Knowing when to “undo” the knots in our private and personal lives is no small matter. In fact, it can be the most daunting undertaking we experience as adults. I think it’s safe to say that many of us enjoy some homeostasis in our lives – we like comfort and familiarity. To many, knowing what to expect is soothing and the unknown or unfamiliar can be very unsettling. So as we begin a fresh new year, I’d like to share some very bold and valuable advice – whatever is not working for you just throw away. Do not waiver, doubt or hesitate. If the house is falling apart and beyond repair just burn it to the ground. I know, I know, it’s not easy to let go but once you learn to take out the trash before it begins to reek, you will start to thrive.
A year ago, my wife and I found ourselves in several professional and personal quandaries. It seemed that we’d become far too comfortable with certain relationships and though some had become quite toxic, we still entertained them out of habit and fear. Sometimes, you have to become completely disgusted in order for change to happen. And trust me, at this particular time, we both had become so angry we knew we needed to look at ourselves and accept responsibility for the situation. And accepting what role you’ve played in allowing both professional and personal relationships to sour is humbling and often embarrassing. No one likes to believe they’ve allowed themselves to be taken advantage of or abused. But not taking the time to reflect on how a passive approach to living our lives has robbed us of joy is dangerous because it relinquishes our power. And once you give your power away, you become inactive in shaping your life. Harsh but true.
I’ll give you a very intimate example of how I began untying the biggest knot in my life this year – a knot so tightly wound that I failed to see how it was strangling my family. For years, I kept my studio in one of our spare bedrooms. The reason was simple, we had three small children and I wanted to be there to help my wife. As the children grew, they played in my studio and made fantastic messes that took over an hour to clean up. On good days, I’d get a lot of work done on bad days, I’d dressed and redressed Barbie several times, cleaned up Lego’s and broke off fights over crayons. But I was present in their lives and it was wonderful and priceless.
As the years progressed and my oldest turned 15 and my youngest 10, it never occurred to me that the studio in the house was beginning to be a huge source of contention. Every time a collector came to see my work, my wife ran around polishing silver and making scones and being the perfectionist she is for several hours. Every time models came, the same mania ensued. Sometimes, I have several collector visits a week and once I began the Dante project, it wasn’t just collectors and modes, it was investors, public relations advisors, and various other key players. It wasn’t until my daughters began to complain that I realized what I was doing to my family. My wife was no longer working on her latest novel but had eased into the role of consummate hostess and maid. My children could never relax because they had to be appropriately dressed and cordial because someone was coming to visit my studio. Without warning, it became absolute chaos until one day it came to head.
One of the many beautiful features of my 1860’s Victorian home is a large 2-story carriage house. When we bought the house 18 years ago, we always planned on making it my studio. However, we began the large restoration and then the children came along. Needless to say, we forgot the vision. But after a rough week of putting my family through several grueling meetings and visits, it donned on me, I need to move my studio out of the house and relieve my family of always being on “stage”. Again, if we tolerate a bad situation long enough, we become accustomed to the pain - it’s as if we become anesthetized. And when you're numb for so long, you can’t see the obvious solution until the pain is so excruciating, you become sober. Without hesitation, I ordered a dumpster and began clearing out the carriage house and as I began unraveling that knot, it was very clear how I was stifling my business and pressuring my family unnecessarily by keeping my studio in the house. Of course, this is just one example of my many personal epiphanies but I think it illustrates my point. I hope that you can take a few moments to reflect on the knots in your life and find a way to quickly untie them before they become far too tangled.
I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
Here are some ways to evaluate your relationships both professional and personal. And remember, both play an equal role in the success of each other.
- If you are entertaining a relationship out of necessity, it’s probably not healthy.
- If everyone around you is unhappy with the current climate, it’s time to evaluate the situation. By just merely dealing with the stress, you’re accepting the unhealthy environment.
- If a relationship becomes inequitable, it’s time to either walk away or set boundaries. I had a situation where a client grossly took advantage of me until I realized I needed to walk away. Don’t be afraid to end anything that’s not bringing you joy or revenue.
- If you’re continuing to do something you hate just because it brings in money, you’ve lost the plot. Yes, not having money is scary but living a life based on fear is not only horrible but also damning. My advice is to plan an exit game. However, don’t wait too long – you need to be brave if you want to pursue your dreams.
I've started working on producing a series of videos to help artists on YouTube called "The Truth About Being an Artist." Check it out, like the videos if you enjoy them and subscribe to the channel. I'll be producing two videos a week and they're great to listen to while you work in your studio.