“YOU are NOT special.”

Imagine hearing that in a classroom?!

While some may feel it is a bit harsh, I am thrilled to know a colleague who actually says this to her students.


I can give you a litany of reasons, but the biggest one is our culture coddles our youth. It is a huge weakness in our society. In fact, I worry it will have a hugely negative impact if we continue to tell children they are special.


Resilience. RESILIENCE is the answer.

You are Not Special | Artist Strong

Creative risktaking includes a quality of resilience.

I’ve listened to quite a few Unmistakable Creative podcasts this year while I paint. Srini Rao, creator and interviewer, consistently finds the unique people he interviews have faced some kind of trauma or difficult circumstance that has fueled or even inspired their current (successful) creative circumstance. Why is it that some of us fail and give up after hard times and others rise above? Adversity: what makes just the right amount? Why do some break under adversity while others grow and thrive in response?

There is an answer.

It’s called resilience.

Resilience, according to *Al Siebert’s Resiliency Center:

“Able to recover quickly from misfortune; able to return to original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched out of shape. A human ability to recover quickly from disruptive change, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways. As in “Our team showed great resilience,” or “Our team had good resiliency.”

Simply put, a resilient person can bounce back from difficult situations and be stronger for those circumstances.

“Resilience is the difference between those who succeed and those who give up.” (Click to Tweet)

Many people in my life comment on the strength and passion of my drive to create both my art and my business. “You are so motivated.” “You have amazing follow through.” “I don’t know how you do it all.” My ego certainly appreciates all of this positive feedback like I’m something special. All of these comments have a tone that suggest I have some superhuman power, which I don’t. P.S. I’m not special, either. But I am DAMN resilient.

You are Not Special | Artist Strong

Will you break at the first sign of difficulty in your life? How can you turn it into something GOOD?!

How do I know this?

I’ve been humbled.

I grew up spoiled and entitled. My parents had me later in life and were financially established and successful. My siblings are much older and also spoiled me. I was the baby, and then some. Horse lessons, flute lessons, spanish lessons, you name it, I had it. Then one day I found out we were bankrupt. We left our 5000 square foot home for a 1200 square foot home in a new state. It wasn’t my money, but man did I feel humbled.

It was a huge gift, that bankruptcy. I watched my family rebuild, remake, and renew. I am so proud today that my dad took a risk to start his own business. It’s why I’m forging my own path today.

Life is short, and unpredictable.

I wasn’t feeling well before my senior class trip to Rome. Mom told me I didn’t have to go. We all deep down knew something was wrong, but hadn’t quite put it into words. I said, “I don’t care if they have to take me in a wheelchair, I’m going.” I almost bled to death. After months of ignoring my body an illness I developed was taking over and the trip was enough strain that I (unknowingly) risked my life. [One might call this part of the story stupidly stubborn]. I flew back to the US with such little blood in my body that doctors in the states said I should have had a heart attack on the plane. The entire time I was in the hospital in Rome? All I kept asking was when I could go home. There was no question I was going to make it home, I didn’t care what the doctors’ said.

I had brain surgery. Thankfully, not the crack your skull open kind, more the go through your nose and sinus cavity type. While waiting for the neurosurgeon to take me in, sitting on that gurney in my hospital shirt, he asked me if I was ready. “Let’s do it,” was my reply.

“What is the most important quality of a Creative Risktaker? Resilience.” (Click to Tweet)

How does this apply to creativity?

Resilience has everything to do with creativity. The very nature of creativity is about risk-taking and trial and error. If we are too hesitant to take that first step and draw in a sketchbook, how can we possibly become really good at drawing?! When we have a new idea that feels a little bit crazy, will we push it down and out of our minds to hide it? Or do we pull out the materials in our art studio and give it a real go?

You are Not Special | Artist Strong

If we don’t allow our children to take risks in their life, big and small, how will they know their true strengths?

Being Special.

Being “special” often suggests by the virtue of being you (NOT through hard work or trial and error) that you deserve things. (I also call that, cough cough, entitlement.)

“Today’s Public Service Announcement: Congratulations, you are NOT special!” (Click to Tweet)

When we cushion our children (and ourselves) from the difficulties of life, we prevent them from really living it. NO ONE wants to see a loved one in pain. NO ONE. And yet, when people can come back from those moments, and shine a bit brighter from them, we are all better for it.

We need to ask ourselves, how much of the sheltering we do for our children is too much? Resilient people are: adaptive, positive, determined, they can bounce back from difficulties in life and they can learn from them.

Sorry, what’s not to like?

Because really, if it isn’t brain surgery, why the hell aren’t you trying?

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Take a creative risk; see how it feels. More importantly, how do you handle it? Do you need to build your resilience? Take the resiliency quiz. And let’s talk about it in the comments below.

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*Resources and References for Article: