A few weeks ago, I had someone try to convince me that everything in life is based on luck. According to this individual, everything from the Mona Lisa, to the lottery and, most likely, my art career really had nothing to do with effort or talent - it was all just fate. In other words, you may as well just sit around hoping that luck will find you because working hard has nothing to do with it. Isn't it funny how nonsense like this always comes from people who never took any risks in their life? I'll be bold and say that luck is quite achievable. It has even been suggested that Thomas Jefferson said: "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."
I constantly have people tell me how lucky I am that I've made some sales or got features in art magazines. Truth is, in that vein of thought, I'm more unlucky. They're not privy to all the inquiries that didn't lead to sales and all the times I wasn't included in magazine articles. Most times, you're working with the law of averages and recently, this has become a daily conversation in my home.
Many of you know that my wife is a writer. Last year she finished the first novel in her new series and we began the arduous task of shopping her book. I must say, that if artists think they have it rough, you have no idea how demoralizing it is to be a novelist. Imagine working at the very least, a year on a novel and during that time, you poured your heart and soul into the one thing. Then, you must take that novel and purposely expose yourself to constant rejection that leaves you feeling worthless and dejected. However, you can't stop sending your novel to agents because there may be that one agent who digs what you're doing and wants to represent you. In the meantime, you must subject yourself to almost daily rejection to get there. I watch my wife check her email several times a day and I know when she's been rejected because she lets out a defeated sigh. It breaks my heart because she's an amazing storyteller but in reality, it has nothing to do with her awesome talent. It has everything to do with finding that one person who believes in the vision enough to put themselves on the line. There is no luck only effort because you can't get lucky if you don't query the agents.
Let me give you an even better example. Dr. Suess was rejected 27 times before he was able to publish his first manuscript. That doesn't account for all the unanswered manuscripts which may put his submissions as much as 5 - 10x that number. He was so upset about the rejections he almost burned his manuscripts. You could say he was a failure up until rejection 26 and maybe you'd be right. But the perspective is that he kept "doing" and by that, I mean sending out manuscripts until that one agent said "yes." That continued "doing" creates luck. For Dr. Suess, that means that many years later he continues to sell well over 4.5 million copies of his books each year. Imagine the goal and continually "do" and you will find that luck will find you much easier.
The problem with many people is that they are too afraid to "do" anything. Everyone is worried about making the wrong move or suffering a setback. That's why we have the term "armchair quarterback." For every star quarterback on the field that trains, practices, focuses, pushes themselves, achieves, suffers setbacks and comes back to fight again we have a million couch potatoes that know how they can do their job better. If you're afraid to take a chance and do something you feel strongly about then you will never experience luck. Luck is something you need to focus on daily. I like to call what I do "planting seeds." Just like in a garden, you don't have the luxury of reaping the benefits of that work at the end of the day or even weeks later. If you plant enough seeds and nurture them you'll find that down the road you'll start experiencing things you didn't expect. If you're an artist these could be gallery inquiries, magazine features, an unexpected sale or making important connections. The key ingredient to luck is taking daily action. Effort equals luck.
Some tips on how to bring luck to your art career:
1. Engage with your audience daily. Be known. Make sure you make time to remain current and active on all your social media accounts. People want to be able to find you and know that you're active in your career. Post news, new work, studio shots, ideas and anything related to your career. Think of it as keeping your business open. You'll get a lot more attention if the lights are on.
2. Take 5 actions offline each week. Today, everyone thinks that everything has to be online. The fact is that online marketing on social media is passive marketing. Most of the time you are hoping someone sees you. You need to take an active approach to your career. This could be contacting a newspaper or magazine or a gallery and sending them information. You could be getting your work onto slide registries or setting up an exhibition in a public space. Taking action like this each week can have people calling you when the time is right.
3. Advance your skillset. Are you advancing in your abilities or has your career plateaued? Do some research on artists that inspire you. Ask artists in your specific genre questions. The more you develop your skill-set, the more opportunities will present themselves. Don't be satisfied with where you are, especially if you know you are capable of doing better. Open yourself up to better opportunities by growing.
4. Act on your inspirations - do something bold. Have you ever had an idea but you weren't sure it could be done? Maybe it's painting a new and innovative way or some new exhibition idea. Have you ever had an excellent idea but you talked yourself out of it because you thought that others would criticize you or maybe you'd look foolish if it didn't turn out right? Never, ever, talk yourself out of pushing yourself - these moments could very well define you as an artist. Act on your impulses. Be smart, but trust yourself. You are an artist and we dream bigger and better than most. We aren't in the business of being followers - we were designed to be innovators. Everyone who has ever been known for anything acted on the inspiration they were given. This could very well be the luck you've been craving and working towards. Just trust yourself enough to see it through. You can't fail if you don't try.
In conclusion, don't listen to naysayers who will tell you that your profession is based on luck, who you know or where you came from. Even if it seems that some of your competition is experiencing this, hold true to yourself and know that your time is coming. All you have to do is put in the effort. If you fail, get back up and work harder. You leave seeds each and every time you put in the effort. Do it long enough and you establish a reputation. If you refuse to give up you will be the last man standing and in the end, you'll claim the luck you always dreamed of having.
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