11 Rules to Live By

03/27/2013 4:00 AM |

At SXSW this year, Tina Roth Eisenberg—swissmiss on the Internet—spoke about her interactive and design projects by outlining the 11 rules and values she lives by. They’re pretty good, but, as an art critic who runs a blog, I had a few comments. Here are her rules with my annotations.

1. Invest your life in what you love
This is a good one. I spend my days talking about art and never get tired of it. That means I often like to spend my evenings working as well, though, which doesn’t make me the most well-rounded individual. That’s fine by me—I’ve never had a diverse range of interests—but it does make cocktail parties with people outside your own field a challenge.

2. Embrace enthusiasm
When you enjoy something, shout it from the rooftops! This is particularly important for critics to remember, because we easily identify weaknesses. Celebrating what you love in public is essential to the sanity of any writer.

3. Don’t complain, make things better
This is not a rule I subscribe to. I think it’s important to complain, because you can make things better. Write a letter! Tell a friend! Tweet the gripe! But be specific. If you don’t like what you see or experience, it’s important to identify why. Doing so will allow people to respond in a way that’s meaningful as opposed to defensive.

4. Trust and empower
Eisenberg loves her employees and wants them to feel ownership over the projects they run. And she’s right to want that. Ideally, the people who work with you will be better at their particular job than you are.

5. Value experience over money
Apply this rule on a case-by-case basis. I’ve spent enough time overvaluing my experience to know that sometimes privileging money isn’t such a bad idea. This is especially true in the art world, where very few of us seem to have the money to pay people what their labor is worth.

6. Surround yourself with like-minded people
In the workplace this isn’t a bad idea, but the journalist in me cringes as I write that. The fact is, surrounding ourselves with like-minded people has created a very uniform art world. Perhaps a better rule is to do the opposite: seek out diversity.

7. Collaborate
Or, it’s better to know 20 experts than to try to be 20 experts. You can’t know everything, and there’s nothing more exhilarating than talking to people about things they’re good at. In fact, it’s my definition of a good life.

8. Ignore haters
I’ve never been able to do this, but I’m always grateful for the moments when I can. It’s peace of mind.

9. Take time to breathe
Eisenberg told us in her talk she was trying to get better at that, and I suspect that many of us can sympathize. It’s important to take time off every once in a while, because that’s when the best ideas are born. Also worth mentioning: get a full night’s sleep. I know too many people who are sick all the time because they work too much.

10. If an opportunity scares you, you need to take it
I could never live by this rule. If an opportunity scares me, it’s usually because it’s not really an opportunity or I’m not ready for it. Real opportunities are exciting!

11. Be someone’s eccentric aunt
This was Eisenberg’s way of saying “be a mentor,” and I couldn’t agree more. As we get older we have a social responsibility to share what we know because it will make the lives of those younger than us easier.