Work as an art form
Real World Art: The Canvass that is business
by Donald J. Trump
Chairman, Trump University
Art is a lie that makes us see the truth. –Picasso
Picasso was not only a great artist, he was a good businessman. He knew the value of his work, and he didn’t make excuses for it. He once told a story about someone who visited his studio, stood in front of a painting, and asked him “What does it represent?” Picasso’s response was “Two hundred thousand dollars.” He was telling the truth and in no uncertain terms. Picasso obviously viewed his art as a business, which it was. I view my business as an art, which it is. You should view your work that way too.
Here’s why. Artists are known for their dedication, to their ideals, to their muse—whatever that might be—and for their perseverance in getting things just right. Those are admirable traits to possess. They will go to great lengths to achieve the desired result. Just recently a Beethoven manuscript was discovered in a library. He had made so many changes and scratches on it that he had punctured holes in the pages in some places. This work was done towards the end of his life, so he wasn’t a novice at writing music at that point. That was just how he worked. Beethoven was a perfectionist, who wouldn’t settle for less than his best. He didn’t need to impress anyone except himself. That’s a good way to be, whether you’re a businessperson or a musician.
Try to best yourself. Compete with yourself to be the best you can be. That’s the mindset of entrepreneurs. They know that competing with others could lower their own standards. That may sound tough but it’s the truth. You have to have your own vision and stick with it. Picasso definitely had his own way of seeing things, which certainly worked to his advantage artistically and financially. Don’t be afraid of being unique. It’s like being afraid of your best self.
When I was building Trump Tower, I spent a great deal of time finding and getting the exact color of marble I wanted for the lobby. I looked at hundreds of marble samples until I found something called Breccia Perniche, a rare marble and, therefore, very expensive. The color was a blend of rose, peach and pink that was absolutely perfect. When we went to the quarry, however, I noticed there were white spots and veins in a lot of the marble. Nevertheless, I was determined to use this marble. So we marked off the slabs that were the best and scrapped the rest—about 60% of the total. It wasn’t cost effective, but it was worth it. The lobby in Trump Tower is truly a work of art, and the marble made the difference. It’s gorgeous.
Back to Picasso’s statement about art being a lie. One take on that is that artists often make the difficult look effortless. How hard is it to put paint on a canvas? Easy if you don’t know what you’re doing. A little more complex if you do know what you’re doing.In my first book, The Art of the Deal, I chose the title for those very reasons. Anyone in business knows that negotiating and making deals requires a lot of background work. People don’t see me doing that part, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do it. When people see the beautiful marble in Trump Tower, they usually have no idea what I went through personally to achieve the end result. No one cares about the blood, sweat, and tears that art or beauty require. It’s the end result that matters.
Art is also representational. In other words, it’s not life, but it’s about life. It can point to truths that we might not notice in our busy daily lives. It gives us a reflection. When I do a deal, it’s a reflection of my astuteness as a businessman. I strive for a comprehensive approach, much as an artist would. No matter what your field is, you can learn a lot by emulating that approach as much as possible. I didn’t have to use Breccia Perniche marble, but I knew it would make a difference. My work as a builder combines both craftsmanship and art. I refuse to settle for less. So when I say I view my work as an art form, you can bet that I’m as meticulous as any artist would be about the materials and the desired result. If you do the same, I think you’ll surprise yourself at how high your standards will become.
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