1. Try Something New
Bowie knew no bounds. In fact, it was his culturally curious career that made him such a success – he infused influences from endless musical genres, changed his look and direction constantly throughout his career and never, ever rested on his laurels. His continual experimentation is highly respected and remains the backbone of his success.
“I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring,” the singer famously said in 1997. Don’t be afraid to take yourself into unknown territory – that’s when inspiration can strike and innovation begins.
2. Your Point of Difference is a Positive Thing
Bowie’s music, look and public persona always celebrated the idea of difference, rather than reaffirm the accepted.
From his sexual fluidity and blurring of gender, to his alter-egos of Ziggy Stardust, Halloween Jack and the Thin White Duke to his mesmirising aniscoria-effected eyes, Bowie used his originality and boundary-pushing as a way to stand out. He became an icon for those who struggled with any aspect of their identity that was beyond the ‘norm’. Being different is risky but at the very least, you’ll be the only one of you out there.
3. Constantly Challenge Yourself (and Everyone Around You)
The most notable aspect of Bowie’s colossal career was the fact he went through constant reinventions – from his early rock star faze to his extraterrestrial era, to his soul-singing days with John Lennon, as well as a period of electronic experimentation and his dabbling in pop music, Bowie was never one or the other and the myriad ways he interpreted music worked only to expand his influence.
4. Don’t Always Be Lead by Your Critics (Or Your Fans)
“All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it,” the icon admitted during an interview with The Word in 2003.
There’s a lot to be said for following your inner instinct about the direction of your brand, career or self. While it’s always good to seek advice, finally settling on a decision or path because it’s deemed the ‘right’ one by critics, colleagues or even close friends sometimes muddies the waters of your own wants and needs.
5. Don’t Box Yourself In
Everyone makes mistakes – both in life and business. While it’s paramount to keep continuity, it’s also important to leave yourself some room to grow creatively and to allow yourself the space to evolve as situations change.
“As an artist, I was never interested in developing and having a continuum in style. For me, style was just something to use. It didn’t matter to me if it was hard rock or punk or whatever, it was whether or not it suited what I was trying to say at a particular point in time,” Bowie said in 1995 of his ever-evolving style. “It has always been essential to me that my public perception was such that I’d be left free to kind of float from one thing to another.”
6. Branch Out
Bowie didn’t just stick to music. He turned to acting in films that mirrored his curiosity for ‘oddball’ characters – goblin kings, displaced aliens and modern vampires were all roles that extended Bowie’s fantastical, creative world beyond his musical focus. If done right, an extension of what you enjoy into another field can add, not subtract from your offering: critics and fans would agree that Bowie’s acting career was the perfect complement to his avant-garde music.
7. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Who didn’t love Bowie’s turn taking the piss out Ricky Gervais in Extras? The iconic star was never beyond a good joke and never counted himself as the star that he was.
“You know, what I do is not terribly intellectual,” he quipped in 2002. “I’m a pop singer for Christ’s sake.”
Arrogance takes away from a genuine dedication to your craft. Humility is one of Bowie’s enduring characteristics, as well as his boundless creativity and refusal to sit still.
RIP David Bowie.