Steven D. Lavine on building resilience and being bold in the arts

Steven D. Lavine is the former President of the California Institute of the Arts and he is currently the chairman of the American advisory board of the Thomas Mann House. 

The interview covered a wide range of topics, including Lavine’s lifelong influences, the recent release of his new book Failure Is What It Is All About, and advice he would give to any aspiring artists.

Steven has published a book on his life, the influences on him, and the ideals that shaped his thoughts about what art should be. The book tells a number of essential anecdotes about on-the-job learning, about uncertainty and fear, and how we learn to deal with them. The book is essential reading for any young student interested in pursuing a career in the arts.

Throughout the interview, Steven offered a lot of advice to prospective artists interested in any aspect of the arts.

  1. Never let yourself be intimidated – remember many professionals in their respective sectors learn as they go. 
  1. Don’t get swamped by the noise – if you just do what other people do, if you follow the course, you are up against the crowd. Figure out what you have distinctly, that you can contribute. 
  1. Be open to the people around you –  be open to the influences around you. It will increase your capacity and capability if you are open to other people’s opinions and ideas.

Who were some of the most influential artists in your life?

Steven was quick to point out that all of the arts provide the same thing; a deeper understanding of human life. In addition to providing a deeper understanding, the arts also provide a spiritual uplift. Johann Bach, Bertolt Brecht, and even Steven’s mother were among the most influential artists in Steven’s life. Bach sustained him. Brecht, on the other hand, provided him with a socially engaged form of art, one that forced him to question his worldview.

What piece of advice would you give to young students if you could?

Never let anyone intimidate you. By all means, approach the world with respect. However, never waste your time by being intimidated. 

‘Art brings us back to ourselves’

 With art you can leap forward, and imagine what else is possible with the world.

How to live a balanced life? – Scott J Spears

Our podcast can also be listened to here.


Having grown up in a small town in California, Scott Spears then moved on to serving the military at 17 years old. During his consultancy job, he found himself getting very overworked with a poor life-work balance. Scott proceeded to heal himself to now having a consultancy job that helps individuals and corporations live a better, more balanced lifestyle.

Quick Summary

What are you favourite places you have travelled to and biggest takeaway from those experiences?

Scott said that Indonesia and Tanzania were his top favourite destinations. He believes that those two places have a lot to offer for individuals to learn about. His biggest takeaway is adaptation. Scott gave himself a week to adapt to the places he visited to understand more about the culture and the people there and he takes that wherever he goes, trying to learn and adapt to different people.

What is your opinion on the army?

Scott believes that the mandatory army experience is a valuable time in one’s life. He thinks that during this age of gratification, serving your country and giving back is an honour. He wants the army to focus more on humanitarian relief rather than issues that have to o with the politics. Scott believes that is a very personal choice and he would never force this experience onto anyone.

With levels of mental health issues amongst youth rising rapidly, what are some tips to take care of yourself?

Firstly focusing on what causes these issues. In today’s world of “hustle culture” we have a difficult time finding balance. Scott went into depth about his experience with burn out and how it almost cost him his life. He also mentioned that as a society, there is a fear of talking about mental health and it is seen as a taboo subject. Through getting help, Scott truly understood the meaning behind the phrase “mind over matter”. He believes that the way to go about it is acknowledging that the issue is there, understanding but learning to let it go so that you can focus on keeping yourself happy and healthy.

If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Take the time to find yourself.

“The only way you can be in touch with yourself is by being selfish.

Scott J Spears

Why is it important to learn how to present yourself? – Theo Kapodistrias

Our podcast can also be listened to here.


Theo Kapodistrias is an award winning lawyer based in Australia. Theo has done a lot work in the field before gaining his undergraduate degree as he participated in many different events, challenges and competitions in order to build up his CV and become an outstanding candidate for various law positions. Theo also has a company that specializes in Keynote speaking training where he explores different techniques to put yourself out there and become the best version of yourself.

Quick Summary

Why and how did you get into law?

Theo mentioned that his love for helping people solve problems was why he decided to go to into law. Law is a very competitive field and in Australia alone, he was competing with around 20,000 other graduates. Theo said that is very important to gain as much experience as possible and make yourself stand out. He participated in being a president in associations, competing in national legal challenges. All these various things made him stand out by the time he graduated and made him a whole person rather than just a student with a law degree.

What are some tips for working in a team?

Theo said that collaboration looks very different for everyone. Therefore, it is important to discuss how collaboration will look like within a certain group. After that, it is vital to establish the strengths and weaknesses of all members in the group. Theo mentioned that this takes practice, trial and error in order to find a balance between different people and how they are willing to contribute.

Why should we learn how present ourselves?

In his experience, Theo found that there was a large number of people that had great ideas but had no idea how to articulate that to the public in order to persuade that the idea is good. Theo participated in many panels all over Australia and he considers himself an expert in keynote speaking. In his courses, he focuses on teaching people to break through those walls and present themselves in a confident manner.

If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Say yes to opportunities as they come.

“Our words can do a lot of damage.

Theo Kapodistrias

What is the importance of meaningful connections? – Jon Levy

Our podcast can also be listened to here.


Jon Levy is a behavioural scientist that loves to create meaningful interactions between individuals from all different backgrounds. Taking his knowledge, Jon created the ultimate space for influential people to come together and for a brief moment, take off the weight of being known for their name. Through his Influencer Dinners, Jon tries to unite people from different parts of the world and work fields to nurture better relationships. Jon is an author of books on behaviour and human interactions. He does a lot of public speaking and influential talks.

Quick Summary

What is The Influencers Dinner?

This is an experience for people from different fields to come together and cook dinner. The catch is that those people can only use their first names and not mention work. After the group sits down to enjoy their meal, everyone guesses what the other people, slowly revealing their identities. This relaxed environment creates bonds over things that have nothing to do with fame, background or money.

What are some of your favourite places and events you have been to?

Jon remembers his trip when he went to Antartica and saw the penguins as well as plunging into some of the coldest water. Other countries he talks about was Indonesia, Singapore, Sweden and Iceland. An event he was at whilst going to Sweden was the Midsommar Festival which takes place on the longest day of the year. Jon said that the spontaneous nature of the trip really stood out to him.

How are businesses adapting to covid?

Jon said that many businesses are trying to find ways to connect people. Loneliness can bring just as much harm to our bodies as cigarettes which makes it crucial that people stay connected and bond with others. Different tools like online games, ice breakers and social distanced events have been a key in many corporations that want to create a strong relationship between their coworkers.

If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?

People we surround ourselves with are fundamental to a good quality of life.

“People at the top are those who most often feel imposter syndrome.

Jon Levy