Harvard of the High Seas
Unattended and ignored, discontent can really turn sour. But if you paid attention to it, sometimes it can actually bring light. That's what happened to Jeff Shelton. He grew up in the foothills of Santa Barbara, in a really beautiful place. And it's a town located along the coast in California. And when he was a kid, nearby to where he lived, they started to build these rectangular, ugly cinder block buildings. And Jeff did not like them at all. And it was right then and there, when he saw those buildings, that he decided to become an architect when he grew up. And now the guy is world famous. And his style is kind of Dr. Seuss meets Spanish architecture. He has all these wild and whimsical lines and colors in the work that he creates. And this isn't only true for architecture, it's true for other areas, as well. Like for Herman Melville. The guy went on his first voyage, I think, when he was about 18. And it was difficult, but he was hooked. It made him want to take a longer voyage, ...
which he did on a whale ship. And he went across the seas. And it was from that experience that he actually wrote Moby Dick. Years later, reflecting on that, he said, A whale ship was my Harvard, my Yale. Sometimes it's those difficult things that happen, which teach us the most. And education, it doesn't only happen in school. And we know this, right? And this is true in architecture. It's true in writing, in business, in life, as well. I like how Richard Branson says, he says, or puts it. He says, The businesses come from bad experiences. Or consider Viktor Frankl, the Nazi prison camp survivor. His experience and writing about that really is profound. And one of the things that he wrote about that horrific experience is that we give our suffering meaning by the way that we respond to it. Creativity, it isn't just about being bubbly and bright and happy and optimistic and positive all the time. Sometimes we need to go dark. We need to face those things that bother us most, and ask ourself, well, how can we bring meaning to that? So how can we do that? Well, I have a couple exercises I'd like to suggest. The first one is about going dark, but then bringing some light there. And here's what I mean, take some time with a journal or scratch piece of paper, and write down the things that bother you or annoy you most, in yourself, in your job, in your craft. So let's say, for me in photography, one thing that annoys me is when photographs are really staged and commercial and feel like they're trying to sell something too hard. That gets under my skin. Or maybe it's when you watch that film and it's just too long, too drawn out. Or perhaps it's, in photography, when people treat models as props. Or when I'm at a holiday gathering, and I see people staring at their phone. Whatever it is, think about those things that bother you most, and then bring some light there. What I mean by that is ask yourself, Well, what's the solution? How can you make a change in that space? How can you go from cinder blocks to something else? And then next I want you to think about what your Harvard is. Remember for Melville it was the high seas. And I think we all have these little Harvards in our lives, right? These difficult experiences that we face, that have taught us so much. And by going there, and by tapping into that, what we can do is begin to say, Well, what did I learn? And how can I apply that as I seek to discover and find my own creative voice?