Pablo Picasso once said: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Picasso never graduated college. In fact, he only attended one semester before quitting. However, his works are regarded as some of the best and to this day his art has been reported stolen more than any other artist’s. By contrast, Elon Musk has a significant educational background and is considered to be one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world after creating and building companies such as Paypal and Tesla. Both of these men spent many of their formative years schooling in one form or another; earning the rules like a pro. Both of these men then broke those rules.
There is an argument to be made that being an entrepreneur is not the same as being an artist, and vice versa. I implore you to ignore that and look the other way. Here’s why: Let’s delve into the life and success of Sam Kass, the White House chef during the Obama administration. Sam was hand picked by President Obama prior to his election, when Obama was still a Junior Senator. After Obama’s election, Sam became Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy and Executive Director for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, all the while maintaining a friendship with the Obama family and cooking for them on a daily basis. As a chef, you are both an artist and an entrepreneur; often crossing back and forth between the two. You must manage your image and restaurant sales, but also create art using food. So now you’re probably thinking, “Well Sam is neither an entrepreneur nor an artist, he is a cook…hence why his title is chef.” Allow me to introduce you to two other “chefs.” Jesse Pinkman and Walter White. Yep, thats right, two characters of Breaking Bad fame. Both were cooks. One was an artist, the other an entrepreneur; but both were cooks. For those of you who were in a coma for the last ten years, I’ll explain. Breaking Bad was a television show in which the main character, Walter White, is a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer. Walter teams up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, to produce and sell meth in an effort to secure his family’s financial future before he succumbs to cancer. Being that Walter is an extremely intelligent chemistry teacher, the meth he produces is a far better product than any competitor and begins to take the New Mexico area by storm. Also, due to the ingredients used, the meth is blue instead of clear. This is Walter White’s art; and this is clearly translated to the audience throughout the show’s progression. Jesse Pinkman is the entrepreneur, creating a distribution chain and marketing Walter’s art. Cooks, sure, but after that would you still use the same word to categorize Sam Kass? I didn’t think so. What do Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and Sam Kass all have in common though? They learned the rules like a pro, then they broke them like an artist.
Neil Gaiman, when addressing the 2012 graduating class at University of the Arts commencement, ended his speech by stating: “And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.” Neil did not graduate from a university, yet this is a man who is telling the graduating class of an arts college the same thing entrepreneurs are told. Make mistakes. Break rules. Fail early and fail often. So now it is my time to end this writing, and I leave you with one final thought; one final reminder:
It does not matter if you attended university, sold an app for millions, or lived in your parent’s basement until you were 28. What matters is that you learned the status quo, and then decided it wasn’t fucking good enough.
That is entrepreneurialism, and that is art.
I dodge, I duck, I dip, I dive, and I dodge. To cure boredom I reengineer commercial wind turbines, making them more aerodynamic. Bill Clinton once asked me boxers or briefs. I responded with commando. I woo women by cooking four course meals using only an easy bake oven. On the weekends, to blow off steam, I participate in full contact chess. Orange thought I was the new black. I don’t call 911, 911 calls me. I’m banned from 14 Las Vegas casinos for cheating at 52 card pickup. Florida only considers itself the sunshine state when I am visiting. Using nothing but a squeaky dog toy and a spatula, I defeated ISIS. As a result, the FBI has placed me in a witness protection program in the marketing department at UM.