Where does success begin? What defines success?
These art questions may seem esoteric fodder for art historians or critics, but in the statement above, posed by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (a WWI aviation hero and author of The Little Prince), art and life are rooted together in the moment of contemplation. It was Marcel DuChamp, the godfather of Conceptual Art who pushed against the art world when he rejected paint (which he considered an industrially produced medium) in favor of presenting existing objects in extra-ordinary ways. DuChamp preached through his art, his philosophy that the act of creation in the human mind, conceptualization, was in itself valid as art. He would have been in complete agreement with St. Exupery in his statement that a pile of rocks ceases to be a rock pile as soon as someone sees in it, its potential transformation into a cathedral.
So determined was DuChamp to spread his creed, that he exhibited objects, what he called ready mades, in many major exhibition venues (when they were accepted by broad-minded jurors). Consequently, he famously exhibited a urinal under the title “Fountain”. (That is just one of his better-known pieces.)
It’s important to recognize that Conceptual Art grew out of two post WWI art movements: Dada and Surrealism. Dada had a particularly bitter, ironical wit that grew from young European artists raising their heads in the wake of that horrific war to find everything in ruins. It's important to remember that mustard gas had been used in WWI, so men returning from battle were commonly neurologically changed for life. Along with lost limbs and physical scars, they had trouble walking, talking, thinking, and working. Artists saw this level of annihilation and created an anti-art art movement, one that recognized destruction, chaos, and brutality. Surrealism then, turned toward the underground territory of the subconscious, away from the tattered real world into the dream world and into a life of metaphor, where even common sense had a new definition.
The uneducated may still scoff at DuChamp from time to time, but in the intellectual world, he is seen as a great standard bearer, a colossus marking the gateway to modern and post-modern art. Today, when I saw this quote from St. Exupery I thought of DuChamp, but I also thought about the whole Human Potential Movement. I thought about Oprah Winfrey and Tony Robbins, and every self-help teacher that populates the contemporary stage of human endeavor. It is an accepted belief, that each of our future accomplishments begins in our mind. We conceptualize our future. So every success we achieve begins, just like St Exupery’s pile of rocks or DuChamp’s art, the moment we create the vision of our potential future.
Just as in art, the craft of creating the future happens in the day to day manner in which we work, by the choices we make, and the attitude we put into that work. This is where my work as a coach becomes so important. Sometimes I am needed to support the conceptualizing process, but I am always helpful in the craft of making things happen. That, to me, is the art of coaching.