Canvas Theory

The canvas theory (or “Canvas Strategy”) is a concept Ryan Holiday wrote about in his book Ego is the Enemy. The concept is simple: when you want to work with someone, offer to hold a canvas for them to paint on.

You can take that as face value, but it tends to limit you to an apprentice type relationship, doing the busy-work or the heavy lifting for someone who’s further along in their career just so that you’re in close enough proximity to learn something from them.

I want us to expand the idea into something more useful.

How can your work be a canvas for someone else?

Maybe you’ve create a web-series. It’s a “canvas”, or “means to an end” for a number of people. It’s a canvas for people who want to work on a creative project to either get paid or gain experience by working for credit. It’s a canvas for actors or interview subjects to get more screen time. It’s a canvas for a distributor to get more content by acquiring it. It’s a canvas for finance partners who want to be involved in a great project or to get a return on their investment.

The more we start to see our work as an invitation to collaborate, to work on something great, as a vehicle for others to get what they want, the easier time we’ll have finding those people we need that can help move our projects forward.

How is your work a canvas for others?

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