What Drives You?
It seems like seeking some form of perfection drives a lot of people these days. Maybe that’s all right if you are a world-changing genius… but I would never bet on it. For the rest of us, it’s a ticket to Xanax, Wellbutrin, or a host of other chemicals designed to calm our fevered brains.
With our wired world, we can’t get away from the news. School shootings, loving Trump or hating him. I’m not here to debate him or anything political. I’m just saying the angst around politics, and other shocking news is inescapable. It’s not only Trump and the onslaught of 24/7 news. It’s things like freaking Facebook, too.
We’ve been trained to trim and massage our Facebook newsfeeds to get just the right number of messages from our friends with opinions we share. If you haven’t blocked or unfriended some knucklehead with whom you disagree, you’re not spending enough quality time on Facebook. Ha!
But, despite the tuning the newsfeed, isn’t there always someone who seems to be living a super fabulous life? One we don’t recognize and or relate to because it doesn’t seem possible or real.
It’s easy to have envy or anxiety when we see others seemingly living life large while the rest of us are slogging along wondering whether we can get a few thousand more miles on the tires. Or, keep the clunker for another year. It could be trying to figure out if a lower rate interest card is worth the ding on the credit report because the current balance has crept up higher than we intended. You know. Real life. The stuff we never share on Facebook.
Since you’re reading this, it’s a good guess you are an artist. There are all kinds of head things going with that career choice. Not to pile on or anything, but you had to go and choose something super hard on multiple levels, didn’t you? Like making a decent living, keeping your job, making your spouse and children happy isn’t hard enough. No. You had to go and choose a career as a fine artist.
Don’t get me wrong. I love artists. I am one in words and wood. You may not know I am a skilled fine woodworker and furniture designer. Allergies to wood dust and loss of my beautiful basement shop colluded, (Hehe, I had to go there, right?), to end my woodworking days. These days instead of turning bowls, I spin up words for fun and a living. I like words, as you may have noticed. My weekly Grammarly account report tells me I am in the 98th percentile among all users for using unique words. They never tell me which ones they are though.
Anyway, back to you. So, as I said, you just had to go and choose an art career. Bless you, for that, indeed. We need artists more than ever to add beauty and help us see the world in different ways. But, it’s, as you well know, a challenging career choice. Do you ever think about this? Unlike virtually any other business, you must conceive and make your product before you can take it to market. And, each one is supposed to be a creative, unique masterpiece. No easy-peasy knocking yourself off in the art biz, right?
Dentists don’t make crowns and put them in inventory. Retailers order from wholesalers. Gallerists get artists to give them work to sell on consignment. Widget makers jig up and make the same thing over and over again. You, on the other hand, chose a gig where you must be relentlessly creative all the time. This before you strap on all the same responsibilities other businesses have such as marketing, sales, payroll, and a million other details of which any one of them can fail and harsh your mellow, as the Hippie kids say, in a heartbeat.
And, there is the matter of you are marketing work no one needs to buy because fine art is a discretionary income item. It’s pricey, so, additionally, you must target people who have a degree of wealth. And, you need to market to them in a way you’re in the top of mind when they have a need or a yen to buy art. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy either. Success only comes because you get out and make it happen.
If you are feeling pushed to the limit, please take this advice. Stop and breathe. Look around. Think about what is worrying you and then, (pardon my language, I almost never swear on this blog), say “Fuck It!” And, with one more deep breath, just let it go. Shake it off! Move on. Easier said than done, I know. But, better than stewing in the alternative. Don’t you agree?
Now, I give you this advice because it works for me. Go a step further. Use author Robert Ringer’s philosophy. He calls it the Theory of the Sustenance of a Positive Attitude Through the Assumption of a Negative Result.
That’s a pile of big words to tell you to think things through. Imagine the worst possible thing that can happen. If you are a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, it would be your seeing your hometown team get spanked in a 4-0 blowout for the 2018 NBA Championship. Wait. That just happened. Well, there’s worse news because your star player, LeBron James, is almost inevitably going to bolt for greener pastures. For diehard Cav fans, that sucks, big time. Still, things could be worse. Closer to home, it might be your love life, health, or financial issues that are cycling out of control or pulling you down.
Whatever is ailing you, it’s okay to feel really crappy, but please don’t despair. You should know many others, including me, are here to help you. Robert Ringer is telling us to expect the worst outcome, to view it in advance. Then to realize we can survive the nastiest thing the world has to throw at us. Facing it down in your mind is how you know you’ll survive it before it happens. Steven Covey in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People tells us while we don’t get to choose our circumstances, our great gift of free will allows us to decide how we react to them. And, we can choose to let things go, to forgive and move on, to let the light in once again.
Expect the worst, prepare for the best. Either way, you’ve covered your bet. I know if you are deep in depression or some other seriously bad situation reading pithy advice won’t fix things. It might just piss you off. But, despite that, I do sincerely want you to know people care and that you have options and nothing stays the same. Things can and will change.
In the title of this post, I ask you to Embrace Acceptance. It’s sort of like asking you to buy into the Serenity Prayer, which offers this timeless advice:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
I believe when we learn to let things go, we loosen up and that opens the door to help us gain peace. Perhaps I should say peace of mind. To me, that is you want to get to a tranquil state. Get to a place where things are smoother and the jagged edges less threatening.
If it’s your art career you’re worried about, that’s a normal thing. No matter how unrealistic, we want easy success laid on our doorsteps… like yesterday. But, learning to accept that’s not the case is one step towards peace. Another is realizing gaining success is a process. It’s about taking a series of steps, sometimes repeating those steps, but steadily advancing towards our goal. Relaxing with the knowledge we have the tools and skills to put a plan into action and keep it going is within our grasp. We can do this. You got this.
And, that rolls us back around to perfection. You are probably never going to know perfection. You may come close, but when will there never be room for improvement?
You can’t compare where others are to your career and let it bother you. That’s their life. And, the same with your family or friends boating in the south of France, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, or earning obscene amounts of money. As the saying goes, “Not my monkeys, not my circus.” They are on a different plane and journey from you. And, when you look hard, you know in your heart of hearts, you never would want to pay the price they paid to look or be that fabulous… at least outwardly. ?
Unlike perfection, peace of mind is attainable. If things are rough, you may not have it all the time every day. But, as Leonard Cohen sang, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” So, there are cracks in the armor that is holding in what’s ailing you and bringing you down. You need to look for it. Maybe you need some help to find it. That’s what friends are for. No one ever needs to travel alone. There is always a light, a person, a guide to help us.
I don’t think Van Morrison could have written and performed the songs he sings if he never plumbed the depths of his soul. Through his lyrics, he’s told us he’s battled melancholia and depression. He’s also told us there are spirits and guides all around us. We should believe him. He’s not a mere minstrel. He is an instrument, a guide, and a spirit to help us as his lyrics from his song, “Checkin’ It Out” tell us:
We’ve got to put our heads together
I’m sure that we can work it out
I’m weighin’ up the situation
And checkin’ it out
Takin’ it further
Takin’ it further
Checkin’ it out
And all the obstacles along the way
Sometimes may feel so tremendous
There are guides and spirits all along the way
Who will befriend us
Let’s talk it out across the table
Make sure that we leave nothin’ out
Get into it like a meditation
Start checkin’ it out
Takin’ it further
Takin’ it further
Checkin’ it out
Like Van, I implore you to check it out. Reach out to your friends, your guides, and spirits. There is someone there with whom you can put your heads together. One who can help you work it out.
Screw Perfection, Embrace Acceptance, Gain Peace… Be Well. We Need You!
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- Fear and Doubt and Luck in the Art Business