Skip to main content Accessibility Feedback

Bob Ross and imposter syndrome

I grew up watching Bob Ross, the prolific painting instructor who was a staple of American public access television in the 80’s and 90’s.

Bob was the ultimate anti-imposter syndrome advocate. His trademark line was…

We don’t make mistakes. We make happy little accidents.

Bob firmly believed that anyone can learn to paint, and I’ve recently started realizing just how much his style of teaching and “do whatever works for you” attitude influenced how I teach students.

Season 1 Episode 1 of his Joy of Painting series is available on YouTube, and one of the most surprising things about it is just how bad it is.

The audio is bad. The video is bad. Bob is a bit clumsy in front of the camera, and hand waves over some stuff that a first-time viewer simply wouldn’t know or understand.

There are clear roots of what the show would become, but they’re not really fully developed or worked out yet.

The thing is, the only way Bob got to the smooth, relaxed delivery you see in later seasons (the first video I linked to above is from season 29!) is by putting out a handful of clunky episodes where he experimented and found his groove.

It’s ok to feel like you’re not 100 percent sure what you’re doing. After 10 years of doing this, I still look stuff up every day.

That doesn’t make you an imposter.

It makes you a beginner. It makes you a learner. It makes you someone who gets to experience that joy of looking at this amazing work we do with fresh eyes and new perspectives.

You don’t make mistakes. You make happy little accidents.