Book Review: Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Why review a book on art in our Career Services blog?  One can never be too creative – it’s important for advancing our careers and solving problems.  A very easy and eye-catching book on creativity is Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon.  His basic premise is that artists evolve by studying other artists they admire (what he calls “stealing”) and then creating their own art.  They are the sum of their influences.  In other words, the more good ideas we collect, the more possible influences we have, and the more creative we are. 

I think this can be expanded beyond the world of art to career management.  He suggests studying one thinker you really love.  This could be a writer, activist, role model or someone highly successful in your career field.  Study all there is to know about that person.  If it is feasible, find three people that person admires and find all there is to know about them.  Then repeat this as many times as you can, like climbing up a tree.  (He states that eventually you will create your own branch!) 

The author advises that we look things up and chase down every reference.  Google your dreams and problems, go to the public library and find books that lead you to other books.  Always jot down new ideas, observations, and inspirations.  He uses a phrase we often tell our Walden students changing careers: “Fake it ‘til you make it!”  If you’re making a career change, meet people in your future field, go to their meetings, read what they’re reading, talk about their favorite topics – act as if you already are in that field.  Follow famous people online – pay attention to what they’re talking about, doing, and linking to – I would recommend doing this through LinkedIn.

To support your efforts, he ends with practical advice: keep your day job, take care of your health, keep a calendar to plan your work and set goals, and keep a logbook of your progress and a praise file for motivation.  So, I’ll end on this note: “Whom do you admire and what will you study and create this year?”

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Career Services Director