As the CEO of peer-to-peer investing platform Fast Invest, I use my training in business and knowledge of technology to make the company a success. Before I was a tech CEO, however, I was an artist. I have a degree in fine arts from the Vilnius Academy of Arts, and you may be surprised to learn my experience in art has been very useful to my work as a CEO.
Art degrees may seem like they don’t prepare students for the realities of modern business, but my time at the Academy of Arts taught me invaluable lessons that I use on a daily basis, like the following:
1. Be Observant
In order to recreate something in paint, you need to be truly familiar with your subject. Simply painting a tree trunk with some leaves and flowers isn’t enough to create something beautiful. You need to pay attention to the way the light falls on the bark, the way the blossoms rustle in the wind, and the contrast between the treetops and the sky.
Likewise, being observant pays off in the startup world. The best way to make your business stand out is to observe your surroundings. Observe the market, observe the systems in place, and observe your competitors. Identify what makes your business a necessary part of the economy and better than the competition. If you are able to truly see and understand your surroundings, your startup will be much better for it.
2. Don’t Be Afraid of Failure
It took many tries before I painted something of which I was proud. In order to create a masterpiece, you have to fail first – and by fail, I mean really fail.
As a young artist, I would sometimes get angry if what I painted didn’t look like what I intended. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of failure. I hadn’t yet realized that with each draft of a painting, or each attempted work of art, I would be able to learn from the experience and apply what I learned to the next draft. Failure improved my ultimate results.
Fast Invest has grown tremendously in the past few years, but not every idea we have is a good one. When something doesn’t work out as planned, I’m able to look at what happened and apply those lessons to future projects.
3. Be Patient
In the fast-moving fintech world, it may seem like everything is rushed. Quick – expand our operations! Ah – we need to integrate new technology! Move faster!
But rushing isn’t a recipe for success at all, even if it seems like technological innovations occur at an ever-accelerating pace. Good work takes a long time, both in art and in business. I learned from my years as an artist to be patient with both the process and with analyzing results. If you rush, your finished product may be sloppy.
4. Be Disciplined
According to TV shows like Silicon Valley, tech CEOs are always sitting around in sweatpants, only working when they feel like it. The reality is much different. I work 10-12 hours a day, every day. It is my job to know about every aspect of the company, to truly understand what each person is doing and what each project is. This can be exhausting and difficult work, but I have committed to it nonetheless.
My discipline is a skill that I learned from being an artist. I wasn’t always in the mood to paint, but I needed to practice and put in the hours to create something special.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Color Outside the Lines
In art school, we studied the masters of the form. Without an appreciation for the best artists of the past, I wouldn’t have been able to create the art I wanted to create. The same principle applies in technology and business: We can learn best practices by studying successful entrepreneurs and CEOs and the decisions they’ve made.
However, we can’t be limited by what has been done in the past. We need to break the mold and find new ways of doing things. Currently, Fast Invest is working extensively with blockchain software, making it useful and accessible to people who previously weren’t using the technology. Working with new technology and expanding previously established markets is an important part of being a successful innovator.
Simona Vaitkune is the CEO of Fast Invest.