We ventured to downtown Denver to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA) and to hear a special guest lecture by Adam Lerner, the Director and Chief Animator. Adam began his presentation by discussing his story, and how he came to be at the MCA. He made fun of his Orthodox Jewish roots, and stated that he wanted to be successful but in the intellectual/cultural sense, not in business.
Adam told us many stories, but he also made some interesting points. He mentioned that people don’t go to business school to get an idea for a business, they go to business school to learn how to run a business. The idea must come from the individual and from their life experiences.
According to Adam, trying to become “successful” and following traditional forms of success kept him on a conventional path. When he launched the Lab at Belmar, he finally started facing his fears and embracing risk. His “Mixed Tastes” program, a pairing of two completely different experts who give short presentations during the same event, became a hit and people started to recognize his work. National publications were writing stories about the Lab and he was invited to conferences and meetings with the top museum professionals. Adam realized he had to be okay with looking ridiculous, even if everyone thinks your idea is crazy. If you believe in it, then you need to follow your vision.
Some of Adam’s key messages included:
1) Be authentic- know yourself and your passions
2) Face your fears and take risks- it’s good to go against the grain
3) You have to be okay with looking ridiculous
4) If you believe it’s good work, then follow it through