First Things First | What’s Your Why?

 Begin with the End in Mind

If you have read more than a few of my posts, you know I take a logical, keep it real approach to creating success, and getting things done. While that path serves a purpose, it leaves some artists who follow me needing help on the other side of the equation.

From me, you get practical advice that will help you advance your cause and grow your business. But what if part of that advice comes with some soul-searching required? I ran into this recently with one of the participants in the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop private Facebook group.

So Many Paths, So Little Time

This artist has worked his entire career in a creative field, but only recently has had the time to devote to pursuing a career as a visual artist. When you see his work, you know he has the talent and a vision for what he wants to do with his art. He’s at the crossroad of figuring out a style and artistic direction. And, he wishes for specifics and helps on personal evaluation, planning, work ethics, goals, business development. Boy, how familiar does that sound to some of you?

Perhaps because offering help on getting clear about artistic direction and style falls out of the pragmatic vein is why I have not addressed the issue. I admit I sometimes transfer my experience and perspective to that of my audience, which I always later realize is a mistake. I overestimate where my audience is in the process of becoming a professional artist.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

I think because I urgently want each of you nearing the pinnacle of your potential that I sometimes forget and act as if you are. If I’ve let any of you down in the process, I’m sorry about that. The good news is there is time to make adjustments.

every artist was once an amateur

I watched a video the other day with Jon Morrow. He publishes the Smart Blogger site and provides training for bloggers. In a survey of his readers, he was shocked to learn something. That is 39% of his readers had yet to launch a blog. Consequently, I found it eye-opening and stunning to learn, as well. I’m sure there is a correlation between his readers and mine.

Putting the S.W.A.G. Factor to Work

Dusting off the out my trusty, infamous S.W.A.G. (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) Factor tool, I presume his results, and mine are similar. That is, many of you reading this are still in the process of figuring out your voice and trying to determine how to get set up so you can address seriously marketing your art.

Likewise, I’m confident there are more of you who have progressed further in your career. That includes many who are doing much better than “okay” in your art careers. Regardless of where you are in your career, I am here for you and applaud that you have chosen to follow your passion for making art a “first things first” commitment in your life. It’s my mission to help you harness that passion in such a way to gain your fans, followers, buyers, and collectors of your work.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

Steven Covey Led the Way to Personal Leadership

first_things_firstSteven Covey has been a hero to me for years. I first read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change 25 years ago. His philosophy and sage advice have stayed with me ever since.

I will tell you a secret that it’s a hard book to read. It took me three attempts to get past the first 100 pages.

It was a profound life-changing experience. Covey’s advice gave me a whole new way to look at how to manage my life and my career. I commend this book to you.

I do each day read a passage from his Daily Reflections for Highly Effective People: Living the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Every Day book. It amazes me that there are 365 profoundly insightful thoughts packed into one book—probably more. Each passage is a reminder of how impactful the book is and how easy it is to miss significant chunks of Covey’s message because he is giving us so much to digest.

Here is a poignant excerpt from Covey’s Daily Reflections:

If we do not develop our own self-awareness and become responsible for our first creations, we empower other people and circumstances outside our Circle of Influence to shape much of our lives by default.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

There are many moving passages in the book. This one was beyond relevant to this post. Some of the things mentioned in today’s quote are better understood with further explanation. In Habit Two, he tells us, to Begin with the End in Mind. It’s his way of getting us to frame things regarding our intentions and actions with purpose.

First Things First

To begin with, the end in mind is a useful exercise. You start by visualizing the end of your life to use as a locus to measure all else. They say branding is what others say about you when you aren’t there. You take things a step further when you ask how do you want to be remembered. It’s a touchstone you can use to inform actions and decisions about how to conduct your life.

You can use it to help you determine what you want from your career as an artist, too. Covey talks in Habit Two about the principle of creation. All things are created twice. There is a mental or first creation, which is followed by a physical or second creation. He contends ventures that fail most often fail with the first creation.

Act or Be Acted Upon

As adults, there is the first creation in all aspects of our lives. We can choose to be proactive in the second creation of our lives, or we become part of the second creation of others.

Circles of Influence versus Circles of Concern

Habit One is Be Proactive. When we focus on being proactive, we put our efforts into our Circle of Influence. We can do something about these things. They include our health, our relationship with spouse, children, family, and friends, and managing what we can at our work.

The opposite of being proactive is to be reactive. An example of this is focusing on things in which we have little or zero control. They include terrorism, interest rates, national debt, international monetary policies, the weather, and more.

To dwell on such things is to operate in the Circle of Concern, which is both reactive and unproductive. Only by having an awareness of time and energy spent in these circles can we move toward completing Habit One and by doing so to learn to Be Proactive in our lives.

Leadership and Management

Covey bases Habit Two on the principles of personal leadership wherein leadership is the first creation. Management is the second creation. He simplifies it this way:

 Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

It is here where the “First things first” theory comes into play. Too often, we fall into seeking to manage with efficiency and setting and achieving goals without first revealing our values to ourselves. But, we don’t have to let that happen. We can rescript ourselves.

We have within us the power to be proactive and to use it make our first creations. We can use the endowment of self-awareness to fuel proactivity within us. Besides self-awareness, we are also endowed with the gifts of imagination so we can visualize our potential and conscience to guide us to develop our talents to match our principles and personal vision for our lives.

The Genuine Why

people buy why you do it Developing a personal mission statement is the most efficient way to get to your Genuine Why. You get there by beginning with the end in mind. Powerful, positive change then occurs by developing a changeless sense of who you are, what you care about, and what you value.

With your mission more clearly established, you can make it the source of your proactivity. It reflects the vision and values that lead your life. You use it to set the direction of your life.

At the Center—the Heart of the Matter

By aligning your thoughts and actions around your mission at the center of your life, you will find the source of your guidance, wisdom, and power. You don’t learn who people are by asking them. You learn by watching them. When you operate in your Circle of Influence and begin to put first things first, you show others who you are by example.

Determine what is truly important and valuable in your life and live it. Make those things at the center of what you do. Everything else, avatars, creative choices, sales, and success are by-products of beginning with the end in mind.


The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.


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  1. I really enjoyed reading your article. I would love for you to look at my site and let me know if there is a way to position my art, my cause and move it forward. I came upon this out of a loss the was gigantic. My husband died of Pancreatic Cancer. I now want to make a difference through my art. The program iPlaid was created using the iPad with Steve Jobs in mind. He was the most visionary person who also succumbed to this terrible diseas . iPlaid means “Intuitive Passion Launches an Inner Discovery” That is what has happened to me. I have a passion for color and art with the first intro in 1972 to Miro in Zurich, then Calder, Hundertwasser and Picasso. All have a major influence on my art. I look forward to hearing from you after you have perused my site. Thank you. Susan Fielder. Lastly, I have presented this to an old client of mine who brought Bono to the RED program and it was willing to help me and really loved what he saw. He said I just need a business plan.

    1. Your art is colorful and vibrant. Your influences are obvious. You have a wonderful backstory that gives you a unique perspective and lots of motivation. I agree with your old client that you need a business plan. It’s not just you. Every artist needs a plan. Otherwise, you’ll be like the Chesire Cat Alice in Wonderland who said, “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”

  2. For me Barney, this is one of your best posts. I agree that there are many of us
    following you that are not ready to commit to your Art Marketing Workshop
    at this time for different reasons. However, since we are the turtles of the group there is hope for us to commit when we have reached the level of requirement. You can be assured that we are working everyday to raise ourselves up and move on. Thank you Barney for your committed support.

  3. Hi Barney and everyone,

    Thank you for sharing your words. Marketing and planning are part of the big picture. Preparing and organizing Art to sell involves time and details as well as savvy business integrity and perseverance. Thank God for the digital age and Internet, and the state of art FineArtAmerica ! I hope all is well and sells well too.
    Blessings all.

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