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Marc Ecko - The Roots of Creative Inspiration

Monday, 23 Jun 2008 | 9:55 PM ET

By Marc Ecko, Founder of Ecko Enterprises

"Ya' think you are creative? Ya' think that is a good idea? Well I knew lots of guys who were creative with good ideas that are locked up in prison. So whaddya' say to that smartass?"
-Uncle Carl

My Uncle Carl was a sour but loveable old guy. He was my "Great" Uncle-- my "Grandma Annie's" older brother. Uncle Carl was a Diesel Engine mechanic by trade, and a carpenter by

hobby. He only graduated 8th grade. He did all his learning through his hands. When he couldn't find his way out of a room it seemed like he was always prepared to build a door or at least a window.

Granted, he may not have been Francis Bacon or "Yoda" for that matter-- his prose was more like "Sanford's". But I would relish on hearing him wax poetic. These summer months get me nostalgic. I remember like it was yesterday, I was 7 or 8 years old at the time--sitting there under the humid sun of the Jersey shore watching Uncle Carl build a sorely needed shed for my Mom. I'd sit listening, as he chewed on the nails that were hanging from his teeth, and banged away on that damn thing. Ever so often, between wiping off the sweat from his brow or his cursing rants at the radio as we listened to Oliver North and the broadcast of the Iran Contra hearings, he'd stand up and look me in the eye's and "school me" on his philosophy of life.

I didn't know it at the time, but sitting perched on a stack of cement blocks sweating my ass off as I watched the old man would be one of the best classroom experiences of my life. I was "Daniel-son” to his "Mr. Miyagi". The lessons ranged from sex to politics-- carpentry to cars. Now that I reflect on it, it was not his philosophy that inspired me--as much as his actions. His doing. Listening to his colorful philosophy was great; but watching him exhibit his knowledge of his craft and passion was magic

"Okay, so what was the lesson Daniel-Son??? Enough with the nostalgia!" you ask.

The lesson that Uncle Carl bestowed on me was that if really want to do a proper "Due Diligence"—"Do it". "Due diligence through doing". In this case, the due diligence of “creating something from nothing”. My uncle Carl was no Steve Jobs. He was no Jeff Koons. He was no Warren Buffet. I doubt he was voted "most artistic" of his class or was ever called "creative". After all--he did not paint. He could not sing. I’m pretty certain he was rarely if ever acknowledged for being "entrepreneurial". But none the less, and I would bet the world on it, he was a creative genius.

Uncle Carl was an amazing problem solver. Watching him sketch away the blueprints for that shed, and seeing it go from the abstraction of how he described it to me to reality was a powerful display of creative genius. The best bit was how he had to modify it on the fly, because my Mother decided she wanted "windows with flower trays" on it. "Damn't Margo! Now you tell me???"--Uncle Carl shouted. After all, the wall was already built and erect. How was he going to get the windows my mother wanted? He put his head down, chewed on some more nails, and cursed away the Iran contra hearing's some more-- as he granted me a glance at an effortless ballet of brilliance-- brilliance in creative problem solving. And suddenly that apparent hurdle became flat. And my mom was happy.

So how does this apply to the show? To this notion of a new so called "creative class"? Creativity and the players, who may be the best at it, don't always dress the part. Today, our most compelling "doer’s" in the creative space are often the least expected. The "pirate" has become the "producer". The greatest advances need not happen in an ivory tower. They need not be editorialized in the heralded pages of a gatekeeper's newspaper. Yes it is a crazy disruptive time in media and our economy, but it also is a hyper exciting time: a CREATIVE moment. So do something that jogs your comfort zone. Like Uncle Carl, if you are locked in without a window—build one. Stand in front of the mirror and as he would say "Call shit on yourself!"

Ask yourself “have I done something to inspire myself today?” Have you inspired someone else around you??? Really??? How??? What validates that? Because you said it does--or did it really??? Now that sound's like something Uncle Carl would have asked.

+Marc Ecko

P.S.- My Uncle Carl was the guy who convinced my parents to buy me my first airbrush and air compressor to paint T-shirts at the age of 13. He validated the risk of a $200 investment by asking them; "What harm could it do? After all, he will be doing something with his hands."

Click here for exclusive CNBC video with Marc Ecko