I live right above a Brooklyn Industries store. The company motto, “live work create”, is emblazoned on the brick wall next to my building’s gate, so it stares at me each time I go in & out. I usually don’t return the glance but on occasion, I stare back. Or glare. Depending on my mood.
On the one hand, I think it’s a great reminder to live an inspired life. On the other hand, my schedule is often so stacked with more pressing commitments and responsibilities, such feel-good mantra rather irritates me. Who in their right mind has time to splatter around paint and compose pretty typography? Artists with too much time on their hands! Like Steve Jobs, Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Edison, and other rather trivial figures. (Learning typography was exactly what Steve Jobs did and today, ladies and gentlemen, we have the Mac.)
Sure, I proceed, creation is great for the legends but we can’t all be legendary. We are too limited by time and other impending life demands to deal with such high-minded ideals. Perhaps. But deep down, I know cynicism stems from disappointment. Disappointment that, in a glaring way, I have not lived up to man’s highest potential for creation and that my existence thus far has been marked more by consumption than production.
Brooklyn Industries’ specific mission, as stated on its website:
is to live with passion,
is work well-done,
is a constant desire to create.
Being of clear left brain origin (yet always seeking right-brain ingenuity), I often wonder what opportunities, if any, there are for non-artists like me to live with passion and create amazing work. My drawing skills have not evolved much since third grade.
Yesterday, a few women gathered at my place to brainstorm business ideas. It was about as far from an artist’s collective as you can imagine with a clearly laid-out agenda, bullet points, and talk of business models. But the wannabe artist in me saw artist potential (think barefooted free spirits with rolled-up ripped jeans and palettes in hand, of course.) Previously unknown ideas were brought to consciousness, compiled, developed. And with that, something new was created. Created. Yes, analytical, Excel-loving folks can be artists too!
I’m not saying our ideas were brilliant masterpieces. But I’m reminded that creation is not simply pretty art you hang on the walls. If anything, creativity is more about the reinterpretation of thought than any act of making something “different”. It’s about making something unoriginal happen that wouldn’t have if one hadn’t taken initiative. The originality lies in the intention. A new friendship, revised process, or translation of overwrought thoughts – these are creations unveiled.
Knowing that yesterday’s group would not have gathered had certain motions not been set in place is enlivening. To see that creation unveiled is to feel something like life, birth, the wail of a baby – yeah, you can call it inspiration gone mad.
Go out and create something this week. It doesn’t have to be a painting, though if you can make pretty stuff take a picture and send it to me. Our world can seem, at times, to severely lack creation in a culture of mass consumption. But its not hard to plant the seeds for something new. Take time for a conversation if you like people. Build an internal process if you dig logistics. You’ll find that it’s incredibly easy to create and make something new based on your inherent strengths. Before you know it, you’ll be a living embodiment of what you make.
Experiencing inspiration is like breathing a full gulp of air after years of just trying to catch your breath. After that, it’s hard to want anything else.
If you’re reading this from a cubicle, you probably won’t be in 2 years. If you’re reading from a laptop, you likely won’t be doing that either. Space and the tools we use in the space will be drastically transformed in the coming years. I’m not a psychic; this is strictly based on data, trends, and yes, a little bit of New York bias.
Living in New York is a bit like living in a time lapse. At the risk of sounding like an elitist urbanite, the rest of the country (San Francisco and Boston notwithstanding) trails in comparison. This is not meant to be condescending; it is simply a basic truth about metropolitan cities in general. With the sheer number of people (a large proportion being investors, technophiles, and creatives) progress is bound to unfold at a much more rapid pace.
One of the best places to witness the future is at co-working spaces. A co-working space is a shared work space for anyone who needs a place to plop down, get connected, and work outside of the basic constructs of a “normal” office space. Initially, co-working space was used by mostly freelancers as a way to escape the humdrum of working from home. Now, people from a variety of backgrounds flock to co-working spaces (developers, artists, independent consultants, even accountants and lawyers).
Last year when I was completely new to the tech scene, I visited New Work City, largely known as one of the first co-working spaces in New York. I personally believe it should be every New York newbie’s crash course into the tech world. I was immediately enlivened by the quiet energy buzzing inside. It was much better than a coffee shop, mostly because a.) no one was hogging the outlet, b.) no one near you was in an intense gossip sesh as you attempt to do work, and c.) coffee was FREE. Outlets, productivity, and free caffeine yield generally good vibes. Who wouldn’t want that? As a freelancer, I would often go to coffee shops, not because I needed another 3 cups of coffee, but simply because I wanted a positive workflow that was conducive to getting things done. Most of all, I wanted an environment that reminded me I was not the only one. Connection. Something not unlike the college library buzzing with activity at 3 am during final exam week because you’re all in the same over-caffeinated, underprepared, cramming (aka screwed) state. Imagine that everyday, just with more chic chairs and desks, and more “sophisticated” problems to stress about. That’s a co-working space.
The number of co-working spaces in New York has doubled each year since 2006. In that same period of time, New York City has exploded as a tech hub. Vivek Wadhwa recently said, “In 2006, I wouldn’t have put New York anywhere on the map of leading tech hubs. Now it is literally number 2.” According to Tony Bacigalupo, founder of New Work City, there is a direct correlation between the growth of co-working and the explosion of New York City’s startup ecosystem. The reason? Co-working spaces facilitate transitions between jobs. In today’s ever-changing economy, a co-working space becomes quite necessary when you’re transitioning from a full-time gig to work at a startup or as an independent. This trend will only grow as industries continue to be disrupted. This is generation flux after all, and that’s not just a catchy phrase. The flux is real. Chaotic disruption is rampant, not just with the Facebook, Twitter, and Googles, but across industries. You see the writing on the wall in New York, as more and more people quit their corporate jobs and become their own boss by creating pockets within pockets among niche industries.
The future is about self-reliance, and this is another reason why New York paves the way. New Yorkers are famous (or infamous?) for being self-reliant. Tonight at a joint Mashable -BMW iVentures event, Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures likened the age we’re living in now to the period of time when we shifted from an agrarian economy to the industrial age. The possibilities of where we could be post-digital are..who knows. Figuring out how to properly monetize workspace is one issue. Will it take on a sharing model similar to our homes (AirBNB) and cars (Zipcar)? What about the jobs crisis? The jobs of those whose industries are dismantled?
Looks like the future is already here.
*Many of the insights from this post originate from a talk given by Tony Bacigalupo, co-working evangelist, from a Brooklyn Venture Community meetup on November 14. You can download his presentation at nwc.co/bkv-preso. I also highly recommend his blog, Happy Monsters.
*Also, if you’re interested in finding a co-working space in New York, here is a super handy guide compiled by Charles Bonello, a member of the NY Tech community, that includes details on every co-working space in the city. He also shares some interesting stats: “There is currently about 600,000 square feet of co-working space available, which is equivalent to 400 Starbucks, the entire 11 story building that houses Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in NYC and the Port Authority/NYC’s lease at the World Trade Center.” Wow!