Why art school is worth the money: 6 life lessons

By Posted in - Blog on January 23rd, 2014 0 Comments woman kayaking

Most people who have been to art school (and many others who have not) easily toss off jokes about what a waste of money it is.

Certainly, earning a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree (as I did) is incredibly expensive, and considering the small number of people who are able to substantially profit from their creative endeavors or anchor a career to them, you could even say it’s a highly impractical pursuit. Though I wouldn’t for one minute call an art degree a waste of money.

In fact, it now occurs to me how lucky I am to have learned the lessons I did in art school, for they have had a profound effect on my personal and professional life—they regularly inform the way I think and behave, and moreover are responsible for the woman I am today.

You see, art school doesn’t simply develop one’s creative potential; it tests one’s patience, self-worth, and emotional strength. Art school challenges people to consider (very carefully) what they believe, why they believe it and how to best express those beliefs to others. Essentially, art school urges people to figure out who they really are.

I believe that our deepest relationships and dearest professional roles ask of us the same. Though we often exit them before doing the hardest work.

In art school, you’ll shed tears, pull your hair out, and wish you’d never been born, but you won’t jump ship—after all, a degree and money are in the equation. If only we could pay $ to challenge ourselves elsewhere! Oh wait, that’s why coaching exists…

Lucky for you, I’m going to give you a slice of the best lessons (six, to be exact) I learned in graduate art school—for zero dollars.

1. PATIENCE
You can’t rush creative genius (or any kind of genius), my friends. Patience really is a virtue. Let your project, business, or relationship develop in time, at its own natural pace. Brilliant ideas will eventually come (when you’re relaxed) and the right path will always present itself (if you hang out and collect information). Trust the process; it works.

2. EXPERIMENTATION
There isn’t one right way to do anything (start a business, fall in love, raise a child, take a photograph, etc.). If someone tells you otherwise, ignore them and consider keeping different company. Adopt an experimental attitude towards everything you do and see what approach feels best in any given situation.

3. OPEN-MINDEDNESS
Craft a fuzzy vision of what you want your project, relationship, or business to be like. In other words, don’t get attached to specific outcomes. Whatever you think your new endeavor will turn into, it will end up as something very different. That’s life! So stay incredibly open-minded as you work towards your goals.

4. FAITH
Taking a risk in business, love, or life is really exciting and really, really scary. If you’re building something from the ground up, or even just shifting gears, somewhere in the process there will be a moment when you freak out. This is when you need to have faith in yourself. Say to yourself: “I am fully capable of doing this. I’m good enough. I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I couldn’t go all the way. I’ve got this.” (Or choose a motivating mantra of your choice.)

5. SELECTIVE LISTENING
If you’re doing something different, uniquely you (and I hope you are), people will fly out of the woodwork to offer their critique. My, what strong opinions they have! This is when you might want to get selective about whose advice to consider, and take only that which resonates on your journey forward.

6. CONVICTION
Only you know what is best for you (not your loudmouth friends, parents or partner). Stand up for what you really believe. Pursue what you are genuinely interested in and excited about and you’ll always be on the right track.

There you have it, folks. You might try playing with these characteristics in various areas of your life, one at a time, or all at once if you want the full art school experience. With some practice, you’ll be living artfully in no time.

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