Artist or Plumber, Kirk or Spock, Ginger or Mary Ann

There is a theory that everyone can be slotted into one of two camps. Are you an artist or a plumber, are you Kirk or Spock? (OK “Ginger or Mary Ann” was clickbait and has nothing to do with this article.)

People can be creative, outside the box thinkers (artists) or can be analytical, get it done, builders (plumbers). But is it possible to be both?  The theory says “no!”

Think about it, the very things that make a person an artist, the free thinking, the scatterbrain approach to life, the constant differences, are the very things that drive plumbers nuts. A plumber sees a job and looks for a way to do it. A plumber actually builds something. An artist can’t be bothered with building. By the time a Mac was on the market, Steve Jobs had moved on to the next thing.

Some see this conversation as denigrating one person or another. I see it as understanding reality and capitalizing on your strengths.

When I first got into the parking business, I worked at a company that built gates, ticket spitters, computers, cashier terminals and the like. Our biggest problem was actually making the stuff. We were run by artists.

I decided one day to solve the problem and jumped into the manufacturing process. The next day my boss came in and said: “John, you may be a great salesperson, but you can’t manage manufacturing. Keep out of it.” Of course he was right. My skills were down a different path. They were more esoteric, less analytical. They were more artist, less plumber.

Kirk was a free thinker, he would bend the rules when it suited, he would change the rules if they kept him from winning (remember the Kobayshi Maru), he didn’t think outside the box, he denied the box existed. Spock was Mr. Analysis. Data and fact driven, he was the one that made the Enterprise work. He got it fixed when it was broken, he kept it on course, he was the glue that held it together. However without his friend, he was lost. Kirk, too, would have nothing without Spock.

You can, if you are a plumber, reach outside your comfort zone and brush up against art. You can, if you like, expand your horizons. No need to be so analytical and boxed in that you feel trapped. And likewise, as an artist, you can realize that you have limits and spend some time actually doing the paperwork you have put off for weeks. It is necessary.

Neither is better. They are complementary. You can’t have one without the other. They are Ying and Yang. Together they succeed, alone they are mediocre. So which are you?

Whatever you decide, take pride in it. The world would be a lesser place without you.


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