By: Naomi Matlow
“It hasn’t been about ‘screw the system’ as much as surrender.” – Rob Grad
Contemporary artist, musician, and writer, Rob Grad wholeheartedly embraces the Unsettled life. In fact, it’s his innate curiosity, living life as a process, contributing, and embracing the unknown, that led to his signing with RCA Records before his 21st birthday, exhibiting his work at Art Basel and all over the world, and opening his heart and mind on his blog, Thoughts from the Creative Sphere.
We are thrilled to share his words of wisdom on life as a work of art today on the blog!
Name: Rob Grad
Current Location: Los Angeles, CA
Next travel destination: Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan
A current word or intention in your life: 100% is possible, 100% of the time.
Recently, where have you found your sense of wonderment?
Historically speaking, I’d say travel. Even weekend getaways are exhilarating to me. Jump in the car and drive anywhere. It breaks autopilot mentality, and always makes me feel alive.
I’m an artist, and recently, however, I’ve been working on an upcoming museum show. I wanted to bring that sense of spiritual freedom and reckless abandon into the studio. And the process has been wild.
Every day something happens that I don’t expect. I keep going home thinking, “Wow. Where did that come from?” This new work has a mind of its own, and I get electric just partaking in the process and watching it unfold. I feel like I’m part participant, part spectator. Spontaneous events occur and I respond. It’s all in there.
Which is pretty much like the rest of my life. I get an idea, a goal, or a dream, then life does whatever it wants, and I respond. The only thing I can control are my responses. The rest of life is pretty much off the rails.
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What’s something you try to do every day to help you show up to the world as best as you can?
I get up at 5:30 every morning and spend about an hour to myself in the quiet. No work. No art. No talking. No emails. I just meditate. Read. Write. Reflect. Whatever. It’s my time. My internal world is my most precious. Developing awareness of my thoughts and feelings takes concerted effort. Especially in the buzz saw of daily commitments, social media, and responsibilities. It doesn’t matter what is happening in my life. Good or bad. Without that internal awareness, I’ll pretty much miss it. If I’m not in tune, it all just whizzes by, and I say things like, “It’s September? What happened to August?”.
If you were to write a book today, what would the title and subtitle be?
“Delicate Badass: Lessons from a Flower”
This is actually the title of a poem I wrote for my blog, but it could really be a book. Nature is genius.
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How have you gone against the grains of society along your journey?
Maybe this should be the book! I suppose I haven’t gone with the grain much of my journey. Truthfully, I begrudgingly do it sometimes. I don’t really think of myself as a buck the system kind of guy. I traveled because I felt dead inside. Left jobs because I was fed up. Played music and made art because I couldn’t NOT do it. So it hasn’t been about “screw the system” as much as surrender.
A few more specific examples:
I passed on the opportunity to go away for college and stayed in LA with my band. I missed the college experience, but I don’t regret it. We signed to RCA Records and had a good run.
I didn’t get married till 45. Saved me at least 2 divorces.
I went traveling at 40. Put all my stuff in storage and moved to Madrid for the summer to paint and live life. Totally liberating. Highly recommend it.
Plus, I’m an artist, and musician. Not exactly “go with the grain” careers.
What’s your dream workspace look like?
I’ve started working on large scale sculptural and installation projects recently, so I want a big space. I envision a warehouse-style, industrial room with high ceilings, a 5-minute drive from my house. I want a sitting area in the back with a couch where I can watch TV, nap for ideas, and work on music. It’s also got to have enough space for a couple of fun, creative artists/employees to help me make all this stuff.
What’s the top advice that you would give to your son or daughter (whether or not you currently have one)?
Most people are thinking about themselves most of the time. So don’t worry about what they think. They probably didn’t even notice what you said or did.
Don’t worry about whether you’re good enough at something or worthwhile. Make what you want to see in the world (not talking just about art). Contribute. The rest will take care of itself.
If you learn your lessons, you won’t have to repeat them.
There is only one you. You have no competition. Go eat the world.
Follow Rob’s incredible work on Instagram at @rob_grad
Looking to surrender and contribute? Check out where we’re living Unsettled.
Unsettled is a global community for those who embrace the unknown and value meaningful human connection. Our mission is to inspire a lifelong pursuit of growth, meaning, and adventure through travel and shared experiences.