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5 tips from Seattleite Chase Jarvis on winning Seattle’s creative scene

We were thrilled to see that a couple folks who attended the event were inspired to write and share their own takes on what Chase had to say. Check out this Medium post from Nisha Mathur. And if you went to the event, A. Klaus posted her notes from the event publicly and welcomes your additions to her takeaways. 🙌

Chase Jarvis is a creative force. The dude is a world-renowned photographer and videographer, he helped found the live-streaming creative education website CreativeLive and, get this, he had Macklemore over for dinner before he blew up Seattle’s music scene.

Chase also grew up in Seattle and knows the opportunities and obstacles this “food-loving, tree-hugging, shoe-gazing” city has to offer creatives. Most importantly, he thinks the crazy growth of our changing city is an opportunity.

“If you want Ballard to stay Ballard, like Ballard when my dad went to high school, the thought is absurd,” he said. “The point is, you’re either growing or you’re dying. Stasis is total fiction.”

So how can people make cool things and make their marks in a growing city full of other creators trying to do the same thing? Chase talked with us and a room full of Seattleites at ImpactHub on Wednesday to share lessons he’s learned while navigating — and winning at — Seattle’s creative scene. Here’s a summary of his advice.

Commit to being a creator.

Chase is sure we’re living in “the best time in the history of the world to consider yourself a creator,” but he also knows there’s a stigma around choosing a creative field and a cultural tendency to “teach creativity out of people.” So what can you do? Chase says to proudly claim your creative title and totally commit to it.

And when the time comes, quit the 9-to-5 job you have that pays your rent. Or, in Chase’s words, “You want to take the island? Burn the boats.”

But hey, if you’ve meandered on your quest for a creative identity, don’t despair. Chase did too. He dabbled in professional soccer, med school, and a PhD program before making his commitment.

Do the thing you care about.

This one’s pretty simple, and Chase repeated it a few times: “First mission: Figure out your thing. Second mission: Do that thing. Then repeat.”

In other words: “Life is short. Do the things you f**king care about,” he said.

When it came time for audience questions, one aspiring self-taught photog asked what has made Chase successful.

“Whether you’re doing something you hate or something you love, shit will get hard…When shit gets hard, celebrate it. Because it’s there to keep everybody else out.” 💪

Build community.

Chase credits much of CreativeLive’s growth (online classes grew from 50,000 to 150,000 students in just four months) and his other successes to a deep community of people he’s built over the years who care about the stuff he’s making. And he stressed not just building community to sell stuff, but “building community for the sake of loving community.”

That means connecting with online communities that are enthusiastic about the same stuff you are. Read those blogs daily and participate, Chase said. It also means connecting with people in person. Chase said he pays attention to people who “like” his stuff on social media first and he remembers them when they meet in person. That sort of connection? That’s the real deal.

Make yourself uncomfortable.

Like to work out? Time to build the ol’ discomfort muscles. Chase used the analogy of muscle-building to explain how you can start gaining confidence in the creative world, which involves putting yourself out there again and again. “Like any muscle, you build it through stress,” he said.

That takes courage, and that’s the point. “Courage is doing something the first time…Confidence is the ability to do something you’ve already done. Courage is way more valuable than confidence, so go get some courage.”

If you need some inspiration, Chase recommended watching this TED talk from a guy who got rejected 100 days in a row (ouch) on purpose. Bet his discomfort muscles are ripped.

Promote yourself.

If you remember one piece of advice from Chase, remember this: “Advocate for the things you believe in and yourself.”

He stressed again and again that believing in your own work is vital to success. If you think that sounds like too much work or if it makes you too uncomfortable, consider this:

“If you don’t have the ability to promote your thing,” Chase said, “I think you should ask yourself: ‘Do you actually believe in it?’”

Alright, Seattle. Now go out there, claim your creativity and make awesome stuff. 🙌

  • Joel de Jong

    So good! Thanks Chase! First mission, “Figure out your thing.” I’ve gotten hung up here before with the weight of this. What’s helped me is to separate “my thing” with “my identity”. I am not what I do. I am not my reputation. I am something much deeper, beyond a label. So, if this doesn’t work out, it’s okay. It has liberated me in a way that allows for courage to manifest in action, which is key. Taking action, small steps, is the way to feel your way forward and figure out your thing. Self-reflection is necessary, but movement is paramount.