Patterns School, part 2
*all the quotes are from memory, and may be wildly twisted based on my brain’s tendency to change my memory. On with the story…*
The first day at Patterns school got me excited about what was to come.
As we met each other, we gravitated toward the tables set up near the other end of the space. The beautiful wooden tables held treats for each of us. I found a medium Patterns shirt and the corresponding journal.
“Our sponsors got this stuff for you guys.” Josh mentioned. Awesome.
We broke into our first exercise after some short intro’s. I sat across from Nadav, a jazz musician and developer. I needed to write up his bio in 15 minutes or less. What better way to get to know each other on a deep level?
As we shared what we came up with, Josh encouraged us to pay attention to certain things. He chimed in throughout the week with his guidance.
“I want you to figure out your quirks, and each others’ quirks. Think about things you may not like about yourself. Pay attention to where you’re softening the edges of your personality to be accepted and get client work. Be aware of the things you don’t like about yourself. It’s those edges that help other people choose you over the competition. It’s what gets people interested in what you have to say, especially when you say it differently than everyone else.”
We finished up the bios. Josh’s words rang through my head. What were my own quirks? What makes me different? What am I hiding about myself that I need to let out? I pondered these things as Josh prepared the first film for us to watch, Press Pause Play.
“This is a great documentary. It documents creative people, the way they do their work, and changes in technology that facilitate creativity. When watching the film, I want you to pick out the personalities. What are these peoples’ worldview? How do they operate day to day? How do they think about challenges, changes, etc? Try to apply these to yourself and your work…” With that, Josh left us to our devices.
Watching the film with this lens made certain things more and more clear. I noticed that many of the personalities profiled saw something missing in the world, and viewed themselves as uniquely positioned to fill those gaps. A musician disliked the gap between classical and pop music. He wanted to close it. Since he was the only one to saw it as a problem, he felt he needed to step up and meld the two distinct genres closer together. To make the change himself. Which brought up a second pattern, a sense of loneliness.
Through the film and the week, I noticed that many of the people we profiled often felt scared, alone, and misunderstood. Rather than try to make everyone understand what they’re doing, these people just focused on the work itself. The work became the communication for their audience. It became clearer when I came home and read an article about the lies we tell ourselves about creativity. We say we promote creativity, but we fight the creative process. We love the end result, but oppose people who fight against the grain. We push each other to conform…
Another pattern in the film was the understanding that technology comes first. After that, the artist abuses the technology to stretch it and see just how far it can go. Lance Armstrong with the bike (he’s not the only one who took steroids. Get over it). Jimi Hendrix with the guitar. Seth Godin with blogging.
The technology also comes with dangers. As the platforms and tools we use become more sophisticated, there’s a real threat of artists not pushing themselves. Many artists start relying on technology to fill in the gaps. A critic in the film pointed out the mental masturbation that goes on these days. Now that anyone can make and release “art”, regardless of how bad it is. With so much crap, he argued that we see a decay in culture as our artistic expression becomes more and more gray. His counterpoint, along with a few others, emphasized that real art is created by people pushing the envelope. It’s not an easy happy-go-lucky endeavor. It’s created by people stretching what is and isn’t possible. Some of the greatest thinkers, engineers, and scientists faced vicious opposition to their radical ideas.
Basically, real art is hard shit.
Before he left, Josh gave us our first homework assignment.
“Go to The Great Discontent, pick out 3 people, and write down their patterns. What did they do in their life? What risks did they face? What did they use to overcome thos risks? What were their failures? Then pick out 3 people you admire most, and give a presentation on them. Focus on their patterns. Sell them to the rest of the group. Share what makes their art good, what makes it important. See the patterns of those people you admire…”
By this point, I started understanding the process Josh wanted us to adopt. The questions he asked, the way he presented the information, he pushed us to go further. He wanted us to dig deeper than we’ve ever dug before. To find the gold in how these people lived their lives.
The next morning, Nadav and I rolled up to Patterns together. Our hotels were close enough for us to carpool every day.
We chatted about dinner with Jeremy the night before. Jeremy blew me away. At 23 years old, he’s pushing out amazing designs and heading a few startups. Nadav also intrigued me, with his deep insight into jazz music and his drive to bring cool back to the genre.
Even though I didn’t feel like going to dinner with them, I’m glad I did. I thought about how much that happens. I feel like I don’t want to do something because it might be awkward or I won’t know what to say. Yet anytime I go, it’s an excellent decision. How funny that my mind pushes me away from a chance to connect on a deeper level with cool people, just because I’m afraid of not knowing what to say for 2 minutes…
Anyways, Nadav and I approached the building to find a few new members of the group.
I chatted with two guys who turned out to be from Minneapolis, Grant and Jake. Something about Grant seemed familiar. I asked if he was Grant Spanier, and he confirmed.
“Oh, sick! I follow you on Twitter.” I said.
“Cool, thanks man.” He replied with a smile.
Immediately I regretted saying that. Usually I tend to be more human rather than getting star struck by people I look up to. I recognized that I put him in a wierd situation. Grant was super cool about it though, telling jokes and continuing to chat it up.
I asked Jake more about his work as we all walked upstairs. He described himself as a storyteller through film.
“What kind of stories?” I asked. Jake lit up as we entered the space. He looked around and pointed out a couch off to the side.
“See that couch over there?”
“Yup.” I responded.
“We can make up a story about that couch. Where it comes from. How it was made. How it got to where it is right now. Look at those curves. That might be the couch inviting people to sit down on it. I might start with getting a close up shot of the couch, panning across its curves…” Jake said. I felt myself pulled into his story.
“Dudes, that couch already has a story.” Grant said, joining in after chatting other people up. “It was a gift from someone close to Josh,” he said with a smile. He dove into more couch-telling. We laughed and joked about the couch’s life. Something about these guys was just, cool. At that moment, I knew we’d be close for years to come.