In my last post, I wrote about the fact that for many years my motto has been, “Follow your heart and the money will follow.”
It has been true for me and for many other people that I know, but it has not proven true for many others.
Allow me to elaborate.
We live in a very rural area in the Far North of New Zealand.
Being a rural place with a tiny population, there are not many work opportunities for people who live here.
Years ago the government started a very commendable initiative, by funding an arts program subsidizing unemployed people residing in the area, to study to become artists.
The program was wonderful, and many people benefited from the education they received.
An artist collective had started in the area, and local artists exhibited and sold their art in the collective gallery.
Last week, Jules took the ferry to the nearby village of Rawene to buy some vegetables for us.
He had an hour to wait for the return ferry, so he decided to see the art exhibit at the newly opened art gallery in Rawene.
While there, he spoke with a local artist whom we have known for years.
This artist told Jules that the government had closed the arts program since it has not been proven that it has helped the unemployment situation in the region.
So why is it that many artists, regardless of their amazing skills and talents, are still unable to earn a living from their art?
In other words, why do some artists follow their dreams, but the money does not follow?
I would like to offer a collection of thoughts and ideas about this subject.
First I like to say that becoming an artist, does not always imply fulfilling an inner dream or following your heart.
Many people choose to become artists not because they crave or feel compelled to make art, but simply because they do not feel that other career possibilities are open to them.
In other words, they might not feel that they have enough education, or energy, or patience or nerves, or guts or power to pursue other professional careers.
It is fun and easy to make art and crafts.
We are all naturally born artists. It is an innate human trait.
It is not complicated to make art.
But selling your art is another matter all together.
I have met backpackers on the beaches of Thailand, Sydney and Greece, who sell handmade necklaces or anklets at their local flea markets or night markets.
They were not building art careers, just hoping to raise enough money to pay for their vacations.
An art career, like any other business, is a business venture.
Instead of selling computer chips or shoes, you are selling art.
It is a demanding career that requires that you spend lots of time marketing your work.
Perhaps even MORE time marketing than you actually spend in the studio.
I can speak about it from my own experience.
After many years of exhibiting at art shows across America and selling my art, I decided that I had become too exhausted to continue.
Painting and making art will always be some of the ways I express myself, but I have reached a point that making money from my art was no longer that important to me.
I had done that and proven my point to myself, and now it was time for me to explore other adventures in life.
I felt that I had been to Michigan, Tampa, Houston or Chicago too many times, and not yet once to the beaches of Tahiti…. I wanted to dive in remote islands, brushing against colorful fish and looking into the eyes of real sharks.
I did not want to only make art, I wanted to create an artistic LIFE….To make my life my masterpiece, my art.
My life journey evolved when I freed up my time to have more and different adventures in my life.
I still keep my website updated and sell art in that way.
I just do not make lots of efforts to approach galleries or do art shows.
But after many years, I can offer my perspective on the subject for those who are interested.
I believe that the Universe ALWAYS wants us to have everything we want.
If we do not have it, on some level we have not been welcoming it into our life.
Many times we mess things up and sabotage ourselves without even knowing it.
We do so habitually and unconsciously, by not following basic universal rules that govern the laws of abundance.
“Good work ethics” is a basic term most people do not fully understand.
Those rules apply whether you are selling real state or art, since they are universal; they apply whether you live in Europe, the USA or China.
Among the rules of good work ethics are:
Never do a sloppy job, and never cut corners.
Always do the very, very, very best you can.
If you did something wrong, fix it; do not sell it, either at full price or cheaply.
Give the very best service that you can, and put your heart into it.
Think of your collectors and clients BEFORE you think of yourself. Your aim is to build trust that will last a lifetime.
Do not hesitate for too long.
Answer interested inquiries or emails as soon as you can.
Do not take days to reply, or to write back to potential clients,
Write back immediately, make a decision and act on it.
Many times opportunities are missed because of this.
Many years ago, I had an expensive piece of art displayed in a local art gallery that had just opened in our village, which was manned by local volunteer artists.
I did not expect to sell it in our little rural village, but I wanted to be a part of our growing art collective. Our area was fast developing into a thriving arts community.
A man on a motorcycle rode into town.
He loved my art, and made an offer on it to the local artist that was manning the gallery that day.
It was a lower offer than the asking price, but it was a substantial and good offer.
The local artist, not yet being experienced enough to understand the principles of marketing and sales, said he would call me to see if I would take less for the painting.
He did not to pick up the phone to call me immediately, and instead said that he would call me later.
Needless to say, the man who was traveling through town realized that this was not a simple, effortless process.
Beside offering to buy the art, he also needed to fully trust that the gallery was capable of packing, insuring and shipping the large and heavy painting to him in a timely and elegant manner, and he was correct in assuming that this local gallery might not be capable of pulling this off at that early time in its life.
If you put your art in a gallery to sell, it becomes a product for sale.
Many artists view the word “product” as an unholy term.
The definition of the word “product” is: “An article or a substance that is manufactured or refined for sale.”
Being too attached to your art and not understanding that in order to sell it, it must become a product with aesthetic value, or meaning or symbolism or appeal to others, can be a block to selling it.
“Refined for sale” means that you must finish the process of taking it from the confines of the studio, which is its womb, to the world to display it and share it with everyone who sees it.
This truth also applies to selling real estate.
If you want to sell your house, it cannot be so personal that others cannot relate to it, nor see themselves living in it.
Take your family photos off the piano and off all the hallway and staircase walls.
Give people a chance to see it as THEIR house.
Art that is too personal to be understood by people or to appeal to other people, usually does not sell.
Another reason many people do not succeed is that they keep changing their minds.
It is difficult to hit the target, even with an arrow that has been shot straight and true, if you keep on moving the target or pulling it away constantly.
You must set your target and head towards it with no deviations. Be patient and think long term.
I once attended a workshop in which the speaker illustrated this difficulty very well.
He asked us how we could possibly reach Chicago from Miami, if along the way we were to decide to go to Phoenix, Arizona and then again decide to go to LA.
You might have fun along the way, but what is certain is that you will not get to Chicago this way.
If you decide to sell your house and later change your mind, you will not sell your house.
You did not fail in selling your house; you changed your mind, moved the target, took a detour.
Marketing art is a full-time Public Relations job.
Good galleries maintain close relationships with art collectors. They organize parties, lectures, events and educational programs for their potential collectors.
There are many ways in which we block money and other good things from coming to us.
One way is by not being able to receive.
In order to get money or other blessings, we must develop the ability to receive.
Years ago, I had this same issue.
In a workshop, the facilitator told us to notice how we subconsciously behave in ways that indicate that we are unable to receive good.
It can start with something as simple as a compliment, she said.
A friend tells you that you look great in the dress you are wearing, and asks if it is a new dress.
You put her compliment down by saying: “What, this old thing? I’ve had it for years.”
In that workshop, we learned to truly receive a compliment by saying: “Thank you! It is so kind of you to notice.”
The hardest thing for me was to learn to feel GOOD about being the center of attention, about receiving love and adoration, and therefore, receiving money as well.
I once wrote about how one night at the restaurant which I owned many years ago in Tel Aviv, Israel, my chef did not show up for the fully booked evening shift.
I spent a sweaty and extremely busy evening in the kitchen replacing him.
I told my waitresses to tell every table that I am cooking in the kitchen, and to apologize to them for any delays.
When I was finished, I wiped off the sweat and went into the dining room to greet some of my longtime clients whom the waitresses told me had come to dine.
The whole restaurant, every single person in the restaurant that night, got to its feet and in unison, they clapped for my success.
It was their way of telling me that the food was great and that I had done well.
Instead of feeling happy and good receiving their compliments, I felt frozen inside and wanted to evaporate… To get out of there…
This was when I first realized that I had an issue with receiving.
More recently, a woman in our little village in Kohukohu called and asked me if Jules would be willing to show her how to put together a business plan.
She intended to renovate rooms in her house to convert it to a bed and breakfast, and to advertise them on AirBNB.
She said that instead of paying us, she would be happy to work in our garden in exchange for the time that Jules would help her with her business plan.
I said that Jules would be happy to help her to put together a business plan, and I added that she did not have to work in exchange for it, that we would be more than happy to help.
I believe in helping friends.
I also believe that we should help anyone who asks us for help, and that as elders in a society, we have a moral obligation to help others.
I remember a wise saying I once read, taken from the wisdom of the Australian Aboriginal People, which goes like this:
A baby girl belongs to her mother
A teenage girl belongs to her teachers
A young bride belongs to her husband
A mother belongs to her family
And a grandmother belongs to the whole community.
It is our joy and duty to help one another, and when I said that to our friend, I could tell that she had a bit of a hard time receiving.
She is such a smart and spiritually powerful woman, yet she was so used to working hard for every bit of money that ever came into her life.
But until we are able to open up our channels to receive, and until we also learn to GIVE freely, lovingly, joyfully, we will never have much.
I could go on and on, but this is getting long and my time is short, so I will add just one more truth principle about why people and artists might not be successful.
I call it:
“The too good to be true syndrome.”
About a month ago, we read an interesting story in the New Zealand Herald that illustrates this principle very clearly.
A BMW dealership in Auckland placed a full page newspaper advertisement, saying that they planned to give a brand new BMW to the first person who shows up on April Fools day to trade in ANY old car.
Now, Auckland is a busy metropolitan center with a population of more than a million people, but guess how many people slept overnight in front of the dealership in order to be the first to claim the new BMW, (as they would have if this were a rock concert?)
Only one woman came early in the morning to claim the prize.
True to their word, the dealership gave her a brand new BMW in exchange for her 15 year old station wagon.
How many people looking for jobs see an ad for their dream job, but put it aside, assuming that there will be hundreds of other people lining up for it….
I’ve had it happen in my own life many times.
Things that seemed too good to be true have proven to be true blessings from the Universe, and I was grateful and happy that I did not muck it up with my own disbeliefs.
Years ago a wealthy man who had collected my art before, contacted me with a request to buy EVERYTHING I had posted on my website.
He told me to give it some thought and to give him a good price.
A male friend of mine, who happened to be a man with absolutely no money, told me not to trust this man.
He told me that this offer was either a Nigerian money laundering scam, or came from a man with ulterior motives.
He suggested that even if this man were legit, he probably wanted to have sex with me.
Of course I ignored my friend.
In my own mind, this was a ridiculous, self sabotaging thought.
Why would a wealthy married man of many years want me, a married woman living far away in another state, as a lover?
If he wanted a lover, wouldn’t he choose someone available, or at least someone residing in his own city? Or, for that matter, in his own state?
I did negotiate with this honorable art collector, and sold everything on my website to him at a good price.
Later he even commissioned me to do more art projects for him.
He had offices in South America, Europe and the USA, and he used my art to decorate his offices and his homes, and even gifted some to his adult children.
The Universe is gracious and giving.
If you think that you do not get what you want, you are wrong.
You always get what you believe you want, or what you are capable of receiving, at that moment in your life.
Expand your ability to believe that only good things will come to you, and you expand your capacity to receive.
Also, practice giving and giving and giving more, but do it with open eyes.
Do not fund every cancer related request on Facebook, or every charity.
Most charities pay their executives huge salaries and have large operating costs, with only a small portion of your dollar actually going to help worthy causes.
Throwing money at a disaster does not solve the cause of it.
Only those who TRULY give, are capable of understanding how to receive.
I have already told the stories of how Jules and I decided to help directly some of our Facebook friends whom we believed were down on their luck.
Of course I no longer believe in the concept of luck.
I fully see that we create our own destiny, moment by moment, by the beliefs and ideas we hold.
We thought we could help several men who had nothing, in terms of friendships, money, careers or direction in their lives.
We bought them airline tickets and invited them to stay with us, in Colorado and in NZ, for what we believed might be a life changing experience for them.
We hoped that through living with us, they could learn to see how beautiful and miraculous life truly is.
The experience was not a success, to say the least.
Those men, who had blocked their own flow of giving and receiving and therefore had absolutely no money, projected onto us their own lack of generosity and suspected that we must have had ulterior motives.
One man showed up with a knife in his bag.
Later he showed it to me and said he brought it “just in case we were axe murderers,” and the other man got drunk and labelled us as being cult members experimenting with people.
In both cases our good intentions went unnoticed, and their own realities were unchanged by our generosity.
But we still believe in giving and helping; we just do it more wisely nowadays. We give to causes where our money goes to empowering people, not to plugging temporary holes.
On a more personal level, we are getting ready to go on our trip.
We have already finished packing our backpacks.
We have taken only the bare minimum with us.
We first need to meet with our accountant, sign and pay for our NZ tax papers, lock the house and studio and start flying…
First from the Bay Of Islands to Auckland, then from Auckland to Bangkok by way of Sydney, and then from Bangkok to Manila.
Here is a bit of a conversation that I had with Jules recently that indicates what we are expecting to encounter:
“Guess.” Jules said to me as I opened my eyes in bed early one morning.
“Guess what?” I moaned, half asleep.
“Guess what the temperatures are in Myanmar right now.”
“How should I know?” I said, not willing to participate in these early morning games.
“Come on.. I’ll give you a hint. It is eight in the morning in Yangon (which used to be called Rangoon.)”
“I dunno…I guess it is hot… Very hot,” I answered.
“OK, one more little hint,” he said with a mischievous smile on his face,
“It is only two degrees less than New Delhi, which is currently the hottest place on earth.”
I know what he means…
He thinks we are crazy to leave these nice mild temperatures in NZ, where it is not too hot, not too cool and really comfy, to be going to steaming Asia in the middle of the rainy season.
I did not answer.
I know it is crazy also.
“It is 99 degrees Fahrenheit! (40 degrees Celsius) And it is ONLY eight in the morning…”,
He did not say it, but my own mind added his unsaid words: “By noon it will be boiling, and we will be fully cooked…..”
(You can read the NZ Herald story here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11426501)