John Cage – 10 Rules for Students and Teachers

  1.  Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.
  2.  General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
  3. General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.
  4. Consider everything an experiment.
  5. Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
  6. Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.
  7. The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
  8. Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.
  9. Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
  10. “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)


  • Always be around.
  • Come or go to everything.
  • Always go to classes.
  • Read anything you can get your hands on.
  • Look at movies carefully, often.
  • Save everything — it might come in handy later.

Ansel Adams on Art & Life

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

– Ansel Adams

To Paraphrase:

You don’t make art with just
8″x10″ / 5″x4″ / old polaroid cameras
acrylics / oils
canvas / wall
12u x 104hp modular synthesizers
Ableton Live
Pure Data
Lowden guitars

You bring to the act of creation your biography, all the things you love, all the things you detest, your gifts and your shadows.


Georgia O’Keefe on Freedom

I have already settled it for myself, so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.

– Georgia O’Keeffe


Ira Glass on Creative Work

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish somebody told me. All of us who do creative work, we got into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

– Ira Glass


Methods & Principles

“As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Strategy for Subversives

  1. Ready. Fire! Aim.
  2. If it ain’t broke, break it!
  3. Hire crazies!
  4. Ask dumb questions.
  5. Pursue failure.
  6. Lead, follow, or get out the way.
  7. Spread confusion.
  8. Ditch your office.
  9. Read odd stuff.
  10. Avoid moderation.

Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide and author of Lovemarks.

Work and Personality

Individual personality plays an enormous role in the path your creative work takes. In fact I’ll be bold and state that personality defines the path your creative work takes. For example, the work of Garry Winogrand is completely different work to that of Erwin Olaf. Winogrand states that When I’m photographing I see life. That’s what I deal with, whereas for Olaf his work is concerned with the creation of his own fantasy worlds.  Two very different approaches to photographic work.

So, what does this mean for you and why am I writing about it?

Well, if personality defines the creative path you take, then it’s difficult to take that creative path if you do not know what path your personality is most attuned to. A lot of people work this out simply by experimenting with different types of work and following their intuition. But for others it’s not so easy: fear of becoming “trapped” doing only one kind of work, fear of failure, fear that your path won’t pay the bills, etc. To have some tools to help you negotiate your path can be a real help. One of the most insightful tools I’ve come across is Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, based on the work of Carl Jung.

When I first came across Myers-Briggs it was a revelation, it gave me a language to understand why I made the decisions I did, why my energy ran out oin certain situations and boomed in other situations. Since then Myers-Briggs has regularly given me insights into how I function best and how I can function better in less than ideal situations. I now consider this essential life knowledge. As Nadav Kander has said, “Making Pictures is exploring ones own life, understanding yourself more and more, which is what’s exciting.”

For those wishing to investigate further I’d highly recommend the following resources.

Personality Junkie

16 Personalities

Personality Page