Sometimes the unexpected can surprise us in a very positive way. I heard a graffiti artist. Erik Wahl, speak at a conference I was attending a few years ago. His hands full of paint, music, and video interrupting his speech, together with his words of insight provided everyone with the value of the unexpected.
During his talk he painted three incredible art pieces, with paint brushes and his hands, using a blank black canvas to create something new each time. It took him only about 5 minutes each.
He was not our traditional type of keynote speaker. His story highlighted his devastating loss of self-worth when his business failed while he was married and had children. How in the third or fourth grade, his teachers discouraged him from coloring because he colored outside of the lines.
And how at age 30, considering himself worthless when he lost everything he had with respect to his finances, he ventured into his backyard and began painting. Twenty years after his teachers told him he couldn’t color. He surprised himself with how his paintings showed coherence and began to reveal his true ability to draw.
He said he learned “never let your net worth determine your self-worth”.
Fortunate enough to visit with him after his speech, he shared with a small group the story of his life. It was only during the pain of his darkest days, was he able to give birth to discovering what was repressed deep within. In some respects, he validated many of the things I’ve learned and have written about along my journey through life where during my deepest days I began to write.
I’ve written before how obstacles, setbacks, and devastation where each of us is thrown into the crucible of life with all of its uncertainty mixed with deep pain is where some of our most creative moments come from that help mold us for life.
He spoke of learning never to be afraid when things are bad and that things can get better because all of us have more ability and creativity than we think. He now regularly speaks around the world at conferences and sales meetings being able to connect deeply with many who yearn for more.
With paint dried on his hands, he listened attentively as I quickly shared my life’s story with him. He then signed my copy of his book Unthink and wrote the following: “Hold tight to the pain of darkness to better understand the beauty of life”.
I crossed paths with a stranger and I will forever remember his words.