A Must Read

One morning I heard about a book called The Flinch by Julian Smith. Everything inside me said I needed to get this book NOW and start to read it — why hadn’t I don’t it already? So I followed the little voice and got the book. I started reading it on my lunch hour.  I really wanted to finish it in that time but only made it about 19% through, mostly because I stopped to really think about a few things in my life.

Instead of telling you about The Flinch, I’ll let you go read about it on Amazon. It’s free right now, so I highly suggest you read it on your Kindle if you have one or get a Kindle app to read it. The link is not an affiliate link.  I’m promoting the book purely because I think it’s worth it (even though I haven’t finished the book yet) and even though the book itself is free, the information I have found to be priceless and I want to share.

But I would like to share a flinch moment with you. When I was growing up, I loved to swim (I still do, but I don’t go nearly as often as I use to). I was on the swim team for many years, eventually got a gold metal in the 400 meter butterfly (that was 8 laps in our pool and about 4 laps in an Olympic size pool). Now, there was one pool no one liked going to, but since we only 3 towns in our little swim team district, we spent 1/3 of our meets at this pool. It was cold! Just thinking about it makes me shiver. Even when they said (and they lied!!!) they had the heater fixed in their pool, it was cold. No one wanted to take their warm-up laps because, well, you never felt like you warmed up. Just turned into a Popsicle instead. Seriously, getting up onto the starting blocks before a race was pure torture. You knew your muscles would cramp the second you hit the water. Not to mention the feeling of your breath being kicked right out of your lungs.

But the point is that you knew if you wanted to race, you had to get in there and swim. You had to endure the flinch and the anticipation of it.

I am often fond of thinking that I am use to jumping in and swimming when referring to learning something new or trying something different. Even this last weekend, I thought I was pushing my comfort zone. But, the truth is that I wasn’t making any great leaps. I wasn’t really pushing myself. I was jumping into my hometown swimming pool, so to speak. I never had to endure the flinch, not like I did when I was getting on the starting blocks when I was 14 and knowing I was about to jump into water barely above freezing. I have become comfortable and only willing to take little risks.

There is a question near the beginning of the book that asks a question something like if your younger self was to see your older self now, would the younger you be proud of what you’ve done or embarrassed? I had to admit that it was half and half. On the one hand, I have lived through things I hoped would never happen to me, which when I was 14 I had hoped would be impossible. Of course, this would feel like more of an accomplishment if I’d been the initiator of events instead of just having to deal with the fallout. I still want my points for surviving and not letting myself fall into victim mentality though. But yes, the part of me which would face the cold water with a sense of anticipation because I knew everyone else had to deal with it too would be ashamed of me for not having more gusto for life and accomplishing my dreams. She would wonder where I lost my vision along the way and let things become so unclear.

As Seth Godin said in a recent blog, “We’d like to romanticize our problems as unique, as the one and only perfectly difficult situation….” It’s the flinch at work.

But now I see the flinch in my own life and realize how comfortable I’ve let it make me, so now I hope I can pull things into focus. I’m ready to dive in and swim now.

Why not to listen to the 10,000 hour rule.

I’ve recently been engaged in a lively discussion about the 10,000 hour rule from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. I chose to take a stand against this rule because I believe it to be flawed and discouraging. When you willingly play devil’s advocate on a site where you know you’re going to get flamed for your thoughts, it’s interesting to see how your own thoughts develop. Knowing I’d be wasting my time continuing the discussion there, I decided to move my thoughts here where they belong. Maybe I’ll find a few of you playing devil’s advocate against my ideas too! 🙂

I imagine how this is how Seth Godin felt when he challenged Vince Lombardi’s advice that “winners never quit and quitters never win.”

Pick up a copy of Outliers and at least skim the chapter on the 10,000 hour rule. You’ll find real quickly that it’s not a happy chapter. It talks about how child prodigies start young and put in time (it doesn’t say they were willingly doing the time — the choice to do something is a lot different from doing something your parents want you to do!). It also says that the true “greats” are born within a certain period of time and anyone outside of this calendar analysis has missed the boat. To me, that’s really discouraging!

Fortunately, I don’t believe that one must be a child prodigy or be born within a window of opportunity. So come along with me on this journey to debunk the 10,000 hour rule and let’s prove that success comes to those who work for it without counting “billable hours!”

More free ebooks

Did you know that Seth Godin has several ebooks available for free download? Okay, maybe your head isn’t stuck in the sand as much as mine, but I was excited to see these.

Remember, it’s important to keep a pulse on the business side of your art. Believe me, I do realize how hard that is to do when you’re doing what you love (and a lot of times we feed our own dreams for quite awhile before we ever start making money). This is what makes Seth’s words so valuable — it is a kick in the behind for those of us who just love sharing **freely** of what we do. Isn’t it about time our dreams start to support us?

Go get your downloads and get inspired to share your intellectual property in a way that supports you back!

Oh, just downloading the books won’t get you inspired — you do have to read them. (I might — I said, “might!” — be guilty of that myself.)

My Illustrated Dip

Last time, I talked about The Dip. Strangely enough, shortly after I posted the blog, I found an illustration on my journey into the dip. Here it is:

In case you can’t read it, I’ll tell you what it says. The first little lady walks into the dip saying, “Cool, I’m an artist.” She gets further down the slope (a.k.a. slide) saying, “This is easy!” At the bottom, life becomes more difficult and you can’t skate by anymore. “Oh crap, this is hard!” But the little lady keeps walking up the hill. It’s slow going and unless one looks back here, it doesn’t feel like progress is being made to the next level. “I’m such a newbie,” she moans with regret. It will continue to be an uphill climb, but “Learning is good!” I’m currently at the point of trying hard to convince myself of this last part.

After I drew that, I pulled a card from a set of my Wayne Dyer cards. The quote seemed to fit and inspired me, so I’ll share it here:

Failure is a judgement, an opinion. It stems from your fears, which can be eliminated by love — love for yourself, love for what you do, love for others, and love for your planet. — Wayne Dyer.

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

Moving through

I think back to when I started writing. Right now, the best thing I’ve ever done has got to be my Sacred Knight series. Even still, I know that it’s not nearly as good as I wish it could be. I have come to realize that what I’m in is, as Seth Godin calls it, The Dip. What I feel coming on with this dip is a certain amount of fear.

Godin’s solution is simple — just keep moving forward through it. Reality plays a different part and causes havoc on the mind.

But even in walking through the dip, it’s important to remember how I got here. I didn’t start off writing Sacred Knight. No, I started off writing about cats and dogs. I tested horror tales, love stories, and young adult novels. I put twists on words of other writers. I’ve seen myself improve as I’ve learned the craft.

Now, as I realize I’m also in a dip with my painting and illustration, should I expect it to be any different? Just recently I’ve been sketching faces a lot, trying to really memorize the structure. I realized that I wasn’t really challenging myself at the moment. I was trying to master a learned skill. Is that really the action of a newbie? No, I was trying to move to the next level — I was working through the dip. I realized that I have actually hit an intermediate stage of my art. I am no longer a beginning and more importantly I no longer feel like a beginner. I once posed the question of when does one feel like an artist. I do believe I’ve found that moment.

Strange that I never had a moment where I never didn’t feel like a writer. That may be the blessing a being a child though. I was merely following a passion and too naive to know any differently. I, however, also do know what it feels like to not be a writer, but it was more like a light switch being turned off.

Seriously, where ever you are at, you must just keep moving forward and keep working at what you love. This is not about could or should, need vs. want, it is only about the doing which you either are or aren’t. If you “aren’t” then you are stopped — game over. If you are, then you will see improvement. It may not be the great leaps and bounds you wish you were making. I know that for my so-called illustration skills it isn’t (and it shouldn’t be since a majority of my time right now is going into writing). What has become important is that I can now look back and see my progress. I’ve come a long way. Someday I’ll look back on my face sketches and compare it to my current “masterpiece.” It’ll still be far from where I want to be, but at least I’ll see where I once was. Then I’ll be able to look forward again and continue through the dip.

Don’t just intend to commit!

Commit.

Seth Godin recently wrote a blog about commitment. Very insightful, so I thought I’d share it. Especially following my last blog about intent (update: due to issues, this did actually come out on schedule- it will be released tomorrow, I hope!). My “intent” is his “commit.” I especially liked his last line.

To me, this makes a lot of sense. In fact, I’m currently listening to Chris Oatley’s ArtCast where he talks about goal setting (or not) in the new year. He talks about not setting goals, but rather deciding on what projects to finish.

I’m joining the band wagon. Don’t just make a plan to get more done (and this isn’t a once a year kind of thing either – I believe this to be ongoing). Don’t weight yourself down with guilt you don’t need. Don’t stress because you want to be better and therefore you get nothing done while waiting to be better. Set up a project, something you’ve really wanted to get done and commit to doing it. Have a deadline if you really want to push yourself. I have a publication date in mind for Sacred Knight book 2. I even have a schedule of milestone completion dates that I’d like to hit. I’m afraid I’m going to miss the first milestone date because it’s coming up far too quickly! Am I worried? No, not really. I will have to make it up somewhere, but I know my main commitment is to the publication date. I see the steady progress I’m making. Even I’d I took some time off to work on another project or because life happened, I wouldn’t panic. I am committed to making the project. It is, as Seth Godin would put it, my project I’m going to ship. I don’t need more of a plan. I don’t need to write 10 pages a day or bust. I just need to commit to ship!

So what projects are you going to commit to this year? What will you ship?

Important Marketing Lessons

Yesterday I was out at the bookstore combing for new information. I happened across a book titled Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead.

None of these are new insights, but here’s what I felt were the most important:

Lesson 1: Don’t follow anyone else’s path

Everyone wants a map to show them the way to success. Guess what? There is no map. Everyone is different. We all have our own experiences and know different people. Because of this, what path has worked for one person won’t work for another. There might be similarities, but no two will ever be the same.

My friend gave me a great quote that also relates to this: If you don’t like the path your on, start paving another.

Make your own way!  No one ever said it would be easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Everyone would be following you. And no one would ever have the success you have because you’ve scaled the wall with your own work. So don’t wait for anyone else to make your way for you. Let your passion drive you forward and give you the courage to do whatever it takes to succeed.

What are you 3 times better at than anyone else? Dan Miller frequently says that you only have to be 10% better than your competition to be successful at it. It’s what makes you different. This book also asks what you are 3 times worse at than your competition. As the book states, if you answer “nothing” to these questions, you’re not working hard enough (or as I thought when I read it, you’re not truthfully evaluating yourself).

Lesson 2: Be yourself.

This flows back to the first lesson. If you’re making your own path and you’ve done an honest evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses, you can’t help but to be yourself.  It comes naturally.

We live in a day and age where anyone can find information about you pretty quickly with a simple Internet search. What will they find? Make sure that what they find is what you want them to see and the easiest way to do that is to be yourself. Be transparent. Show your passions for what you do. Follow your own story.

Lesson 3: Experiment

Try things out. How will you know if a marketing idea will work out or not if you don’t try it out? How will you know if you’ll sell more art or not by using Twitter if you don’t come up with a marketing plan involving Twitter and do it? How will you know if you can sell on eBay if you don’t give it an honest effort? I’ve been following a conversation on LinkedIn recently about whether or not to put prices on a website and there have been good arguments on both sides of the issue. But it all comes back to what will work for you.

Again, this goes back to forging a path. Twitter, eBay, website, gallery sales, etc. You will never know what works for you until you try the option and evaluate it.

Lesson 4: Create exclusive programs for your most loyal followers

If you’ve been selling art for awhile, you know that people quickly fall into one of three categories — people who don’t care what you do, people who like one piece and want to have it, and people who love everything you do. Should these people be treated equally? I say, “no.” I could waste my breath trying to convince someone who doesn’t like my art as to why they should change their mind. Lost cause. Move on. Remember the old selling adage of “Some will, some won’t. Next!” Go on to the next person who shows an interest in owning one of your pieces. These people you can nurture into becoming true fans. Of course, the true fans are the people who love everything you do. These people should be your friends. You should treat them differently. They are you A-list. What can you do to let them know they are special? This can’t be an act. You can’t be faking your appreciation just to make sales. So, I’ll say it again, these people should be your friends. Treat them as such even if you don’t know them that well. They trust you. They want to know you. Go back to the lesson of being yourself, then treat your A-list in a way that is uniquely you.

Lesson 5: Keep track

I’ve heard that Seth Godin has recently started telling his Twitter followers to not keep track of their numbers — that the amount of followers is irrelevant to how the followers should be treated. I disagree. Or, maybe it just doesn’t matter when you have more followers than you can manage anyway, when you already have a stable tribe that will support you no matter what. But if you are not yet at that level of success, you’ve got to keep track of how you’re doing. How else will you know if your experiments are working or not. You can’t manage your numbers and evaluate what you need to be doing differently if you can’t measure them.

Make a simple spreadsheet that keeps track of your numbers for your blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and where ever else you are involved in a social network. Record your new numbers monthly. What is your growth? Is something not working — can it be cut now or should you wait to unplug it just to make sure it won’t work soon? You can’t do everything, so you’ve got to know what you do well to know what else to release. Set a goal for your growth too, say like 5% per month, so you focus on creating this growth.  Measure it, manage it, set your new goals, and get to work. There, that’s your map. The only one you get and the only one you need.

Lesson 6: Do what you love

How many times have I already stated this on my blog? Do what you love. If it’s not your passion, if it doesn’t fill your every breath with excitement, why are you doing it? While making more money might make your life easier (at least in the short run), it doesn’t mean that it will increase your happiness. Happiness is an inside job. It comes from, guess what, being yourself. Only you can make yourself happy. That’s why it’s so important to do what you love. If you add that to a plan, you can make money. Once again, no one ever said it was easy. Or maybe it really is that easy. Many books have been written about how your perceptions create your reality. So if you believe it can be easy to create your own success doing what you love, it is. My drawing teacher always said, “Nothing is harder than anything else. Some things just take more time.” Can you become a doctor? Yes, just go to medical school and do well in your classes until you graduate. Can you become a writer? Yes, just sit down for as many days as it takes you to write and edit a book. Can you become a successful artist? Yes, just keep learning your craft and working your marketing plan and measuring the numbers until you are at your own level of defined success. But rooted at the heart of all these is the belief that you can do it combined with the passion that makes you love to proceed with the work it takes to get there.

You’ll always know the next step you need to take unless you start looking for the magic pill or the trick that will jump you immediately to success. We’ve all heard stories about people that come into a windfall of money either by inheritance or winning the lottery and then are broke (or dead) within five years. They aren’t prepared for their sudden wealth. You’ve got to build up, to prepare for success. The pinnacle of a pyramid does no good without its foundation. No one becomes a doctor by just taking the last year of medical school classes. There is no quick road to success and that’s why it’s important you follow your passion to sustain you through growing your success.

The book closes with a quote from Walt Disney — “All dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”  What are you going do now?