A different approach to hero worship that will help your art

I’m sure you’ve done it. You consider yourself an filmmaker for example, you’re starting to get good in your mind and some people have even given you compliments. Then you watch the latest Tarantino movie and you find yourself comparing your now flat looking action scenes to the Hateful Eight or Kill Bill on screen and you start thinking “how could I ever accomplish that and on the big screen?” Insert whatever your version is and what usually follows these sorts of comparisons is angst and despair. 

There are certain artists that we look up to more than others. Their work connects with us and probably has since we were young. It’s part of the reason we pursued a creative path, so we could in some way be like them, our own version, but similar. 

But what we immediately confront is the gap between our work and the work of our heroes and their iconic ‘master pieces’. When we were younger and children, it was easy to just copy them and enjoy the inspiration. But now you’re older, you compare yourself to them and put yourself under pressure, “Why aren’t I as successful as Quentin Tarantino was at his age. I just mustn’t be good enough". 

I think this is the source of a lot of suffering for creatives. 

The thing is, it’s usually a lot simpler than 'deserving' success or ‘being good enough’ or ‘talented enough’. It’s just our heroes have put in the work consistently over time to achieve certain results. And fame is something that can’t really be controlled, there is a lot of luck involved. But we compare apples to oranges. "Here’s my work and here’s the work of the person I most admire, why aren’t they the same?”. Then your brain starts coming up with reasons, reasons that aren't even necessarily true. 

A different approach

So I propose a different approach. Take your heroes and look at their first work, as early as you can find. It’s easy to think our heroes have always been great, but in reality they haven't.

Go and dig up some of the very earliest creative work ever recorded by your heroes and you will find it’s actually quite inspiring!

I’ve got a few examples that relate to my heroes, but please add in your own here. 

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary “Vee" has become quite dominant in many social media, entrepreneurial circles, and is held up as the successful example of what some smarts and a shit load of “hustle” can do. 

He speaks to thousands of people with a self confidence and swagger that few can match and he pumps out high value video content daily on YouTube & every other social media network. 

The thing is Gary Vaynerchuk wasn’t always this way. He started his first first channel on YouTube when he was 30 and well, it was modest. 

Casey Neistat

The very image of the cool film director, Casey has produced shows for HBO and then focused on producing videos for YouTube with multiple viral hits for companies like Nike. 

Recently Casey co-founded a multimillion dollar tech startup called Beme, an app to help people express themselves.

But have a look at his humble beginnings and how far he’s come in such a short time. 

Here’s a simple video he did back in 2010 called My Old Car. 

Even his viral break out success video back in 2003 before YouTube was nothing particularly extraordinary it just hit a nerve and he was expressing himself at the right time. 


Andy Warhol

For contrast I wanted to include a cultural icon I’ve admired for years, Andy Warhol.

Very early on for Warhol, after earning his degree at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Warhol moved to New York City to pursue a career as a commercial artist. He became one of the most successful illustrators in the 1950s and when we think about Warhol, we imagine how brilliant his work must have been. But when you look at his debut work for Glamour Magazine in September 1949, we’re certainly not looking at any master piece.

Andy Warhol’s illustration debut (Age 21)  Success in a Job In New York,  Glamour Magazine.    ©   Image courtesy of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc

Andy Warhol’s illustration debut (Age 21) Success in a Job In New York, Glamour Magazine. 

© Image courtesy of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc

 Andy Warhol.  In The Bottom Of My Garden ,  1956.     ©   Image courtesy of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc

 Andy Warhol. In The Bottom Of My Garden1956. 

© Image courtesy of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc

So next time, when you need some inspiration, don’t look at the latest masterpieces in your cinema or newsfeed, go and dig up some archives of your heroes and you’ll see just how human they are and how real your practice is.