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The Artist’s Dilemma

The Artist gives her heart to the cause. Her work, I’ve heard many times, isn’t for the audience.

It’s for Art’s sake. 

The Marketer positions the work so that the audience will make a decision to buy it. Her work, on the other hand is to profit from the Art.

This works very well when the production team is staffed with artists who are pleased with the opportunity to deliver their art for the greater good. It pleases their soul.

If the artists produce their art for an organization that recognizes the value of their art, they are well-compensated for their contribution. The Marketers, then take the work of the Artists and find a way to help the organization profit from the work the artists are contributing.

This, to me is a win-win proposal. It’s a conversation for another day.

The “hard work”, as Seth calls it, is when the Artist must also be the Marketer.

To feel the joy that comes from making art, and the passion to make a significant contribution, when she must also generate a living.

This might be why so many Artists struggle with Imposter syndrome.

On one hand, it’s our art, and it’s a joy to create it.

To achieve mastery of our art is our never-ending quest.

On the other hand, the agony of feeling like we must position our passion as a “business,” challenges the artist and leaves her questioning whether her motives are pure.

Whether she can make a difference, AND a living.

Getting paid to Sprint — is that the same as selling out? If (and that’s the big ‘IF’) she can profit from her Art, the same way an organization with its own marketing team might.

In the end, the Artist will choose to do what calls her soul and leads her to do work that matters.

And this, is what finding real talent might look like today. To know someone who would lay it all on the line for the sake of their art, is to know that someone is truly committed to the art that they produce.

The thing is, art isn’t easy.

If it were easy, art would not hang on walls, or be revered or appreciated, because it wouldn’t be art — it would be commonplace.

It if were easy, more people would choose to make a difference, instead of simply opting to make a living.

If it were easy, the young artist wouldn’t be discouraged by her parents from pursuing her art – (thank goodness that was not a challenge I ever experienced.)

So, maybe, art isn’t for art’s sake after all.

Maybe it’s for human’s sake.

Because the art of being human, taking the risk of being vulnerable, and waking up day after day knowing “this might not work” is exactly what makes us human, and the joy of doing work that matters might just become an art form …

Someday, this is what success might look like.

Need More Rah Rah!

It’s not uncommon to hear feedback about the way I approach life. But before I tell you what I hear from others, let me tell you a couple of things I already knew, before these responses started to trickle in.

I am weird. My positive attitude can be overwhelming. People can’t handle so much “rah rah.” When I am surrounded by my family, I see it more clearly, because, sitting around the table, I see a lot of people who believe in the same things I do, so, in fact, we’re all weird!

I didn’t always see this, but today, when I hear someone suggest that I should take off the rose-colored glasses, I know that I come by it honestly!

Recently, someone told me about a conversation they had with someone about me — and I was not surprised to hear: “They don’t have a problem with you, they know you are aware that they can only take so much ‘rah rah.’”

Yes. I am aware. We can have that understanding. We can make it work.

I am aware that the world has made people unwilling to embrace a positive attitude, regardless of how Pollyanna it might appear.

There are days when I am not sure it’s worth it. I struggle to keep shining the light.

I wonder if everyone else might be right, and I really am just weird in the sense that I should adjust to fit into the negativity that makes them feel so comfortable.

I wonder if I should “be more realistic, less optimistic; More “get a grip on reality;” Less, “people say I’m a dreamer.”

But, here’s the thing. The more I give in to “reality” the more difficult it is to get through the day.

The more I get angry at the check-out line when there’s a person paying with loose change, slowing me down.

The more frustrated I get when someone is driving slowly and I am in a hurry.

The more I want to give an attitude back to the snarky person behind the counter who is having a bad day — or maybe a bad life.

The more I obsess about a mean comment on Facebook.

The more I look for things to be miserable, or annoyed by.

The more I want bad things to happen to people who have hurt me.

I don’t want to live like that. And, I don’t want to be around people who live like that. So, when someone suggests that there’s too much “rah rah,” I choose less time with that person.

I used to pull back the “rah rah,” and try to “blend in” with everyone else, but I’ve learned that there’s no benefit to me (or others) for me to shrink so that they can feel more comfortable.

Instead, I just keep beating the “rah rah” drum and looking for those who like the beat.

Living a life that is filled with joy, acceptance, and a refusal to accept that it should be any other way, is the only way I want to strive to live.

I want to continue to believe in what is possible. I believe that things will all work out. They always do. And, sometimes, they work out even better than I had imagined they would.

I hope I will be able to hold on to this attitude for the rest of my life. It has changed me, and it has taught me so much about how I want to live.

If you’ve ever wanted to see more positivity in the world, just look for it. It’s right under your nose.

Rose-colored glasses? Nah, it’s not the glasses. We just need a little more rah rah in the world!

Valuing the Past

There’s nothing wrong with the status quo.

The details of how we arrived at this pivotal moment, can be found in the ideals and the decisions made in the past, and the limits we find on our capabilities today are only a matter of challenging what is, with a clear understanding that people — good, hard-working, passionate people were responsible for the changes they made that got us to today.

Even if they seem stale and stagnant to us — the next generation.

Looking back — if we’re willing to see the status quo as it was before it became the status quo — we will see people just like us, challenging the “old guard,” and looking for ways to push beyond the place things were to find a better way.

We cannot stand still. 

But we cannot move forward without honoring the wisdom of those who have come before us.

We cannot get discouraged — real progress only comes when we’re here for the long haul.

Yes, you’re right, it shouldn’t be this difficult. Times have changed. Times are always changing.

What happens next is up to us.

Because when we find ourselves standing where they are, and we discover that we have become the status quo, we cannot forget who we were before we (suddenly?) became them.

Valuing the past ensures that someday, we too will be appreciated for the things we contributed to move our community, our country, or society forward.

The only thing we cannot do, is give up — on finding a way — on creating a future that we can be proud of.

Get Back on the Horse

The horse doesn’t care whether you do or not. He might sense your fear, but if anything, he is indifferent to it.

And, it’s so easy to explain the thing holding you back. Everyone will understand.

If you’re afraid of horses, or the high dive at the pool, there’s probably a good reason. You’ve probably explained your logical explanation a hundred times. You’ve convinced yourself that your fear is rational, and you’ve grown to accept it as reality.

Horses and diving boards are scary. Stay away from any experience that might involve either.

Your story has nothing to do with the horse, or the diving board.

Rationalize it all you want, but the only thing that is real is your belief that it’s ok to be afraid.

The fear isn’t in the horse, or the diving board.

The fear is in doing it anyway.

I was stalling (no pun intended!) the writing of this post. I was afraid of it. I started to think about you, the reader, and what you would think if I started writing again, after a week.

The process isn’t whether you’re going to read this and think anything of me. The process is in overcoming that fear and doing it anyway.

I am back on the horse today.

What’s holding you back from getting back on the horse? Are you buying into the crap that your story about your fear is telling you? Is it real? Or is it just an excuse to let you off the hook?

Are you Connectable?

I write a lot about the power of connection. It’s the foundation of many leaders’ stories of success. And, as they say, success leaves clues. So, as a detective, on the hunt for the best pathway for my own success, I have spent a lot of time studying. The most common theme among the most successful people that I admire (note, my definition of success is based upon the message that Zig Ziglar was so famous for:

“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” 

The part that has recently been more relevant to me, is not as much about how connected one is, but how connectable

Before I get into this, there are a lot of precautions we all must take to ensure we’re taking care of ourselves. I do not condone helping others at your own expense, or letting others take advantage of your kindness, however, I do believe that the gateway to happiness toward a successful life is in the giving back to those who find themselves seeking answers to questions and puzzles you’ve already solved. To me, it’s much more efficient that way!

So, what do I mean by being connectable? Here are two short stories:

1. When I sent an email earlier this year, to my favorite author, Seth Godin, I was sending it for myself – not knowing whether he would receive the email, but knowing that I needed to share my gratitude for the way his work and his example has molded and shaped me and given me hope to make a difference. To put it simply, I wanted to connect to him. And, it could have been that I just sent the email, and went on with my life, knowing how busy, popular, important he was. But that’s not what happened. Within 15 minutes, I had a reply. This is what being connectable, what being a leader worth following, what realizing the value of the people around you (the connections you make, simply by being alive), is all about.

2. Several years ago, I was still figuring out my place in my community. I looked out, as many people do, looking for answers. I don’t struggle to find people I can learn from – there’s a book that can help me learn anything I want. But I admit, I found it difficult to find a mentor locally, as I was designing a life I felt was worth living. I discovered something that was disappointing to me at the time – there was little accessibility to connect with the leaders of the community. Quite honestly, I saw a very closed environment. I sent a couple of emails, and tried to connect with some leaders via Facebook and LinkedIn, but my requests went unanswered – I eventually canceled the requests, because I felt embarrassed that I would even have asked for their time.

But there was one person who was accessible, and it’s quite possible he is one of the busiest people I now can say that I know, because he was connectable. I had not met this person yet, but we were connected on Facebook. I could see in his interactions a person who was accessible – connectable, and who would help me get some clarity on my path. So, I sent a Facebook message (I didn’t have his email), and I hoped for the best. Sure enough, I had a response from him later that day. His name is Bill Mutz, and he was just elected Mayor of Lakeland last month. And, to be quite honest, it is probably because he’s been willing to take the time to listen, to be connectable to a lot of people over the years.

I get the feeling that this is something new, trending, and challenging to the status quo leaders who have, for years, made deals in the back room, with their known contacts, getting it done their way.

I argue that today, the connections you have are only the beginning, and that being connectable is the way to succeed in a world seeking connection, and transparency.

So, be connected if you must, but the real work starts when you’re ready to be connectable. 

Numbers Don’t Lie

No matter your station in life, you’re going to be faced with the truth that numbers bring to any discussion.

But if we want to make a difference, we have to be willing to read between the numbers.

We have to see the people that those numbers represent.

When we look solely at the economies of scale, and the safe bets, we’re asking the numbers to do the work, instead of our hearts.

After all, if a market has proven itself, it’s easy to nod in agreement and throw one more vote, or dollar into a project.

If we’re wrong, we can blame the numbers. Hedge our bets, avoid the risk.

Who are we to disrupt what’s always been working?

Those who want to make a difference, have to be willing to see beyond the numbers. We have to be willing to take the risk, invest the emotional labor that listening requires, and make the hard decisions.

We have to begin to trust more than the numbers. We have to be willing to trust ourselves.

It’s the unproven, raw instinct that doesn’t get much attention from the numbers.

The family that just needs to make ends meet this month but doesn’t “qualify” for assistance from the programs that are based on the numbers.  How do we help them?

The passionate minority that seems to be pushed to the fringe because the majority rules. How do we see them, and forge a way to begin to provide a more equitable path?

It’s not a political debate whether people matter, but when we add the numbers into the equation, politics rule the day.

If we’re going to make a difference, we have to be willing to listen in between the numbers. There may be no financial or political reason to care about the little guys, but there might still be a reason.

It’s called the human reason.

Believing Again

For the record: I don’t wear rose-colored glasses. I don’t believe in unicorns and I understand that not everything is sunshine and rainbows.

I struggle with the same issues everyone else does, and I try to consider where ugliness and disrespect come from before I disregard the negative and critical voices that use social media to voice their concerns, without filters or any consideration of the person they are directing their thoughts (often unfiltered) toward.

I do believe there’s a way to communicate that respects ALL parties (yes, even the parties that I don’t agree with, and even to a degree those parties that seem to forget their manners).

And I believe if we want something to happen, there’s a right way to go about it. And it requires face to face, in person conversations.

Social media is powerful. (And it should be considered more and more as a means for connecting to the fringe, and to understanding how to convene the ideas of our communities – by showing that we care about the ideas people – regular, everyday people – are sharing).

It is not perfect – it’s powered by people, so it’s never going to be any better than we are.

There’s a lot of work to be done.

I guarantee it will never (yep, that’s the word – never) get done without people accepting, listening and respecting one another.

We are responsible for the carnage of the words we write. And we can reap the rewards of the hard work that human connection requires.

The hard part – the work that matters is recognizing that the people we don’t agree with – the so-called “keyboard warriors” are the very people we need to bring close, listen to openly, and determine how best to build trust with them.

The trust is eroded. We can’t build a strong foundation without trust.

Whenever we decide to start, we can begin believing again.

Too Much Light

There’s a fear in my heart that I must work daily to silence, or it will take over and convince me that everything I am doing is “wrong.”

Who cares about your light? You’re blinding them. You’re overwhelming.

Have you ever discovered that, simply by being yourself, you’re helping others do the same?

Holding strong to who you are, and what you believe can be difficult.

You get a feel of people. Some people feel encouraged by others’ exuberance and enthusiasm and others feel threatened, and suspicious.

I once held a little experiment.

I ran around Lake Hollingsworth, which is about one mile in diameter. When I encountered some people running or walking the other direction, I noticed many of them avoided eye contact. They looked down, or away, or just stared as if transfixed as if they were watching something serious on television.

Here we were, two humans, doing something healthy. Getting outside to enjoy the city, the weather, our health, and we couldn’t even look at each other for a polite smile?

The next time around, I was ready.

I gave them a smile that said, “I am going to smile at you until you smile back!” (Actually, when I think about it, it was a pretty goofy, silly, happy smile…)

And guess what?

They smiled. The saw my silly, goofy friendly smile, and they welcomed it.

Not all of them.

But most of them.

And the best part of this experiment was that I was able to be myself.

A friend of mine calls me a Goober (referring to Sponge Bob’s Goofy Goober Rock song).

We don’t have to buy into the way everyone else acts.

We can be ourselves.

And, if you’re not into Spongebob, you can refer to this quote that always comes to mind, at the right times, challenging me not to cover my light:

“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children (and Goofy Goobers) do.

So, let your light shine. Be yourself, and don’t hold it back.

Ripples

Whatever you do, however small it might seem…

Realize this — it is making a difference.

It doesn’t have to be everything.

It’s ok if you think it’s nothing.

Whether you know it or not, it will be something.

The only thing that is “nothing…”

Is nothing

Shortcuts

There is usually an easy way around the hard work. We can buy cheaper products, get cheap labor to put the thing we want to build together, we can just do the minimum to check it off the list.

But what’s the joy in that?

Emotional labor isn’t fun, but it guarantees connection — to our lives and to what we are doing.

And, if we want it to last, do we really want to look at something we cut corners to build?

If we take the shortcut, we’re missing the point.

How committed we are to the work we do determines much more than we realize.

My mother taught me a lot without ever teaching me. She just had a way of living life that I realize now has become my way of life.

As a little girl, we had beautiful dark mahogany Ethan Allen furniture. She told me they bought it before my brother was born. They had saved for a year. They wanted the quality furniture that would last.

Bucky was born in 1971. I just sold that furniture at a garage sale this year.

It was part of my entire life. Because it was worth saving for. It was worth working for.

I can’t say I have always followed these principles, but I realize today, the value in the hard work — the importance of seeing something come to life after hard work.

The things that I tried to hurry are no longer around.