How to succeed as an artist and in life

Know what you want

Fine Art Mosaic: Toward the Within, 2014. Available via Blurb.com here

Fine Art Mosaic: Toward the Within, 2014. Available via Blurb.com here

What do you want your life to be like?

Write it down.

The other day I wrote down the essence of how I want my life to be within the next 5 years. It's an exercise I've been doing periodically since 1987...because it works.

At the top of the page it says "In the next 5 years I see myself..." followed by line after line of whatever came to mind.

Oh, and that book in the photo? Back in 2002 when I left the fashion industry to start a new career as an artist -- and before I even made my first artwork -- I had written down about "one day" having a cohesive body of work and a big, beautiful coffee table book full of glorious images of my art. (Like I said, write down what you want your life to look like.)

"Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements." -- Napoleon Hill

So now for a confession. When starting out as an artist I found it hard believing my dream could come true.

I met plenty of resistance along the way, and a lot of it was internal. So what did I do? I held onto my dream, nurtured it, and fought for it. And even though I had a hard time believing in my dream, which sometimes seemed too big and daunting, I kept taking steps...

Baby steps.
Side-steps.
Backwards steps.

I'm happy to share with you that August 1, 2014 marks 12 years since I started my business. I recently updated my artist bio and can confirm, looking back, that all those steps added up!

(Lesson: It doesn't matter what kind of steps you take as long as you keep moving towards your dream by taking actions and correcting course. Belief will come with each step you take.)

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." -- Henry David Thoreau

The below captures the essence of the steps I took to get where I am now. Many times I had to repeat a step until I got good at it. And to be honest, I still repeat each step to this day. Persistence is the key.

Step 1: I gave myself permission to begin (and be on) the journey.
Step 2: I found my voice and made the work.
Step 3: I summoned confidence to share my work with the world.
Step 4: I share my lessons learned along the way.
Step 5: I acknowledge and appreciate the steps I've taken.

For me, Step 3 was the most challenging, and I'm sure my mom will be surprised to read that.

(Look at the titles of my artworks and read between the lines. The accompanying text is what I learned from each challenging experience, which has become my most recent book.)

At the outset of my art career I thought my confidence in the fashion industry would naturally transfer, but it didn't. Building my self-confidence is something I've had to really focus on. That, and believing in myself and in my abilities. This is why I write books and teach -- we teach and share what we want to master, ourselves. At the core of my teaching is how to love yourself, which includes finding your self-worth and self-confidence.

I had no idea when I began this journey in 2002 that transcending my own self-confidence issues would somehow help others. Recently I took a couple of days to review the hundreds of messages from fans I've received over the years, and there seems to be a dominant theme: inspiration & transformation. Not surprisingly, both are underlying themes of my own journey.

One thing I preach is to delete rejections and to save compliments. Why? Because those saved compliments help you through the dark days. Here are passages from a few of the sometimes long, beautiful messages I've received that have helped me get through those trying times when I wanted to quit:.

"I appreciate you and this course because this is a life-changing experience and I want you to know that. You made me feel worthy and proud of my progress and work…and that isn't an easy job since I have been going through my personal crisis for quite some time. Thanks."

"I'm messaging you to tell you how inspired I am by your work and that it brought me true hope at a very difficult time in my life."

"I'm not much of an artist nor have I been in the zone when I work on something, but it makes me determined to get in touch with my artistic side (and simply be in the flow). Thank you for your videos. I am a highly sensitive person, and I'm finding positive good things to help me heal and improve so I am watching your videos to help with these processes."

I had NO IDEA when starting my journey that I would receive so much love simply from sharing my struggles repackaged as lessons learned. I encourage you to do the same.