The Picasso Guide to Becoming a Social Media Legend

image of pablo picasso

During his career he was loved, hated, admired, dissed, fought over … but never ignored.

His name? Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y …

Picasso.

Anybody with a name like that was bound to lead a big, bold, messy life, and Picasso did exactly that.

I have to confess that I’ve had a creative crush on him ever since I first encountered his work in my college art history class.

But it wasn’t until I stood in front of piece after piece of his art that I learned the most important lesson Picasso ever taught me, and how it applies to getting business done online.

I’ll get to that.

First, let’s talk about a few simpler marketing lessons I’ve gleaned from the life of this amazing, torrential painter …

Change your game, because the game is always changing

If you know anything about Picasso, you might have heard of his “periods.”

There’s the Blue Period. The Rose Period. The Cubist and Surrealist periods.

He was always searching, never satisfied.

He’d start out creating works in one style. Those paintings would find a market and they’d sell. Then he’d drop that style and start experimenting with a new one.

The way we do business online is perpetually changing, and we’re all in the process of mastering new ways of working.

Experimenting with unfamiliar mediums like audio and video might send you straight into unknown territory.

Jumping into that new social media network may seem pointless and difficult.

That feeling of mastery you had about what you were doing?

Gone.

You’ll have to go through a learner’s phase all over again, and it won’t be fun.

But hang on, because the underlying standards don’t ever change, and on the other side of that phase might be the best work you’ve ever done.

How will you know unless you try? Do you even have a choice whether or not to change anymore?

Get a posse

Picasso and the painter Georges Braque had a famous friendship.

The two of them developed the cubist style together, through a series of paintings and collages that built off of the other’s ideas.

Braque would paint a scene. Picasso would paint the same scene, but it would be his own take on it.

Back and forth they’d go, with each painting pushing the envelope just a little more.

One of the best things you can do for yourself professionally — especially if you work by yourself, or run a small business — is to join a Mastermind group. 

Mastermind groups are business brainstorming groups that meet on a regular basis. They help you take your business ideas and push them further, to the point of viability, working with models you can use to grow your business.

If you can’t find a local or virtual Mastermind group, try creating an informal one.

The important thing is that each member is committed to seeing both themselves and everyone else in the group prosper.

Picasso knew this. His artistic friendships with Braque, Matisse, and Miró helped their collective art careers flourish.

Was it their talent or their friendship and support that made the difference?

Draw inspiration from the world around you

Picasso’s works were influenced by suicide, war, poverty, love, sex, nature, and cinema.

I think it’s safe to say he had a lust for life, and his work reflects it.

You get the impression he woke up every day and said, “bring it on!”

He absorbed everything happening around him, and his messy, complicated life made its way through his hands, into his brushes, and onto his canvasses.

When you’re running your business it’s easy to get caught up in the dreary details. 

Don’t forget to take time to be inspired by the world around you.

Sometimes the best business ideas come from places and situations that are far removed from your desk.

Let them inspire you and help you come up with creative solutions.

Bring life to your work.

Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. And work some more.

Now for the most important lesson Pablo taught me. 

Over the years, I’ve stood in front of a lot of Picassos: paintings, drawings, etchings, sculptures, ceramics and prints.

The man was prolific. He was a one-man art factory.

And you know what? Not all of it is great.

Most of it is amazing. But some pieces look like experiments that didn’t quite pan out.

That’s what’s fascinating: when you see enough of his work, you can see that sometimes he had bad days. 

But he kept going, year after year, until he’d produced 50,000 unique pieces of art over his lifetime

Let that sink in for a minute.

50,000 pieces means he created approximately 632 pieces every year of his career. 

And among the 50,000 or so pieces he produced, there are some timeless gems that will still resonate 500 years from now.

What Pablo taught me is that not every piece has to be a masterpiece. 

That the process is just as important as the end result

That I need to keep my eyes open to everything around me, absorb it and let it flow right into everything I do in my business online.

What do you get from his story? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About the Author: Pamela Wilson teaches small businesses to grow using great design and marketing at Big Brand System. Brainstorm ideas, solve problems and achieve goals with other small business owners in Pamela’s Leap Year mastermind group.

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  1. Pamela, you’ve reminded us of the secret to anything worthwhile–persistence. Over time, the steady drip, drip, drip of a tiny drop of water on a granite boulder has the power to change its shape dramatically! When we remain consistently focused in the face of failure we develop stamina and the staying power we need to realize our goals. Enjoyed your article very much!

    • Thanks, Pam. The sheer volume of Picasso’s work is so impressive. When you create 50,000 pieces you’re bound to hit on a few masterpieces, right?

      • That’s really how photographers get such great shots…they take a HUGE boat-load of them and then share the truly special ones.

        • Ssshh: you’re spilling one of the secrets to how I take decent photos! ;-)

          Thank God for digital photography … at least I don’t have to pay to develop all the mediocre shots.

          • Little did I know while living and working in my daily excursions with my camera would lead me to be published in Travel and Leisure among other magazines. Now I’m working on a book about interior design to be published by Random House. Know what, I still have a ways to go but I can travel, shoot and write for hours on end because that’s what makes me feel most alive and purposeful. Thanks for an amazing post! It’s helping write now as my main goal is to become a successful photographer, blogger and writer in my adopted home : Paris, France.

      • In the beginning, I think it’s OK to take the approach of “throw everything out there and see what sticks.” However, as you become more of a master of your craft, it may be necessary to focus on one particular niche, skillset, or whatever in order to become a legend.

  2. I was absolutely mesmerized at the PIcasso Museum in Barcelona. So many lessons to learn from this brilliant man that are applicable to all parts of life – live passionately; draw inspiration from others, but express yourself; challenge convention; go outside of your comfort zone (Picasso also wrote poetry and plays!); embrace your rivals; be loyal to your best customers (Gertrude Stein was a devoted collector, I believe); hold true to your beliefs; do what you love….really a fascinating life and career. Great post!

  3. I need to get to that museum. It’s on my short list of to-dos!

    I’ve made a beeline for the Picassos in any museum I’ve been to, but to be surrounded by that many pieces would be amazing. Thanks for the review, Ruth.

    • Dear Pam,

      Thanks for the reality check: work, work, work, work and work…
      Then something of brilliance and enduring value does appear, at first in slivers.

      We need to hope, we need to dream in our waking hours.
      And we need to sing from the depths of our heart.

      • “We need to hope, we need to dream in our waking hours.
        And we need to sing from the depths of our heart.”

        Love that idea! Thanks, Sue.

        • Dear Pam,

          You’re welcome.

          Personally, I feel we need to slow down to b-r-e-a-t-h, to listen and watch life in slow-mo so that life becomes more intense.

  4. “What Pablo taught me is that not every piece has to be a masterpiece.”

    I think we get so worried about being “perfect” that we actually limit ourselves. Marketers are under the constant pressure to deliver, to prove ROI and show where the budget went. But that makes us afraid to take risks and try something that is new and unproved. That leads us to a lot of boring, repetitive marketing.

  5. I like the last part about work, work, work. A lot of times, I get caught up in trying to create a masterpiece outright and that has inevitably lead to procrastination and the masterpiece only ever is in planning stage. However, if we take if from the point of view that we will screw up a lot and keep moving on, eventually, some will turn out to be masterpieces from the tonnes of failures, and those few pieces of masterpieces is all that is needed to propel someone to success in his or her chosen field.

    Thanks for a great article.

    • Thanks Ted. I agree: what good is a masterpiece if it’s only an idea? You have to implement to see results, and accept that you may not be 100% satisfied with how it turns out.

  6. Great post, informative and inspiring-two of my favorite things to read. Not only do I also love Picasso (making it an easy sell already) but as a PR specialist, the idea resonated with me. I write. And write. And write. As a perfectionist, I am always attempting to achieve the best possible work, every single time. While this is clearly impossible and unrealistic, it is hard not to try and compete at such a high level. Thank you for this post, I needed it today!

  7. Wow! What a great post (Copyblogger always has the best). It resonated with me because it’s true, because I love Picasso, and because I literally just formed a mastermind a few weeks ago that we’re calling “The Blog Posse.”

  8. I find all too often I get paralyzed because what I’m doing isn’t “brilliant.” This is a great reminder that there is a lot of good work out there and the “one in a million” that we are striving for is really that – one in a million. Seth Godin blogged about it today in his “Stupid vs. Lazy” post. We fall short of brilliance and assume it’s because we’re stupid or don’t get it. You can’t fix stupid. But if you reframe it as “lazy” – then there is something that can be done about that …and that’s the “work work work” portion.

  9. Different stokes for different folks. Yours is one of the most inspirational and pragmatic articles I’ve come across recently. I will print it, shrink it or find an easy way to refer to it often. I am of Spanish decent and in a strange way it helps me understand the ‘passion’ aspect you refer to.

    After reading your post, I will create a strategy so I can put together a Master Mind group of ‘passionate, fire in their bellies’ group of people who want to succeed using online marketing, social media platforms and video for service businesses.

    Have a great day Pamela and thanks again.

    • Mastermind groups have helped me tremendously. I’ve belonged to one for 8 years, and they’re one of the big secrets to my business success. (Well, I guess it’s not a secret anymore!)

      Good luck putting yours together, John. When you get the right group of people together, a mastermind group can be very powerful.

  10. Wow! Picasso understood something important just like Bruce Lee did. The beauty is in the process, not the end result. This reminds me of what my drawing professor from undergrad told our class-

    ‘Making art is like shoveling crap in a stable because with all this crap there’s got to be a pony somewhere.’

    Just make the work!

  11. Great post Pamela!
    I enjoyed the story and how you tied it into everyday life.
    Thanks,
    AJ

  12. Thats it Pamela, You put it there, the biggest lesson.

    Work Work work and then Work some more.

    In life you do not get what you want, you only get what you deserve!

    If you do something you like, then Work = Play and then instead of Work, Work, Work…

    It becomes

    Play, Play Play….

    That doesn’t sound so horrid, now does it ?

  13. Hi Pamela

    I got the chills reading the last part of your post. As a “new to the blogging world” blogger…and new to the world of writing…sometimes I feel frustrated when I go back and read posts and think, “Hmm, I could have written that better, more clearer…more to the point.” But I fight that urge to re-edit time and again…and allow those pieces of art to stand as they are for all of time. Yet, seeing how Picasso didn’t have everything perfect every time…I feel even better about resisting that urge – knowing that it is part of the process…and part of my journey as well, which is what I am writing about.

    As far as your other points in the post…I couldn’t agree more with them and find it amazing that that is what I have been doing. I haven’t posted to my blog for almost 2 weeks now – which is an eternity for me lately. However, as I struggle to get the words just right for these next few blogs…I am just resting again in the fact that sometimes I will be prolific with my writing…but at other times I have to pull back, regroup, find my inspiration and clarity from others and the world around me…so that I can then come back to my blog in a more enhanced state.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this…I wish I could just read everyone’s blogs all day long and get paid for it!!!

    • You’re welcome: I’m glad it resonated with you! I find it very comforting that Picasso’s work isn’t consistently brilliant. His experiments are as interesting as his masterpieces.

  14. I love Picasso, a super complex human being.

    I would love to add that Picasso was inspired by all that you mentioned, but you left out “fear.”

    Why bring fear into the wonderful lively conversation of Pablo Picasso?

    To be extraordinary one must manifest their fear and turn it into unique expression – isn’t that what drives all of us? Fear of acceptance, boredom, age, and death inspired Picasso – it’s evident in his works. Hard to imagine he was afraid of anything.

    What is it that you fear? How will you manifest it in your work? Will you push for perfection or settle for mediocrity?

  15. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you!

    One comment: I was going to share the post with my socmed circles but I changed my mind because of the title… I found it to be misleading as it is very specific (I anticipated reading about Facebook, Twitter, G+, & etc.) while the content was far broader in scope (I really ended up reading about the creative process in general). Again, I really enjoyed reading it but I clicked the email with expectations of reading something different. I would be interested to know why “…Social Media..” was chosen as part of the title.

  16. Love the way you related it to Picasso, the two most important elements you mentioned in my opinion are work and getting a posse, partnerships are key for social media and networking.

    If you can find one or several great partners for support, suggestions and collaborations you can be ahead of the game pretty fast.

    • I agree, Jamie: working with partners or a mastermind group can really propel you forward. For those of us running small businesses, your group becomes like a board of directors you can run ideas by and get feedback on. It’s very powerful!

  17. The most important thing I’ve learned from Picasso? The same I’ve learned from the work and lives of other great artists – work, yes, learn, absorb, experiment, fail, succeed, enjoy, but most of all follow your own path. Follow it with conviction, know yourself and never be shy about self-promotion, and show yourself to the world as a complex, aware, engaged human being. Something to strive for!

  18. There’s so much we can learn from great artists, I think. (Except the unfortunate tendencies towards alcoholism & madness, natch.) Great post, Pamela.

  19. I feel like Pablo would like this so much he would paint all over the writing, and it would still be able to have the profound effect.

    Great comparison, great read.

  20. LOVE IT, Pamela. I whole-heartedly agree, (and I embody and live many of Picasso’s qualities.)

    Embrace change.
    Focus on providing quality + value.
    Do it with style.

    Amen :)

  21. Kelly Sullivan :

    Love this post. Great comparisons.

  22. Marina Shemesh :

    Another inspiring post Pamela! I have also been a fan of Picasso for a long time. You are right, some of his stuff does look like he was just practicing. And of course a lot were masterpieces!

    The number of 50,000 pieces of art is going to stick in my mind for a long time. Hmm, maybe I am not too tired to do another hour of work!

    • I knew he had created a lot of work, but it wasn’t until I started my research for this post that I realized just how much he’d done in his lifetime. He worked for almost 80 years, and continued to try new things until the very end. Amazing, huh?

      • Marina Shemesh :

        I agree, it is amazing. Maybe he got to 80 because he was innovating all the time and never got stuck into old ways.

  23. Living in perpetual beta….
    Good read, thanks.

  24. Thank you for sharing this. We have a lot to learn from the old masters, even dead though they may be. I think you hit the nail on the head with the prolific objectives – if you want to create a masterpiece, you have to practice by generating some less-than masterful works, first.

    • ¡Exactamente!

      I’m not convinced it’s a linear process, either. I think we’re capable of creating less-than-masterful stuff at any point, but especially when we’re experimenting with something new.

      What I love about Picasso is he never let that stop him. He just kept churning out the work.

  25. Great article. And perfectly timed for me as I’m always going through new changes and looking at ways to improve my work.

    However I don’t agree with the photographers taking lots of shots and only showing the amazing ones. True, they do only put the best out there, but the real photographers do it right, with less shots. Sometimes in one shot because that’s all they’ve got time for. It’s mostly amateurs that luck out and get an awesome shot just by snapping everything. A friend of mine once said, “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day” It applies in this instance. Nevertheless, taking more and more shots is what will make you better, hopefully. And it’s those gems that will make you lust to create more of them.

    In golf, you can shoot balls into the woods for 17 holes then on the 18th you sink a 25 foot put. It’s that one put that brings you back to play more golf.

    Find your passion and never stop learning and evolving it.

    • I agree with you, Dawe. The only reason I get decent photos is because I stumble upon them by taking a lot of shots. If I was more adept at using all the bells and whistles I have on my camera — and I understood more about lighting — it wouldn’t take me so many tries to get a good image.

  26. I loved the way you correlated Picasso with running a business. Amazing article. Thank you for it.

  27. Everything that I get from Copy Blogger is useful – and this piece was no exception.
    This particular article is a great follow on to the one about writing, writing, and then writing more.
    It would be great to know how to produce the perfect piece every time.

  28. 632 pieces a year!

    That’s loads and loads of work.

    Some of us (writing creatives) get just about done by the fifth article :)

    Thank you for this piece…truly encouraging!

  29. I luv the idea of drawing inspiration from sources around you Pamela. Nature works for me, daily interactions work for me, most stuff works for me. The lesson is in the moment. It’s up to us to find it.

  30. Inspiring post.

    Thanks Pamela!

    – Jennifer

  31. I think one of the main lessons that I learned from your story is this: it’s OK to publish crap. As long as it’s a revolutionary piece of crap! (I just stole and adapt this quote from Guy Kawasaki :D)

    “The less you fail… the more successful you are.” That’s what they taught us at home. At school. At our job. Everywhere. So, what’s the best way to fail less? NOT TRYING!

    This is a lesson that entrepreneurs around the World, fortunately, didn’t learn well! We know that the only way to fail is if we quit trying!

    It’s awesome to know that Picasso had the same attitude toward his art!

  32. Thanks for the great reminder to 1) keep producing output, whatever our field, and 2) keep re-inventing ourselves and learning!

  33. When I read “He was always searching, never satisfied,” I immediately thought back to Mr. Steve Jobs and how he quoted Whole Earth in a speech awhile back, saying: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

    Just a connection I thought I’d share :)

    – Jared

  34. Thanks for this inspiring post, Pamela. I learned a lot from you today. :)

  35. Your post was truly inspiring Pamela. It reminded me of a dance teacher I had when I was in high school and with no dance background a group of us decided to take classes to get in better shape, needless to say, we uh..well to put it nicely we weren’t good…we pulled muscles, looked clumsy, and had five year olds laughing at us. But our teacher would rap out “If you fall, fall reaching!” over and over again. I’ve remembered this saying my entire life when I’ve been faced with a new task and it seems like I’ll never master it… she taught me a lot, seems Picasso had more to teach me as well. Thanks for the post!

  36. First time reading this blog and I loved this blog post!
    A Picasso exhibition is coming to the Art Gallery of NSW Australia in November which I will be seeing!
    My little business that is in its early stages is selling my own art and writing my blog. I really love how your tied in business thinking with an artist!
    Thank you!

  37. PS I did not know how much art he had produced over his lifetime WOW!
    You have inspired me! Thanks again.

  38. Thank you for sharing this. We have a lot to learn from the old masters, even dead though they may be. I think you hit the nail on the head with the prolific objectives – if you want to create a masterpiece, you have to practice by generating some less-than masterful works, first.

  39. Showing up, adapting your game, and work work work. Great inspiration and advice Pamela. Thank you.

  40. That is a stunning volume of work!

  41. This was a great post. I learned a lot about Picasso that I had not known before. It would have never occured to me that Picasso would have created so many pieces, which is inspirational. Sure, I might write some bogus pieces, but people are going to remember the stunning prose, not the lacking. Too often people get caught up in trying to be creatively good, instead of being creative. You simply cannot progress if you only do one painting a year when you could have done over six hundred.

    I also really like your idea of a mastermind group. I am going to start one amongst my contacts.

  42. He created 50,000 pieces of work. What a number! Thanks for the information.

  43. I love the connection and the lessons – keep trying things, keep experimenting. And do a lot. I liken business and marketing to baseball. You can’t sit and wait for a single home run to be successful. You need a lot of at bats, and a lot of baserunners and hits. As Herb Kelleher said, “We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.”

  44. Love this post. I love the metaphor of the different periods and careers. My career to date has had different periods and themes so I think I’m going to have to write a blog post about it.

  45. HI Pamela

    What an inspiring post. I love the phrase work, work, work. I built my business up and made it successful in quite a short time and a lot of people say how lucky I have been. Me on the other hand don’t think it is lucky, it was do to the amount of hard work and dedication I put in to make it successful.

    I love the idea that not every concept and in fact I saw a fantastic image today, saying if plan A doesn’t work there are 25 more letters in the alphabet to go through.

    Cheers
    Nicole

  46. Wow.. never knew Picasso had a very long name to start with. I love his Cubist and Surrealist works though. Your advice here makes a whole lot of sense and I’d say to win the game, one must not only think outside the box – but, get rid of the box completely and start from scratch. When the canvas is a clean slate, that’s when you are compelled to think that anything is possible. To apply this concept in the social media marketing world is to come up with great content that’s totally fresh. Now, that’s a real challenge that only a few can master.

  47. I really love this sentence: “What Pablo taught me is that not every piece has to be a masterpiece.” It’s really true – I was previously hampered by my obsession for perfection to the extent that it kept me from creating/writing. No creation, no imperfection, right?

    Oh boy, how wrong I was. Now I am bravely venturing out into the world of imperfection and I can’t wait to see what inspiration the next mistake will bring me. :D

    Thanks Pamela for this summary! I was just thinking about studying Da Vinci’s work to see how creative masters work and how I can emulate them. Looks like I also have to add Picasso to my list of people to study.

  48. It is very inspiring. As mentioned above, it is very important to work hard and get inspiration from the world around us. Good post.

  49. Being prolific in the internet world is the name of the game. More links, more content, more products, more, more. The work never stops, but at least it’s rewarding

  50. Inspiring post Pamela. It’s amazing Picasso was willing to reinvent himself over and over. To walk away from prior success. Most people search for a safe niche they can park themselves into for life.

    Not Picasso. He was the living embodiment of Goethe’s quote: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

    Too bad his politics were so polarizing.