Embracing the pivot
August 15, 2014
In 1868, mining engineer Fredrik Idestam established a small wood pulp mill on the banks of the Nokianvirta River
near the village of Tampere, in southwestern Finland. By the end of the 19th century, Fredrik and his business partner Leo Mechelin had expanded the power harnessed by the Nokianvirta and started selling electricity. After taking their company public and partnering with their largest shareholder, they became a rubber factory, then a cable manufacturer, then a builder of electronics. In 1992 the little pulp mill made its first mobile phone and, that same year, every other division of the organization was sold off. In September 2013, Nokia, once the largest seller of mobile phones in the world, was sold to Microsoft for 7.17 billion dollars.
"One of your great qualities," my mother once said, "is your ability to change your mind." I used to wonder if it was just a nice way of saying I was moody. But over time, it's become apparent that a little caprice can go a long way in the life of an artist. "When you're finished changing, you're finished," said Benjamin Franklin. David Bowie, in a constant drive to re-invent, changes producers for each new record. "Every time I've made a radical change," says David, "it's helped me feel buoyant as an artist."
Sometimes this evolution, whether organic or because of competition, new technology or a change of heart, is called a "pivot. "Wrigley's gum (baking powder and soap), Suzuki (weaving loom machines), Avon (books), and Twitter (podcasting) all began as something different. In art, the pivot often happens with nary a blink: on the palette, mid-stroke, in the planning of materials. Mid-idea, mid-sketch, mid-red, that barn becomes a caboose.
"Don't sit down in the middle of the woods," said author Margaret Atwood. "If you're lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page." Pivots are made in the living of life itself. Micro-pivots and lifelong creative evolutions are the grist for our mill and become our own art history.
PS:"Creativity takes courage."(Henri Matisse)
"Becoming is superior to being."(Paul Klee)
Esoterica: When engrossed in an undertaking that's losing thrust or promise, we face the challenge of finding the courage to make adjustments. The difference between certain misery and fresh, springing hope is having the guts to leap into the new form. "There is nothing wrong with change," said Winston Churchill, "if it is in the right direction." Is it ever too late to scrape off and retry, or bite down on a new, ambitious endeavour? While risking appearing capricious, or just plain crazy, consider the Suzuki motorcycle, which was once a weaving loom machine.
"In my music, I'm trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it's difficult is because I'm changing all the time."(Charles Mingus)
"The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity."(George Carlin)
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