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The mullet theory of work / life balance
Back in August, I had a couple of weeks off from work. I reached my 5-year anniversary and enjoyed a short sabbatical. I used that time to make art. I finished a number of paintings and got one last one started.
That painting has sat perched, barely started, on my easel. I see it in the background of video conference calls when I work, lurking, reminding me to finish it.
Following that time off, I fell back into work, travelled a tiny bit, and generally got busy. But the thing was, my mind wasn’t drifting back to art. I’ve been thinking about software. I have ideas.
While slogging through Blake Gopnik’s Warhol biography I was reminded of the Bauhaus principle of the total artwork - Gesamtkunstwerk in German. Warhol exemplified this in his approach to, well, everything. Everything Warhol did, from portraits to an appearance on the Love Boat is part of his artistic expression.
Twenty-four years ago (sweet buttery Jesus) I registered my domain name - abouthalf.com. I was trying to express that I was about one half technical and about one half creative. That bifurcation was useful in finding jobs, most of which wanted me be technical but appreciated that I could work with and talk to creatives.
In my current life in leadership at a digital agency, my creative abilities matter a lot more; they matter in ways that can materially benefit the company. The blending of these faculties is becoming more important.
Lately, with the ghost of Warhol telling baudy jokes in my ear, I’ve started to rethink my dual nature as a spectrum and not a Jekyll / Hyde problem. The itch that powers my artwork is the same itch which compels me to learn new technologies. The bricolage which makes web apps go is not meaningfully different from the hodgepodge of skills needed to make a painting.
Last week I grabbed a quick drink with my neighbor, a working stage actor with a day job in talent acquisition. We got to talking about the theater of work, whether its meetings, client presentations, or interviews. He has been making a discovery: He’s never not acting. Meeting, difficult vendor phone call, or stage. - he’s drawing on the same sources. This conversation led me to the conclusion: It’s not business in the front, party in the back, it’s a business party.