“If You Can See It You Can Be It”: Practicing in Public Helps Us and Others
“If you can see it, you can be it.”
The second note in Quincy Jones’ new book, “12 Notes: On Life and Creativity” is a rallying call for parents, teachers and youth workers to be intentional about the images, tools and experiences we stock our children’s lives with.
It’s also a reminder for creatives that our work gives hope to others.
Jones chronicles the construction of his identity from the building blocks present in his environment. Growing up with an abusive stepmother and no recreational activities or safe spaces, he and his brother imitated the behaviour of the only authority figures they saw — gang members.
His life changed when he encountered a piano during a break-in. Jones describes a visceral response, the feeling of being “captivated by another force”; curiosity mixed with the profound certainty of a calling.
The pull shifted what he noticed and pursued. Seeing his barber playing the trumpet led him to that instrument. Finding books on music scoring and film arranging during babysitting gigs opened up a new world of possibilities.
A powerful combination of forces helped him to outgrow his circumstances; some structured, but many serendipitous — the exposure to hope, people who helped him, and seeing creatives practice their craft.
Fashion designer, Carlton Brown tells a similar story of finding his life’s calling in foster care, because there was a sewing machine in the home and adults who worked as tailors and seamstresses in his orbit.
It can be difficult and expensive to provide for young people’s infinite interests. But creatives can help with that. Like Brown who now mentors young designers on Instagram, we can create new communities of interest that help young people transcend the geographic communities that confine them.
With our stories and images, we have the power to create new building blocks that help young people figure out what they like and see who they can be.
Read this post and more on my Typeshare Social Blog