Gordon Smith has been my art director for a long time.

One day Gordon came into the office and winced as he sat down.

I said ‘What’s up?’

He said “I’ve been shot in the back”.

I looked up, I said “Nah….”

So he lifted up his shirt and, sure enough there were two bleeding, black and blue, swollen holes.

He said he’d spent the weekend doing “House Clearance”.

Contestants go into a pitch-black barn that contains a number of hidden, armed men.

In the dark, you have to find and shoot them before they shoot you.

Of course you wear protection.

And the bullets contain only half the normal load of gunpowder.

Anyway, Gordon apparently got the silver medal.

He says he would have got the gold but for being shot in the back.

About a year later, he came back from a week in the Arctic Circle.

Ex SAS men had been teaching him how to survive in minus thirty degrees, in ‘snow graves’.

He got frostbite that nearly turned to gangrene.

Gordon does a lot of this stuff, mainly involving guns and violence.

I asked him one day how come he never joined the army.

He said he didn’t like everything else that went with it.

“This way I get all the bits I want: the shooting, the tracking, the fighting – without all the stuff I don’t want: the marching, the discipline, the bullshit”.

I think that’s a really creative way to handle your life.

Treat it like a buffet: take what you want, leave what you don’t.

I heard a similar philosophy in Mark Denton’s recent talk.

Mark’s attitude is that he is creative, and he’s going to be creative whether anyone lets him or not.

So when he has an idea that he loves, he does it.

Whether he has permission or not.

Mark will find a way to get it done.

He’ll call in favours, he’ll work with his mates, he’ll work with students, he’ll even pay for it himself if he has to.

Consequently Mark gets more creative work made than anyone else.

Mark lives for creativity.

And, like Gordon, he’s prepared to pay for the bits he likes, and avoid the bits he doesn’t.

So, as well his day job directing commercials, Mark has created a range of award winning magazine covers.

He also publishes his own magazine.

He’s run Creative Circle (doing the best awards annual ever).

He’s just designed, produced, and staged a play with his wife.

He’s always on the lookout for new projects.

This is creativity bubbling over.

When you think the ideas are too good to waste.

George Lois was the same in New York.

Winning every award for advertising, and meanwhile designing restaurants, product packaging, office interiors, anything.

His covers for Esquire are in the permanent collection at MoMA.

Paul Arden was the same.

If he loved something he’d find a way to get it made.

Books, films, photographs, paintings, ideas.

Just because he thought it was too good not to be made.

Their attitude is, you don’t need permission.

You don’t have slow your life down to the speed of everyone else.


Take what you want, leave what you don’t.