emotions. I was a miserable Hydra of Multiple Norths, and I didn’t know what the real North was. This led me to therapy, which led me to having enough stability and capacity to enter formal psychoanalysis.

This period of five years on the couch was one of the most freeing, transformational, and creative periods of my life. It gave me the power of clarity to see my own outdated and dysfunctional narratives, but most importantly, the ability and the courage to own, rewrite and rework these narratives.

The collateral damage to all this hard won clarity was an inevitable divorce, an event that created its own “wake of pain” that lasted for years.

The acceptance of what I had to do next was only made possible by the internal healing precipitated by my work on the couch. This newfound energy (and courage) led me to apply to an MFA program, and they not only accepted me, they also awarded me the Presidential Fellowship, (which was the highest honor and financial support possible) given to an incoming student.

It was an all expense paid playground-dojo-monastery environment, and all I had to do was make films, think about films, watch films, talk about films, and lastly dream about films. It was my fuel, it was my sustenance, it was the center of my being.

After graduate school, I did a lot of freelance work, using both my film craft and also my business/strategy/analytics skills. This time, I slowly was able to craft the rudiments of a system that allowed me to have a “regular job” and still do the work of a serious artist. My strategic “compartmentalization” approach was working. I was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship (which helped fund a new art project), and traveled internationally as a speaker and lecturer, while collecting footage and making photographs. The difference this time was that my identity was solid as a rock. I knew who I was, and I knew what my calling and mission was. My livelihood was a means to realize my calling. It was just like making films. The first skill set you needed was the ability to raise funds, manage the resources of labor, time, and materials to complete the film project.

During this period of balancing my “art-life portfolio,” I accidentally discovered the craft of coaching as a formal field of study, the theory and practice of personal change management, and most critically, the existence of positive psychology as a framework/modality for true creative exploration. Specifically I became an expert in the use for the Gallup assessment instrument and the Values in Action survey developed at U Penn. It dawned on me that this tool and framework could help me get even better at my own game and calling as an artist, in addition to being able to help people manage and enhance their professional careers and work life. 

Back to the present:

I have now developed a comprehensive system that helps creatives manage their lives and unique constellation of talents to become serious artists. By talents, I’m referring to how their energies and motivational patterns are structured and used, and not just to the skills and craft of making art objects itself. 

I have combined my learnings and skills to create a strategic process that allows a deep understanding and application of systemic thinking, managing one’s creative ecosystem and studio work as a synergetic practice – all the while building the skill of “transitions” from one life role to another AND the facility and courage to go deep into one’s creative workstream without being paralyzed by the obstacles of every day art practice. 

The “What’s In It For Me” Angle

With a knowledge of creative ecosystem management, you will be able to craft and install a a functional and capacity-building “Creative Operating System” that can morph, adapt, and expand to the life changes you will be encountering over time — all in deep alignment with your unique signature of strengths and distinct energy configuration. My Unique Value Proposition is that I combine battle-tested, evidenced-based tools and techniques, with deep expertise and experience as creativity mentor, art advisor, and strategic/productivity coach, on top of being a practicing artist who is informed, energized, and inspired by the ability to continue and move forward with the work that I need and want to do. 

At this point, I know what it takes to manage your art as an integral part of your life, and how to use the experiences and discoveries of living your life as the source of deep energy for your art. 

This is about living “Life as Art, and Art as Life.”

I call this system “The Metacreative Blueprint,” which is essentially a methodology and strategy that teaches creatives how to craft and sustain an ambitious and serious art practice/career amidst the realities and challenges of living a full life. It’s building a stable and resilient Identity around your need to make meaning and share this vision with your audience.

Ultimately, it’s about “making art no matter what”.

It is “meta” because it is the art of making art, crafting a life devoted to and centered around the practice of one’s creative calling, and the respectful devotion to one’s craft. It teaches an artist how to focus and sustain their unique Creative Vision.

Picasso once said: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

That’s a two-act structure, but there’s really a second act hidden in plain sight.

It’s called “using the map.”

The reality is that: (1) a lot of people never find their gift, or (2) they lose it along the way because they had to “build a roof over their heads” or some other “important stuff.”

I haven’t decided which is more tragic. 

But the ending is the same in both versions.

They never get to express their purpose.

I’m offering you the map.

Your own Ariadne’s Thread...

…and it’s yours for the taking.  

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