Inspiration Define



by Kyle Hickman
@kyle_a_hickman

Bob Ross...for anyone who is familiar with his work, he is one of the most interesting/captivating/lovable/quirky characters you will ever watch on television. Obviously, most of today's generation of college students may not be very familiar with his work because his show, "The Joy of Painting" ran from 1983 until 1994 (he passed away in 1995), conflicting with children's programs on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney. If you happened to be lucky enough to catch one of his programs, it was always so magnificent how he illustrated the ease of painting an elaborate tree, cloud, or valley. He seemed to make something so complicated seem so attainable by the normal person. During my time as an undergraduate at Lycoming College, a number of my chapter brothers went through a spell where they would watch some of Bob's work. A few of those times, I found myself in front of the television amazed at his passion for painting and his unrelenting belief in the potential of people. When most think of "Leadership," I'm not sure Bob Ross comes to mind. But I would like the chance to prove to you how Bob Ross exemplified some of the most important leadership characteristics/behaviors.
 

1. Imagination; Not Replication

No matter how much time you spend watching Bob paint on his program, this is always a core theme of his teachings. Just like any educator, Bob could have very easily told his audience to replicate his work on the canvas. Yet, he always made it a point to explain that he was asking the viewer to use their imagination to create something just as beautiful that comes from within their own creativity. "We're not trying to teach you to copy here; we're only trying to teach you a technique and let you loose on the world," Bob would say. Like any educator position in another profession, your job is to inspire the minds of others to achieve great things. It is very analogous to that timeless quote from John Quincy Adams: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." If anybody was ever in the business of empowering others to do incredible things, it was Bob Ross. 


2. "Complicated" is an Illusion of the Mind

If any one of us took a look at one of Bob's magnificent paintings, our first thought is probably going to be: "how in the world can I produce something like that? I can't paint!" A cognizant man himself, Bob knew this was the initial reaction of most people watching his program, which he used strategically to capture our attention from the start. Instead of journeying into a painting without the unfailing confidence of each viewer/fellow painter, he took a moment to explain that each work of art was simply a collection of much smaller, simpler steps that come together to create something amazing.

You see, when Bob communicated this to his audience, he did what most so-called "leaders" fail to do: enable his followers to accomplish smaller steps, building confidence and courage to take on larger challenges down the road. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was the confidence to create a timeless painting. Bob knew that, which meant he had to break down those pre-conceived notions and/or lack of confidence from the beginning. "The hardest thing in painting is not knowing 'how to paint,' but rather, 'what to paint." 


3. Patience is Key

How do you create a painting with elaborate detail, texture, imagination, and personality? Bob would be the first to tell that outside of the obvious (skill and imagination), it takes time and patience. When you invest yourself into something with such detail, you should be proud of your work. You can't rush it. As any good leader will tell you, if you rush the process and forget the notion of being patient, the outcome may not be as desirable as you may like. Sure, life is full of roadblocks, bumps, and cautions, but as Bob would tell you, "We don't make mistakes, we just have happy accidents." Stay patient, be confident in your skills, and good things will come from it. 


4. Enjoy the Process... It's Fun!

"If it's not fun, then you're doing the wrong thing," explained Mr. Ross. When you talk about painting, it doesn't capture the excitement and imagination of every person that you meet... and that's okay! When Bob would talk about making sure you enjoy the creation of art, he didn't mean that everyone should absolutely fall in love with the profession. Instead, Bob spoke of passion for creativity because he was hoping to inspire others to find the same joy in the little things that they do on an everyday basis. What an amazing message for all leaders out there: ensure that the people you associate with, supervise, or oversee find enjoyment in their careers, hobbies, friends and family. Otherwise, aren't they wasting their time? Are they not enjoying life to its fullest? More than anything else, Bob wanted to impress the fundamental idea that using your imagination (no matter the activity) should be an enjoyable pursuit. 


5. A Culture of Positivity and Hope

'I believe...' was the famous words of an amazing leader who captured the hearts of his followers. Do you know who I am referring to? That man, rest his soul, is Martin Luther King, Jr! As described in Simon Sinek's TEDtalk, "How Great Leaders Inspire Action," the notion of 'I believe' cuts to the core of 'Starting With Why,’ a transformational approach to inspiring others. Martin Luther King Jr. was incredibly talented in speaking about his beliefs to the world and others who believed in the same thing gravitated to that message. Although I do not want to explicitly compare Bob Ross and MLK Jr., I do want to recognize the fact that they both shared this natural tendency to spread positivity and hope in their followers. Bob is famous for breaking down the barriers of negativity in his programs and telling his audience that they COULD create a glorious scene, despite their own apprehensions. Every episode exuded a consistent strain of positivity and hope that leaped from his brush, to the canvas, and eventually, to his audience. Bob truly believed that every person out there could delve into their imagination and create a painting as unique as their own personality. That, my friends, is what I would call, Inspirational!

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