#22: Risks Not Taken are Misses { “Out My Way” – House of Heroes }

Recently I have been trying to figure out where my work fits into my long term goals as a creative. I was encouraged by a couple of key things this week while working through some project ideas. One came from a song that really solidified my attitude and the other came from James Victore (I’ll talk more about that later). So today I continue my series on song lyrics and how they can reflect something about a creative mindset. The song this week is “Out My Way” by one of the most consistently brilliant bands I know-my good friends-House of Heroes.

The song is basically a reference to what amounts to a boxing match. About taking shots and taking chances, because you’ll never know if you could have made it unless you try. The lyrics that stuck with me the most this week are, “If you add up all the risks not taken they’re all misses.
Today is about being bold and taking risks, it’s about being confident and fearless in your creativity.
Something that I have been struggling with is finding my niche as a designer and creative. I’m sure a lot of you feel this way at times. We know what we love to do or what we’re good at; we have a universe full of big ideas in our heads but we sometimes lack the guts to execute.  We are apprehensive to try for fear of mediocrity. When the truth is, as I’m discovering, that the road to greatness is paved in mediocrity, because no one started out being awesome.
Every amazing designer or artist or musician was rejected so many more times than they were accepted. They tried dozens, if not hundreds of different ideas, tools, things, before they found one that made sense to them, and that thing is what set them apart. Usually this thing is the one that took the most blood and sweat and possibly tears. Other lyrics from this week’s song are “you’ll never find out till your body’s been broken on the canvas, If you belong with the ghosts and the has beens, Or if you live on like a little piece of greatness”. This song is from an album that came out a few years ago, and somehow it never really caught me the way it did this week. It is really a call to pursue the things that are burning inside of us. It’s not easy to just step out and make things, it can hurt. There’s no way of knowing if what you put out there will be celebrated, rejected, or embraced; if your work will be noticed at all. But what if you never try? Then you have already lost, you have already missed if you never took the shots. Don’t be afraid of what others will think, do your thing, go your way.
I recently re-discovered James Victore. He’s a designer whose work is displayed at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). He is a master advocate for doing courageous creative work without regret. I love his philosophies. He is unapologetic, he is brave and genuine, and people love his work. One of the quotes I recently reposted that really embodies his personality is “What I propose is a difficult and dangerous path, but then again, my ideas are not for everyone. Just the sexy people.” It’s tongue-in-cheek, but so true. Doing new and interesting things is very difficult. So many of us are so afraid to go against the norm or the trends. I realize that I have fallen into the trap of just trying to do something that I know people will like, because it’s what people are into these days. I have been a graphic designer for over ten years, and a Creative Director for about eight of those years, so I can do any style of work just by looking at it, but that’s not really fearless design; it is fun, but not fearless.
We need to let our bodies and our minds get broken on “the canvas” literally and figuratively; to take risks in our normal process. All of this is really hard for me. I like structure, I like process, and perfection, and that’s okay for a lot of things. However, if we want to find our “little piece of greatness” we need to be more dangerous in our creativity.
We need to be brave for ourselves and what incredible things might be lurking in the dusty corners of our minds that we never explore.
Don’t constantly be pursuing perfection; there can be a different kind of perfection and alarming beauty in the imperfect, in the abstract and messy; so take risks.
I’m excited to start trying this out on my own in the coming weeks. I want to merge my passion of perfection and clean design with the messy abstract and see what fun and interesting things might happen. I’m going to paint with old coffee, use tape to make typography, and finally execute some ideas that I’ve been afraid of creating. And if it’s awful, that’s okay too. I’ll move on to something else and keep getting up to try something riskier the next time. I hope you’ll share with me the imperfect things you are creating and the daring things you are trying in your creative process. Design and music are a wonderful world. I hope you’ll join me here, because design matters (and your work does too).
(full lyrics)
“Out My Way”
House of Heroes
When did everyone I leaned on get out dated?
Where are all the great mysteries and the legends?
If they could make me a carbon copy would you hate it?
Or would you even know they offed me?
Obliterated…If you’ve got a shot you wanna take,
Better hope it buries me, hey ey ey
If I go out then so it be,
You know I’m going out my way.If you add up all the risks not taken they’re all misses,
Think I’d rather live with the knock down drag outs and the stitches,
Because you’ll never find out till your body’s been broken on the canvas,
If you belong with the ghosts and the has beens,
Or if you live on like a little piece of greatness,It took a whole lot of blood and sweat to get what I got,
It took a whole lot of cold hard want to get what I got,
It took a whole lot of nights like these to get what I got,
Yeah it took cold hard want to get what I got yeah!

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