Peter Krask is a passionate purveyor of innate-creativity and aims to help others champion their own. Your passion and purpose are destined to co-exist and there is no better time than now to bring them life. Listen to our discussion and use your untap...
Peter Krask is a passionate purveyor of innate-creativity and aims to help others champion their own. Your passion and purpose are destined to co-exist and there is no better time than now to bring them life. Listen to our discussion and use your untapped potential to thrive in the creator economy.
Peter Krask is the Founder and Creative Director of The Creativity Guide where he helps clients turn their ideas into reality.
To find out more about Peter Krask and his own creative work, visit his website | https://www.petermkrask.com/
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Srini Rao: Welcome to the Unmistakable creative. Thanks so much for taking the
Peter Krask: time to join us.
Thank you for having me on. I'm really happy to be here. Yeah,
Srini Rao: it is my pleasure to have you here. So I found out about your work by way of your publicist. And as we were just joking, before we hit record here, everything that I do when it comes to choosing podcast, guests is based on personal curiosity and your story intrigued me.
But before we get into all of that I want to start by asking you what is one of the most important things that you learn from one or both of your parents that have influenced and shaped who you've become and what you've ended up doing with your life? Oh,
Peter Krask: wow. That's that is a very big question. I'm pondering deep here.
I think one thing I learned from both of my parents actually was The power of education. We were like really big on school in my family. And I'm the youngest of five. All my siblings have at least one advanced degree. I have one we were all pretty good at school. And you know, I think that was a real value both of my parents instilled.
And from the standpoint of like, you know, you need to learn, it's incumbent on you and that education is a process you engage in and have to show up for. And that it's a continuous process as well, that it wasn't just, you know, okay. You graduated from college, you're good. You know, figure it out from there.
I mean, there was a little bit of that, but it was, you know, it was pretty clear we were on, around after college. But But I think, yeah, that's, I would think that's the biggest thing was the power of education.
Srini Rao: So numerous questions come to that. When you mentioned that you're the youngest of five, I kind of wished I had started with the question of your birth order.
We'll we'll get to that because I, I'm always fascinated by people who come from big families. What is it about your parents that made them the types of people who instilled this sort of need for education? Because I know, you know, having grown up Indian, that's just kind of baked into our culture.
It's not even something we questioned so much so that the recently I came across this article about Indian employers you know, having such an obsession with people with high status degrees and familiar university, that, that it's actually been detrimental to their businesses. But we'll, we'll come back to that.
So why in particular, like, what do you think it is about your parents that made them instill this value of education? I
Peter Krask: think, you know, this is reaching back. I. Yeah, I'm 54. My mother is still alive. She's 92. She and my father both grew up in the middle of the great depression. And I think he had, you know, pretty hardscrabble childhoods and they weren't, you know my father grew up in Chicago and his father was a musician.
So, you know, they were not rolling in money during the depression. My mother's mother was a widow. She had a boarding house. All of the children worked. So I think you know, it was very clear that the way up and the way out was, you know, learn something, have a skill, learn it, and you know, and then pursue my father was also A veteran and, you know, so I think like the GI bill that was part of it too, you know, he eventually wound up getting his PhD from the university of Chicago.
So, you know, you traveled a very far distance in some respects from, you know, inner city kid to PhD. But I think it was something you know, about like, you know, you had to figure a way out if that was your circumstance, you had to figure a way out and education was the way to do that. Yeah.
Srini Rao: So when people are in less than ideal circumstances, you know, they're always looking for solutions.
Why do you think there are people who don't figure a way out? What do you think it is that prevents them from finding a way out of those types of circumstances?
Peter Krask: Oh, wow. That's, that's a really big question. You know, I think there's probably several factors. One of which is just some of it is just luck.
Aye. Aye, aye, aye. And opportunity. I think, you know, we tend to underestimate that sometimes as, as a factor. And I would think too, some of it is modeling and environment. But again, I mean, so much of that is circumstantial too. You know, if your circumstance is making it impossible for you to get out you know, that's a real thing.
And, you know, I think sometimes we can dismiss that too carefully or, you know, too quickly. So, but I think, you know, the big thing is also kind of. Some sort of self belief or, you know, the desire, whatever that initial desire is you know, something that pushes you and gets you moving and, and that's something that can change too.
I, you know, I think sometimes I find when I work with clients on projects, like, you know, the desire they start with is become something else as the project evolves and as they grow into it and as they figure it out but that energy, you know, whatever that sort of initial energy burst is, I think is really important.
And sometimes it's just encouragement to, right. You need people along the way to say, you know, keep going. Cause manufacturing that self-belief all the time is really hard to do. And sometimes you just need somebody, you know, saying, you know, I'm here and I think you can do it. Let's just take one more step.
Let's see where you. You know,
Srini Rao: I appreciate that you brought up, you know, the factors of luck as well as environment. I think we tend to gloss over context when it comes to prescriptive advice. I was recently reading this book called the optimist telescope and she revisited the Walter Michelle marshmallow study.
And she said, you know, one of the things that that study failed to take into account is context and environment that maybe it isn't just willpower that determines whether somebody goes for the marshmallow, but the environment that they're in, that they're raised in all of that, their culture, all of that determines whether they actually choose the marshmallow or not.
Peter Krask: Right. And also, you know, somebody just may be really hungry. And that's, that's a real thing, right. I, you know if that's the, you know, you're really hungry, you have the opportunity to eat. You may just go ahead and do that.
Srini Rao: Yeah, absolutely. Well, okay. Growing up in a family of five what did you learned about social dynamics human behavior and having your voice heard?
Peter Krask: So there's a fairly sizable age difference in my family. I think I have to quickly do the math here. My oldest sister is 14 years older than I am. Is that right now, she's going to kill me. 12 years. I men that and my next oldest brother is six years older than I am. So in some ways I was kind of an only child, you know, because they were all in high school or on their way to college and kind of doing their own thing.
You know, Looking back, I would say one thing I learned, or, you know, I mean, it's not a regret per se, but I was a pretty good kid. I think I didn't, you know, get into a lot of trouble that I can recall. I probably could have gotten away with a lot more just because my parents were tired
Srini Rao: and seems to be the case, but I feel like the, the second, you know, younger siblings get away with murder in comparison to the older ones.
Peter Krask: I know. Well, and it's also, I think, you know, that's just experience too. Like the parents were like, okay, he's not really gonna hurt himself. So, you know, whatever. But but you know, and they were very busy, both my parents worked you know, so it's, that's one of those sort of double-edged sword things that on one hand I was kind of left to my own devices in a lot of ways, which was great.
On the other hand, that can be, you know, sort of lonely too. And you know, I think in terms of getting one's voice heard in. A large family. I think what I learned, you know, as a writer you know, was observing and having the opportunity just to sort of watch all this other stuff, you know, all these adults do their thing.
And I think that's probably the most important thing I learned, but I will say this, I just, as sort of, kind of complicated a little bit, I had studied with a writing teacher at a workshop the playwright Horton, Foote and Horton said, and this has really stuck with me, which was that for any maker the thing, the theme that's going to drive you, or sort of the question you're trying to answer is pretty much set by the time you're age eight, and you're going to have a really hard time shaking it.
Like that's going to be the. The story you need to tell. And I, I really think that it's true. The more I, you know, look at the work I've made and, you know, working with clients I think there's a great deal of truth to it. And I, a friend of mine is, was early childhood education specialist. And her, I asked her about it and her theory was like seven or eight is sort of what early childhood specialist call the age of reason and sort of where kids see themselves as separate individuals in the world.
Like that's the point where that starts to happen. So you know, something in that separation process builds a template or a theme.
Srini Rao: Wow. Which of the siblings are you closest to and why?
Peter Krask: Close to each of them in different ways. And also through their children. I, you know, I love being an uncle that's, I've got tons of nieces and nephews, all of whom are interesting accomplished adults now and, you know, starting to get married and build their careers and do all that stuff.
So, you know, but I connect to them in different ways. My two brothers are both avid gardeners and I live in New York city, but my apartment building has a fairly large garden, which my neighbor, Kim and I are the volunteer gardeners. And you know, it's like connecting to my brothers about gardening in the middle of New York city go figure.
But there's that and I think now we're also sort of connecting, you know, particularly as well. Is 92 and, you know, looking at a lot of, sort of end of life issues, you know I think that's something that's, we're really sort of connecting with now too, because partly they're as they're finished sort of raising their kids and their kids are out in the world you know, it's a different opportunity to get to know each other now sort of without that piece of the puzzle too.
Srini Rao: So you brought up end of life and I didn't want to let that go. You know, I've talked to a lot of people about this. We had Frank Ostaseski here from the Zen hospice project and you know, I remember telling him that, you know, my great fear was that one or both of my parents would pass before I got married or have kids.
And he said, well, don't let that be the reason that you don't spend time with them now. But I wonder, you know, I think that any one of us can sort of anticipate the fact that we're going to lose a parent you know, and we're going to have to confront the reality of mortality, but. Even though, you know, it's going to happen at some point when you're thinking about it from the standpoint of sort of imagining this future, how are you processing something like that emotionally?
Peter Krask: Awesome. It's kind of a day by day thing. I, you know, I think ultimately you know, whenever I talk to my mother, you know, I always, you know, somewhere in the back of my mind, I think, oh, you know, this could be a last conversation and she's actually doing fairly well, all things considered with her age. But you know, sometimes I wonder, like if I say goodbye, like, is that really goodbye?
I just recently visited her and it was my first chance to see her post pandemic. And I hadn't seen her about a year and a half and you know, and a lot's changed in that space. And you know, but I wanted, it was important to go before it was an emergency or a funeral or, you know, That required, just like dropping everything and just going.
So, you know, I think it's something you kind of navigate every day. And I, you know, when my father died, it was clear probably about three months before he died. Like he was nearing the end and he wasn't hospitalized, he wasn't sick, but he was 88. And you know, you could just sort of tell and knowing that and having that expectation it still came as a great shock when he actually did die.
And you know, and that's, I think that's just a human experience, you know, sort of the best preparation is helpful, but You know, you're suddenly cast into a very different world and one that you have to learn from scratch in a way.
Srini Rao: Yeah, it makes me think of the Tim urban article called the tail end, where he said, you know, the time you have left with the people that you bet matter most to you is actually, you know, far more limited than you realize.
Like most of it is over. And I think every time somebody reads that article, I think it just brings them to tears. It makes you sort of treasure that time. And I, I wonder that if you know, for you, as you've been faced with this prospect, as you've gotten older, have you treasured your time with your parents more and more?
Peter Krask: I do. And I find that the, the people, you know, I would broaden that circle. That it's the people that I spend time with in general, again, particularly coming out of a lockdown you know, I'm a natural introvert. I'm somebody. Fine with my own company. I don't need to be out and about all the time.
But you know, that sense of closeness and sort of really, you know, wanting to be with people and truly connect with them rather than this sort of just social passing, you know, the number of those relationships that we have. I think that experience has us all kind of reevaluating, you know, many of our relationships and how we show up for people or don't and you know, it'd be interesting to sort of see where all of that shakes.
Down the road.
Srini Rao: Yeah, it's funny because I think that there's a sort of you know, perception we all have of this sort of mythical date when we're going to have this, you know, sort of seamless, magical relationship with our parents. That's completely perfect. But I think the thing that really struck me most, despite whatever conflict I had with my parents was I was reading this book by called inner engineering.
And he tells a story of this brother and sister who are separated in the Holocaust. And the sister yelled at him when they got on a train because he forgot his shoes. And then they were separated at the next stop. And she said, you know, the thing I took away from that was to never leave the site of a conversation, having something I would regret later.
Peter Krask: No, that's that's really good advice. Hard to do though. Right? I think
Srini Rao: absolutely easier said than done. Like most
Peter Krask: of that, you know, we're all, you know, we all have things that are complicating and complicated. But I always, you know, I. It's something I've been spending some time with in middle-age and really sort of looking at where I came from and how I've wound up, where I've wound up and, you know, there's sort of a major re-invention and I've been trying to do with my work life and my creative life and sort of, you know, asking a lot of questions about that and the great psychologist, James Hilman using sort of a youngian idea, but I think it's really a huge idea and very, you know, one that takes a lot of sitting with, but his belief is that, you know, each person gets the specific pair of parents.
They need to be the person on a soul level that, you know, they're meant to be in the world. And that in some way it's like your parents are chosen for you. And whatever. Is in that relationship. Good, bad, you know, complicated, not complicated. If really engaged with is sort of the things that allows you to be your truest self.
So it's, that's a really interesting idea to me. And one that I've been, you know, sort of spending some time thinking
Srini Rao: about. Yeah. Well, I mean, speaking of, of, you know, how you wound up where you're at, you've mentioned that you had parents who prioritize education and really emphasize the value of it, and you chose a creative path, which sometimes is in conflict with the value of education, at least in the traditional sense.
And it definitely was for me having been raised by Indian parents. So when you decide to pursue something creative and you have parents who have such a high, you know, place such a high value in education, what does that conversation like and what do they encourage you to do? What do they discourage you from doing?
If anything and, and how did you end up on this trajectory?
Peter Krask: How much time do we have, this is going to be like the six part interview. I, you know, I came, it's interesting. I CA there was a lot of creativity in my family circle. My father was also a very accomplished pianist and had, you know, concert ties as a young man.
And I, you know, when I grew up, we had his, he still had a seven foot grand piano in the house and he played fairly regularly and would have other musicians over to play chamber music. And you know, so. On one hand, he was a suburban dad who commuted to his job. And then there was this sort of very creative element.
My mother's brothers are all academics, but they were all writers as well. And each of them wrote several academic books. One was a philosopher, one was a historian. So that was there. And I like to think you know, sometimes the moms liked me. I don't know where you got it from. Like, you know, where did, where did you come from?
But it's not, you know, that's not far removed. That was, you know, daily life and family members. So, you know, I knew that that was something that was possible. And you know, when I was in graduate school, I had one, you know, my initial thought was like, oh, I will get a PhD and become an academic. And then, you know, I realized that was not the path that I wanted to be on in that.
Having the opportunity to work with other artists and people across disciplines suddenly opened up all kinds of possibilities for me, and sort of ways of thinking and ways of being in the world. And and I really liked it and I was good at it. But you know, you know, the God's honest truth was my parents were not happy about it.
And it was a real source of conflict for a very long period of time. And one that you know, from their standpoint, I'm sure that was, you know, concern. And you know, how are you going to support yourself and. Yeah. What does that mean for you down the road? So, you know, I understand that and at the same time, you know, they were proud of some of my accomplishments.
I had, I've written, I've written several opera librettos which for anybody who doesn't know what that is, that's the text of an opera that's then set to music and then, you know, that's the thing that gets staged. And you know, they were thrilled when my first opera was produced and, you know, or was at the premiere and have been to several other ones.
So, you know, I think it was a tricky line for them as well, and when they didn't quite know and manage, but I, you know, For a long time, I found a sort of compromise solution in a way I've owned my own business as a floral designer in New York for 20 years. So that was kind of an accidental career. It was not a plan.
I, you know, I have a graduate degree from Johns Hopkins to be a writer, and that was, you know, the plan. And then 20 years later, I'm sort of semi retiring as a floral designer. But that was a very creative job. And I, you know, got to do all sorts of really interesting projects. Most of my clients were in the world of live television, so I got to be part of this really big machine and.
See how things happened on the ground and, you know, do these really cool projects with really talented, smart people and learn all sorts of things about lighting and working with color and you know, how things are photographed and and they're now learning the business as well, just the business end of it, having to develop that skill.
You know, because, you know, you're dealing with pro product that's being shipped internationally and hiring staff and budgets and planning a job and, you know, all of the, sort of those big questions. So in a strange way, it was kind of, you know, a good balance. And it's a funny thing, you know, just culturally the minute, like something's on television, you're legit instantly like suddenly all of those questions kind of fall away.
You're like, oh yeah, you're on TV. I understand that. You're kind of good. Good to go. So. You know, and in some ways that kind of took a lot of the heat off of it, cause it was a very visible success. And and you know, I got to do some fun things along the way and learned some really great things too.
But there was, you know, much more that I also wanted to do. And now I'm trying to sort of get my arms around.
Srini Rao: Yeah. So two questions come from that. You mentioned that you were at this moment in grad school where you realized getting a PhD, wasn't put you on to do, even though you thought that it was what you were planning to do.
And a lot of people would actually go get the PhD, even though it's not what they wanted to do. Why you think that is?
Peter Krask: Some of it was financial. I was already, you know, taking on a significant, and this is. 1990s. So even then the debt load was very different than what it is for people now. But you know, I had a significant debt from my master's degree and the thought of taking on even more debt for something I really wasn't convinced about didn't seem like a good plan.
And I also, I think the main thing was that I having worked with other people, making art in some way, a lot of it was theater. A lot of it was, and I was writing daily for a newspaper in Baltimore. Like things I could see, things were happening, there were results like, oh, I actually can do this. And people are, you know, giving me space to do it.
And And I seem to be doing it well, nobody's asked me to stop or set to get out. So so I think just sort of having that kind of immediate feedback that it was viable took a lot of that pressure off like, oh, I, you know, I wasn't twiddling my thumbs. Like, well, what am I going to do now? You know, I think that's kind of where it's, I think trouble can set in for people like, well, I should just go ahead and do this thing because it makes sense.
You know it's a huge commitment. Anybody, you know, who's gotten a PhD. That's years, right. There's not a quick way to do that. So you have to really, it's like getting married, like you have to know you really want to do it. I think.
Srini Rao: Yeah. So the, the followup to that is you mentioned that you initially, this did cause some conflict with your parents.
And we have a lot of parents who listen to the show for parents who are listening, whose kids are showing interest in potentially, you know, artistic or creative careers. What would you tell them about talking to their kids about pursuing a career in the arts?
Peter Krask: There's a couple of ways to have that conversation.
And I think, you know, the main one is to not start from the like, well, what are you going to do? You know, how is that going to work? There's, you know, cause immediately that puts somebody on the defensive and and they may have, you know, there's probably not an answer yet to that. I think any creative career.
There isn't a linear path in the way that there is, you know, my oldest sister is a psychiatrist. My oldest brother is a chemist. My next brother is a judge. My other sister is an attorney. Like they have pretty clear career marking things. But even if you asked them their path is not linear. I mean, there are very few people whose work life is linear.
If you actually dig into it but you know, they do have clearer markers. I think some of that is changing now too, just because of the digital revolution. You know, it's one thing I envy all of my nieces and nephews and nephews for, as they don't really expect to be doing the same job their whole life anyway now I think that a very different expectation and that there's nothing wrong with doing something for five or six years.
And then. Trying something else or, you know, moving in a different direction. And culturally, I think there is sort of greater support for that than there used to be. I, you know, and I, you know, it's important to remember again, my parents growing up in the great depression, like, you know, if you had a job that was the most important thing.
Right. And you didn't mess that up because you didn't want to end up poor again. So I think I got a little far field there, but but I think, you know, it's important to look at the why part of it like, and you know, and I, we could, I, we could take this in a different direction. And cause it's a question I have just in general which is sort of the.
How we culturally value creative work or don't and and how, in some ways much like our economy now, it's kind of a winner take all game, like, you know, a certain number of people get to and that's it. But just as a little thought experiment here there's very few other professions outside of the art.
And I don't mean when I say art, I don't mean just like painting, but sort of any of the, you know, creative quote, unquote creative professions. You know, if we did a little thought experiment, nobody says to an attorney while you're learning and mastering your career, you should also do another job full time at the same time to succeed.
You know, or nobody says that to a surgeon, you know, where you have to learn how to master something. And I think people forget With creative professions, that there is, you know, a high level of mastery that you have to attain. And that takes time and practice and experience and opportunity. And and I'm not against day jobs.
I've had day jobs. So I, I don't want to discount them because you can learn an awful lot, which can inform your creativity. But you know, in the same way you know, a piano player has to practice a lot. And you know, or I have some friends who are professional singers you know, so if they work a day job all day and then they try to practice at night, they're exhausted, their body's not working the way it's supposed to, you know, they're.
As highly trained athletes as any football player or track runner. And they're already sort of operating at a loss because there's a physically tired. So it's just, it's an interesting question. I, you know, I don't know what the answer to that is. And I, you know, I hope that someday that would change.
But you know, I've had this conversation with somebody on a business podcast and he said, you know, like, well, you know, all artists should learn how to be like business people. And I said, you know, I don't really, I, you know, I think that's a stereotype. That's not necessarily true. Any gig musicians, like they are hustlers.
They know how to hustle and manage their time and organize their time and sort of, you know, find the next job. And you know, they're kind of geniuses business in a way. I
Srini Rao: think the most successful creators don't operate just like artists. They also think like owners, right?
Peter Krask: And I think, you know, that's sort of where I, that's the kind of the space where I want to be, or at least have that conversation, because I think, you know, we've made that a very binary choice culturally and it's not true.
It's never been true. You know, if you look historically like the great visual artists like Michelangelo or Leonardo you know, they had studios, they had assistance, they were dealing with supply chain questions. They were dealing with materials that were hard to get that, you know, somebody had to source.
From Afghanistan. I think it's, you know, the color lapis, lazuli all those paintings of the Virgin Mary with her beautiful blue mantle, like, you know, that came from a mineral that could only be found in Afghanistan and then had to be pulverized. And you know, that's not a, that's not just something like, you can just be like, oh, I'll figure it out.
You know? There's a lot of very specific questions to sourcing that. So that's, you know, that that's always been there and I, you know, I sort of think like, let's just, it's, it's a binary. That's not true. And I don't think has ever been true. And I, you know, if I have, I have several missions in life, but that's one I'd like to break down because it's just never been my experience.
Srini Rao: No, I I'm so glad you brought this up. I think you kind of read my mind and I really appreciate that you brought up this winner takes all the you issue because there's an article on the Harvard business review about the fact that it was written by a woman who started a venture capital firm specifically to invest in artists called a tele ventures.
And she, the article is titled to create our economy has no middle class or the creator economy needs a middle class. And the thing that I think that I am finding as I explore this subject is effectively what now I'm describing as digital inequality to your point when our takes all, if you look at crowdfunding platforms, typically, you know, things like Patrion, it's a small percentage of people on Patrion.
They get the lion's share of revenue from being part of Patrion. And you layer on top of that. You, this sort of. Economy, you know, attention economy where everybody has access to these tools, resources, distribution channels. We had William Dershowitz here who wrote a book called the death of the artist.
And he said that, you know, the thing that young people and particularly creatives don't realize is that this is actually really hard. And I think that when you have this world where everybody has access to all of these different things that raises the bar for quality but there's a sort of landscape of this economy that I think people tend to really not quite understand because it's presented as this sort of golden age of opportunity, but that's so nuanced because you know, what William said was that, you know, basically it's available to everybody, the keyword being everybody.
And you started all of this, you know, an era that predates social media and we've talked quite a bit about craft. What do you think the, the effect has been on the importance of craft and mastery? As a by-product of the digital. Like what have been the bad things that have come from it and what have been the
Peter Krask: good, oh boy, this is a really great question.
And I, I, just to all the listeners out there, I promise you, I'm not like the old man yelling at the cloud. I promise you, I, I, I'm not that person in the world, but but you know, I, I am old enough that I watched that whole system collapse. So when I was in school, I was, you know, educated for a certain structure to succeed in the world and that there were certain ways of getting there.
And at the time, if you were a creative, there was still the positive. There was a middle tier where a lot of creative people could work and still have. Some semblance of a middle-class life, you know, like you could be a teacher and write your novel. And a publisher would support what they used to call like the mid list books so that there was some option between, you know, the poetry volumes that sold three volumes, three copies, and then Stephen King.
And then there were sort of the people who didn't sell a huge number of books, but they kept publishing them and they had a fairly reliable audience that would keep purchasing their books. Same thing with recording artists and same thing with theaters or opera companies, or sort of any performing arts organization.
There was a sort of mid tier where people could have fairly solid careers and your only choice wasn't the met or the church basement, you know, and all of that sort of fell apart. In my lifetime and you know, and that gap has only widened. And you know, the opportunities in some ways have gotten smaller.
And I, you know, I'm, I have a couple of minds about this because there is something good about the decentralization of it as well. I think that's worth mentioning. And I think there is something to be said for the DIY ness of what's possible now. But the fact of the matter is people still need support, right?
It still takes time to make something. It still takes space and materials. And you know, we have a lot of amazing tools that we can do things with quickly and get good results with. But you know, those tools are not inexpensive. You know, people still need support and know. And I think the biggest problem, or at least what I observed is it's kind of like you get one shot now and you know, you're either a big success or you're not.
And it used to be, I would look like if we use the example of like popular music you know, a record label would invest in an artist over a very long period of time. And, you know, a singer songwriter could put out a whole bunch of different kinds of albums and experiment and try different things. And, you know, some albums worked and some albums didn't but they still had a source of support and a company trying to like build a larger career over a period of time.
I think if you look at most pop music stars now they have a pretty short shelf life and it's very hard to sustain. A career and, you know, the model has shifted now that it's all about touring and getting revenue that way. But I'd be hard pressed to think of some artists who have that same sort of luxury of developing over time and experimenting and making mistakes.
You know, cause maybe you get two or three albums now and if the third one's no good, you're kind of done, right. You better get a talk show or hoped that, you know, you became some part of, you know, multi-level corporation where you had to make up line or perfume or some sort of branding something. So it's, you know, it, that's very problematic.
Srini Rao: conflict for mastery.
Peter Krask: Yes, absolutely. Because if you're, if you're only focuses on finding the funding for your art you know, you're not making your art. And I. You know, it's tricky because I, we have so many kind of complicated, messed up ideas about these things, you know, I, money isn't bad in and of itself.
I think, you know, again, going back to this sort of false binary of like business people are good because they understand money and they know how to make money. And artists are flaky because they don't understand money. And Oscar Wilde said, you know Whenever he was with bankers, they only wanted to talk about art and whenever he was with artists, they only wanted to talk about money.
Srini Rao: I had a version of that where I think it was in Anthony developer's book. He said, do you know any time he'd been a prostitute, she only wanted to talk about God at any time he met a priest. They only wanted to talk about sex. There you
Peter Krask: go. So, so I guess the grass is always greener and, you know, the, it must be just an eternal human truth, but but I, you know, that's a real pressure, but it's, it's interesting sort of the judgment that we place on it, because I would say like a startup company looking for funding, everybody's like, cool, that's great.
You know, they're onto something. But if an artist is saying like, I need fun. Everybody's like, ah, you know, self-indulgent flaky, you know, all that sort of pejorative. Stephan. I, you know, I'm painting with a very broad brush there, but we look at it very differently. And I, you know, again, the question is why is that both people are engaged in making something personal that they want to put in the world.
So what's the difference.
Srini Rao: So glad you brought that up, it seems like we must be really on the same wave length right now, because I literally was going to ask you about that because to your point, right? When somebody like Paul Graham decides to invest, he can say, okay, I can invest in a company like Dropbox, which has the potential for a billion dollar return.
Or I can go find some artists who might produce something of value for society. Something that helps a lot of people, but won't, you know, give me a return, like investing in a Dropbox would. And what I wonder is how do you think that we create an ecosystem that supports artists the way that we support startups when you don't have this financial incentive?
Peter Krask: I think some of that is kind of, we have to get to kind of, of a foundational idea, which you know, again, I don't know if this is an American thing. Maybe you can contrast this with your experience as an Indian but you know, our cultural idea and, you know, God bless the Puritans, but you know, is that somehow art is always frivolous or it's not useful, or it doesn't have concrete value because it's it's effects are indirect and not necessarily immediate.
And they're often. Unintentional. I, you know I've had the experience of writing a piece and seeing it produced and sitting in a theater with a thousand people, all of whom are taking that in, in their own individual ways. And what I think I was trying to do in that piece may not be what they're getting out of it.
And I've had plenty of conversations after a production with people in the audience, you know, and my thought is like, huh, I didn't expect that. Or, you know, I can see how you got there, but that was not what I was thinking. Or you know, so you, as, as a maker, you put something out in the world and then you kind of just, it has to sort of, you have to let go of what it means and trying to control that.
So I think, you know, there's always that sense of sort of art having to justify itself and, or prove itself and. You know, I mean, interestingly, if you looked at you know, a drug company developing a drug you know, how much of that is based on failure or not succeeding or not getting quite the right answer.
And I think, you know, process wise it's the same set of questions. And they may be working towards slightly different ends. But you know, there's, for some reason, it's okay to have a period of uselessness in one arena and in another arena that can be looked at as sort of you're just again being frivolous or self-indulgent.
I, you know, I, I. In recent experience. I am a dedicated mentor at the new museum in New York city. And they have a program called new Inc where they take about 80 fellows every year and give them a workspace for a year and then all kinds of training. And each fellow gets their own individual mentor for a year to sort of work through their project.
And new Inc described itself as an incubator for art design and technology. So not everyone there is making art and not everyone there is interested in, you know, making something to end up in a gallery. There's a lot of really, you know, amazing technological experiments and sort of things to reimagine.
Community engagement or social justice or business and other models of having creative work out in the world. And I think there's something really interesting there just it's part of the reason I, I love being there is I think they're trying to sort of solve that question or at least engage with it in a very deep way of how, how things are supported and what, what their outcome is in the world.
You know, it, it's, it's an age old question, right? I mean, if you just, I just went to see at the metropolitan museum was a portrait ex ambition of the Medici family and, you know, so the Metta cheese and Florence where the great bankers and the great power brokers of their day and, you know, they hired.
Every great artist, they could get their hands on to, you know, on one hand glorify them. But on the other hand, there was an also an element of they felt that it reflected on them as rulers. If there was an environment of creativity or humanism, that there was this space for investigation and sort of making things new.
And that was sort of independent of, I need a beautiful portrait of me, you know, asserting my power. You know, it's messy, it's complicated, those lines are not clear. But I think, again, painting with a very broad brush, there was a sense of a bigger platform that There was some other larger investigation that was happening beyond immediately glorifying their abilities and power and wealth.
Srini Rao: Yeah. I mean, you, you mentioned sort of, you know, culturally, like I, I think I wrote this in one of my books. I said, you know, art that rewards the average creator long after the average person quits is admired, but it's rarely encouraged. And that at least has in my experience and growing up Indian culture, I joke that I think Indians basically think that the books they read and the movies they watch fall from the sky, because they forget that, Hey, by the way, somebody went and created this thing.
And it's funny because that's a culture that produces a lot of art in between movies and music and all sorts of things, but very, very rarely is it something that Indian parents will encourage their kids to do at least in my parents' generation. And this is something that I finally came to terms with being to the point that you were making about your parents, having grown up in the great depression.
I understand why my parents had that perspective because they saw a world in which life outcomes were binary. There was no in between it's either poverty or security, right?
Peter Krask: But, you know, to speak to your point, have you ever asked them sort of like, who do you think actually made all that stuff? Like how did that happen?
Srini Rao: Yeah, it's funny because my parents are both big movie movie buffs, you know, they've introduced us to so much art growing up. They one thing, funny enough, my dad, despite being a college professor, doesn't read books. I've never seen the man read a book in his life just for leisure, which is really strange.
But yeah, it's, it's one of those things. Like I think they have a great respect for artists. My dad handed me a, a Walkman when I was, I think, eight years old with Michael Jackson's thriller and I played it until it stopped working. So it was clear that he saw the value of art in that way. But I think to your point, you know, the value of art versus the value of becoming a doctor, no comparison.
Peter Krask: And yet both tend to the soul at the end of the day. Yeah. And I mean, and it's a funny thing too, because I also want to in undoing that binary yeah, from the artist standpoint, there can be a lot of stuff that gets in the way of sort of, well, you're, you know, I'm so special because I'm an artist or have this extra sensitivity or, you know, how all this extra stuff which, you know, may or may not be true.
But I, you know, on one hand I, you know, I wish we could all sort of look at it as something that's very special and then kind of not special at all. Or it's just, you know, part of what we do, you know, we're, we're creatures who make things and we're creatures who look to. Objects or music or something to direct our attention elsewhere, or to find out that we're not alone.
And that's something, you know, we all share as human beings. And I, I think, you know, that's sort of halo or, you know, around art kind of, you know, makes people afraid of it at the same time and certainly makes people afraid of their own creativity at the same time, because then it's like, oh, you know, I can't really, I'm not really creative or I don't, you know you know, at the end of the day, you're just making stuff up and you know, it works or it doesn't.
And you know, and then you get back to work the next day. And I think it's important to sort of take some of that mystery. I'm a big fan of Mr. I think mystery is very underrated. These days, but but we can take some of that mystery off too. Because I think that also helps feed this binary, which is not true.
Srini Rao: absolutely. So, you know, I think we were talking earlier about sort of you having been part of the, you know, the world of doing creative work, pre social media pre sort of internet. And one thing that I wondered now, you know, one of the things that I think has happened as a by-product of all of this is that we have this almost, you know, sort of false obsession with fame and attention.
And the thing that makes it even worse is the fact that we can get attention without actually accomplishing anything. And it's really easy to confuse attention with accomplishment. So I wonder, you know, as you've watched people that you've worked with one, what has made them successful and what is it that allows them to thrive.
And then two, as you've gone through your creative life, how has your personal definition of creative success evolved?
Peter Krask: You're asking some really good, big, hard questions here.
Srini Rao: I'm just asking the things that I definitely curious about. These are the things that I want to know. I jokingly say I'm wrestling with my own demons here.
Peter Krask: No, we all are not, these are great questions. I I'm enjoying it very much. A couple things, I think, you know, pre-social media, I think it was a lot easier in some ways to make art because you still had space to fail privately. I think you know that not because everybody publishes their stuff so quickly now It's a lot easier to sort of put incomplete, work out and thinking something is complete when it's not.
And I think again, sort of there used to be a sort of a little bit more luxury of time to sort of work at something and, you know, and that can make you crazy too. You don't want to be like the perfectionistic, like you can only release the one thing when it's perfect because nothing's ever perfect.
But but I think, you know, particularly from a writing standpoint we live in a great age of the unedited product. And I think most of what we see read, you know, and I. We'd all benefit from another draft or another pass or some time away and then coming back to it. You know, so in that effort to sort of just like get content out all the time, and I'm sure that's something you wrestle with as the podcast producer and with all your many projects that you have going on you know, that need to produce.
But you know, that's the question, is it, is it just to get as much stuff out as you can, or is it better to get good things out, sort of maybe a little more slowly but things that have the potential to be more lasting and more clearly made. I find when I work with clients, the ones who succeed and they all succeed.
I, you know, I, I, I, I never have any doubt going into a project with a client that they will get. Where they want to get. And I have, you know, they're generally very passionate and motivated but they're willing to hang in there and they're willing to sort of see a process through and, you know, and it's a struggle.
It's hard sometimes. And I, you know, I struggle with it myself. I'm a maker. And you know, I just, I've been working on something where I really thought I was near the finish line with it. And and I was consulting with a photographer. It's a photography project I've been working on and he's like, well, you know, I think you could get a little bit more out of your tools.
You know, you're not, you could dig a little deeper in with them. And I was like, no, I think I just finished the first draft. That was what was the, not the project was on ending. So I, you know, I. Speaking to this question of mastery and time. I think, you know, often we're just, things are just put out too early and too quickly, often, and, you know, look how many people get in trouble on social media because had they waited a day or 10 hours, you know, to not publish that first thought that popped in their head.
They may not have had the problem that they have. So, you know, what's the, you know, think before you speak there is some wisdom to that. And and I think, you know, that sort of speaks to a sort of false idea that we have about creativity, which is, you know, that bolt of inspiration hits and then like the thing just happens and it comes out and it's done rather that for that bolt of inspiration to hit, you kind of have to hang out for awhile to that there is a lot of, sort of.
Wondering and trying, and sort of like, maybe it's this, maybe it's not, I don't know. And, you know, being able to keep going with it you know, making the conditions for that inspiration to hit and inspiration also has to be sustained. You know, you can't we've, I think we've all had the experience of like the one thing that we just sort of comes to us and we work quickly, but generally, most things you have because, you know, wrangle with for awhile.
And you know, the trick is how do you sustain that and that commitment and that kind of love and devotion to a project. Yeah.
Srini Rao: Wow. Well this has been really, really amazing and thought provoking. I love conversations like this because they just, you know, raise more questions than give us answers, which is what I've been known to do to people.
Peter Krask: That's great. I feel the same way. Right. That's really, that means it's, you know, something's alive.
Srini Rao: Yeah. Well, I have one last question for you, which is how we finish all of our interviews. What do you think it is that makes somebody or something unmistakable?
Peter Krask: It really is what is most personal. And I think, you know, it's the great truism, right? That if you want to describe something universal, you do it as specifically as you can. And, you know, it's the, it's the choosing of the specific is really the most personal thing. And you know, that's what makes.
The work you are work. And, and I, you know, I think that's true across the board. You know, that's how we recognize a great singer, right? There's something very distinct in somebody's voice and a color that only they have or poet, you know, only has a certain way of working with language or a painter has a way of working with color.
So yeah, I think it's, you know, the, what's the date of the show Sunday in the park with George, by Stephen Sondheim and James lupine. It's, it's about the painters George Surat and the making of the painting Sunday on the island of LaGrand shot. And there's a beautiful song at the end, and it's just a very, you know, short, compact lyric.
And I'm going to try my best, not to misquote it, but it's. The artist is sort of full of doubts and, you know, wants to give up. And his sort of muse says to him, you know, anything you do let it come from you, then it will be new. And I think that's, you know, the best simplest advice we can argue.
Srini Rao: Yeah.
Amazing. Well, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your insights whether it was then wisdom with our listeners, where can people find out more about you, your work and everything that you're up to?
Peter Krask: I invite anybody to reach out to me on my website, P M K creativity guide.com.
I offer a free hour conversation about your project or where you might be stuck or where you, where you are transitioning something. I'd love to talk to people. So please say hello. You can also find me on Instagram at the creativity guide, and then if you're interested in my own creative work, you can find firstname.lastname@example.org and Peter on Instagram.
Srini Rao: Awesome. And for everybody listening, we we'll wrap the show with that.
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