Steven Csorba is relentless. In a nutshell, he's an artist who kicked cancer's ass and donates most of his money and energy to helping others. I'll dive in deeper about Steven, but first I'll explain that he's the first person I have met for The Noteworthy where I felt like I had nothing to add to the conversation. He has simply achieved and experienced more good and bad than I could ever imagine and anything I could add seems so insignificant. He's relentlessly positive about life, community, and giving back.
Ever since he was a kid, he's been an artist. He used to skip elementary school so he could paint pictures of flowers for his mom. He is officially trained as a photo realist (study photo > paint it as realistic as possible), but found success in the advertising and digital media industry. Now, when I say success, I mean it. He worked closely with Xerox to develop their colour copying/printing technology. When Apple was wondering what to do with their proprietary ColorSync technology, they turned to a small team that included Steven Csorba, who told Steve Jobs himself that they should make it available to everyone (including competitors) for free in order to foster widespread use and growth of the technology. Steve Jobs listened. As a thank you for his contribution to the development of colour printing technology, there's a print of one of his pieces on display in the Smithsonian. All of the fun in the ad industry came to a halt when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
The first of many surgeries on his throat and jaw was 14 hours long. Always an active guy, he trained like an Olympian beforehand to be in peak physical shape going into the surgery. He had a very small chance of eating and speaking again, and woke up from surgery believing he had died. A fascinating fact: 90% of speech is the desire to be understood. In order to remove the cancer, doctors took away 90% of the physical tools for speech (rebuilding his face with titanium, pins, screws, and skin from his arms) knowing he only needs 10% in order to learn to speak again (he did!). His battle with cancer was 10 years long, with the will to stay strong for his 3 boys who were under 12 when the battle started.
Today, he finds strength in helping others. As part of his healing process, he spent a lot of time in isolation working on his art. Creating art and coaching an inner city kids soccer team were therapeutic for him. Now, he's a well renowned artist whose work can be found all over Canada and beyond. He has donated over $1 million worth of his art to charity, giving away 95% of the 4000+ pieces he's created. He has travelled all over giving motivational speeches to cancer patients and school children. He is the chair of iHuman's capital project, All In! Edmonton and has convinced countless corporate sponsors to come together to build a safe place for endangered youth to turn their life around through creativity and community.
When he came out of his therapeutic artistic isolation, he noticed a huge change in Edmonton's sense of community. It's not just about people who share a proximal physical address, it's about people coming together from all over the city and all walks of life to help others. Something he believes is very unique to Edmonton. He's obviously built up the communities within iHuman and the soccer teams he's coached. He found a deep sense of community in November Project (free public workouts a few times per week led by elite athletes like Andrew Ference) and goes three times per week. He puts 110% into everything he does, and if he has a chance to help others, he does so with all his energy like it's the last day of his life. It's incredibly inspiring.
Steven's Favourite Places
All of his favourite places are so because he knows the people and stories behind the businesses.
eat// Rosso Pizzeria - 8738-109 Street
His favourite meal: pizza with pear, mozzarella fior di latte, gorgonzola cheese, smoked speck prosciutto, toasted pecans, and honey with tomato bread soup and whiskey gelato.
eat// Bistro Praha - 10117-101 Street
It's his comfort food, and it's consistently amazing.
drink// Credo - 10134-104 Street
Credo with friends before City Market
go// City Market - 104 Street from Jasper Avenue to 102 Avenue (summer)
In the summer, he gets a coffee from Credo, a crepe from Fork and Spoon, then parks himself on the sidewalk to eat them with friends. Before leaving, he picks up wine from Devine's, making a decision mostly based on label design.
go// November Project
He loves the community feel and how everyone encourages each other at the 6am workouts.
go// iHuman Youth Society - 10124-96 Street
It's a place of hope and creativity. And he's put in a lot of fulfilling hours helping youth there.
Steven's Favourite Things
covet// His t-shirt collection
Notice the shirt he's wearing? He makes his own Fuck Cancer shirts (and has sold some off his back), and loves making grassroots November Project gear.
Steven's Recommended Read
read// That's The Way I See It by David Hockney
It explains Warhol's 15 minutes of fame and the power of media at its source.
Steven's Words of Wisdom
As a motivational speaker who has been through plenty of highs and lows, he's got a lot of advice to share. Here are a few of my favourites:
- If you're trying to be successful in life, make sure your passion is driven by a purpose.
- It takes the right kind of energy to think big (passion with a purpose). It takes the wrong kind of energy to think small.
- Give all the credit for your successes to others. Be humble.