When I was young, I thought that an artwork reflected the values of the person who made it. If the work was moving and revelatory and full of high ideals, I thought its creator must be that as well. Over time, I learned that this was very often not the case; the brilliant artists I knew were often profoundly flawed people who sometimes did cruel or unthinking things. What of the wonderful work they made?

Scrolling through Improvised Life’s many years of content, I’ve come across many examples of work that is illuminating in powerful ways. Yet its creator has since been accused of some pretty nasty things.

It got me wondering.

Is Louis C.K.’s wise/smart/true riff, Everything Is Amazing, (above) about looking around at all we have — like flying in an airplane —and seeing them as the amazing miracles they are,  invalid because of his sexual misconduct?

Are Chuck Close’s Notes to Self: 8 Rules for Living any less useful or true because he has been accused of sexual harassment?

Never let anyone define what you are capable of by using parameters that don’t apply to you.

Virtually everything I’ve done is influenced by my learning disabilities.

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. Every great idea I’ve had grew out of work itself.

Sign on to a process and see where it takes you. You don’t have to invent the wheel everyday. Today you’ll do what you did yesterday; tomorrow you’ll do what you did today. Eventually you will get somewhere.

No one gets anywhere without help. Mentors…can make you feel special even when you are failing in other areas. Everyone needs to feel special.

I learned very early in life that the absolute worst thing can happen to you and you will get past it and you will be happy again.

If you’re overwhelmed by the size of a problem, break it down to make bite-size pieces.

There’s always someone worse off than you.


Pablo Picasso's atelier in Cannes, France
photo: 7 das artes

Both Picasso and Steve Jobs famously treated their children badly…

steve jobs quote, connect the dots, have faith

Trungpa Rimpoche, whose writing I’ve found transformative, and who was Pema Chodron’s teacher, was an wild alcoholic with a controversial teaching style.

Improvised Life


Mario Batali, who I knew back in my food writing days, cooked celestial food and was extraordinarily generous. Is his defiant and heartening response to 9/11 less so now that he has been accused of serious treacheries; are his recipes any less inspired?

Maria Robledo


Do works of wisdom or beauty stand on their own?

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