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On What it Means to Live an Artful Life

A few days ago, I was talking to John P. Weiss on The Unmistakable Creative about what it means to live an artful life. The simplest definition of an artful life is one that's filled with art. It's filled with art you consume, art you create, and art that touches hearts.

It isn't about accumulating fans, followers or other artificial ways to quantify the value of your life. It's about making art, leaving the world a bit different for your having been here.

Regardless of your current situation and circumstances, anyone can live an artful life. When you create something that didn't exist before, by definition you change the world. One way to do that is to live an artful life.


1. An Artful Life is Deliberate

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You live it with a sense of intention, meaning, and purpose. Everything from the way we decorate our homes to the clothes we wear become deliberate choices.

Every experience is a story to tell, every conversation a heart to touch, and every moment a picture to paint. You see the world through the eyes of an artist, your reality becomes your art project, and life becomes the canvas for your masterpiece.

2. An Artful Life is Non-Linear.

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When you live in artful life, you zig and zag. You take the scenic route. The places you go become the backdrop of your story. The experiences you have become the colors you paint with, and the people you meet are the thread that weaves them all together.

3. An Artful Life is Multi-Hyphenate

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There's more to any of us than can possibly be expressed through one label. An artful life doesn't end when you retire from one job. John Weiss is a former police chief, a painter, and a writer. Even while he was a police chief he made his life artful. He drew cartoons on chalkboards and the people who reported to him got to experience his gift.


4. An Artful Life is About Bridging the Gap Between Our Ambitions and Our Abilities

An artful life isn't about book deals or best-seller lists, accomplishments or accolades. It's about the art we make, the dent that we put in our little corner of the universe. It's about hearts over eyeballs, meaning over metrics and significance over success.

Living an artful life changes how we go about our art. We create for an audience of one, and if it happens to reach an audience of millions, that's just gravy. Our desire to improve isn't driven by the need for validation in the form of a bigger audience, status, fame or fortune. Instead, it's driven by the desire to bridge the gap between our ambition and our abilities.

Bridging the gap ignites our enthusiasm and kindles our curiosity. It brings us to the canvas, the blank page, or the lens of the camera with wonder instead of worry. We begin to see our lives as works of art and masterpieces in the making. We let our imaginations run riot like the wild untamed souls that they are.

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When you live an artful life, your art is always worth making, even if the only person who is moved or changed by it is you.


5. An Artful Life is Unmistakable

It's an authentic expression of your soul's calling. Your DNA, blood, sweat, and tears serve as the golden thread that weaves your life together. Some of the most beautiful, emotionally resonant chapters of your work will emerge from some of the most difficult, heartbreaking, and emotional challenges of your life. The broken hearts, businesses that went bust, and moments that didn't live up to your expectations are nothing than colors with which to paint .


6. An Artful Life Has Depth

In an artful life, we embrace solitude and work with long stretches of uninterrupted creation. We don't confuse attention with accomplishment and focus on the process instead of the prize.


7. An Artful Life is About Legacy More than Currency

It's about eulogy values instead of resume values. It's about making your art, and telling your story for the people who matter most to you as opposed to the people you've never met.

When a journalist interviewed Trevor Noah about his book Born a Crime, he said the following:

Write your story. Write it for yourself. Write it for your friends. Write it for your family. That's really why I wrote the book. I wrote it for the people in my life. 

All of my writing is, on some level, an attempt to give my family members a glimpse into who I am, how I experience the world, and how I want to be remembered.

Look closely and you'll see that an artful life is all around. It's in the kitchens of Indian women across the globe. It's inside the lenses of every parent who tells the story of their family with beautiful photos.

An artful life brings us closer. We can say things with our art that we may not be able to say with our words. It gives us the opportunity to start crucial conversations, heal wounds, and build bridges instead of walls.

An artful life is everywhere around us if we're looking for it. It's in latte art at coffee shops, custom illustrated name tags for a conference, and leaving love notes on the fridge for your significant other.


8. An Artful Life is a Good One

In ten years, I've never regretted the time I've spent expressing my creativity and giving in to my curiosity. It's led to unexpected surprises and delicious, delightful moments that I can't imagine my life without. An artful life is a good life and a life worth living.

The happiest and most interesting people aren't necessarily rich, famous, or successful. They don't always have decorated resumes with Ivy League degrees, impressive job titles, and six-figure salaries. But they live an artful life. They're fully self-expressed.

When you live an artful life, creativity becomes the lens through which you view the world.

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Your ideas aren't tasks on to-do lists. They're adventures that await the moment you put pen to paper or brush to canvas. Your creative projects and grand ambitions are exotic destinations. But the journey, not the destination, is the purpose of living an artful life.


An artful life is a choice.

It's a choice to treat this journey you're on as a daring adventure in which you write your own script.

It's a choice to do life by design instead of by default.

It's a decision to take the scenic route instead of the fastest and most efficient way to get somewhere.

It's about friends and family, not fans and followers. It's about meaning, not metrics.

It's recognizing that living is your art, life is your canvas, and you, like gods, were born to create.

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