In recent podcast interviews I have asked my guests what they think separates successful artists from the struggling artists. We also looked at what makes artist's businesses successful. It is not a simple question to answer, but for each person there are a few characteristics that stand out. Let's take a closer look.
Gavin Van Winsen of Winsen's Canvases:
On business success: In their business they need to remain humble, but cannot be complacent. They have to keep on top of their game by working closely with artists and leading in their market.
Linda Hodnett Editor of The SA Artist Magazine:
Believes that artists need:
Skye Kennedy of The Italian Artshop:
Strangely enough nobody says that an artist must be born with incredible talent in order to be successful. Indeed I have not come across anyone claiming that innate talent is the single most important requirement to make a successful career in the arts. It does appear that the qualities universally recognised as necessary requirements are:
- Hard work,
- A positive attitude,
There are more probably, but they will no doubt overlap with these already mentioned. On the face of it not particularly exciting qualities, but when employed effectively the results can be spectacular.
An Artist's Choices Determines Outcomes
Perhaps some artists believe that they should be laid back. Not a go-getter. But stereotypes only confuse the issue. Successful artists tend to be happy and pleasant people too. Success suggests fulfillment and self-actualization. Results most artists are seeking. Considering the comments from my podcast guests successful artists have a strong work ethic similar to that of conventional top entrepreneurs.
The Struggle Continues
My experience with successful artists is that they work damn hard. But there are a great many that want to do better yet struggle to make ends meets. The reasons are varied and range from lack of focus to not being committed at all. It is just art. Or is it?
Business success has big implications. If you need to make a living with a second income or want to up your art game and go full time you need results. There are serious consequences. This means getting your A-Game working. You need the right attitude. Enter Jocko Willink. Retired Navy SEAL, tough guy, philosopher and business strategist.
Go After It
Jocko Willink has become a popular motivational speaker in the last couple or years. A veteran of the Ramadi campaign in Iraq where he was a team commander. Willink is now a writer and part of a successful business leadership consultancy. He is also a popular podcaster and draws a large audience with his straight talking approach. So what does a retired hard-case warrior have to do with artists? A lot actually.
Take on the Challenge
I have listened to several of Jocko Willink's podcast episodes. Based on that I read his book Extreme Ownership, which applies leadership lessons learned in the armed forces to actual business situations that they faced in their consultancy. Do any of Jocko's philosophies apply to artists?
Yes they do.
Remember those comments about hard work, discipline and commitment?
Let us take a closer look at Jocko Willink's advice.
1. Stop Complaining
There are few things worse than falling into the complaining mode. It takes away your drive for improvement and you no longer take responsibility. Sure we can have a gripe here and there. But never let this become a thing that diverts you from taking ownership of a situation. It becomes a debilitating habit with sever consequences. What does Jocko say:
2. No More Excuses:
Of course we all know about making excuses. For artists this is often cover for procrastination or even pure laziness. No time to do your art? What does the Navy SEAL say.
3. The Truth About Motivation
Lets be honest. When sales are slow or your efforts in your art business are not showing results your motivation takes a pounding. You begin to doubt yourself, look for something to blame and ultimately you lose the will to push on. But what is motivation actually?
4. Too Tired to Do the Work?
Feeling tired of the daily grind? Not feeling up for it and you want to take the day off? Try this approach instead.
5. What Facing Your Fears Means
No doubt choosing a creative life for a living brings a dose of fear. There are easier ways to make a living. More consistent paychecks than being self employed. But when you choose to be brave ...
And finally when you do your best and things still go south on you? Good. Here's why. You learn and get another chance to get better. But don't take my word for it. Let Jocko have the last word.
What if you apply some of these hard truths to your life and business? What might happen? Personally I have benefited from this honest and true advice. As the man says. The truth will set you free and I cannot hide when I slack off. No there is only the honest path where action gets results. So I am committed to get up and do the work. And enjoy the experience without the excuses and nonsense. Simple. And simple is good.