Oct 25, 2013 Legacy

Josh Long on Creativity and Entrepreneurship

As a community-involved organization, we’ve supported incubators, educational platforms and events geared toward doing design and business better. Mostly we invest in organizations and leaders that are aligned with our vision for building great things. When Josh Long approached us with the idea of Patterns, we knew we wanted to be involved. We’ve had a good track record working with Josh on the Execute book project, at Treehouse, and are thrilled to be on the ground floor of this creative entrepreneur’s flagship venture, Patterns.

Patterns is a week-long, in-person program built for the creative entrepreneurial professionals building the next web, and that’s something we can definitely get behind.
Josh Long

I don’t think it’s really a question of what types of problems I want to solve, as much as it is creating a framework for people to solve any problems…I want people to recognize what makes them unique and great, and to help them build a sustainable life around creating all of the art they can.

Josh, you first popped up on our radar through the Execute Book, then you worked with Treehouse and now you’re involved with Brooklyn Beta and launching Patterns. How did you get to where you are so quickly?
The short answer is: I work really hard, I understand design as a way of life, and I have amazing friends. You don’t find better people in any other industry. They have talent, drive, smarts and an intellect that moves them through life on a different path. I get inspired by my friends and then I get to work. If I’m lucky enough, I get to work with them on a project; like Drew Wilson with Execute and Sarah Parmenter with Happy Monday.

I don’t spend a lot of time weighing options. I see opportunities to make things that I wish existed or to change things I believe need to be changed. I think I’ve gotten to where I am so quickly because I really want to see these things become a reality. If you’re trying to work on projects just because you feel people expect you too, or you think they’ll make money, you probably won’t find the passion and drive to see them through. I’m very fortunate in that I get to work on things that I’m psychotically passionate about, so I don’t even realize how much I’m getting done. Products just keep being built and problems keep getting solved.

What would be your specific advice to budding entrepreneurs or creatives blazing their own paths?
As much as it can be a dirty word in this industry, my advice would be to know how to design a business behind what you’re doing. I know some of the most talented and intelligent people in the creative industry and they’re still broke. Know your value, strive to do something different and great, and drive away at it so that you never have any regrets. Don’t die with your art still in you, and don’t compromise your life’s work (working for someone else) by not being able to support yourself doing it.

When developing Patterns, what initial idea or problem discovery led you to commit to such an aggressive (for lack of a better term) model?
As much as I’ve really hated the fact that I’m good at business in the past, it’s who I am. I’m wired to think in systems. When I finally accepted the fact that design, philosophy and business were what I was meant to do, I realized I could use it to help more talented artists create more art. I see so many wonderful people that have so much more talent than I have. I want to see them succeed and create more of the art that makes them unique to this world.

That’s what drives me aggressively through this model: I want to see more people creating the art they were meant to create. Our society is undergoing a major shift in that we can now support ourselves doing what we love. Our grandparents never really had that luxury or opportunity. I want to help people respect that and honor it by building something according to their own passions and by their own rules.

You’ve got some really A-List talent mentoring at Patterns. How did you get your mentors to sign onto the program?
I cheated really. Don’t tell anyone, but they’re actually my friends. I’ve had long conversations with each of them about their passions, abilities, worldviews, and convictions over the years. They’re the most intelligent designers and thinkers I know, and I’m honored they’re coming to the school. I’m also reaching out to the teachers, authors, designers, and artists that have a track record of non-traditional (yet effective) teaching styles.

Patterns caters to the new creative entrepreneur class.. In my opinion, the type of people that can design a site or app AND design the business around the project. How do you address the vast difference in content needs for this group?
It’s really about knowing, understanding and being aware of the underlying principles. Many people would say it’s about “design with a capital D”. It’s about breaking down all of the systems and moving parts of your art and business, and using them to frame all of the various challenges you might face. Content is a huge part of being successful in business, and every student’s content will be different, but the systems for creating that content will always be the same. The inspiration and output are always different, but the delivery mechanisms are universal. We know so much of it is driven by the web, but we also want to discuss publishing outside of the web in addition to websites, video, podcasts, blogging, ecommerce and more. We’re looking to help artists build the content ecosystems and web platforms they need to support their art.

How are you selecting your support staff?
We’re looking for people that have done what we’re looking to teach our students. We want to have a diverse team with a lot of different skillsets, opinions, experiences and passions. We’re looking for individuals that have compassion for others and a desire to see the world become a better place through design, intelligent conversation, hard work, art and pure grit.

How did interning with Seth Godin influence Patterns and your life?
I’ve always wanted to open a school. It’s been a dream of mine for quite a while. Interning with Seth just solidified it for me. The inspiration for the name “Patterns” actually came from watching Seth think. Anytime someone posed a worthy idea, you could literally watch Seth sit back in his chair, put his hands on the back of his beautiful bald head, look up to the sky and think. I could tell he was checking that idea across all of his past experience, all of the known worldviews, other business ideas in the past, desirability, viability and feasibility. He was checking the ideas for their “patterns”. These patterns provide Seth with a framework for assessing whether or not an idea is worth pursuing. That was fascinating and inspiring to watch.

Seth has been a great mentor and friend, and as taken hours with me over the phone and Skype calls to hammer out what Patterns should be. People underestimate Seth, which is kind of weird to say given his prowess, but in my opinion too many people think of him as a marketer. In reality Seth is an artist, futurist, entrepreneur, teacher, mentor, and one of the most brilliant philosophers we have right now. Every single person in our industry should be reading all of his books and respecting what an honor it is to have such a beautiful person sharing his thoughts and knowledge. Working with him changed me forever. I’ve even dedicated a lounge to him at Patterns in honor of the gifts, thoughts and compassion that he’s given to me and so many others.

How do you envision a Patterns student describing the experience after attending Patterns?
I want Patterns students to leave with the understanding that the rules don’t apply to them. I want them to understand that there are no rules, other than the ones that have been hammered into us since an early age. Once you understand that the system can be played and that you can enjoy a life of art, passion, and fulfillment, the world becomes a more exciting place and you’re dying for Monday to come.

Getting what you want and getting your art out into the world can be as simple as understanding the patterns, understanding design as a lifestyle, and working your ass off. Know what to do, and be unapologetic about getting it done. My dream is that all Patterns students get the framework, tools and inspiration they need to live the life they want and by the rules they create for themselves.

I know you’re planning on making Patterns a broader distributed model. Do you plan on having local embassador organizers like Startup Weekend or Creative Mornings? How and when do you plan on rolling this phase out?
Seth Godin taught me a long time ago that the goal isn’t to make money, it’s to make a point. Creative Mornings was started by my good friend Tina Roth Eisenberg and it’s a beautiful and original thing that she has built. I’m a huge fan. Patterns isn’t looking to build anything like that. What we’re trying to do is spread the ideas behind the Patterns philosophy. Our goal in the next few months is to help students that have been through the program to start their own Patterns satellite groups. Think of it as a franchise that you pay for, more by showing initiative than pulling out your checkbook. We want the ideas to spread while giving artists the opportunity to build a local business behind the Patterns philosophy.

Assuming Patterns is a success, what’s next? What types of problems do you want to solve?
I want Patterns to be the thing I’m remembered for. I hope that the knowledge students gain can help them solve any problem that is put in front of them. I don’t think it’s really a question of what types of problems I want to solve, as much as it is creating a framework for people to solve any problems. I don’t want to see us continue to fall victim to a broken education system, and I don’t want to see beautifully talented people get scared to create their art because of the voice in their head, or their friends, teachers and families, telling them they can’t. I don’t want people to see business as an evil thing, I don’t want to hear another story about starving artists, and I don’t want to see any of my friends die with their art still in them.

I guess the problem I want to solve is the “fear of art”.

I want people to recognize what makes them unique and great, and to help them build a sustainable life around creating all of the art they can.

Design and grit can do that for them if they learn to see the “patterns”.

We look forward to working with Josh and the students at Patterns! Stay tuned for the announcement of the first mentor session December 2!

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