Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Self-Image - Remove the Negative, Add the Positive

If you remember the last time we met, we talked about success. We determined that YOU have to decide what success means to you. No one else can decide that for you. You must also never let your quest for success as an artist impact any other area of your life negatively, because you are never truly successful if you have to sacrifice another part of your life in order to attain success.

Today, I would like to talk to you about having a healthy self-image and how important that is to being a successful artist.

What I mean by having a healthy self-image is that you truly believe in your ability to become successful. It’s not arrogance that causes this belief in yourself. It is a dogged determination that you will work hard enough to achieve your dreams that causes this belief. Believing in yourself is quite possibly the most important step in becoming successful. Let me repeat that again, and pause a moment to let it sink in.

Believing in yourself is quite possibly the most important step in becoming successful.

You might be thinking to yourself right now that artists aren’t really suppossed to be materially successful. Artists have to always struggle to make ends meet. Art after all is just a hobby, right?

Your friends, family and even other artists will often tell you that as an artist you just have to accept the fact that you will never make any money. You will just be dirt poor, and you will always be fighting for your next meal. They are the friends and artists that feed the myth of the so-called “starving artist.”

Well, if you begin to buy in to that nonsense; if you begin to listen to the naysayers; and if you start believing what they are saying as being truth then chances are that you will begin to live out that “truth” in your own life. You will find that you never seem to make any money with your art. You simply find that success as an artist is always just out of reach.

On the flip side, if you block out the nonsense; if you begin to stop listening to the naysayers; and if you reject the myth of the “starving artist” and believe that success is attainable then you will begin to find that doors start opening up for you. Good things start happening, and you find yourself starting to become successful as an artist. You will begin to see that success as an artist is well within your reach.

Henry Ford is famously remembered for saying “whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

That is SO true. Belief in yourself is key.

Let’s not get all starry-eyed into thinking that it is easy to believe your way into success, because it’s not.

It is hard work.

It will be opposed.

Remember when I referenced “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield a couple of weeks ago? He talks at length about “resistance” being the very thing that stands between the life you currently live & the life you wish to live. You will find that it is no different with believing in your self. You will find that things will conspire against you in such a way to try to break your spirit; to try and make you doubt that success is attainable. You must resist the temptation to buy into those things that stand in your way of greatness.

A word of warning, if being an artist is truly your calling (and I have a feeling that most of you listening already feel that you are called to be an artist. It is, in fact, written deeply in your heart) then expect to be heavily assaulted in this area. You will need to guard yourself at all times against negativity.

So, how do you guard against negativity? How do you nurture a healthy self-image? How do you maintain belief in your ability to succeed as an artist? What if you don’t believe that you can succeed as an artist? What if you have already bought into the lies & myths surrounding the very idea of being a successful artist?

To be sure, there is a lot to unpack here. There is a depth to learning how to develop a healthy self-image and how to develop a belief in yourself that I believe will take more than one blog/podcast to fully explore. With that in mind, it is my hope that this particular blog/podcast will serve as a brief introduction of things to come.

One of the first things you can do to nurture a healthy self-image & guard against negativity is to tune out all negative thoughts & stop letting negative information gain access to your mind.

It could be as simple as turning off the television. It could be as drastic as changing the friends with whom you associate.

I know for me, I had to stop listening to talk radio in the mornings on the way to work. I also had to stop watching the news on television. Although both provided a great deal of useful information, they are both very negatively slanted.

Once I stopped listening to the negative, I laid the foundation for something better to take its place. The same will be true for you.

The next thing you can do to nurture a healthy self-image & guard against negativity is to tune in to positive thoughts & start letting positive information gain access to your mind.

This can be done in a variety of ways. You can read positive and uplifting books, and you can listen to positive and uplifting podcasts on your iPod.

For instance, reading authors such as Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie, Dan Miller, John Eldredge and John Maxwell will help put positive thoughts into your mind.

I have found that reading those particular authors along with others, and listening to podcasts such as the Daily Audio Bible keep my mind filled with positive energy.

As Zig Ziglar states, “Your input determines your output.”

By feeding your mind positive information, you will in turn produce positive output in your own life.

Once you begin having positive thoughts of your own and you start seeing yourself positively, it becomes much easier to envision yourself as being a successful artist.

And envision you must.

If you cannot envision yourself being successful as an artist, then you will not be successful.

So, which will it be for you?

Will you continue to let you mind be filled with negative thoughts, or will you turn the tables and start putting positive information into your mind?

It’s your choice & I know that you will want to start feeding upon the positive & rejecting the negative.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What is Success?

Last week we talked about the fact that you, as an artist, are 100% responsible for your future. Whether you are ultimately successful or not is completely up to you. Remember you already have all the tools necessary in which to become successful.

But, what is success really? This is the topic I want to explore today.

Webster’s Dictionary defines success as:

a: degree or measure of succeeding,
b: favorable or desired outcome;
also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence

So, that is what Webster has defined success as, but where does that leave us?

I mean, we all talk about how we want to be successful artists, but what does that mean exactly?

If you have decided that you DO want to be successful, you must then define what success looks like to you.

Take a little bit of time right now to let that sink in. Begin to think and explore in your mind exactly what being successful as an artist looks like to you.

Does success mean wealth for you? If so, how much wealth do you need to have to be considered successful?

Does success mean that you are recognized in the art community as a great artist? If so, what part of the art community needs to recognize your greatness? Is it local, statewide, national or international recognition that you seek?

Does success mean fame & notoriety? If so, what is the scope of your fame?

So, have you given it any thought yet?

What does success look like to you?

For me, being able to create works of art that sells consistently enough & well enough that I am able to support my family well is what success looks like to me. Of course, I also desire the accolades that come with creating great works of art, but bottom line is that I want to be able to create works of art and be able to provide for my family.

Maybe you are like me and simply want to be able to create art & support your family.

Maybe success to you is having a large bankroll & international notoriety?

Maybe it’s this.

Maybe it’s that.

Whatever it is, you must define it for yourself, and you must be specific.

Once you have determined what success looks like to you, you need to understand that you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to see it through. Remember, you are 100% responsible for your success, so you must make sure that you are doing everything in your power to make it happen.

One thing you must know is that there are no short-cuts to becoming successful. You cannot achieve success by trying to cheat the system. You must achieve success through hard work & dedication. Most importantly you must achieve success with strong moral character & integrity.

If you try to get there any other way, you compromise yourself, and any perceived success will be short lived. Once your lack of character or integrity comes to light, and it almost certainly will at some point, people will cease to do business with you.

Another thing you must know is that there is more to success than you might think. Here is what I mean:

I believe that in order to be truly successful as an artist, your perceived success should not affect any other aspect of your life negatively.

In short, you must look to become successful in all areas of your life as well. Because if you do end up becoming a world famous artist, but you have done so by sacrificing your family, your physical health or your spiritual health can you really be considered successful?

Success should never cause you harm in any other area of your life. If it does; you are not truly successful.

Conversely, if you think that there is an area of you life that is not currently running on all cylinders, you must address the issue and correct it. If you do not, the imbalance in your life will eventually begin to affect the other areas of your life and most assuredly it will affect your ability to create art. For example, if you are having issues with your health and you don’t do anything to correct it, your ability to create will eventually be affected.

When it comes to the subject of success, it pays to look for wisdom in other places. One of the places I go to quite often is the Bible.

Luke 9:25 (NIV)
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

So think of your success in the context of that verse.

Whatever success means to you, it is my hope that you are able to achieve it. Remember you must first define it, and then you must go about attaining it without letting the pursuit of success adversely affect any other area of your life.

With all that has been said today about success, I want to close with what Ralph Waldo Emerson had to say about the subject of success:

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You Are 100% Responsible For All Aspects Of Your Art Career

Last week I gave you a brief introduction as to what you can expect each week on The Empowered Artist, and today we will dive in to a topic that is possibly one the hardest topics for each of us to accept. It is a topic that each of us, as artists, have had to face at one time or another. Maybe it’s at the forefront of your mind right now.

The topic of which I’m speaking, of course, is Personal Responsibility.

What I am going to say next can possibly be seen as being heartless (especially if you are struggling with this topic right now) so I’m just going to say it …

You, as an artist, are 100% responsible for your own future.

Not 50%. Not 75%. Not even 99%.

Let me repeat this for emphasis, you, as an artist, are 100% responsible for your own future.

There is no getting around this fact, especially if you truly want to be successful. You must realize that you alone are responsible for all aspects of being in business as an artist. No one else is responsible for your success. There are no scapegoats that you can use if you are not where you desire to be as an artist. You can accept NO excuses from yourself when it comes to your art career, because frankly, any excuse you dream up for yourself at this point can only be seen as complaining why your career isn’t where it should be.

Here is what you must know …

Complaining will not take your career any higher.
Complaining will not produce beautiful works of art.
Complaining will not sell you art.
Complaining will only guarantee that you achieve mediocrity at best with your art.

Since success is what you want as an artist, then you must begin to recognize when you are setting yourself up for mediocrity. Examine the thoughts that cross your mind when you think about your art career, especially the thoughts that come up when you are examining any potential roadblock in your career.

You may find yourself saying:

“I want to be successful as an artist” …

"but, all I want to do is create. I don’t want to have to do anything else."

Or, "but, I'm not good at marketing my own work."

Or, "but, I don't have time to do everything."

Or, “but, I have to do something else just to earn a living”

Or, “but, I can’t now that I have all this responsibility.”

If you find that any of these thoughts or any similar thoughts have crossed your mind, you need to understand that by allowing these thoughts to permeate you mind you are actually sabotaging your own efforts to succeed.

These complaints or excuses you create in your mind are really just your way of comforting yourself for not living up to your end of the bargain. It’s like saying to yourself, “it’s just to hard,” and then laying on the couch and eating ice cream.

In his book, “The War of Art,” Steven Pressfield refers to those things that stand between the life you live & the life you wish to live as “resistance.” Can you see how these complaints and excuses that have been floating around in your mind are just a form of resistance that is standing between you and the life you desire? I hope you can.

If you haven’t read Pressfield’s book, I highly recommend that you do so as it lays out exactly what creative types must do to overcome “resistance.”

Again, the success you desire is only attainable if you take 100% responsibility for your own career.

Josiah Charles Stamp, President of the Bank of England in the 1920's, once said,

“It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”

Here is why you can’t escape responsibility …

Let’s say that all you truly want to do is create your art work, and you want someone else to handle all the day-to-day aspects of your business. Let’s even take for granted that you have the means in which to hire the person or persons to do that for you.

Well, you have to take responsibility to do the research that finds the individual(s) that you can trust that will handle those aspects of your business. You have to make sure that they are going to represent you & your work as you intend them to. Then once you have hired the people to do the work, you have the responsibility of making sure that they continually represent you & your work as you want to be represented.

As I said last week, you are the best advocate for your art, so you have to make sure the people you have representing your art are familiar with how you would want your work represented. And you also have to remember that it is a continual process.

So you see, even if you can have other take care of certain aspects of your career, you are no less responsible for its success.

Here is the good news if you have the desire to create art. I mean, if you truly desire to be an artist, then odds are that you CAN do all the work that is necessary to be successful. Even if you don’t feel that you have the required skill set for a particular area, it is a skill set that can be learned. You have all the tools necessary at your disposal to be successful.

Two verses from the Bible sum up why I believe that you can be successful as an artist if that is what you truly desire.

Psalms 8:3 -5

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)

These verses point to two things.

First, that each of us has been crowned with glory & honor. I believe that each of us displays the glory that was bestowed on us in different ways. For us creative types, I believe we display this glory through the act of creating art.

Second, that God has distinct plans for each of us that give us hope and a future. If you have a burning desire to create art, chances are that it is part of the plan God has for you. It is your job to figure out exactly what that means for you, but it should give you hope for the future.

I feel that I need to remind you that this process we are undertaking is a journey. Many of the obstacles that we need to overcome will be hard fought battles. Learning to take 100% responsibility for your career is one of those battles. That is why I want to closeout with what has become known as an unofficial mantra of the Marine Corps. It is: improvise, adapt and overcome

Feel free to use this mantra as you approach the obstacles you face that try to keep you from taking 100% responsibility for your career. Remember, you have everything you need at your disposal to become successful. You just may have to improvise, adapt and overcome! The key to the mantra being that you WILL overcome.