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5 Manifestos for Art, Life & Business

Writing a manifesto can be a powerful catalyst for action. Get the creative juices flowing with visionary manifestos from Apple, Frank Lloyd Wright, Seth Godin, and more.

Manifestos are a powerful catalyst. By publicly stating your views and intentions, you create a pact for taking action. (Movements from the American Revolution to Dogme 95 film to the Firefox web browser were all launched by manifestos.) If you want to change the world, even in just a small way, creating a personal or business manifesto is a great place to start.

Before we launched Behance in 2006, drawing up a set of tenets and principles that would guide the company was our very first objective. Looking back five years on, our “manifesto” continues to prove extremely useful. Whether we’re planning the launch of a major product or making an important call about a new hire, our principles serve as a touchstone for decision-making.Needless to say, developing a set of principles that you believe in and constantly strive to stand by is an invaluable tool.

To spark your imagination, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite manifestos below.

1. The Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright

Via Gretchen Rubin, we discovered this manifesto from architect Frank Lloyd Wright, written as a series of “fellowship assets” meant to guide the apprentices who worked with him at his school, Taliesin. I particularly love number 10, the idea that working with others should come naturally.

1. An honest ego in a healthy body.

2. An eye to see nature.

3. A heart to feel nature.

4. Courage to follow nature.

5. The sense of proportion (humor).

6. Appreciation of work as idea and idea as work.

7. Fertility of imagination.

8. Capacity for faith and rebellion.

9. Disregard for commonplace (inorganic) elegance.

10. Instinctive cooperation.

2. The Marketer: Seth Godin

The always insightful Seth Godin shared his “Unforgivable Manifesto” with artist Hugh MacLeod a few years ago. His observation about the short-run vs the long-run in point 5 is particularly incisive, as is the notion that we’re all marketers in point 7 – it’s just that some of us don’t own it.

1. The greatest innovations appear to come from those that are self-reliant. Individuals who go right to the edge and do something worth talking about. Not solo, of course, but as instigators of a team. In two words: don’t settle.

2. The greatest marketers do two things: they treat customers with respect and they measure.

3. The greatest salespeople understand that people resist change and that ‘no’ is the single easiest way to do that.

4. The greatest bloggers blog for their readers, not for themselves.

5. There really isn’t much a of ‘short run’. It quickly becomes yesterday. The long run, on the other hand, sticks around for quite a while.

6. The internet doesn’t forget. And sooner or later, the internet finds out.

7. Everyone is a marketer, even people and organizations that don’t market. They’re just marketers who are doing it poorly.

8. Amazing organizations and people receive rewards that more than make up for the effort required to be that good.

9. There is no number 9.

10. Mass taste is rarely good taste.

3. The Designer: John Maeda

RISD president John Maeda’s slim book, The Laws of Simplicity, is one of my all-time favorites, with broad-reaching insights that apply as easily to arranging your living room as to designing a visionary product. In 100 pages, Maeda elaborates on 10 laws for business, design, and life:

1. Reduce: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.

2. Organize: Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.

3. Time: Savings in time feel like simplicity.

4. Learn. Knowledge makes everything simpler.

5. Differences: Simplicity and complexity need each other.

6. Context: What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.

7. Emotion: More emotions are better than less.

8. Trust: In simplicity we trust.

9. Failure: Some things can never be made simple.

10. The One: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

4. The Writer: Leo Tolstoy

While they betray a bit of the self-hating introvert, Tolstoy’s “rules for life,” originally written when he was 18 years old, do contain some useful gems. In particular, the notion of managing your energy and prioritizing based on goals (no. 5), and of managing your finances wisely by always keeping a low overhead (no. 9 & 10).

1. Get up early (five o’clock).

2. Go to bed early (nine to ten o’clock).

3. Eat little and avoid sweets.

4. Try to do everything by yourself.

5. Have a goal for your whole life, a goal for one section of your life, a goal for a shorter period and a goal for the year; a goal for every month, a goal for every week, a goal for every day, a goal for every hour and for every minute, and sacrifice the lesser goal to the greater.

6. Keep away from women.

7. Kill desire by work.

8. Be good, but try to let no one know it.

9. Always live less expensively than you might.

10. Change nothing in your style of living even if you become ten times richer.

5. The Company: Apple

When Steve Jobs went on medical leave in 2009 and financial analysts were making dire predictions, Apple COO Tim Cook boiled the company’s culture down to what was essentially an 8-point manifesto. I love that saying no is one of the key points. It’s so hard!

1. We believe that we’re on the face of the earth to make great products.

2. We’re constantly focusing on innovating.

3. We believe in the simple, not the complex.

4. We believe we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.

5. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can focus on the few that are meaningful to us.

6.We believe in deep collaboration and cross pollination in order to innovate in a way others cannot.

7. We don’t settle for anything other than excellence in any group in the company.

8. We have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.

What’s Your Manifesto?

Do you have a personal manifesto that you’d like to share?

How about a manifesto that you’ve always admired?

Jocelyn K. Glei

A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with understanding how work gives our lives meaning. She has authored three books about work, creativity, and business, including the Amazon bestsellers Manage Your Day-to-Day and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.

Comments (109)
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