Posted 29 October 2020

Five timeless pieces of advice from Paul Smith’s 50-year career

Something of an expert in the ups, downs and cycles of the creative journey, this year Paul Smith celebrates 50 years since he set up his renowned label. Lucky for us, his wealth of wisdom is now available for anyone to access, as he launches a lifetime of learnings via the Paul Smith’s Foundation website. Here we’re sharing just a few of our favourite pieces of advice, as helpful reminders to both emerging and established creatives alike.

As a passionate supporter of the creative industry (and of Lecture in Progress since we started out!), Paul Smith has given countless interviews on his experience, journey and process; as well as advising a huge number of up-and-coming creatives in growing their own careers and businesses.

As of September, Paul has made this generous insight accessible to everyone, all in one place, by launching his very own foundation. The platform currently exists as a website packed full of advice and guidance, which you can browse in the form of a set of online cards. Each one is themed around categories – such as ‘staying positive’, ‘finding inspiration’ and ‘making an impression’ – all drawn from Paul’s greatest learnings to date.

We’ve selected just a few of these fantastic gems of advice below – in the hopes that they serve as a pick-me-up or reminder, whenever you need one:

1. Don’t get distracted by what everyone else is doing

Self-comparison can get the best of us. It’s natural to want to look over your shoulder at what other people are doing, especially if it’s bringing them a lot of success. But focusing too much on others means taking less time to celebrate your own skills, expertise and interests – everything that makes you unique. Paul’s advice? Stand strong in your own creative conviction and celebrate it!

2. Add your own twist to things

Which leads us very nicely onto the next tidbit of advice. Everyone will approach creative challenges differently, so why not show off your individual approach, angle or way of looking at the world? Paul famously calls this the ‘squirt of lemon’ – something only you possess, which in turn, becomes far more memorable to others.

3. Check the details!

Whether you’re signing off on your first commission, or about to dial into a virtual interview, taking time to check over details will always be time well spent. For Paul, that means avoiding any assumptions – whether that be the time an interview starts or missing an important point in the small print.

4. Take time with big decisions

When faced with a big decision, it can be super-easy to just blurt ‘yes’ before considering the bigger picture. But while enthusiasm can certainly be a good thing, for Paul, there’s also a real benefit in taking things slowly, and asking yourself whether an opportunity is really right for you.

5. Try to see the fun side of things

Ambitiously carving out a career can leave you with a very busy mind. There’s often a lot to consider. But, as Paul suggests, it’s often helpful to look at things in a light-hearted, humorous way – and try to turn tough situations into positive learnings where you can.


Looking for more great advice? Head to Paul Smith’s Foundation here and give them a follow on Instagram here.

Paul Smith’s Foundation is a Lecture in Progress founding partner. Every year, we partners with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Lecture in Progress a free resource. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]

Written by Creative Lives in Progress
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