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Five Things You Should Know About Sanity and Success


Being Happy Is Its Own Reward.

Go out. Be your best. Do your best. Be ready when luck comes. Never let misfortune ruin your outlook.

  1. You Must Keep Getting Better
  2. Some People Will Disappoint You.
  3. Aid Will Sometimes Appear from the Most Unlikely Place
  4. Keep What Is Important in Your Name and Under Your Control
  5. You Have Choices — Use Them

If you sense deja vu reading this post, it’s real because I first published it in 2018. I’m amazed and pleased at how the sentiment in this post aligns with my Artists Life Manifesto. The manifesto is a worthy read and roadmap to my future. And should I be so fortunate, it might be part of yours too… but you gotta read it first. 

Life Is Uncertain.

Life is full of tips and turns we can’t always control. People we meet and need to deal with can be difficult. Opportunities are coming at us all the time. If we are not prepared to accept them, they pass us by. Random things happen that seem unfair.

All in all, it can at times feel like life is out of control, if not downright crazy.  Here are five things I have learned that can help you be prepared for opportunity or preserve your sanity in the face of devastating challenging circumstances.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

1.  You Must Keep Getting Better

It may seem sound simple, but it’s true. If you are not getting better while those around you are, you are getting worse by comparison. Improve your artistic skills, and your business skills should be a daily goal. From my experience, I’ve found artists will liberally spend on learning new painting techniques and then balk at paying $30.00 to buy a book or take a workshop aimed at helping them in business. I understand why.

We all tend to add urgency in doing those things we like while avoiding things that are required but not urgent, from our perspective. If this describes you and your art business is not going as well as you like, then it’s time to reorder your priorities. Arrange things so you put as much importance on your business as you do your creativity.

2.  People Will Disappoint You – Prepare for the Best – Never Discount the Worst

A promised show at a gallery never materializes or comes at the worst time of the year for success. Buyers will return art or show interest but never call you back. Publishers will say they want to work with you and then keep you in suspense for months before sending a declining letter.

Some years ago, I put in hundreds of hours on a promising publishing project with an artist who a multi-millionaire venture capitalist backed. I created a killer, knock ’em dead marketing plan for the project. It would have made all participating wealthy. The artist would have become a nationally recognized figure. Ultimately, we had the program, the financing, and an artist with the talent, but not the temperament to let a world-class enterprise build around him. The VC lost faith and pulled the plug. Had I taken the time to know the artist better in the early going, I would have seen the problem coming and bailed sooner.

Because I was so gung-ho on the project and had a substantial steady income from other sources, I negotiated for a higher percentage of profits. In retrospect, I should have insisted on being paid for my expertise as a separate matter. It would have made the sting of the failure of this opportunity – where I did not control the outcome – hurt a lot less.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

If an opportunity is in front of you, and it appears worthwhile, don’t fall in love with it. Do what is reasonable to seize the opportunity and work out in advance the worst-case scenario, which happens if it fails. Conceptualizing the worst allows you to accept it if it should occur. If the worst is more than you can bear, don’t get started. Don’t confuse being a realist with being a pessimist. You can be very optimistic and still know potential problems lie ahead. Don’t be blinded as I was by future profits, and never fear negotiating hard to make sure your compensation is fair.

3.  Aid Will Come from Unlikely Places

If you are ready and confident and moving forward on your strength, you are a much better candidate for some unforeseen force to come into your life with surprising aid. Success and trust are powerful attractors.

You can’t write down provenance on a business plan, but I have seen it happen many times. This situation is where hard work and talent intersect at what appears to be luck. It is the polar opposite of point #2 above. It is never a chance that an artist is invited to submit pieces to a museum or join a prestigious gallery or has a top-notch publisher with brilliant ideas and great contacts to promote their work.

These things happen because the art is worthy, and the artist has succeeded on his or her terms. When a door opens to a genuine offer that can elevate the artist’s work and career in ways no one saw coming, it is nearly always due to the artist’s steady and consistently improving work on their creative skills and marketing prowess.

4.  Keep What Is Important in Your Name and Under Your Control

A perfect example of this is a domain name. Do you have a domain name, such as SallySmithFineArt.com, for your business? If you use such a domain name and not in an account registered in your name, you are set up for a severe problem. Never let a web developer or anyone else buy and maintain a domain name for you in their account. A relationship can sour, and your domain gets caught in the process, or it is used as leverage to get you to comply with things you would not have otherwise considered.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

If you are in this situation now, you need to take immediate action to get your account’s domain.  If the current account holder balks, then you have identified a potentially critical control issue with that person.  Get the domain under your control, and then get better representation or partners.

It is not just domain names. The simple test asks, is “this thing” more important to you than the person who owns or controls it? If you decide it is, you need to get it under your control legally and fast.

5.  You Have Choices — Use Them!

You may sometimes feel like you are stuck, but you are not. You always have options. You may have to be patient with working out an alternative scenario and not apply your new plans immediately. But, you can put ideas in motion to turn things around for you. You can choose to work in another kind of life or situation.

One thing you control is your attitude. You can elect to let things get you down and to allow troubling personalities in your life to make you miserable. Or, you can choose not to allow circumstances or people to get you down. It’s easier to say than do, but still entirely possible. And it’s what you want when you think about it.  

Remember Being Happy Is Its Own Reward

Go out. Be your best. Do your best. Be ready when luck comes. Never let misfortune ruin your outlook.

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Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

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    1. I love how you turn around the idea that rather than preparing for the worst you argue for preparing for the best and not discount the worst. In my experience both are wrong. I think one always prepares for the best but only after one accepts the possibility of the worst. In that way you are always focused on putting in your best effort knowing full well that the outcome is likely to be somewhere in between. Great thoughts.

  1. Thank you, Barney. What an inspiration you are. A great way to start my week. Keep my sanity, keep working on my drawing series. It’s slowly but surely coming together.

  2. Barney, you always have great advice. Let me just state for the record to anyone reading this: if you are an artist struggling with how to market your art, you can’t go wrong following Barney. He offers a lot for free, but when you are ready to take it seriously, his Art Marketing Mastery course delivers, with tools, a solid path to follow, a firm understanding of the market and how artists work, support and friendliness. One of the most helpful teachers out there, and he knows his stuff.
    Besides, you just gotta love a guy who uses the phrase “harshing your mellow” in a blog.

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