No Need To Accept Gifts From Your Past Self

Apropos to my post yesterday about giving yourself time to generate creative innovation Seth Godin made a post today about sunk cost fallacy, practice and creativity.  The point he makes is that if your interests and ambitions shift, one shouldn’t feel obligated to continue cultivating or practicing a skill simply because you have already invested time in developing that skillset.

The thing you earned, that you depend on, that was hard to do–it’s a gift from your former self. Just because you have a law degree, a travel agency or the ability to do calligraphy in Cyrillic doesn’t mean that your future self is obligated to accept that gift.

We hold on to the old competencies and our hard-earned status roles far longer than we should.

He makes a statement about creativity being a generous act which made me think I had written about a similar statement he made along those lines. In that case, he had actually talked about leadership being a voluntary and creative act so there really isn’t far to leap to conceptualize creativity and even leadership as generous acts.

Creativity is the generous act of solving an interesting problem on behalf of someone else. It’s a chance to take emotional and intellectual risks with generosity.

Do that often enough and you can create a practice around it. It’s not about being gifted or touched by the muse. Instead, our creative practice (whether you’re a painter, a coach or a fundraiser) is a commitment to the problems in front of us and the people who will benefit from a useful solution to them.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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