Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Cebo Campbell on Putting Everything Into Your Work, Taking Your Time, and Striving to be the Best – Cracking Creativity Episode 83

Cebo Campbell grew up with a father and a community only interested in one of his talents: football. When he was a kid, his father was the coach of his football team where he stressed one thing, be the best you can be. Cebo took that advice to heart and became a dynamic football player, but due to his height, only got a football scholarship from one school. So he took it.

This is when Cebo started to shift his focus from athletics to academics. He was always creative, but it wasn’t until his teacher encouraged him to major in writing that he truly started to focus on it. When you’re a football player, your teammates shun you for being smart, so Cebo always tried to hide that part of his life. But after winning a writing competition as a freshman, he realized there was something there, so he ran with it.

After graduating and spending a short stint on the west coast, Cebo moved back to Florida and worked at a hotel. While working at the hotel, he convinced the owner to let him work on the hotel’s website. This would be the second big shift in his life.

Cebo became interested in everything he could accomplish with website design and writing. So much so that he went to a conference centered around it. That’s where he met AJ Leon. Cebo and AJ hit it off immediately. This fateful meeting ended up being the beginning of a great friendship, and eventually a job as the creative director of Misfit Inc.

In this episode, Cebo talks about why you should put your all into your work, why you should take your time, and why you should always strive to be the best.

Here are three things you can learn from Cebo:

Put Your All Into Your Work

Something Cebo believes in is the power of pouring yourself into your work. Most people believe talent is the ultimate predictor of great work, but Cebo believes great work is the result of being completely present when you’re creating.

“When it comes to what is good… that whole measure, I don’t think measure exists in your talent. I think the measure is in how much of you are you allowing into be present in the work that you do. Can I see it? Can I feel it?”

One of the things that prevents most of us from putting ourselves into our work is that when you make something personal, you open yourself up to criticism. But Cebo doesn’t let that criticism stop him.

“The minute that you allow yourself to be into the work that you created, you open yourself up to criticism and I have no fear of criticism.”

That’s the problem many creatives have. They are afraid to expose themselves to criticism from the world, so they play it safe.

“That’s true of a lot of creatives. They’re afraid of being exposed, and so they do just enough as opposed to letting it all hang out.”

And that’s what separates Cebo’s remarkable work and distinct style from most creators. He is willing to put everything into his work, even if it means opening himself up to vulnerability. If you want to make an impact with your work, you have to be willing to accept and embrace views from the outside world.

Don’t Be in Such a Hurry

One of the burdens of being an artist is knowing when one of our pieces is ready for the world. Sometimes we toil over it for days, and other times we try to get it out as quickly as possible.

Cebo believes we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to release our work. We need to own it and chisel it until it’s ready.

“Not everything has to be shipped so fast. Not everything has to get out the door. Not everything has to be expedited. Start. Control it. Own it. Make it the way you want it to be. Chisel it if it needs to be chiseled. That’s just how I look at it… I don’t want to be here today, gone tomorrow.”

Our necessity to get things out quickly is especially true of people who work in the digital space.

“We have a tendency, in particular with the web, any digital interface, to time stamp it to the trends of today.”

Cebo doesn’t believe in following today’s trends. He wants his work to stand the test of time.

“I am very particular about my art. The same way I was very particular about playing sports… When it comes to art, I have no problem saying it’s not ready.”

Even though much of his work lives on the web, Cebo doesn’t treat projects like one and dones. He doesn’t let other people dictate his work. He treats everything he does like a piece of art.

“If it’s not ready, it’s just not ready. I hold to that because I think in the end it’s art. If you abide by the rules that other people are imposing on both time and completion, then it’s not your art anymore.”

That’s the way we should all consider approaching our work. Whether you’re a writer, musician, or painter. You should treat each piece like a work of art you can be proud of.

Always Strive to Be the Best

Often times we will settle for good enough. We work so long on a project that it starts to feel like a burden. We want to get it out of our hands so we can stop worrying about it.

This mindset often holds us back from achieving greatness in our work. But if we want to create our best work, we need to trust ourselves and stop holding back.

“I believe wholeheartedly that you have to trust your talent… and there’s so many people that I work with, where you can feel them holding back. You can feel it. You can see it in the work, where they’re just holding back, holding back, holding back because they’re afraid their skill set doesn’t allow them to go further. But I will tell anyone, when I do design workshops, don’t let up. What you don’t know now, you’ll learn. You have everything you need to do everything you want so just keep at it and you’ll get where you want to go.”

Always doing your best can be a challenge, but no one ever said being an artist would be easy. Anyone can create art, but very few people can create great art.

“I think it’s a challenge, and it’s not just a challenge to art. it’s a challenge to us as humans to be the best that you can be. Take it there… If it’s not where you think it should be, hold onto it.”

Cebo doesn’t settle for good enough. He puts everything into his work. Even though he knows he might not be the best at everything, that doesn’t stop him from doing his best. That’s the attitude he wants everyone to pursue, not just with their art but in everything they do.

“It’s only the best that I know. It doesn’t mean I’m going to be better than every person in the world. I just want to realize the potential that I feel that I have, and I think individually as a pursuit for everyone, not just in art, but in their lives just go out with intention and purpose. Take yourself seriously.”

Shownotes

  • about Cebo
    • Creative Director of Misfit Inc.
      • translator at every stage of the proccess
      • designer by trade, learned to code in multiple languages, degree in writing
      • maintain continuity
      • uplift developing areas
      • everyone at Misfit has a spectrum of skills
  • interests growing up
    • grew up really poor in Panama City Beach
    • only outlet was football, started when he was five
    • played into college
    • owns weightlifting record for state of Florida
    • was also very good at writing
      • kept it to himself
    • was fast and strong, but was only 5′ 3″
      • had walk on scholarships to many schools in the south
    • went to Lindenwood University because they were the only school to offer him full scholarship
      • driving to college was first time on freeway
      • did well in football
    • made the shift from athletics to creativity
      • teacher told him he should major in writing
      • gave him a book to write in every day – poetry/writing/etc.
      • realized he enjoyed doing it
      • she entered him into writing competition for seniors, and he won as a freshman
      • players will disown you if you talk too eloquently
      • academics will say you are a football player
      • had a difficult time adjusting
      • realized he wouldn’t make NFL, so he shifted to writing and wrote his first book
      • moved to California after graduating to write
    • move didn’t work out so he went back to Florida to work at a hotel
      • spent 2-3 years at front desk watching people on vacation
      • went to manager at hotel to be marketing person
        • manager told him he needed to know how to build a website
        • he didn’t know anything about websites, but convinced manager he could
        • manager left for a few months, and he learned to build site during his absence
        • taught himself how to design in Photoshop and used Dreamweaver to learn how to code
      • did a little bit of everything for the hotel
        • he still felt unhappy
    • friend taught him how to use writing skills for the web
      • found a way to mix design and code
      • realized he could mix all his skills together
    • made spring break website which allowed him to create his own business
    • going to friend’s conference where AJ Leon was the keynote speaker
      • AJ spoke about living a life of intention
      • made it a point to go back that night to talk to AJ
      • AJ found him and they talked about Shakespeare for hours on the beach
      • couple of months later AJ called him and asked him to come to London
    • travels the world with Misfit creating art in every medium they can

20:32 “I remember thinking ‘Okay you gave up football, the thing that gave you all this praise and had you on this trajectory to be a writer and now you’re at a hotel working a desk job that you hate.’ And I had to come to grips with that. I didn’t know what to do.”

25:29 “I was able to sort of begin to see I could mix all these things together. It didn’t have to be individual disciplines. I didn’t have to partition… Honestly, Kevin, I struggled with it for years and years because so many people would say to me ‘You have to specialize… Are you a designer? A developer? What are you? Are you this? Are you that?’ And I never knew.”

26:52 “I couldn’t specialize. I wanted to do all of them, do all of it well, do every facet of it very very well and be the best I can be at each of them. And that sort of changed, A, my approach to what I was working on, but it also allowed me to accept what I had been all those years growing up where I thought I was this or I thought I was that. Some people said I was this. Some people said I was that, and I sorta realized I was all of that, and that’s okay. It’s okay to be everything as long as you can elevate all of those pieces to art and make it what you want.”

27:30 “I sort of went from a football player to a writer, to a web developer, to a little bit of everything, and those skills, that sort of ability to understand you can be good at all the things you aspire to be good at, to see them as one thing and not individual things, led me to be the creative director for Misfit.”

30:53 “it’s the strangest thing to realize you are where you’re supposed to be… The moment that you look around and it feels like I’m swimming with the current. It doesn’t feel like I’m fighting against it which I felt like I’ve been doing for so much of my life.”

31:25 “All those skills that I sort of accrued over time and all those strange circumstances all applied to everything I do now. And I have the freedom to sort of allow for those thing to help express whatever it is that’s in front of us.”

  • how football and writing are related
    • football is life in Florida
    • leading the nation as a punt returner in college
    • punts are one of the few moments in a football game where everyone is looking at you
      • processing everything during the moment of a punt
      • figuring out the trajectory of the ball and your surroundings
      • getting praise for being a returner
      • working with a lot of information at one time and needing intellect to process it
    • praise for being football player
      • became homecoming king
      • wanted to be the best at writing too
      • never saw football and writing separately
      • competitive nature pushes us to do our best

35:43 “I always believed you could be praised for both… I remember as a kid being a homecoming king… there was all this love… and I wanted to try to think of myself as a writer, as a creative as a writer, that same praise didn’t come. But what came out of me was my competitive nature. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be the best at everything, and if it means that the best is getting praised, then that’s what I’m going to get. I want to get it by any means necessary. So I never saw them separately, even though it felt like I was back at where I was too small to get a scholarship, me personally, I’m like ‘Yeah I’m small, but I’m the best you’ll ever see.’ So competitive nature, it just made me want to be better, and the same is true with  anything academic. I just wanted to be the best. And it didn’t matter the medium. It really didn’t.”

36:44″The praise obviously, everybody wants to feel that moment. Everyone wants to score that touchdown, but not everyone does. I felt like anything I do, I want to score the touchdown. So when it came to… being shunned, or they didn’t want me to be in the room, the fact of the matter was, I still won a writing award. So they had to. They couldn’t not do it, and I think in the end, as long as I fought with everything I had,  and gave it everything I had, which is what every coach taught me, as long as I applied that to the work that I was doing and elevated it to art in that way, then the praise would come no matter what.”

  • using your disadvantages to your advantage
    • being in the room with top UX/UI designers and being nervous
    • the voice in writing
    • trends in design and complacency
    • fear of putting yourself into your work and the fear of criticism
      • football numbing his fear of criticism
    • Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way
      • using modern stories to explain stoic philosophy and using obstacles to your advantage
    • rhythm of theater
      • disruptions/contrast gaining people’s attention

40:32 “When it comes to what is good… that whole measure, I don’t think measure exists in your talent. I think the measure is in how much of you are you allowing into be present in the work that you do. Can I see it? Can I feel it?”

42:14 “The minute that you allow yourself to be into the work that you created, you open yourself up to criticism and I have no fear of criticism.”

42:48 “That’s true of a lot of creatives. They’re afraid of being exposed, and so they do just enough as opposed to letting it all hang out.”

  • Cebo’s novel
    • has written four novels
    • first novel – semi-autobiographical piece about his life
    • other three novels are sci-fi
      • sci-fi leading to real science discoveries
    • latest book was about super collider tech
    • didn’t understand the structure and rules when he wrote his first novel
    • didn’t publish his next two novels
    • is content with writing and not showing the public

47:47 “One thing I actually believe in very much is this idea of the long run. We live in a world now where the minute that you make something, you want to let everybody see it. Put it out there. Put yourself out there…. and you’re burdened with the mistakes of learning, and the minute that it gets criticism, it’ll bury you if you think you’re not good enough and you shouldn’t be doing it.”

48:17 “When we think about some of the great artists of all time, they went through long periods of time where they made stuff and no one saw it. When you like at Da Vinci… he painted or sketched criminal photos… for years of his life… He’s making but no one knows about it.”

  • knowing when something is ready to be shared
    • relies on his intuition
    • works together with Melissa Leon
    • when he’s done, he sets it aside and works on other things, then comes back to it to see if it is good
    • being confident, but also allowing yourself to
    • best writers are best readers

51:01 “I think we all have that feeling where we get to the end of it and we’re so exhausted by the process and we’re ready to re-fill our bucket with more as we pour it all out, that we just want to get it out there and leave it right away. Ship it. Ship it. But I will just turn away from it for a minute because I’m too close to it. And then if I come back to it then I’ll look back at it.”

  • knowing when to let go of perfectionism
    • developing WordPress theme for Misfit
      • creating something that will stand the test of time
      • will look like a magazine/art
      • based on The Alchemist
      • found inspiration from everything
      • spent 3 years tinkering to make it feel right
    • the way you use Apple devices feels natural
      • finding something fundamental that lasts the test of time

1:01:20 “Not everything has to be shipped so fast. Not everything has to get out the door. Not everything has to be expedited. Start. Control it. Own it. Make it the way you want it to be. Chisel it if it needs to be chiseled. That’s just how I look at it… I don’t want to be here today, gone tomorrow.”

1:01:56 “We have a tendency, in particular with the web, any digital interface, to time stamp it to the trends of today.”

1:03:43 “I am very particular about my art. The same way I was very particular about playing sports… When it comes to art, I have no problem saying it’s not ready.”

1:04:20 “If it’s not ready, it’s just not ready. I hold to that because I think in the end it’s art. If you abide by the rules that other people are imposing on both time and completion, then it’s not your art anymore.”

  • looking at your work as art instead of a commodity
    • Jiro Dreams of Sushi
      • following Jiro, a sushi master
      • treating sushi as a fine art and mastering it
      • not allowing wasabi to be used until it was perfected
    • challenge to art and be the best we can be as humans
    • dad was his football coach and jack of all trades
      • didn’t have any licenses but he did work all around houses
      • wanted to be good at everything
      • strived to be better at his work
      • couldn’t give life to his art
      • dad told him to be the best that he could be, and Cebo took that into the rest of his life
    • chasing after shiny new objects instead of mastering something
    • layering your mastery and creativity and making it timeless
    • James White from Signal Noise made highly stylized 80’s style posters
      • made one a day and released it
      • someone who worked on the movie Drive bought it and used it for the cover of the DVD
      • created them on the side just because of his desire
    • when you work at a higher level, it’s not about money, it’s about time
      • Cebo dreams about his work
      • everyone knows it’s your life’s work

1:06:39 “I believe wholeheartedly that you have to trust your talent… and there’s so many people that I work with, where you can feel them holding back. You can feel it. You can see it in the work, where they’re just holding back, holding back, holding back because they’re afraid their skill set doesn’t allow them to go further. But I will tell anyone, when I do design workshops, don’t let up. What you don’t know now, you’ll learn. You have everything you need to do everything you want so just keep at it and you’ll get where you want to go.”

1:10:24 “I think it’s a challenge, and it’s not just a challenge to art. it’s a challenge to us as humans to be the best that you can be. Take it there… If it’s not where you think it should be, hold onto it.”

1:12:59 “It’s only the best that I know. It doesn’t mean I’m going to be better than every person in the world. I just want to realize the potential that I feel that I have, and I think individually as a pursuit for everyone, not just in art, but in their lives just go out with intention and purpose. Take yourself seriously.”

1:20:36 “I think you’re right when you say that there’s this drive, this engine inside of us that makes you want to make and make and make. Not everyone has that and there’s nothing wrong with not having that. It’s admirable to do your work and get off and do your thing and live life. For some people, they just can’t.”

1:21:03 “I can’t just go to a restaurant without having a pen to sketch or write. I can’t go to the beach without a book to read. I can’t keep bated so I just embrace it. Embrace it. I’m always making stuff. I’m constantly making stuff.”

  • Pablo Picasso story about a woman asking to buy his painting
    • woman asks Picasso to create her a drawing
    • he quickly creates it in a couple of minutes and asks her for $5k
    • she questions why because it only took him a few minutes and he responds, no it took me my whole life
    • story about Cebo’s friend with a similar story
    • experiencing things from around the world
      • pulling inspiration from how people dress and how they talk and present themselves
      • lets this inspiration influence his work
    • looking at phones instead of embracing the world around us
      • turning off notifications on his phone
      • tries to memorize passages/essays to help stretch creativity muscle
      • understanding the work of Emerson instead of skimming/reading it
  • writers and actors needing to being present and aware of everything around them
    • understanding characters from every angle
    • knowing the nuances of every reaction
    • Game of Thrones – actor who played Ramsay Bolton drew inspiration for character from Heath Ledger’s Joker
    • encouraging people to travel
    • Misfit – you have to tell everyone something new that is going to uplift you and Misfit pays for day off – monthly requirement
      • demand that people experience the world
    • 250 person invite only conference that is intentionally small
      • required an application
    • trusting that something is good

5:59 “Our company sort of not just encourages it, it demands it, that we experience the world and allow it to change who we are.”

8:29 “Trust your instinct. Everyone has an opinion on what is good and what isn’t good. Everyone. That includes you too. If you think it’s good, even if no one else in the world thinks it’s good, if you think it’s good, then it’s good, and that’s all that matters. Trust yourself. Trust yourself all the way.”

9:17 “Always trust yourself. Don’t be afraid to be responsible for your art and be responsible for your work. Make the decisions that are in you to be made and stand with them, and also get out and have fun. Don’t sit at home. Do your work everywhere. Do it all over the world if you can. Do it in every city.”

  • moment while traveling that caused him to go out of his way
    • likes to touch things
    • Zona Colonial in Dominican Republic
      • where Christopher Columbus built his house before coming to US
      • the architecture was from the same time period
    • never touching things with our hands/feet
    • getting out of the city
    • finding the quiet
  • work at Misfit
    • Misfit Labs – incubator for ideas
      • Snap Story and Misfit Themes
      • storytelling mapping systems
        • collecting everything you do on your journeys on a map
      • Snap Story – working with non-profits
    • works with design, code, and the foundation
  • favorite quote
    • “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.” ― William Shakespeare,  As You Like It
    • finding lessons in nature and the world around you
  • morning routine
    • drink coffee, read a chapter and write
  • recommendations
    • Dune by Frank Herbert
    • John Carter books by Edgar Rice Burroughs
    • read stuff you normally wouldn’t read
    • Sula by Toni Morrison
  • creative people
  • definition of creativity

33:42 “I would say my definition [of creativity] is expression. It seems it should be more complex than that, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s expression. What I would tell anyone… is to constantly try to express without boundaries or other ties to what is and what isn’t trendy.”

34:48 “When I think about creativity, I think about people who trust themselves. They trust their instinct. They trust whatever they’re saying and stand behind it. Even if it’s silly. Even if everyone in the world thinks it’s bad or trying to get attention. So what? It’s yours, so do it. In the time that you have, do it… Just try to let go of things you’ve been taught and just try to get to a fundamental place where you’re just saying what it is you want to say, and that can be in any form.”

35:54 “That’s where art comes from. When someone says’This is how I see it,’ and they don’t have any restraints on that, they just let it be. That’s what I would tell people to be more creative. Constantly stretch that muscle. Do what’s in you without any boundaries and the only way you can do that really is by doing it on your own time in your own work.”

  • challenge
    • touch something you haven’t touched before with your bare hands and remember it

Misfit Themes | Cebo’s personal site

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