Following Your Dream- The Skeptics 5 Step Guide
I sometimes get asked how I became a professional painter and usually shrug it off with false modesty but from a recent conversation with a friend I feel like I should try and give a step by step guide from my own experience in the vain attempt that it may help others.
Now I'm going to define success very simply 'making a living at something you feel passionately about'. I'll define 'making a living' as being able to pay rent/home expenses and having enough to save for the nicer things in life from time to time.
1- Leave your boring job...but before you do.....
If you're thinking of following your dream it's probably because you're frustrated with the limited amount of happiness that your current job gives you. Office jobs are a relatively new concept, before the Industrial Revolution clerks didn't exist, we were creative people working the land, nurturing our families, grafting hard and feeling the rewards from our labours. Sitting at a desk, staring at an LCD screen for 1/3rd of our lives isn't a natural way to experience the personal reward needed to reach a level of contentment.
I started painting 10 years ago whilst I worked in various offices and set myself a goal, that I would leave the corporate world when my painting sales reached 1/2 of my salary. Set yourself a parachute goal and stick to it. It might mean you work on your passion before and after work and also weekends but your skill level will improve significally...and hey, it's your passion so what are you moaning for!
2- Sell Yourself
For a lot of people selling themselves is a big obstacle, get over it. When I first started to have exhibitions 8 years ago i used to spend the whole night telling prospective customers what was wrong with my paintings. WRONG! My girlfriend at the time who was an amazing South American artist told me to stop being my worst critic and start explaining my ideas behind the artwork. It worked, within weeks of doing that I'd sold my first paintings.
Social media is a great way to sell yourself, build up a following online, start with friends, then friends of friends and before you know it you'll have a group of supporters out there who love to see you improve and will repost your stuff.
3- Start To Act like the Person You Want To Be
This is the 'fake it til you make it' part. You want to be an artist? Then think how your favourite artist acts, you want to be a singer, act like they do. After a while people will start to treat you like the person you want to be.
4- If at First you Don't Succeed Stop...unless it's your passion
Nothing in life feels like a failure more than giving up on something that you know you're good at and that you have a passion for. Many would have us believe that success is defined as how much money you have in the bank or how respected you are because of your economic status in your community...bullshit. You achieve self-respect (which is the most important right?) by exploiting the natural abilities that you have and have a love for. 99% of people give up at the first few obstacles, they stick out a mile....it's the guys that say 'I could've been a famous actor if only someone had noticed me', they couldn't, maybe they were the Robert De Niro of their generation but they gave up or chose a different path with less resistance. Pity these people and learn that to succeed in your passion you must carry on. When the famous golfer Gary Player who won 165 tournaments on six continents over six decades was asked 'What do put your luck down to?' he replied 'The more I practice, the luckier I get.' If you really want to succeed in your passion think of your next project could be your lucky break, if it's not look back at it and see what you learnt about technique.
5- Stop Reading This and 'Let's Go Work!'
Pablo Picasso once said 'Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working'. So what are you waiting for? Good luck my friend and good luck in chasing your passion!