My good friend Bekah has been on a collaging kick as of late, and she invited me over a couple nights ago for a drink-PBR-and-make-collages night. I was a little skeptical at first, but once I got going, I slipped into a creative trance that I wanted to live in forever, cutting and gluing and arranging and rearranging. I was lamenting to a friend the other day how difficult it is to pursue creative projects that are free, but collaging seems an excellent solution to that dilemma: Bekah picked up a couple issues of National Geographic from the 1950s and 1940s from Half Price Books for just a couple dollars each, and I was amazed at how instantaneously and tangibly good it felt to be creating with my hands. I’m a collaging convert, guys.
On a related note, the photographs from the old National Geographics that we used for collaging are incredible. Truly some of the most amazing compositions and subjects I’ve ever seen. And it’s so fascinating to compare these dreamy, fuzzy-around-the-edges photos from the 40s and 50s to the crystal-clear sharpness of present-day photography. It’s what we’ve come to expect from our photos, I guess, but I think I prefer the more approximate old style. There’s a sort of magic and mystery in the diminished detail of the old photos that’s really enchanting because, as Bekah astutely noted, they’re not trying to be so literal. All of which is to say: I’m heading to Half Price Books immediately to pore through more of these amazing NatGeo photo archives, and to bring a few home for another collage night.
I once took part in a ‘life coaching’ exercise that at first sounded rather macabre. It was this: write your own eulogy. Shocked? Don’t be. The point is to articulate how you would like to be remembered. And once you’ve done it, ask yourself if you are that person today. If not, then no better time to start than immediately. After all, it’s too easy to look across the tracks and see successful people (whatever form that ‘success’ might take to be relevant to you) and muse that they’ve only done it because they were born in the right month, to the right family or with an excess of luck on their side. It’s much harder to perceive your destiny as your own responsibility.
And yet, what is it that permits some to rise to fame, fortune or respect? I’ve been hugely privileged to interview many people I find inspiring over the years, from Mary Portas for this issue to film director Peter Greenaway, hotelier Ian Schrager and photographer Elliott Erwitt to name a handful. And it strikes me that there are common threads that have very little to do with background, providence or prosperity. And so I proffer my observations and my own life learnings thus far… To do anything well, you must first care. Passionately. And be enthusiastic. Be hungry. Stay hungry. Be proactive. Do more than your job description. In fact, create your own job. Understand that receiving criticism is the quickest way to improve. And that sometimes being fired, or not getting what you want, is absolutely the best thing that could happen. Be a team player. Give credit where credit is due; ‘we’ is always stronger than ‘I’. But if something goes wrong, take responsibility, stand up and be counted. Love your life outside work – it’s the only way to stay sane, and that’s more important the higher up you go. Know your physical limits, but never stop dreaming. Never mock another person’s dreams. Don’t be a quitter. If you believe you can do something, you’ve already done the hard part. Be curious. Stay curious. Rules are overrated but respect is everything. Play for win/win scenarios. Don’t ask permission to succeed, just get on with it. If something hasn’t been done before, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible. In short, dream, believe, do! But be prepared to work bloody hard, over and above expectations. Never cheat. Don’t gossip. Have a moral code. Enjoy the ride. The aim is to screech to a halt when you finally get to those pearly gates and say wow, what a blast! Not oops, I forgot something.
-Michelle Ogundehin, Editor of Elle Decoration UK