I first met Erwin Raphael McManus – author, thought leader, and founder of MOSAIC in Los Angeles – 10 years ago when we both spoke on a parenting conference. Erwin is one of my favorite thinkers and speakers; his insights are so powerful that when he writes something new, I make sure I read. His first book, An Unstoppable Force, is one of my favorite and most recommended leadership books. Although written for church leaders, is has application to leaders of every type.
His newest book is a manifesto for human creativity and the beginning of a new renaissance in THE ARTISAN SOUL: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art (HarperOne; February 2014; Hardcover; $24.99). In this book, he dives deep and discusses the spiritual, philosophical and practical ways to reclaim our creative essence and reveals how to craft our lives into a work of art.
To give you with a flavor of his work, I asked Erwin to provide this guest blog.
Every day I interact with women and men who are haunted by the thought that they are living beneath their potential. They range from driven and ambitious to discouraged and depressed. As different as they may appear they all have this one element in common- an unexplainable sense of longing they can’t seem to satisfy.
This longing is rooted in that singular characteristic that distinguishes humans from all other species- imagination. Imagination is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. Our imagination can create an image of a world we have never known and imagine the world as it should be. That image can become so compelling we are inspired and compelled to transform the world around us to match the world that only exists in our minds.
Many of us live enjoying the benefit of a world someone else imagined. In a sense we are all living inside of someone’s imagination. We find ourselves powerless when the world or our life is not what we imagined. We are most alive when we are living out our dreams.
At the same time the world we imagine demands our response. Our deepest and most powerful dreams will not allow themselves to be ignored. To do so we soon discover it comes at a great cost. We do not live well when we live beneath those dreams. To ignore them is to awaken a phantom that will haunt us both when we sleep and while we are awake.
When we imagine but do not create we are left with an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction. When we imagine a better world and do not risk to create it we find no fulfillment in our success. When we imagine ourselves as better, or different than we are, but do not change we are in danger of despair and hopelessness.
We have been given a gift- the ability to dream.
We have been given a curse – the ability to dream.
The dream is meant to be the beginning.
The dream is not the end.
The dream is our hope.
Our dream for our future.
Our dream of love.
Our dream for significance.
Our dream of sobriety.
Our dream for a better world.
Our dream of success.
Our dream for a better us.
When our dreams remain unfulfilled or unattended we begin to experience life as a nightmare. Our dreams are intended to serve as the material from which we create. When we do not create we live beneath our intention. When we live without intention we drift and lose ourselves. Humans must create- not only to express ourselves but to find ourselves.
This is where the artisan soul is central to the human story. We create not simply because we can, but because we must. Humans are artisans. We must live as artisans not simply for the purpose of fulfilling our creative potential, but for the health of our souls. When we relinquish or deny our creative essence we put or souls to sleep and even sometimes to death. We are most alive when we creating a world we can only imagine.
It all sounds easy enough except we all quickly learn that to create is to risk. A dream costs us nothing until it consumes us. Then it costs us everything. It is a dangerous thing to choose to make your life a work of art. The artisan has no choice but to walk this path.
The artisan soul lives deeply and authentically. The artist is always true to themselves. The only material a true artisan needs is that which comes from the soul. Everything we humans create is an extraversion of our internal universe.
The artisan soul lives fully aware of their creative essence.
They know that the creative act is a spiritual act.
They embrace their humanity as a gift and a stewardship.
After all, what creature is defined by their ability to create?
It is here that we touch the divine.
When we engage life as a creative act we are most like God- when we choose to create that which is good and beautiful and true.
One of the great ironies is that most people do not think of themselves as artists or believe that they are creative. Yet we all have dreams and aspirations. We all have, if only as a quiet whisper, a voice within our souls calling us to awaken our creative essence. Too often the voice calling us to embrace our artisan soul is overshadowed by all the voices that tell us we are less.
Most people have been diminished by the voices that have silenced their childlike wonder and faith. Here, by the way, is a good measure for when you are hearing the voice of God- God never makes you less human; He always make you most fully and beautifully human.
God always believes in you even when you do not believe in Him.
He created you out of love -which is always the inspiration for the greatest works of art.
He also created you to create.
When you realize that you are the product of the imagination of God you begin to imagine the possibilities for life and all of its implications.
You begin to understand how great a burden and responsibility and privilege you have been entrusted with.
The future of humanity rests in our hands.
The world’s best future exists in the mind of a child right now.
But do not be afraid… we are up for the task.
We are artisans. This is what we do.
We create beautiful things…beautiful lives…beautiful futures.
The artisan understands that we are all both an artist at work and works of art.
This is the way of the artisan soul.
So dream, risk, create.
I imagine you will,
erwin raphael mcmanus