Frank Lloyd Wright’s 10-Point Manifesto for His Apprentices.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day — or List Day.
This Wednesday: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Manifesto for His Apprentices.

I love personal manifestos — for instance, on the home pages of their blogs, Bob Sutton includes his 17 Things I Believe about work and Madame X lists My Rules about money.

I recently read Frank Lloyd Wright’s Autobiography — a very thought-provoking work. In it, he includes a list of the “Fellowship Assets” that he outlined for the architecture apprentices he worked with at Taliesin, his summer home, studio, and school.

1. An honest ego in a healthy body.
2. An eye to see nature
3. A heart to feel nature
4. Courage to follow nature
5. The sense of proportion (humor)
6. Appreciation of work as idea and idea as work
7. Fertility of imagination
8. Capacity for faith and rebellion
9. Disregard for commonplace (inorganic) elegance
10. Instinctive cooperation

This list was interesting to me, because although it’s quite short, it packs in a lot of big ideas and strongly held views. It really started me thinking — to ask, “What does Wright mean by ‘inorganic’ or even ‘nature’?” “What’s an ‘honest ego’?” I particularly loved #5 — the inclusion of humor on this list, and the tying of humor to a sense of proportion. I’d never thought of humor as an expression of a sense of proportion, but I think that’s one reason that humor can be so helpful at difficult moments.

Writing a personal manifesto is a very interesting exercise; it really forces you to articulate your values. Have you ever written a manifesto for yourself? Was it a useful exercise? I wrote my manifesto, though I should probably update it.

* I love checking out my friend Liz Gumbinner’s blog, Mom 101 — “I don’t know what I’m doing either.”

* If you’ve been waiting to buy the paperback of The Happiness Project, it’s coming out next week. If you’re inclined to buy it, for yourself or a friend, you’d really help me out by pre-ordering it now. Pre-orders give a BIG boost to a book. (Can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller.) If you do pre-order, as a thank-you, I’ll send you my page of Happiness Paradoxes. Just drop me an email at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com, with the note “I pre-ordered.”

If you want a signed, personalized bookplate, email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com (they’re free; I’ll mail anywhere, be sure to include your mailing address!)
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.

  • LivewithFlair

    I love this idea! I think that “Live with Flair” has become a manifesto for me. I’m curious about the capacity for faith and rebellion. I see faith as a sort of rebellion! Thanks!

  • Timaree

    I really, really like the “sense of proportion”. It puts humor into an “important” spot. Too often I am told that because I am finding humor in something I am not taking the subject seriously which is not true but when you don’t have a sense of proportion life is skewed.

  • Huh123


  • Gretchen –
    I ended up writing my manifesto for why I blog recently — ( and I used NPR as my inspiration “This I believe”. It was exhausting in a way and yet so instructive. I think I’ll end up doing it every year or perhaps every 2 years an exercise.

  • I don’t have a manifesto, but a brilliant designer that I admire has a wonderful one… I highly recommend you see his. It’s by Bruce Mau, called the “Incomplete Manifesto” at


    • My husband gave me a copy of this manifesto when we first met – i think it’s brilliant. Thanks for the reminder.

  • So many times when we talk about life balance and happiness we focus on nature because of it’s beauty & calmness. You need to have clarity in your life to appreciate it.

    How can we be miserable where there are so many amazing places on our planets like this waterfall:

  • #9 is a really important one – it’s not being influenced by trend. Remaining uninfluenced by Pottery Barn or Ethan Allen and other fashionable ideas of the time and being bold enough to come up with something entirely original inspired by the natural world (organic).

    This one applies to much, much more than design and is way harder than it sounds…. which is why it’s so awesome.

    Thanks for this – I’ll be thinking about this today.

  • I like manifestos too. There’s a certain rebellious flare and dedication to personal ideals about them that I find inherently appealing. My wife and I composed one as we started our project to live for our dreams in 2011:

    Party of 4 Manifesto
    -We refuse to believe that A LIFE OF ADVENTURE is incompatible with a life with kids.
    -Material things have a lesser value than RELATIONSHIPS and EXPERIENCES.
    -Our job as a couple is to NURTURE and PROTECT each other’s dreams.
    -EQUALLY SHARED PARENTING shall be the new world order.
    -May we be true to ourselves.
    -May we remember to pause and SEE THE MAGNIFICENCE in everything, especially our children.
    -Marriage is not the death knell of PASSION and LOVE.
    -Home is where we have our FAMILY – not our mortgage or our stuff.
    -We don’t stop growing after bringing kids into this world. In fact we owe it to them to keep EXPANDING OUR LIVES and moving toward our dreams.
    -May our actions be fueled by JOY rather than fear. May we live in openness to POSSIBILITY and CHANGE.
    -No whining.
    -No clinging to the past. No self-indulgent bouts of torment or nostalgia.
    -In uplifting ourselves, may we also UPLIFT OTHERS.

    • What a wonderful list Michael. You have lucky kids! One thing i’ve read in a lot of personal developemnt books it the importance of being “for” something, not against something. I notice some of your points, which are worded with negatives, might be positively reworded e.g. We believe that a life with kids can still be a life of adventure. But i think the messages are really powerful and inspiring – thanks for sharing.

      • Michael Belfiore

        Good point on making things positive, Annabel, and thanks for the kind words!

  • Tymchatyn

    Why preorder? I was in Costco in Saskatoon, Canada on Saturday Feb. 19th and there was a whole stack of your Happiness Project in paperback. Since I gave four of them away as Christmas gifts I didn’t purchase one but what a price difference!

    • gretchenrubin

      Ah, the paperback in Canada came out a few months before the U.S. paperback.
      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm — I hope the recipients enjoyed them!

  • flossattrocbrocandrecup

    This is great – I particularly like 8. I have a strong faith but need to know that I can rebel too – against the way that people try to use religion to control others, mainly. The capacity for both faith and rebellion is very important to me but I would never have encapsulated it so neatly.

  • And here I am, loving your blog right back. Thanks Gretchen!

  • An honest ego? I think problems with statements like this is that there’s no underlying definition to the terms. Ego for him means something different than it does for me, or other schools of thought. Heh, using relativistic terms it’s hard to make absolute statements

  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture style is strongly influenced by nature, so I think he really means the environment when he says nature, as opposed to the nature of man. One of his better known examples of this is probably the Falling Water building (outside of Pittsburgh, celebrating 75 years this year).

    Taliesin (in Wisconsin, haven’t been to the one in Arizona) was incredible. Equally impressive was the actual school for the arhitects living there. There was a small concert hall where they performed each week for friends and family, and they had to do a lot of yard work in addition to their architecture work. I believe it is still done that way today. Really worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.

    Manifestos have been incrediblly important for artists over the years, but I haven’t written one up for myself yet. I did in University for a hypothetical theatre company though, which was a great activity to do. May sit down this weekend to write one.

  • donnagail

    While I can appreciate his talent I wonder how happy he really was when he was not working. I’ve read aout his family life and the tragedy at Taliesin. Maybe the ability to compartmentalize and focus is something I could work on mastering. This would help me accomplish my goals in spite of distractions in other parts of mylife.

  • Julie S

    I love this! And FLLW, and #5! It’s so true… I see it when I play Golf… when I (or anyone) loses my sense of humor about it, it’s because we’ve lost our sense of proportion – it really is only a game! Thank you!

  • BPR

    This is fabulous.

    #6 is what’s getting me: “Appreciation of work as idea and idea as work.” It feels like there’s something magical in it, but I can’t even quite grasp what he means. That’s usually a good sign that I should pay attention here.

    I’ve created scattered bits of manifestos. It’s usually when I notice some long-term pattern that’s been getting in the way, and I find a replacement:

    I replaced
    “Don’t Trust” with “Be Bold”
    “Aww, I’m not competitive” with “I’m a competitive s.o.b.”
    “I’m not getting anywhere” with “I’m on a Treasure Hunt!”

    And then there are some things I discovered and put in place, not to replace anything, but because they were powerful or useful in their own right. The one that’s become most important for is:

    “Notice. Get Curious. Play.”

    Simple, powerful, and leads straight to all kinds of learning and happiness.

    Each time I put in place on of these minifestos (hmmm, I sense a blog post here), some magic happens in the bigger picture of my life.


  • Geoff

    Hey Gretchen, As a former architect I especially love this and I hadn’t seen it before. I’m also collecting manifestos and I’ve added it to my list of 1000 manifestos, it’s now been posted as #134.
    Thanks! Geoff

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great idea for a site! I love manifestos.


  • Luzia Light

    Ego is latin for “I”, so therefore an ‘honest ego’ means ‘honest self’.
    commonplace inorganic elegance = boring straight lines.
    Wright was so much into nature. There are no straight lines in nature! Ever noticed?
    I’ve never read the manifesto. Brilliant!