Pierre Kleinhouse
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Firecamp Blog

Firecamp Blog: A blog about illustration, design & being a freelance creative.

Why Most Creatives Don't Get Lucky

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Not long ago I had an interesting conversation with a close friend of mine, Dan. We get to talk from time to time about work, career and such, even though he is working in a field very different from mine. Dan has recently returned from a long period abroad and was wondering about the next steps in his profession. He is younger than me and still considered inexperienced in his field, but very quickly since he returned he found a nice job, and about a month after he started working, his manager informed him that he was leaving his job for personal reasons in a couple of months so he intends to recommend Dan as a replacement!

“Wow!” I told him, “that’s great news!”, he was modest and said that sometimes in life a you just need to have luck on your side. It made me think about luck. I can point to at least 5 cases in the last year or two that I've had really good things happening to me as a creative freelancer. Things that made me feel like it wasn’t supposed to happen to me but it did. I would think to myself “Damn! How come I got this amazing project?” or this cool opportunity? After all, there are dozens or hundreds of illustrators, designers and artists who are 1,000 times more talented than me, but somehow I got the chance.

Is it really luck? 

Why the hell do we like to say that things happen to us by luck? I’ll tell you why - because it's fucking easy! It rolls off the responsibility from me to some random thing. My life or my career are not up to me. If I failed, I probably just weren’t lucky. it's not my fault. It's not because I did not work hard enough, or smart enough, I was just out of luck. Easy. You probably got it by now: I don’t like this idea of luck.

Another point of view, which I like more, says that each of us has the same amount of luck, more or less. Of course everyone is born into different social/economic conditions and some are way more fortunate than others. But no matter who you are, we all have some lucky opportunities that comes by to us, at least a few times a year.

So how come there are people who seems to have luck on their side time after time and others who don’t? I think the difference is between those who just stand there, waiting for the luck to come knocking. And those who work hard, train, plan, become as professional as they can - and when the time comes, they’ll grab that lucky opportunity with both hands. They’ll catch every little bit of luck, every spark, and turn it into gold. If you feel this is not happening to you at all, Chances are you're probably missing out on some lucky opportunities that are probably flying under your nose.

So, how does it work? what can we do? There is no big secret here: Let's say I'm illustrator, and I really want to expand my work into the field of movie posters. But today I only do editorial illustrations for magazines. Suppose. I have 2 options:

1. I can hope that one day I will be waking up in the morning, open my computer and see an email from one of the major studios in Hollywood asking me for a poster. Or maybe I'll meet Tarantino in a restaurant, invite him for some drinks, tell him all about my dream to create movie posters. And then he’ll just ask me to create one for his new film. Fuck, that would be nice! The problem with these scenarios is that you need a lot of luck for them to happen. A shit ton of luck even.

2. I can create some posters for myself, no client involved. I'll do it in the evenings/weekends or whenever I have time. This way I can get better at creating movie posters, learn and  improve without the pressure of a client over my head. Most importantly, I can show the world that I can make really good movie posters. Maybe later on I will make efforts to get these posters to reach the right people in this field: I will email directors, I will approach blogs that deals with cinema and design. Maybe I'll even print some copies and mail a producer or some Instagram page I know fits my genre.

After all these actions, chances are, I’ll still won't get a job offer from Tarantino tomorrow morning, but I have greatly reduced the amount of luck I need. I won’t need a shit ton of it so that one of the 30 blogs I sent emails to will love and share my work. I’ll just need some luck, and it just might happen.

In that conversation I told Dan that yes, it's really a lucky coincidence that your boss is just leaving. But he probably wants you to replace him because even though you're the least experienced, you proved yourself to be the best suited for the job. You were ready to catch an opportunity, and that's all the difference. The responsibility is in our hands.

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I think it’s always a good idea to try to come up with small actions that can improve your luck chances in something you are interested in. It can be a side project you’ll do for 30 minutes a day for month or two, it can be setting up a meeting with an influencer in your field. As long as you don’t spend too much time and effort, and able to improve your “luck” chances in that field, I think it’s a risk/investment worth taking.

That’s it for now! Hope you'll have a lucky weekend :)

In case you missed it - I posted a short follow up post to my Photoshop tutorial. 

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And feel free to send me an e-mail/comment if you have questions or ideas for other topics which you would like me to cover? 

Cheers!

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