Erik Wahl is an internationally recognized graffiti artist, #1 best selling author and entrepreneur.
Erik redefines the term keynote speaker. Pulling from his history as both a businessman and an artist, he has grown to become one of the most sought after corporate speakers available today. Erik’s on-stage painting seamlessly becomes a visual metaphor to the core of his message, encouraging organizations toward profitability through innovations and superior levels of performance.
His list of clients includes AT&T, Disney, London School of Business, Microsoft, FedEx, Exxon Mobil, Ernst & Young, and XPrize; Erik has even been featured as a TED presenter.
The responses received have been nothing short of incredible, with standing ovations to prove it. Erik’s bestselling business book UNTHINK was hailed by Forbes Magazine as THE blueprint to actionable creativity and by Fast Company Magazine as Provocative with a Purpose.
In this video, Erik takes us inside his studio space and uncovers the rich stories and technical details behind some of his favorite paintings.
Erik’s understanding of vision was originally born in the school of disappointment. After a eight-year career as a partner in a corporate firm, he became frustrated by the lack of innovative thought and corresponding profits he saw in business. So he set out to challenge companies to change their way of thinking, while simultaneously pursuing his own individual passions. He rediscovered his love for art, and now plays in the business world by working through his art.
On November 9, Erik painted live on stage at the World Business Forum (Milan), inviting us not to be afraid.
«Get out of the business as usual, out of your comfort zone. Think of all that we could do in our business if we were not afraid. Fear affects our performance, is the risk of being too structured.
What’s F.E.A.R.? False – Evidence – Appearing – Real.
As a child I loved drawing, but I stopped it because they told me I was not good enough and not attentive to details. As an adult I started painting again and I started to see all the things I had learned from another point of view. We need to rethink ourselves, experiment and be creative, also if someone told that we are not creative.
Think Big Data means complying with unambiguous rules. I wanted to express my Small Date, the instinct for too long repressed. The question I ask you is how do you plan to turn your mind and harmonize Big Date and Small Date? As Einstein we must have courage to look around and turn what we see. This is the Art of Vision… »
Taking risks pays off, there is no doubt: in Milan, Erik Wahl led a (lucky) person on stage, from the audience, and gave him the work realized.
In the past 10 years, he has shared his incredible message with the largest and most influential companies in the world, leaving behind his prized artwork as a reminder of his passion for breakthrough thinking. He’s the Warhol of Wall Street, the Renoir of ROI, the Picasso of Productivity, the Jobs of… well, having a Job.
What is Art for you? And what is your favorite Work of Art?
«The purpose of art is not to produce a product. The purpose of art is to produce thinking. The secret is not the mechanics or technical skill that create art – but the process of introspection and different levels of contemplation that generate it. Once you learn to embrace this process, your creative potential is limitless.
My favorite work of art has yet to be invented».
Three tips for Italian manager? During this period of economic crisis…
«Focus. – on building authenticity and trust into your brand.
Commit. – to learning new social media languages to understand the rapid changing taking place in consumer behavior trends.
Adapt. – to the age of disruption where change is the norm. And remember that growth and comfort cannot co-exist.
Social media is currently causing the greatest disruption in the business world. It is a new language that the entire world is being forced to learn. It is massively disrupting because it is not structured. No longer is efficiency and profitability the strongest currency to measure the health of a business. The currency that matters most in our new economy is the currency of trust. Trust is about creating authentic customer experiences. Trust creates an emotional connection that defies price. Trust can only be built around personalizing the product or service experience for the customer. Trust is the humanization of business. Trust is uniquely emotional. Trust is the reason for why we buy, and what we buy. And trust is uniquely built, leveraged and amplified on social media».
…And three pieces of advice for the new president Donald Trump?
«Only one piece of advice matters to me now. Tolerance and compassion to unify and heal our own deeply divided nation».
As you wrote, creativity has two faces: the spark of inspiration and the grind of doing the work. What’s your spark?
«Creating something out of nothing is my spark. Creativity is the change that changes everything. It serves as my alarm clock for why I am excited to get out of bed and fuels my life in every capacity to be a creator rather than a critic».
How can we open our mind? To be the best version of ourselves…
«We can expand our mind by being beta… Being Beta is Being Creative. It is foundational to my work as an artist and Entrepreneur. Being Beta is not showing me what to see, but teaching me how to see. And once I know how to see, opportunity emerges that was previously hidden in plain sight.
Being Beta is process of expanding my consciousness. It suspends the anxiety caused by linear thinking temporarily and allows me access to an inner sanctuary of expansive calm.
Logic is logical, but the single lens of logic simply cannot capture the subtle artistic beauty in life that surrounds me all the time. Being Beta is not the opposite of logic, but rather beyond it. Being Beta fascinates my mind, shakes up my brain cells and opens up my emotional intelligence to allow space for unattached, non-judgmental peripheral views of possibility».
Failure is not the opposite of success. It is part of success… But how can we overcome the fear of failure?
«Resilience to overcoming obstacles and perceived failure is a key driver of innovation. We must be disciplined to fight the resistance of the status quo. As the landscape for business continue to change, Institutional complacency is the greatest foe of innovation. Not all of our ideas will work. Many will fail. We must build up a resiliency to setbacks. We must not be afraid to fail. Failure is going to happen. In business if we are afraid to fail we will never come up with anything new. Resilience to failure is key to pushing out of our comfort zone and into innovation. Mario Andretti was quoted as saying if you are not a little bit scared you are not going fast enough. Translated into my work as an artist and an entrepreneur: if I am not failing, I am probably not pushing the fringes of new ideas hard enough. The more I become comfortable, the less I become innovative. Resilience is key to becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable».
Music plays a big role in your Art. What is your favorite song and why?
«The music I listen to is the energy that fuels my art. It ranges from classical to hip hop and everything in between. I can be inspired from any genre at any time».
New projects (in Art & Life) for 2017?
«2017 is a huge year for me. I have been researching, filming, writing, preparing and choreographing for the last three years for the release my most ambitious project to date. It will begin with the release of my new book on March 7, 2017. The Spark and the Grind. The two faces of innovation. Sparking and grinding toward breakthrough techniques to harness the discipline of constant creativity».
He is Erik Wahl: graffiti artist, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Here the Italian translation for this interview.
The Spark and The Grind
The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. This book is about dreamers who do!
Coming March 7th 2017!