The Purity of Work and Art

To create outstanding work it is essential to start from the beginning – focusing on its most basic and essential qualities.

As film animation studio Pixar achieved success with blockbuster films such as Toy Story, business partner Disney, and CEO Steve Jobs decided it was time build a new home that would encourage more creative collaboration.

One aspect of the structure was that the steel beams would be exposed. As a result, Jobs took great care in finding just the right steel – with the best color and texture. The selected steel mill was instructed to blast the steel to showcase its essential qualities – and pure color.

Arrangements were also made to to treat and ship the beams with special care. The steelworkers that assembled the beams, bolting instead of simply welding them, were known to bring their families by on weekends to share their work.

A vision that starts with pure and beautiful materials demands more than work.

It creates something special – an expectation that tends to bring out the finest craftsmanship a worker can provide.

Always Start with Purity

Steve Jobs had a thing about purity.  When the concept of the iPod was conceived, his vision was that it be pure white – not just white, pure white.

Pure white isn’t necessarily cleaner or brighter – it is the essence of white, just as perfect steel has a special texture and pure steel-gray color.

How can you create great work when you do not start well?  Starting with average materials or an unclear vision is like starting in the middle – and that is only going to lead to average results.

What is the most raw and essential component of your work – the thing that when combined with your personal expertise and skill becomes something special, bringing out the true nature of both?

That’s where you start to achieve your best work – with purity, and without compromise.

The True Nature of Work

Your true nature is who you are at your purest state.  When you bring that to your work something amazing happens – it ceases to be work.

Honoring your true nature is analogous to starting with the purest quality building blocks that are essential for creating your work.

Some work with physical materials – just like those steelworkers, while others like me with intangibles, such as language and ideas.

Nevertheless, we are all still charged with the same challenge if we expect to create exceptional work that we will be proud to share. You have to respect the purity of both the materials, and your true nature.

In my work, I have to respect and work with the basic purity of words and language to communicate a message. A musician does the same with notes and the spaces between them. Should she fail, her music is nothing more than noise.

How about you?

What is the essential ground state of your work – a state of being or presence of mind that when it starts pure, your best naturally follows?

Enriching Lives with Your Work

Ron Johnson is the new CEO of retailer JC Penney, and the former Apple VP who elevated retail to an art.

He made an interesting comment on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network regarding the challenge for retailers today. He said retailers should ask, “How can we reinvent our store to enrich the lives of our customers.”

Enriching lives is only possible when there is a pure vision that that is followed from beginning to end – without compromise.

Great work is art, whether that work is abstract painting, customer service, or construction.

There is a purity to art that defies description. You know it because there is an undeniable emotional connection.

That’s precisely what I felt when I read about the steelworkers proudly sharing their work. You know it too – as we have all experienced it when we have tapped into our true nature, our essential and pure state – one that most interestingly is achieved when we are working.

Pretty amazing, don’t you think?

Have you ever considered that serving your customers is an art?

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 I’ll be back soon after our Thanksgiving holiday – and no later than Small Business Saturday –  Jeff.