≡ Menu

Erik Wahl Quotes

Erik Wahl

Erik Wahl quotes: wise words from the artist, author and business consultant.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”

“Build a brand. Become aware of and build your personal brand regardless of what business or industry you are in. Your leadership, your talents, and your communication medium are all part of your brand.”

“Explore. Complacency breeds conformity. Growth and comfort cannot co-exist. We must push ourselves to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Creativity is a muscle that grows in the face of resistance.”

“Be disciplined. Creativity is more than just leaning on your talent. You have to be disciplined. You must be mentally, physically and spiritually prepared when opportunity knocks or knocks you down.”

“Attach yourself to the work. The single greatest benefit in being a constant creator is that the process doesn’t just improve what you create, it improves who you are. When who you are is attached to what you do, striving for excellence excites you instead of burdening you. Your drive to see an endeavor through is fueled by passion and purpose instead of mere duty or obligation. There’s a tangible difference. Don’t aim for balance. Take courage and aim for integration—the folding of all you are into what you do.”

“Genius is the capacity to retrieve childhood at will.”

“You need to embrace a routine to be disciplined as a creator. For great artists, composers, writers and business masterminds, discipline is strategic. A mindful routine allows for fast progress and simultaneous flexibility to explore without an immediate deadline. This is a creativity conundrum: we need to be efficient and use our energy wisely, but in order to make progress, we also need to explore, ideate and create. Routine is the glue that holds them together. There has to be a constant willingness to let go—of assumptions, of current knowledge, of safety nets. But there must also be structure to make real strides in your creative efforts, enough to force you to take action and produce something, anything, on a daily basis.”

“The key is to break through the fear that prevents us from moving forward and taking advantage of opportunities. Sometimes it only requires us to look at the world with a new perspective. If you’re not trying new things, are you pushing hard enough?”

“If you don’t fail, I would say you aren’t trying hard enough. I could predict a future trajectory of success for any industry, any industry or organization, or child, by asking one simple question: what is your definition of failure? If your definition of failure is consumed with weakness or loss or bankruptcy, then your ceiling remains at a very specific level, you insulate yourself from challenges or external environments, and you can only go so high.”

“By comparison, if you define failure as research and development—an opportunity to adjust, advance forward, fail forward—the sky’s the limit on how far forward you go. Every time you come to face with fear, you become stronger, more courageous and more confident.”

“Creativity is born in mystery.”

“Each day is a day to create. Period. Constant creators see life as simply as that.”

“At what age did that creative river that once did flow so freely, effortlessly, through each and everyone of us; at what age do you think it started to dry up? Pablo Picasso said every child is an artist. The challenge, ultimately, is how to remain an artist once we grow up. How to retain that childlike passion, that childlike ability to differentiate, to creatively solve challenges and ultimately plug it back into your adult life, your retail business, your connection to consumer. To stop selling and start engaging.”

“Conformity blocks creative thinking. Our minds have been trained from childhood to think in lockstep and conformity. Our school systems automated us to sit in straight rows; color within the lines; and respond with sequential, one-dimensional, regurgitated answers. We were taught to take all our wonderful, multidimensional answers and to narrow them down in search of only one right answer. Ultimately, our analytical systems blocked our natural paths to creative thinking. In a sense, we were trained to become creatively constipated.”

“Ongoing, original creativity requires the spark and the grind: the initial flicker of hope and the work to stoke it into something that changes the game. Always both, never just one.”

“Creativity is not an ‘either-or’ proposition. It is ‘yes and.’ Creativity is both incremental and expansive. We must not wait for big ideas to strike. There is a discipline to creativity. Incremental tactical improvements help streamline operational efficiencies. It also frees up our time and mental space to entertain and then engage in breakthrough ideas that have the potential to jump the tracks and leapfrog the competition. As leaders we must foster an environment where it is okay to question the status quo, to take risks, to step back and look at the larger picture, become part of the larger picture. This orchestration enables the leaders to build the emotional connection to the mission and drive future discretionary effort from their employees. It helps paint the picture of why we are doing what we do. When we all have a shared vision for why we are serving, creating, marketing, growing, the clouds part and the sky is the limit.”

“No creative routine worth embracing is simultaneously light on risk and heavy on reward. The creative process is risk and reward at once and all at once. It may hurt at first, but the more you do it, the less risky, rote and unreasonable it will feel even when your actual odds of failing haven’t changed. Fighting this fight is one of the most worthwhile battles in your life.”

“I am the most creative when I am calm. When my mind is fully present and grateful to be in the expansiveness of the current moment, I am free to create without anxiety. It sounds easy, but it takes mental toughness and discipline, and I’ve had to learn how to access it. Now, I know I am calmest when meditating or during a massage or a run. I structure my day by interspersing these calm moments with periods that demand creative output. I will meditate and expand my mind and then contract and focus and write.”

“When am I the least creative? Anytime I feel anxious, or when I’m not paying enough attention to giving myself space to create. For a long time, I didn’t feel creative at all, and I actually didn’t feel that I needed creativity. I had a good career, and worked hard grinding it out. I thought that creativity was just for hipsters sipping espressos, chasing sparks of inspiration. When I had to start a new career, I realized that that stereotype of creativity was false. We all need creativity, and we all need to know how to hold the spark of creativity in balance with the grind of execution.”

“Rethinking, or ‘unthinking,’ the approach to a business could be the creative spark needed to truly connect with the consumer and wholly differentiate a community from the competition.”

“Disruption is the new normal and businesses must embrace creativity in a wholesale fashion, or risk being left behind. Be increasingly agile and use disruption as a competitive advantage. Some companies will be disrupted, others will choose to be the disruptor. Choose wisely.”

“In my book, UNthink, I outline how to be provocative with a purpose. Once you have a defined brand strategy you are able to move freely within that realm. If the goal is to grow market share and grow your business, you cannot be mediocre. Mediocre is boring, mediocre is invisible, and the marketplace on mediocre has already been cornered. If you want to grow your business you need to attract attention and be visibly differentiated from the competition. I would turn the question around and ask, ‘Can we afford to be conservative? What if we were to expand our own definition of risk beyond the structured approach to minimizing liability and begin to look at the risk of being too structured in our strategy against a rapidly-changing economic consumer landscape?'”

“That breakthrough thinking is available to anyone, anywhere and at anytime. We secretly believe that creative genius is reserved for the chosen few—for the poets, the painters, the writers. The truth is that breakthrough creativity is in all of us. It is us. It is the process through which you and I discover all that we were meant to be and do. This is as vital to your happiness as it is to the value of your work.”

“One original thought is worth 1,000 meaningless quotes.”

“Do you feel your life has been shackled by what you were conditioned to believe when you were young? Maybe the conditioning was even more recent than that. The time has come to unchain the elephant.”

“While your company’s success might be a respectable, short-term motivator, working for the company’s sake is not enough. You must be working toward your own personal growth and development. When you rediscover that spark, the company benefits from your continuous improvement. It’s not the other way around.”

“Well-meaning professionals are subsequently left with motivators like the company’s profits and its statement of purpose—noteworthy factors, but not personally moving factors—certainly not enough to spark a worker to soar to become the best possible version of who they were designed to be.”

“The truth is that to unearth your greatest spark for innovation, you have to set your company’s mission statement aside and delve deep within your why. Why do you do what you do? You have to return to that beginner’s mind, when you dreamed about what you wanted to be when you grew up. You need to remember what mattered first, not what matters right now. The tyranny of the urgent needs to be supplanted by the tyranny of the ultimate. What ultimately matters… to you?”

“Winston Churchill noted that at first, people shape their life’s work and then it shapes them. At the time, Churchill was giving the positive side of the story: work makes us better people. Unfortunately, the other side of the story is more common. We choose our work to become the person we desire, but then work makes us people we never intended to be. Instead of us shaping work, it shapes us, often for the worse.”

“No matter what side of this journey you’re currently on, you cannot escape that your work shapes you, one way or the other. Work is one of the most significant contributing factors to one’s inner life and development.”

“When you’re asking yourself is my work a spark or a grind, there are pat answers and there are profound ones. We typically default to the pat answers. They are the first to come to mind. They are also the logical answers. And so when you ask yourself this question, ‘Why do I do what I do?’ your answer is likely ‘To pay the bills’ or ‘To put food on the table.’ Those aren’t your deepest reasons for working. They won’t inspire you to your greatest potential. They aren’t the things for which you’d surrender all else—not in an enterprise economy. This doesn’t mean they aren’t true needs. We all have to pay the bills and eat. But you don’t stay up at night dreaming about utilities and groceries. If your goals don’t light a spark for your own personal breakthrough, then what does?”

“I can’t answer that question. Only you can. Let me offer a little reminder with a paraphrase of the Howard Thurman quote: ‘Don’t ask what your company needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive.’ Because what your company needs is people who have come alive.”

“What makes you come alive is your spark, no matter where you work or what your job description says you do. When you know your reason for why you do what you do, the game changes. Victor Frankl concluded in Man’s Search for Meaning, if you know your ‘why,’ you can endure any what. And if you know your spark, you can endure any grind.”

“What you need to know—what perhaps no one has ever told you—is that an artist is anyone who challenges conventional wisdom and inspires change that creates new channels of problem solving and innovation. Art is not only a noun; it is a verb. It is not only a canvas; it is a catalyst. Art is far less about the physical thing created than about the effect of your ideas, words, and creations on your circumstances and the others around you.”

“I’ve built a brand around my own kind of graffiti. It elevated our brand by provoking thought about what art is, and I’ve seen that people respond profoundly to the paradox of a corporate speaker and businessman making graffiti. I was a ‘graffiti artist’ who travelled around the world consulting for Fortune 500 organizations on how to innovate. How to differentiate. How to think like an artist but act like an entrepreneur. Graffiti embodied everything that’s interesting and new about my business. It got noticed and launched our brand and our business to a new level.”

“My art is about connecting with people and the movements that matter to them in the present day. Off the stage I study global events and pop culture to inspire my next potential artwork. Then I share it and ride the wave of momentum of trending events on social media. If the world is watching the Olympics I am preparing to create an Olympic icon.”

“I’m an artist, but I see my art as only one part of the brand that I built. It also includes my writing and most importantly, my live performances. From the stage, my art is a hook. It is an attention-getter. It brings my message to life by fascinating and engaging large crowds. I perform as much as I paint. I create a painting in three minutes choreographed to music and video. The message of my presentation is built around inspiring individuals to ‘think different,’ as the iconic Apple ad suggests. But the way I humanize the message and activate the content with art, music, emotional connections, and stories, is where my presentation is different. I intentionally catch audiences off guard from what they thought they were expecting, to surprise them with an entirely different point of view. Think different, performed different.”

“We can theorize all day long about theology, politics, creativity, and social change. But the rubber meets the road in practice, in actual encounter with real life. Too often our lives are small and circumscribed, structures to protect us from anything unfamiliar or unknown. We fight not to appear foolish. Stop fighting that fight. Let go of your self-consciousness and fear of humiliation. There are far greater things to lose than a little ego now and then.”

“Set about today to establish a routine, a rhythm, that allows you to maximize as much creative juice as possible every day, in every context. Allow your routine to become part of who you are, part of your lifestyle. When you experience its rewards, even only a few times, you will be ready to lean in further. In other words, you will comprehend what constant creators have known for centuries.”

Related: Simon Sinek quotes.

Cory Johnson: your momma’s neighbor’s side chick’s last Uber Eats delivery guy’s third-favorite blogger. Here’s how he makes millions of dollars blogging without being bothered.