High School Dropout

The phone rang. It was Mr. Hemphill, the Principal of our high school. He was calling about my upcoming graduation ceremony.

It was almost the end of the year, and I had completed and passed all of my courses except for one.

The course that was standing between me and a high school diploma might surprise you…

A mandatory art credit.

I was taking art through correspondence and because it was self-guided learning and I was a distracted teenager, I had yet to finish.

Mr. Hemphill was offering me the chance to walk the stage as a graduate if I promised to complete the art course that summer.

I never finished the course.

Fast forward decades, I continued to resist the label of being creative. My belief was that if I had failed to finish high school because I lacked the wherewithal to finish an art course, my creativity gene must be severely marred.

Yet, over and over again, in my professional life, my creative ideas helped corporations generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. My creativity has inspired and led others to surpass sales goals, to start and finish projects, and to do things they never believed possible.

I’ve developed a reputation for being one of the best creative business strategists around…so is it possible that perhaps I really am creative?

I decided to find out.

I spent several hundred dollars on an easel, canvases, acrylic paints, brushes, and knives to see whether or not there was an inkling of an artist within me.

The items arrived, and much like my correspondence art course, they sat and waited.

They waited for me.

A post on Instagram was the spark that finally allowed me to start. It was made by Joanne (@heyjoegirl). She was responding to a question from one of her followers, and what she said smacked me in the face in a metaphorical way.

She said, “Start by painting the ugliest painting you can.”

What? Start by painting ugly?

I can do ugly.

And then, it all made sense.

It’s the attachment to “good” that stops us from being great.

  • We fail to start writing a book because we want it to be a best seller before we’ve even written a crappy first draft.
  • We fail to start a business because we are afraid it won’t be an overnight success.
  • We fail to hire a coach or join a program because we think we can do it alone and yet over and over again, we fail to start and finish our big ideas.

What if we just painted an ugly first piece? Or wrote a chapter full of typos and grammatical errors? Or sold something and celebrated that?

The attachment to “good” is what stops us from being great. What could you achieve if you let go and painted ugly first? Or wrote a chapter full of typos? Share on X

My first painting was ugly.

My second was not bad.

My third looks like it were painted by a four-year-old.

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And I’m enjoying the process of creation without judging the outcome.

What do you need to paint ugly?


3 thoughts on “High School Dropout”

  1. Michael Shaughnessy

    During my lifetime career of helping others become the best they can be, I can honestly say -paint ugly- is one of THE best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard!
    It truly brings Nike’s “just do it” to a level of risk that ANYONE can allow themselves to jump right into, gaining the confidence to do so much more.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. I couldn’t agree more—Nike’s slogan sums up my point nicely! Sometimes you need to just jump in and allow yourself to be bad at something while letting go of any attachment to being ‘good.’ Thanks for reading, Michael!

  2. “It’s the attachment to “good” that stops us from being great.” I needed to see this today. Thank you Lisa for these wise words. I love how you can clarify the truth so simply!

    The fear that it won’t work out or that we won’t live up to our “expectations” of greatness holds us (me) back from taking the necessary steps to move in a forward direction. You just gave me an “aha” moment!

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Lisa Larter Bio Image of Lisa x400

Lisa Larter

Founder and CEO of the Lisa Larter Group, master strategist, author, speaker, podcast host, social media expert, consultant, and business coach. Lisa inspires entrepreneurs and business owners to see the possibilities for their organizations when it comes to strategy. She uncomplicates modern marketing and creates (and implements) strategies for businesses that are guaranteed to increase visibility, inbound leads, and revenue.

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