(Writer’s Note: This is the second part of the series, this time during my high school years, where your talent is not just identified, but matched with a target audience. This is also the last article for 2023.)
One of the highlights of summer ’23 was attending my high school reunion at the South Kent School, a prep school in Northwest Connecticut. While it wasn’t my class reunion it was primarily a celebration for the school’s Centennial. But for me, it was a chance and also a personal reminder where The Art of Lax™ started in spirit.
Grade school in NYC was academic, but prep school in New England had certain requirements where one could stand out beyond the classroom: athletics. For me it was a no-brainer in lacrosse. I’m pretty much a regular visiting the school since it’s a little bit over an hour away from where I live in the NYC-area. Upon my arrival I ran into old friends and people from my day-to-day as a student. One of them was fellow NYC’er and lacrosse teammate, Val “Re Run” Pearce from the Bronx. To our surprise the school still had the same lacrosse jerseys we wore as players, and we were offered to keep them.
So now that we got lacrosse checked off the list, I took advantage of the other thing – actually the primary thing, just like in grade school that I was known for: ART. One of the activities offered was a ‘Sip and Paint’ event at the new art studio, that had a commanding view of ‘the hillside’, which is the school’s nickname. Shortly after the event was finished, just like getting my lacrosse jersey, another surprise happened in being reunited with my art teacher, Andy Richards, who gave me the best piece of advice I ever got on graduation day: “don’t just rely on your talent!” It was the first time I saw him since that day in 1996.
Formal dinner, music and partying into the night gave the event a lot of energy. The next morning it was the opposite being relaxed, enjoying last minute stories from the past while knowing we had to depart our own ways and rejoin our respective worlds. As soon as we shook hands and said our goodbyes, I had to visit one more place that I usually don’t enter unless it’s empty of students: my dorm room.
Bartlett Dormitory, Room 3 was where I lived during my junior year with my roommate who was also a goalie on the lacrosse team. It was the room where the drawings of lacrosse players were hung on the walls for anyone to see. It was a quasi-art gallery, capturing attention, praise, feedback and interest from other dorm mates to do athletic portraits of them with payment in cans of soda, granola bars or instant noodle cups. Aside from a gallery, it became a lab where research and development, along with transactions were made for what was a hobby.
I didn’t know it back then, but this is where I understood my personal goal of starting a business: to create a customer.
Boarding school was different, difficult, challenging and sometimes unforgiving. It was a home away from home, shared spaces, classes, meals and sports with people you would have never met before. Your day-to-day was an organized schedule. Like any teenager you constantly complained about the demanding environment – sometimes, hating it. But like any adult, you finally understood the meaning of it once fully removed – sometimes, missing it.
It may sound strange, and be difficult to explain, but it was the best four years of my academic career.
It’s one thing be identified with a specific talent, but it’s entirely different to be wanted for it. When people are willing to ‘pay’ for your skill, and proud to own the end result, it is an eye-opening feeling. Also, boarding school proved to me that you don’t always need to match your abilities with the crowd that also does it. The art attracted a group that is not known for their artistic ability: athletes. And that’s what made it so special in those shared spaces.
Lastly, find or create your target audience. In the black and white pic, above, of the championship lacrosse team, 6 teammates were also dorm mates of mine. 3 became customers and clients of The Art of Lax™.