“Dear Crista,” the email began. “How can I achieve a high level of success in the art world?”
Ah! That elusive goal of "a high level of success." Artists ask me about it all the time. And this is what I say:
You’ll never get there.
I say that because once you attain what seems like success to you now, you’ll set your sights even higher. And then higher. And then even higher yet.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting more, but be careful not to live there. Every day that you’re alive doing what you’re meant to do is a high level of success.
So you can spend the rest of your career chasing the elusive, or you can enjoy the journey.
Once you own that, once you start living it and feeling your success, the more good stuff comes to you.
So is there a better goal?
I don’t think so.
A lot of insiders say that goals are for losers. And I tend to believe them because systems, they say, work better than goals.
Goals set you up for failure. Goals are adversarial, it’s you versus it. And until you achieve “it,” you’re losing.
But a system not only helps you achieve your desires, it can be modified to achieve more.
Let me give you an example.
Artists often tell me, “I want to make $100,000 a year from the sale of my work.”
My first question is “why?” Why do you want to make $100K a year? Most often it’s an arbitrary number that they’ve emotionally attached their worth to. If I make $100K a year, it means I’m a great artist.
No. It means you’re a busy artist.
I know an artist who makes $300K a year. She works, literally, from the time she wakes until bedtime. Her husband cooks dinner when he comes home from work and maybe they’ll watch a few hours of TV – but she never stops painting. She paints in front of the TV too!
She often complains about her market and how she’s long since stopped creating work that interested her. Now she’s just fulfilling a demand.
She doesn’t know how long her 15 minutes of fame will last but she’s determined to see it through, at the expense of her passion, her health, and her relationships.
I’m not saying that this is what happens to all artists when they hit the big money. But money as a goal is fraught with difficulties.
And to be honest, I know very few artists who are truly motivated by money.
What most artists are motivated by is a strong desire to spend more time in the studio creating what they love and then sharing it with a wide and appreciate audience.
Isn’t that what really motivates you?
To do this, I believe it’s best to create a system. Your system could include spending more time in the studio as if you’re making $100K a year.
Your system could also include sharing your work with a wide and appreciate audience.
Maybe you have an audience of 20 right now. Terrific! Let’s call that wide and appreciate and give them all you got. Develop a marketing plan to share your work with them and to grow this tribe.
Your marketing plan is a system. It’s an action plan that you adhere to that will take you where you want to go.
So now your focus is removed from the chasm that stands between you and the $100K, but instead you’re focused on taking joy from the activities that will get you there. These are the same activities you’ll be involved in once you attain your goal.
Do you see that?
So by acting as if you’ve already got what you want, by doing the work, you’re showing The Universe that you’re committed and on your way.
When you come up against brick walls, you make adjustments to your system. Real artists never stop learning, so keep tweaking your system to bring you more joy, more time, and more success.
How do you achieve a “high level of success” in the art world?
You imagine what that would look like on a daily level and you put a system into place to start right now.