Kent Sanders | Unlock Your Creative Potential

Unlock Your Creative Potential

4 Proven Practices That Will Help You Be More Authentic


This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book The Artist’s Suitcase: 26 Essentials for the Creative Journey, which releases May 19. You can get a free copy, along with other valuable bonuses, when you join the Artist’s Suitcase Insiders team. Click here for info on how to join.

“Xerox” is a term we don’t hear much anymore. It originally referred to the company that pioneered the photocopier, but over time it came to refer to almost any kind of copying process. Once in a while you will still hear someone use the phrase “make a Xerox” or “Xerox that document.”

That’s OK for making copies, but not so good for making artists.

As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, I idolized Michael Jackson. I loved the red zippered jacket he wore in the “Thriller” video and was jealous of the kids at school who had one. Sometimes I would even channel the magic by putting a white marching band glove on my right hand and doing the Moonwalk. (I promise not to subject you to the horror of watching me dance.

The trouble was that I wasn’t MJ and didn’t have his gifts. I could try as hard as I wanted, but I could never be him.

The world doesn’t need another Michael Jackson. Or da Vinci or Miles Davis. Or Picasso, Steven Spielberg, Harper Lee, Steve Jobs, or anyone else who has made great art.

What the world needs is the one and only you.

One of my favorite podcasts is The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. (He wrote a great book by the same title.) I love the phrase he uses at the end of each podcast:

Cover bands don’t change the world.

So how do you keep from becoming an artist who’s like a cover band that plays everyone else’s hits, yet has none of their own? How do you stay true to yourself and your gifts, yet still learn from others? How do you stay authentic in a world that values conformity?

There are many possible answers to those questions, but I’ll highlight four proven practices. Look into the lives of all the great artists, and you’ll see these common threads.

  1. Follow your passion. When you’re doing work that excites you, that’s when you’re the most authentic. Do you love the work you’re doing now?
  1. Be true to yourself. Don’t be a people-pleaser. Staying true to yourself sometimes means that you’ll disappoint others. That’s OK. Your job is not to make everyone else happy.
  1. Take the road less travelled. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and do something a little different. Even if you fail, you’ll learn some great lessons.
  1. Hang around with dreamers. The more you associate with successful people who believe in making dreams a reality, the more you will think like them. Who is influencing your thinking these days?

When I was a kid my Dad would sometimes tell this goofy joke:

How do you catch a unique rabbit?

Easy. Unique up on him.

You, my friend, are unique. There’s no one quite like you. Never has been, never will be. If you don’t do the creative work that only you can do, you’re robbing the world of your unique gift. And that would be a tragedy.

I’d love to hear from you. What is a challenge you face in being authentic in your life and art?

Photo courtesy of Gratisography

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.