Quick Takes:

  • All creative endeavors should be measurable
  • All business goals should be pursued with artistic passion
  • If you believe in your mission, it’s your duty to tell as many people as possible

Let’s start off by posing a question: how do you measure success?

The type of success doesn’t matter. It could be business, financial, creative, social or otherwise, but how do you measure it? Or, better said, how do we as a culture measure it?

Business success is measured by growth, financial success is measured by total number of assets, and social success is measured by network size. But what about creative success? Sorry, too many questions? I digress.

When I think about creative success, I think of it in terms of metrics: Spotify listens, YouTube views, email subscribers, book revenue, sold out dance recitals, or anything else that’s measurable. I guess when you look at it, what success really equals is impact. But also, if creative success is as metrics-based as business or financial success, by the transitive property, anything you do or create or pour passion into could be considered an artistic endeavor.

Measuring the Success of Art

Therefore, anything you do, in reality, is creative, and is art. Even basketball is poetry in motion, and I welcome you to tell me that Stephen Curry’s three-point shot is anything but art. Because you’d be wrong.

But, since everything you do is a creative endeavor, and all successes have metrics, all your art must be measurable. Further, the metrics you use to validate your creativity have to reach certain thresholds in order for your art to be considered “successful.”

Now, those thresholds are decided by you and the success you want. If you only want modest success, then those thresholds can be low. Conversely, if you want massive success and societal validation, those thresholds need to be through the roof.

When measuring business success, for example, if your goal is a lifestyle business that gives you cash flow equivalent to a $100k salary, then your success threshold would be a $100k income generated by your company. If business success, to you, means growing a company to IPO, then the measurable threshold for success would be much higher.

When measuring creative success, if you want to be a musician who makes a good living doing what you love, then a success metric could be 100,000 Spotify listens per song you produce and release. If you want to be the next Calvin Harris, conversely, your measurement of success would be somewhere in the millions or even tens of millions of plays.

Point being that even your most artistic desires should be measurable.

No One Cares About Your Art

In reality then, it’s important to treat everything like a business, and treat everything like art.

When creating something artistic, think of it as your business product. If it’s good enough, or if you believe it’s impactful enough, then it’s your duty to get it into as many hands as possible. When doing something traditionally more quantitative, like building a business, think of it as your art, and pour your passion into it accordingly.

Which means, and I’m sorry to say it, that if no one sees your art, it’s hard to consider it successful. Think about it in terms of business: even if your goal is to make a modest $100k a year, a lot of people need to know about your company in order for you to convert enough of them into paying customers to reach that threshold. If your ambitions are monetarily higher, the success threshold would naturally increase.

So, while you can argue that your art is intended for one person and one person only, and that if they find it impactful then it’s a success, I implore you to think otherwise. I don’t believe that a business with a single client is successful, and I can’t believe that a piece of art that’s been seen by one person is a successful piece of art. Art equals impact, and the more impact you can make with a single piece of it, the better the world is, and the more traditionally successful you become.

So then, no one cares about the art you don’t put out there for the world to see. You could have the Mona Lisa in your basement, but if I can’t see it then it doesn’t matter to me. You could tell me that you have the most life changing mural in your attic, but if you don’t show it to me then it might as well not exist.

Similarly, you could have the best business idea in the world, but if you don’t bite the bullet and start cold calling potential customers, then your idea doesn’t matter. If it’s good enough, and if you believe in it enough, then you need to make it available to anyone who wants it.

Even Art Has A Target Audience

Which is not to say that everyone’s going to like your creative masterpiece, sorry. Just like a company, your art has an ideal consumer and an audience who will resonate with it most. So stop concerning yourself with what people think about your idea because some won’t like it.

But some will, and if you decide to create something impactful, then you have to let those people find it. It’s your duty to make it easy for them, hell, even if you have to grab ‘em by the shirt and drag them over to see it. If you make something, go all in.

So the next time you have a creative spark, whether it be to paint a picture or start a business, do it. Life is art, art is business, and business is…what, life? I don’t think so, but it’s all connected, and the more creativity you put out for the world to see, the better off we’ll all be.

  • Birgit

    Thanks heaps Evan for a great post. You have put down on paper what I have been thinking for a while now and try to get across to any type of artist (and business for that matter). Again, cheers!

    • Evan Tarver

      Thanks Birgit!

      I appreciate the kind words. Feel free to share around if you continue to find it valuable.