Base your Body of Work on Making a Positive Difference

by Alan Willett

“I also believe that it may happen that one succeeds, and one mustn’t begin by despairing; even if one loses here and there, and even if one sometimes feels a sort of decline, the point is nevertheless to revive and have courage, even though things don’t turn out as one first thought.”

From Vincent Van Gogh, to brother Theo, 22 October 1882

I was in awe. I was standing inside the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. 

On Saturday, we went to the “Beyond van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” and I was enraptured. The 30,000 square foot space surrounded us in projections of many of Vincent’s paintings and also shared quotes by him.

The design of the experience was breathtaking. To be surrounded by works of the greatness of van Gogh, to be inside paintings that towered over my head, to be bathed in a beautiful soundscape, filled me with wonder. The event’s design allowed me to experience the vastness of Vincent van Gogh’s body of work. 

Later, I contemplated what the van Gogh experience meant to me. I realized I have five principles guiding the creation of my own body of work.

  1. Learn. I learn from the best mentors I can find. I learn from my mistakes. I learn from my successes. I learn from others, often those who have knowledge and perspectives widely different from my own.
  2. Create. I take what I learn and incorporate it into my work. I do this by writing newsletters, creating videos, writing books, creating courses, and creating learning experiences.
  3. Share. I work hard to share the valuable things I have learned. I publish. I put things out there even when they are not “perfect.” Sharing what I’ve learned opens me to feedback, new knowledge, and further learning. The conversations created by sharing become an integral part of the creative process.
  4. Mentor. I learn so much from mentoring others. Being a mentor is a multifaceted experience that allows me to pass on knowledge, look at issues from new perspectives, support others, and continue to strengthen my learning.
  5. Make a positive difference. Many years ago, I had the experience of teaching a course that the survey forms said everyone loved. Despite this, when I came back a few months later, my clients were not doing anything I had taught them. Over time, I have learned how to share knowledge that fosters change. I strive to create a positive, lasting difference for those I work with.

This contemplation made me realize some new things. Van Gogh’s body of work is not just his paintings; it also includes all the people he has inspired.

What is the body of work you are creating?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,