There is debate over the origin of the terms “carry your water” and “carrying your water.” Some use them as a derogatory towards those who do the bidding for others, especially in politics. I get that use, but for me it is about being self-sufficient, self-fulfilled, and responsible for your career.
When I Say You Must Carry Your Water, I Mean You Must:
During the two decades where I attended hundreds of fine and decorative art trade shows, I met many artists. Although our encounter was brief, I will never forget meeting Juan S. E. Archuleta. I love his ethereal forest scenes and admire his humanity.
In a deep conversation about life, I suggested reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. He offered Chop Wood, Carry Water: A Guide to Finding Spiritual Fulfillment in Everyday Life.
It’s been nearly 30 years since that encounter with Juan and both books remain bestsellers in their respective Amazon categories. They each made a profound impact me. You can reread them to gain new insights and inspiration each time.
Now you know what “carry your water” means to me.
Who hasn’t had the wish for a savior to step in and make life easy and smooth out problems? We all have bouts of wishful thinking. However, ignoring hard realities and believing they will come true will crash your dreams and your career.
It’s okay to yearn for a life and career where things come easy. It’s not okay to believe abundance thinking alone will make such things happen. That is like buying lottery tickets as a retirement plan. It’s a plan for failing.
YOU have to make it happen. It’s the only way your career will meet your dreams for it.
I wish there were easy ways for artists to make art and sell it with ease. But that, too, is wishful thinking. I have out-sized but doable, aspirations to grow my business. I want to reach and help thousands of artists, but there is no easy way for me either.
Like you, I have to figure it out and do it myself. Like you reading this blog for insight, advice or inspiration, I have “go to” advisers whose tips, tools and training help me make wise choices and take smart actions.
I believe my Art Marketing Mastery Workshop will help any artist who follows what they learn to create a successful career. My goal for the coming years is to help 2,000 or more artists and photographers gain art marketing mastery and help them earn millions of dollars of additional art sales as a result.
Imagine I help 2,000 artists sell just $1,000 more in art with my advice. That adds up to an extra $2 million income added to my artist community. The thought of making that kind of impact inspires and motivates me. I’m being very conservative here. It’s more likely you will make multiple thousands more by implementing my advice, which will dwarf my $2 million extra income goal.
I don’t know how many of your artworks sold add up to $1,000. But I am confident if you learn from me a few ways to sell four or five more pieces each year it will add up to multiple thousands of extra lifetime income. If you follow my suggestion to develop 100 or more direct buying collectors, you are well on your way to enjoying the success you crave and an income to prove it.
Just as with suggesting a 100 collector goal for you, I use quantifying my goals and the results they will produce to stay turned on and focused on keeping the main thing the main thing. You should do the same with your career goals. Tie specific, quantifiable desired results to your goals. It will make them more real, inspiring and motivating for you.
If I did not know in my heart artists can learn to sell many thousands more of their art from what I teach them, I’d hang it up. If it were just about money for me, I could use what I know and make bank with ethical Internet marketing drop shipping Amazon and Alibaba products, or generating leads for small businesses or any number of other profitable niches.
Just using my knowledge and experience to make money does not float my boat. I am on a mission to make a difference in the lives of artists who follow me. You can thank my mother. She a was an exceptional fine artist, but never got to prove it. She was too busy being a widow raising six kids. If you follow me and find success, there is a little nod to her when you do.
What I do is not just about selling books or workshops. My mission is to serve artists and to help them create success. I have published more than 600 art marketing and art business posts here, and produced dozens of free hour long Art2Market broadcasts with Jason Horejs. The thousands of hours I’ve spent writing posts and preparing free online broadcasts attests, I believe, that I walk my talk on my mission.
Altruism aside, I expect to make money, too. I would be a hypocrite to encourage you to become successful and profitable if I didn’t follow my advice to do the same.
It’s okay that some artists will never join nor spend a nickel with me. I know those who pass on the Art Marketing Mastery workshop can still use the free advice, information and inspiration I publish for them.
I’m good with helping them create a more successful career for themselves. I hope my example will inspire some to give back to their community in some way. Regardless, they are as much a part of my mission as those who join my workshop, or buy my books.
You can’t sell everyone who sees, and even loves your art. Take pride and be happy you enriched their lives all the same. If you are smart, persistent and consistent with your marketing, you will find plenty enough of buyers who will take your art home.
I realize to reach my lofty goals, I will have to work my ass off to make it happen. There is no one standing in the wings ready to do my heavy lifting for me. As I go forward and gain momentum, I will hire help. It is part of the plan. For now, it’s me against the elements. I relish the challenge even though it makes me weary at times. Working everyday with the goal of replacing yourself in every aspect you can is a great goal to have.
The thing is for artists and me; there are no shortcuts. There are ways to be more efficient, but no ways to get around carrying our water. At least until you have built a machine capable of getting your work sold on a regular basis you need to do the work yourself. There are exceptions where a talented spouse or partner joins you in a mutual agreement to grow your business. But, you can’t plan or wish for that to happen. Either you are lucky and have such relationships or you don’t.
My experience is most artists are on their own. Their family and friends have their own water to carry or are not qualified or capable to help. If you are the quintessential solopreneur, you need to figure out how to get the greatest results from a least effort. If you work towards the goal of replacing yourself as soon as possible, you are on to something. There is nothing wrong with delegating when you can afford to do it. Wait until you have systems in place to train someone to fill your business and marketing roles.
One of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits is “Begin with the End in Mind.” It is Habit 2. Here is a poignant quote from Covey on this habit:
Habit 2 is based on imagination–the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint. If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default. It’s about connecting again with your own uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself. Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.
It is hard work to carry your water. To begin, there is no other choice if you want to turn your visualizations into reality. As with exercise, or practice, the dread is often worse than the do. Once you begin to groove your habit with repetition, willpower and discipline, you start to get results.
Getting started and sticking with it is often the hardest part. It makes sense. Whether it’s your car taking off from a red light or a rocket launching off its pad, the most energy is used to start rolling or get lift off. This example carries over for doing those things that equate to carrying your water in your career. Once you get momentum, things get easier.
Once you decide what you want, and it’s different for every artist, then you can make the plans to get you there. If your goals are realistic, and your resources capable, you are the only thing keeping you from reaching your goal.
Put yourself in charge of your career and start matching your actions to your desires and your plans. When you do, you become unstoppable. The reward is worth the effort.
If you are going to make your career happen, you have to be tough. You will have to make some sacrifices. If you study the lives of successful people, you find they made the time to do the things to succeed. It comes down to how much you want your goals to become your reality.
It’s a lot to wrap your arms around when it comes to getting clear on what you want from your career, and what you need to do to realize your dreams. I have reopened the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. It is a self-paced program with nearly 10 hours of recorded art marketing advice. You become part of a private Facebook Art Marketing Mastermind Group. There are many other valuable benefits for you in the program. To learn more CLICK HERE.