Erik Wahl Reminds Us That We’re All Artists
“Make your lives a masterpiece, you only get one canvas.” -E.A. Bucchianeri
Erik Wahl had it all figured out.
As a child, he learned if he colored perfectly inside the lines he’d get an A. He was taught that if he performed in the exact manner expected of him, he’d get praise from the person he most wanted to impress. He understood if he prepared properly, worked diligently, and delivered effectively, he’d excel in school, shine in sports and thrive in life.
Equipped with this belief system, Erik graduated university into a hot economy. With his stellar track record, he immediately found employment, excelled professionally, and charted his path forward. He committed to checking every professional box to ensure he’d get better promotions, earn greater income and achieve superior success.
He worked long days and toiled at the office on weekends. He spent significant time separated from his wife and three young boys. He believed that his current trajectory freed him to retire before the age of 40.
The picture was painted, the plan was charted, the boxes were checked, and the steps were in process.
And then the massive technology bubble of the late 90’s – and Erik Wahl’s perfect plan – burst.
An Unexpected Challenge Leads Erik Wahl to a New Passion
In a short sequence of events, Erik lost his job, his salary, and every dollar of his life’s savings. The man with a plan for retirement by 40 found himself inching toward that age with three little ones under five, no job, no savings, and no clue what to do next.
Moments of dramatic change can lead us one of two ways. We can angrily hold onto the memories of all we had and the complete injustice of it all being ripped away. Or, we can use the space provided to slow down, reflect on what matters, recalibrate in that direction, and author a new course.
Erik chose the latter and decided to stop living the life so clearly outlined by others. He began a journey of discovering who he truly was, what actually mattered, and what real freedom, real success, and the real masterpiece of his life might look like.
During this unforeseen and painful season of reflection, Erik discovered a skill he never knew he possessed: Painting.
Creativity That Inspires Change
At first, Erik was drawn simply to the creative mindset of artists and the vitality alive within their community. In time, he came to unlock his own talent and the realization that the artistic process could be used by individuals and organizations to unlock new thinking and results so much better than what they’re experiencing today. Leveraging the artistic process in business and in life could actually lead to the death of malaise and stagnation felt by so many.
So, Erik gave one talk on rediscovering the gift of creativity. Then expanded into topics like rediscovering the genius within you, embracing greater curiosity, and becoming spontaneous.
Rather than coloring in the lines and delivering a typical message behind a podium, Erik chose to interact with the audience, create an experience, and even painted majestic portraits within the span of a single song. The audiences loved the art, the message and the guy sharing it.
In the 15 years since Erik first discovered his talent, he has inspired audiences around the world and has helped raise millions for charity.
(I flew to San Diego to spend a few hours with graffiti artist, author, speaker and entrepreneur Erik Wahl. Our conversation is shared in this week’s Live Inspired podcast. He’s a world-class performer, but an even better father, husband, and passionate leader. Erik invites you to realize that all artists are commissioned to create something worthy – and that each of us are artists. Grab your blank canvas and get ready to learn how to unearth your creativity with us. Listen here.)
Following the Example of Erik Wahl
My friends, too often we believe that the ability to create, innovate, and soar is reserved for the chosen few.
Today, Erik reminds us that the freedom, genius and vibrancy that was searing within us as children remains alive within us today.
The flame may have dimmed, but the embers remain and the ability to reignite the possibility endures.
After all, you only get one canvas.
This is your day. Live Inspired.
Erik’s passion for his work and amazing presence on stage creating it live made me want to see the place where it is all initially dreamt up. Check out my behind-the-scenes tour of Erik’s painting studio here.