Excellence is a Conversation — How to Grow More by Appreciating Art

People imagine that periods of growth should be pursued with a Stoic attitude. I used to tell myself that instead of watching a movie, I should attend only to what relates to my current goal. But motivation and creative inspiration suffer from this attitude. The art of others is a prompt for us to contribute more in our own ways — Improv is a microcosm for this.

Improv is acting without a script — you create on the fly, just like in real life. To be good at Improv, you pay attention to what other actors say and do around you, and use that as inspiration for your next move — “conversing” verbally and non-verbally with other actors.

Creating anything in life, from a business to a painting, is likewise a conversation among actors. But everyone misunderstands how large the actor pool is.

On a small scale, individual or group actions cause ripples in a domain space (like an industry or professional field), and other actors observe that change and respond. E.g. Snapchat introduces a new gesture into their product, and Instagram responds by evolving a similar gesture. Other companies in the field do the same, causing a trend that shapes an industry.

But on a larger scale, individuals are inspired by excellence and creativity from all domains, and they bring that inspiration into their work. If you watch an excellent jazz concert, that concert is actually posing a question to you: “Given the excellence you just witnessed, what is your next move?”

It’s your turn to take the performance and use it as inspiration. It raises standards. The appropriate response is for you to perform excellence in your own field, which adds to the conversation. The creative ripple flows on, because every self-expression can be an inspiration to contribute more.

So seek out good art during period of growth. Appreciate the creativity of others as part of a dialogue in which you are asked to respond in your own way — be inspired.