Art, content and the Zen of Bennett
You never know where you are going to find inspiration for your work.
I rediscovered this very recently while paging through Life is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett by legendary performing artist Tony Bennett.
Part biography and part success-guide, it is a fascinating meditation on creating art that touches lives and lasts for generations. I am struck by how many of the principles apply to content creators in the online world today.
Bennett’s artistry goes beyond music and performance to include being an accomplished painter, whose art is on display at the Smithsonian. His Zen-like observations on life and creativity provide a recipe for success whether you make art with music, pictures or words.
The Zen of Bennett for content marketing
Here is a sampling of his life lessons for content creators.
ONLY SING GOOD SONGS
His career has been marked by a consistent pursuit of quality. On quality, he says, “An artist should not put out a work of art or any other product that won’t endure. By sticking with the good songs, I’ve been able to have top-selling records with every generation from the 1950s to today.” Zen principles:
IT’S NOT ABOUT TECHNOLOGY, IT’S ABOUT PERFORMANCE
Sometimes you have to unplug from technology. People don’t care how many notes you play. They are touched by how you construct a meaningful interpretation of the song. How you execute. Zen principles:
LEARN WHAT TO LEAVE OUT
What you leave out of the material is as important as what you put in. Bennett says, “I try to arrive at a pacing that’s just right for the audience, knowing what to omit so I don’t stay on stage too long.” Zen principles:
WHEN THEY ZIG, I ZAG
Rather than following trends, Bennett has stayed ahead of them by understanding the universal emotions that inspire his audience. On trusting the audience, Bennett says, “You can’t go wrong when you recognize their capacity to understand what you are trying to express artistically.” Zen principles:
Content as art
What if we took this approach to creating content for the Web? I think the time is fast approaching when content as work product will be eclipsed by content as art.
If you consider the potential for technology to disrupt markets and industries, it’s not hard to imagine how we discover and consume content in five years will be dramatically different than today. Technology is already changing how we define value in the workforce.
This might sound flaky, but smarter people than me are saying the same thing. One of them is Seth Godin.
In his new book, The Icarus Deception, he puts forth the idea that those who create art will be the ones who stand out in the post-industrial economy. He contends that industrialism has reached its ceiling in terms of maximizing productivity.
“A BIC pen will never cost less than it costs now,” he said recently. “I think growth will come from leveraging the wonderful resources we have now, with the kind of work that’s harder to measure and more important.”
How does he define art in this context?
Art is the work of a human being – something a person does with generosity to touch someone else to make a change for the better. Surprise, joy, fear, and everything else we ascribe only to human beings, are the result of art.
That sounds a lot like the Zen of Bennett.
Born to make art
Unless you are a commercial artist, the idea of making art in business sounds unnatural. However, I believe we were born to create. We have been made in the image of our Creator, and it is our nature to create and innovate.
Everything in business – from technology to communications – begins with a creative idea. Those ideas can only be inspired by the human spirit.
That’s why I think producing content should be viewed as art. It has the potential to touch others and have a lasting impact on their lives.
Zen creative principles of quality, originality, authenticity and human connection are more than elements of success. They are our high calling.
I aspire to create content that isn’t just part of the chorus, but a one-of-a-kind voice with longevity. How about you?