Artwork by James Victore

Op-Ed: In The Particular Lies The Universal

It’s no coincidence that brilliant creative minds are rarely witnessed. Steve Jobs, Tina Fey, Banksy. Mavericks and renegades — telling their stories, spilling their guts, and divulging themselves for our progress, our enlightenment, and our entertainment. Like us, they feel the heat of failure, defeat, humiliation, and financial ruin, but they do it anyway. They do whatever it takes to put their lives and ideals into their work. They have to. And the world loves them even more for it.

Most folks never have a chance of even knowing the power of their talents and gifts. Others lack the confidence, or possibly ignorance, necessary to share their ideas with the world — afraid to stick their heads out of the foxhole for fear of the potshots from naysayers and hole-pokers. We’re scared, so we stop trusting ourselves. This creates a bad habit — instead of looking inside for an answer, we ask “What do THEY want?”  Thus, we pander. We regurgitate standard, acceptable levels of crap — mediocrity with a laugh track.


Like individuals, companies are risk averse. It’s in their business plan to be so. The commercial world or the larger society generally accepts greatness only AFTER witnessing it in others. One unique voice airs a beautiful work first, then it becomes socially acceptable. Case in point: Anthony Bourdain’s bestseller Kitchen Confidential was written purely out of love of his craft. His work was an expression of himself. His business model was, literally, “I don’t give a shit.”

Bourdain wrote only for cooks, and thought he would be excommunicated from the restaurant business for it. But, because he told the ugly truth, in his own voice, in his own aggressive style — on his subsequent book tour, he was received by cooks and chefs the world over with the phrase, “You wrote my life, man.”


We recognize that any truly new idea is met with fear, will never pass “marketing” or the Nielsens or Hollywood or even the Joneses. But the few brave ones, both companies and individuals, who risk comfort and safety for a chance at beauty or being able to move someone — they have a potential to gain so much more. Loyalty, respect, and awe.

And that’s why we must push ourselves to ask the harder question. Not “what do THEY want?”, but “what do WE have to say?” We must do the work of looking inside ourselves to find what is beautiful and tremendous within us and summon the courage to put this out. As James Joyce said, “in the particular lies the universal.”

The meaning of all this is that you, your opinions and intelligence and history matter. But you gotta do the work. To pull from the most personal areas of your life, your opinions, your stories, your experiences — by doing this you create something meaningful not only to yourself but to those who see it. The work, the fear and struggle, the constant worry of whether your gift is good enough, the small critics both inside and out? Fuck ’em. The world awaits your gift. Isn’t that what life is all about?


More insights on: Career Development, Risk-Taking

James Victore

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James Victore runs an independent design studio hell-bent on world domination. He is an author, designer, filmmaker and firestarter. James has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and is represented in the permanent collections of museums around the globe. He is the host of Burning Questions.
load comments (39)
  • Black Ops Artist

    Good for you Mr. Victore. It is the road less traveled for those who can say “Fuck ’em” and keep moving in the direction of creation, innovation and inspiration. It is not an easy thing to do and can take many people years to finally see that they must learn to deal with the criticisms of being a maverick by confronting their demons and naysayers I learned with a saying taught to me (an artist who puts himself in front of others to be judged). And that saying, when faced with negative feedback for following your dreams, is: “Say ‘thank you’, but think ‘fuck you’.”

  • Nicklaus Deyring

    The hardest lesson I’ve learned over time was that listening to criticism and praise is almost opposite. When people say, “that’s nice”, they mean “that’s forgettable”. When people say “Whoa, I’m not sure about that.” they mean, “that’s something I hadn’t thought of before, and you scare me, cause you’re crazy, but you’re right.” But sadly, sometimes they also mean “that’s crap.” And sometimes they’re right too. Damn, this is hard, this creating stuff business.

  • custom essay

    Interesting article really interesting! Reason to think! Thanks you!

  • Christy

    I don’t mean to leave an ignorant comment on an otherwise fine article, but what exactly does this first sentence mean? “It’s no coincidence that brilliant creative minds are rarely witnessed.” I can’t make it make sense in the context of the rest of the paragraph. Help me out here LOL!! 

  • Lifejourneyme

    Thank you.

  • Black Ops Artist

    LifeJourneyMe – It works, doesn’t it?

  • Zane Cassidy

    Christy I think he means, “there are few brilliant creative minds in history (like Jobs, etc) because to become one of them you often have to do the opposite of what you feel.” i.e. sell difference in a sameness market. 

  • Zane Cassidy

    Great Article.  With more ways to self publish and become a creative entrepreneur than ever before you can let your intended audience judge your work; instead of it being blocked by an unnecessary filter.  

  • Zac J.

    NICE!!! Loved this….I also think it’s cool That James Victor never graduated college like so many other great mind and the highly successful people.

  • Tessa Zeng

    Yes, Exactly. This is what people in the current Occupy movement need to stand on. A belief in their own selves and creative capacity, rather than in outdated systems that will continue to belittle and shaft them. I just wrote about this on my blog, and might have to link back to this wonderfully succinct article now! Thank you!

  • ER


  • Nope

    Dont give them your email…gave them mine a few hours ago and now my inbox has 20 messages

  • Nope

    I last commented as zac j. And this was the only one I gave my email to…so it can only have came from here and I only got 21

  • Nope

    I meant I just got 21

  • Matthew

    Really great piece- Thank you. Nothing’s better than steady kicks in the face to the Status Quo!

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    NIce really good answer!

  • Patryk Les

    Thank you :)

  • Michael Lockett

    This is truly inspiring! Thank you James.
    The thing I have found is that the ‘status quo’ seems to be changing with the times. A few years ago, and in a few places today, saying “Fuck ’em” would leave you out in the cold professionally. These days it seems more and more common, which is perfect for those fish willing to swim upstream. 

  • Andy Carvin

    good presentation, thanks for sharing)academic writing jobs online

  • Kloro2006

    has this place anything to do with the people who are occupying wall st., etc., and saying ‘we are the 99%’. or is it people who have ‘shrewdly’ co-opted their battle cry?

  • Chri

    Could be wrong but I’m pretty sure it’s a reference to the phrase “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”. Nothing to do with Wall Street. This site’s been around for at least a couple of years already. 

  • jkglei and the Conference have been around since 2009. So quite awhile before the OWS movement began. As Chri smartly observed, our name actually comes from the Thomas Edison quotation, “Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.” We strive to help creative professionals understand how to execute big, bold ideas so that they can make the world a better place. -Jocelyn K. Glei /// Editor-in-Chief

  • Rushmore

    I would suggest doing research first before pointing fingers. The answer is usually a Google search away! 
    If you’re looking for an obvious co-opt, you should check out the new t-shirt by Jay-Z’s company. 

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  • Mitzie

    Thank you, so much, for writing this. I have been holding myself back for so many years and I’m just now starting to live the life I want to live. So much time was wasted trying to please others! Thanks for the kick in the pants :)

  • Guillermo

    Great in many ways! We need to stop being in the comfort one of mediocrity, which is abundant, therefore the world doesn’t need more of it. Let,s stop copying “beutiful common crap”. Let’s stop “thinking ourside the box”, lets sart digging inside ourselves.

  • Guillermo

    Please forgive my english ;)

  • Glennc

    What do “You” have to say? before you leave this earth. I  love it! I learned this 20 years ago at the Art Students League in New York, has stuck with me ever since.

  • Mari Mass

    This, in truth, lies with what Steve Job believes (and I am paraphrasing of course): People dont know what they want till we show them what they want. Lovely article!

  • Ryan

    Great article. 

  • аксессуары для iphone 4

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  • Jetyler1965

    Just a friendly ponder…What would you say about a great mind that just leaves places and people better by far than those affected would be otherwise,and yet never really making conversation about the effect the great mind in action has left in his or her wake?

  • Franca

    This is so true !!  this is also why life is beautiful, no matter what happen.
    thank you for the direct way, the artist way, you present it! 

  • shammer53

    This is so totally true.


  • Svetlana

    This is so true !! thank you…

  • Tom Arnall

    i stand corrected. i appreciate the feedback.

  • Katherine Leicester

    I love James Victore more now than I did before I read the article. And I loved him pretty much then.

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