Confessions of an Outlaw: Discipline and Play

A marriage of discipline and play seems contradictory, but Philippe Petit thrives on being an extreme and contradictory artist.

Philippe Petit: I think of myself as a man of contradictions. I mean first I am very brutal in my way of thinking. I love or I hate; it’s black or it’s white, which is not very true because then a part of me loves the gray festivals. But anyway I realize that I am a man of contradiction and extreme and very often I state something and within the same sentence I contradict myself. Or I give a rule and of course I add the exceptions to that rule.

The discipline that I demand in many of my arts — the discipline of spending hours in front of a mirror perfecting a magic trick by manipulation — also comes with its antidote or its extreme, which is the opposite of discipline. Forget about what you’re doing. Don’t work; play. And very often in my arts, taking the magic again as an example, if I stop working on a move, but if I just fool around, as you would say, with a deck of cards, you know, watching a film or talking to a friend — suddenly out of the playfulness will come a great invention. It could be a very small detail, but a way to turn a card or something that I can use in a magic trick and it didn’t come from the discipline of work; it came from its opposite. It came with playing, you know. So I advocate that and I think I am a man who works very hard and also plays very hard, enjoys life.

This is the fifth video in a nine-part series with Philippe Petit available in playlist form <a href="http://bigthink.com/playlists/confessions-of-an-outlaw-a-creativity-workshop-with-philippe-petit-2">here</a>. 

A marriage of discipline and play seems contradictory, but Philippe Petit says he thrives on being an extreme and contradictory artist. The high-wire artist explains why being a successful artist requires a marriage of extremes. You have to work hard and play hard. There is no sacrificing either.


This is the fifth video in a nine-part series with Philippe Petit available in playlist form here.

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