To be successful in media you only need two things: A copy of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein (in 1933) and the confidence to trust your instincts. Nice clothes don’t hurt, but only if you want the best tables.
When I attended the Newhouse School at Syracuse University we read The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. I was intrigued that it was written by someone other than Alice. That was my first experience with think-different wiring. The book is a stunning lesson on coping with and reacting to controversy. Stein was a patron of the arts, notably of Picasso. But Picasso’s Paris was a conservative, parochial society that had a lot of rules about what art should be and how one should behave. Stein was a Lesbian. Picasso’s artwork was an apparent mess. Just a big mess.
Stein shares the story in the book of the very first display of Picasso’s paintings in a formal Parisian gallery. No one had seen his work. The time frame was the period at the end of the age of Impressionism which celebrated pretty water lilies and starry nights. Picasso’s art was bold, brash and not based on realism.
Gertrude Stein watched the event in the art gallery from a balcony above the crowd. She had bankrolled Picasso's work. It was her money on those walls!
The crowd was outraged. Outraged! They were disgusted with Picasso’s work. Many threatened never to come to the gallery again. They certainly had no interest in buying the paintings. They threatened to end their relationships with the gallery. How dare they show this garbage from this so-called artist?
“New” means risk both financially and socially. The entrepreneurs who thrive are the ones who believe in the viability of their new ideas and new products. They believe so hard in their project that not even Parisian society -- or every American investment banker – can stop them. These entrepreneurs are often perceived as arrogant. Instead, consider that the successful entrepreneur is a fine artist, confident in his or her vision.
To quote the book, “Gertrude Stein smiled.”
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