Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
(All Rights Reserved)

Joe Robinson in his 2014 article, “The 7 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs,” in Entrepreneur Magazine stated that “Entrepreneurs exist to defy conventional wisdom.” He goes on to say that “In fact, simply starting a business breaks the rules, as only about 13 percent of Americans are engaged in entrepreneurship, according to a Babson College report. Doing what the majority isn’t doing is the nature of entrepreneurship, which is where the supply of inner resources comes in.”


“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
~ Pablo Picasso

As I read what Joe Robinson has to say, I realize that my being a businesswoman AND a Visual Journalist is breaking both sets of “rules.” I have come to this place on my own after spending many years defiantly refusing to conform to a corporate mindset while seeing the logic and amazing possibility in it and simultaneously refusing to dance with the sometimes intellectually elite art world while respecting the beauty and passion of it all. I have always understood that there were both benefits to the rules and clear road maps to success in both worlds. I think that is why I felt and still feel so committed to my education in both areas so that I know what the rules are in both areas.


“Move Fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff you are not moving fast enough.”
~ Mark Zuckerberg

Both my undergraduate Art degree and master’s Business program were attempts at forcing myself to conform to the rules of my generation while breaking the traditional rules of my family. My insisting upon educating myself was an act of defiance. I broke the rules in my family when I left my parents’ home as a single woman to pursue college as opposed to leaving as a newlywed so I could live with my husband in a new home. I was certain that my off-the-boat Italian-Irish hard working roots combined with a college education would allow me to find a way to shine, and that eventually the man I married would be attracted to my light. I thought in both situations that “they” would show me the secret handshake, give me the dang rulebook and then after a little blood sweat and tears *poof * SUCCESS!


My Serial Entrepreneur Dad and I have discussed the concept of the government offering a free college education. We both agree that a free college education would not change the world and a college education, although important, is not for everyone. My father feels the best decision he ever made was to go to trade school and he is not disappointed that the government did not keep its promise of a college education, which he had earned through the GI bill. My father went into the service thinking he would become an accountant. We also know that the top-notch education that my parents and I paid for with our hard earned cash did not change my world the way we hoped it might. I know many college educated people who have had the same experience. What is the lesson learned? There is no magic elixir. While a great education has never hurt me and has definitely given me many of the tools I use every day in many facets of my life, it was not the full answer. “They” do not give you a Golden Goose with your degrees.


Here is another news flash for Millennials. Being a rule breaker in and of itself is also not the answer either. Being defiant for defiance sake does not only, not guarantee success, it can also be a precursor for living in your parents’ basement for extended periods of time as an adult. Picasso tells us we need to know the rules before we break them. You cannot break rules you are ignorantly unaware of or do not understand and think that you will *poof * earn a million dollars on the internet in 90 days. If that has been your story, God Bless you and AMEN. It is possible for some to have the amazing experience of instant success. However, for every over-night success story there are 800 brilliant very capable people earning minimum wage who are unable to support their young families. Bottom line – there is no easy way out of this thing!


Breaking the rules and challenging convention is in the DNA of every successful entrepreneur. Doing things differently and solving problems with new, innovative and fresh approaches
are the very reason many start-ups are able to compete and sometimes outpace
the established market leaders.”
~ Richard Branson

I have always been a fan of Richard Branson. I love the Virgin Disruptor focus. One of the strongest questions posed from this short clip is from Lisa Thomas, Head of Global Brand for Virgin Group, who asks, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” A seemingly simple but deeply challenging question to ponder. Another quote that stands out for me is Branson’s statement, “Disruption is one of the most exciting things that can happen in business and often times in life.”

This idea of rule breaking, or as Virgin has coined DISRUPTION, is a topic I thought would be easy for me. Really? What an awesome topic. Just the sound of it makes me happy. Anyone who knows me, knows I have a love hate relationship with rules. I really do love a great rebel entrepreneur success story. After bouncing around researching this fantastic idea of being a maverick and a rule breaker here is my statement. THERE ARE NO RULES. Success finds us the way it finds us or we find it. Entrepreneurs know this truth. It is not so much that we break the rules; we just know they are a figment of everyone’s imagination. We are problem solvers. We disrupt the status quo. We just do it our way and heck sometimes that means it is different and innovative and other times we determine which “rules” are smart and which are outdated and silly. We ultimately decide that we are going to go after what we feel passionately about. We have a vision and we tenaciously pursue it! Rules. No rules. Education. No Education. Stamp of approval from people or not – we just drop our chin and get shit done.

I love this ad from 1997, which was released fourteen years before Steve Jobs death. Watch the video of the original ad, if you have a few minutes.


“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules…You can quote them,
disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them
as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Apple “Think different”

Look at this list of amazing “rebels” highlighted in this ground-breaking advertisement:

Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart & Bernt Balchen, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Pablo Picasso.

Do you think that any one of them sat around and thought about the rules for long? Or do you think they just did what was theirs to do? They just had an idea, a solution, a goal, a passion and they made it happen. I don’t think they spent a lot of time caring about the “rules,” one way or another. I also recognize that there were some rules that they did comply with because they made sense.

I still love the idea of breaking the rules, and am realistic about the whole idea of rules. I acknowledge that in business, in art, in love and in life; there are no hard and fast rules. Everything is open for interpretation and reinvention. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I can’t do. I spend far more time thinking about what I want and how I am going to make that happen!


Illustrations Story

The universal symbol for the entrepreneur has always been the light bulb for me. One of my hero artists, Jasper Johns, created many light bulb pieces, but unlike him, the reference for the light bulb is not about pop art for me in my work. Light bulbs have long been the collective symbol for having an idea. I see entrepreneurs as idea manufacturers. I also like idioms. I really think that my paintings in and of themselves are idioms. They are phrases that don’t make sense, yet they are understood – I find them funny. This week the idiom reference is “Out of the Box.”

There are four types of “Out of the Box” entrepreneurs in this series:

1.) There is the light bulb that is a balloon. It is their nature to not be in the box. It takes no effort for them to exit. They are by nature driven to rise and cannot deny themselves. It is who they are.

2.) The light bulb with the wings is the entrepreneur that lifts themselves out of the box with their own effort. The process of getting out of the box is quietly graceful.

One might even miss that the balloon or the winged light bulb has left the box. Then there are the noisemakers….

3.) The light bulb that is a rocket represents the entrepreneurs that blast out of the box. Their process is fast, explosive and loud. There is no missing a rocket ship’s exit.

4.) Finally, there is the light bulb that is the cannon ball. They are violently ejected from the culture because they are obviously not a fit for the organization they are working with or for. They are seemingly catapulted into success by their failure to comply with business as usual. 

Michelle Micalizzi is a Business Executor & Visual Journalist, Her company Fearlessly Deliver, LLC helps business owners especially artists to FEAR LESS & DO MORE! Michelle uses her ability as a Visual Journalist to tell the story of Entrepreneurship. | 480.526.2609 | michelle@fearlesslydeliver.com

The Gallery at el Pedregal
Select Paintings from the 2015 & 2016 Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Projects are also for sale at the El Pedregal Gallery through October 2016 | Presentation – Art is Business and Business is Art featuring Interior Designer Emily Brown of Brown Bird Design: Oct 27th 5-7:30PM.

Hidden in the Hills – Studio Tour
All Fearless Art will be available for sale at the Micalizzi Studio during the Sonoran Arts League’s 2016 Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour on Nov. 18-20 & 24-26, 2016. | 

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