May 20, 2012
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Linda's first tip in last week's article was all about setting goals. Goal setting is not always a part of the process of making artwork, since much art is made out of the free-flowing stream of being in the work, in the moment. But for the business of art—the business of making your art a lifestyle rather than a hobby—goals are essential.

What I want to talk about now is a pitfall in the goal making process. Pitfalls are problems that we don't recognize, either because they are hidden, or because they are not understood to be problems. The pitfall I want to talk about is of the latter kind. It is the stuff that religion and politics are made of, and it has no useful place in the business end of your art. This pitfall is hope. And if you base your goal setting process on hope, I can assure you that it will lead you down the garden path.

I once posted a comment on Facebook that "hope is worry in a party dress." We think of hope as a good thing, because it is by definition, positive. We live in a society that has difficulty distinguishing the terms "positive" and "good." But in fact, while hope is positive, it can be a serious detriment to what is good. The president got elected on a platform of hope. Much of that hope has not been fulfilled. We won't wander too far down that path here, but it illustrates the problem with hope.

Hope is a wishful response to fear, whereas worry is a pessimistic response to fear. But both hope and worry are projections of our fears onto an unknowable future, and being sides of the same coin, the two emotions always come together. This is why hope is so treacherous in a business plan—it's built on the same foundation as worry—fear of the unknown. Interestingly, the whole election of 2008 was driven by worry and fear on the Republican side, and hope on the Democratic side. Neither the worries about terrorism, nor the idyllic hope for a new age have materialized in the ensuing three and a half years. The terrorists haven't destroyed us, and we still have corruption and constitutional and economic crises that go unsolved. Neither hope nor worry have served us well. But enough with politics.

The point I want to make, emphatically, is that hopes have no business masquerading as goals in the business plan for your creative lifestyle. Hope is nothing more than wishful thinking about things beyond your control. A hope is not a goal and cannot propel you forward. In fact, hope does the opposite. It immobilizes you while you stand on the sidelines, frozen in anticipation. Hope is the stuff that TV spectators do at the Super Bowl or the World Series or the Stanley Cup. It doesn't affect the play on the field, and it cannot change outcomes.

So when Linda put goal setting in the number one slot of her seven point article last week, she was not talking about defining what you hope will happen. Goal setting is far more precise, purposeful, and proactive than that. Tara Gentile, in a recent blog post, articulates this very clearly. "A hope is not a goal. A goal has a plan." Tara goes on to outline her approach to replacing your hope based business model with a goal based one, and I quote her directly here:

  1. Fess up. Admit to yourself that the number, the milestone, the ideal you’ve had in mind is only a hope and not a goal.
  2. Get real. Is what you’ve been hoping for really what you desire? Is it more? Is it less? Is it different? Understand what you really want for yourself & your business. Often when something remains a hope and not a goal, it’s because it doesn’t represent the true desire.
  3. State the goal. Turn your hope into a goal by stating it directly & with confidence. Don’t dare use the word hope when you state your goal.
  4. Work backwards. Now that you have the goal, it’s time to work backwards to create the plan. How many widgets do you need to sell to make the sales number? How many phone calls do you need to make to reach the milestone? How many press releases do you need to send?
  5. Tell someone else. You are not alone. Your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Tell someone your goal and use the same language you used when you stated it yourself. Better yet, fill them in on the plan and tell them how they can help. You’ll take the words right out of their mouth.

I strongly recommend Tara's blog. It is consistently packed with wisdom and insights like these, and will help you to clarify your thinking and your processes.

But for now, it's time to transform your hopes and wishes into a concrete plan of action. Replace those fuzzy squishy hopes with a concrete, measurable plan of action! And while you're at it, here's a little sample of the worry-free approach that Tara employes:


Wednesday evening we sat down with Chris Anderson and Will Carlton to do an interview. You will get to read that interview on June 3. We don't usually talk much about an interview before we publish it, but this one has been brewing since the very day that we first conceived the idea for Outside the Lines. When we think about people who have forged their own paths, Chris and Will are among the first to pop into our heads. I won't spill the beans on that interview today, but I will talk about a really valuable trait we have observed from watching this couple make their creative and fulfilling way over the past 8 years or so.

As you will see when the interview comes out, Will and Chris always have a lot of irons in the fire. (They are glass blowers, so this is more than a metaphor.) By my count, they have at least seven different and only tangentially related enterprises that they are enthusiastically and fully engaged in. Any one of these enterprises could be a full time occupation, and they manage them all with a level of energy that keeps each humming along at a remarkable pace. I've wondered what could possibly be the magic that allows them to keep up the pace, and as we talked to them, I got my answer.

Chris and Will love the lives they are creating for themselves. They are two of the most energetic and joyful people I have ever met. And as we talked, I realized that the common thread throughout the whirlwind of activity and creativity that surrounds them is joy. If they are doing something, it's because they love it. What I have taken from this and every interaction that I've had with them over the years is that they are intoxicated with their own opportunities to create. They have managed somehow to live a life where even the compromises and sacrifices they have been forced to make were transformed from obstacles into creative opportunities. This is an amazing and inspiring thing to watch, and they do it routinely. As far as I can tell, they have been true to their creative spirit all the way along. Be sure to catch the interview with Will and Chris on June 3. And until then, keep a twinkle in your eye, and your fires burning brightly!

The Phantom—Part 5

Now and then, something comes along that seems ordinary on the surface, but has an extraordinary impact on your life, your career, and your relationships. The Phantom Project has become one of those somethings for us. We started writing about it here back in December, before the first Phantom show began—back when it was still a crazy idea and we didn't really know if it would work at all.

That first show was a remarkable success, and we have written at length about how it propelled the core participants to a new level of exposure in the local art community. I won't repeat all that here, except to make the point once again that prompted me to write about the Phantom in the first place: This project is a community service that benefits the entire local art community, and as such, it disproportionately benefits the artists who made it happen. People see it, and love it, and want to know who did it. The result is that those same people gain a heightened awareness of, and positive disposition toward the participants and their art generally.

A month ago I reported that we had begun working on the second show, and linked you to a radio interview that I did on the local NPR station. At that point we didn't know how the second show would go. We were pretty sure it was going to be a big deal from the reaction to the first show, and the early buzz on Facebook. We had designed the second show to keep all the work that was entered, rather than sending part of it home before the show, because the space we got was 10,000 square feet of prime retail in the fledgling art district of Paso Robles. But we still had two independent jurors work the show, choosing their selections and awards. It turned out that this was a brilliant strategy. We got 195 artists to enter the show, and now have 465 works on display through the first Saturday of June. The quality in the show is high over all, with the full spectrum from highly skilled and trained professionals to green first timers represented. The purpose of this strategy is to show the public everything that the jurors see, and allow people to consider the whole process of jurying a show rather than just the final result.

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Migliore   

This idea was overwhelmingly popular with the art viewing public, the local press, and the artists. We were swamped at the opening reception, and have had heavy attendance since. Art is selling at a good pace. I now have two half hour radio interviews (here is a link to the second interview) and nearly half a dozen print press interviews about this show in the books. As the principle organizer of the Phantom shows I personally have become a household name in the local art world. The local movers and shakers are seeking me out. Young artists in their 20s want to talk to me, which hasn't happened in a long time—since I was in my 20s actually. We even made it into the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle. And here is a link to Barbara Hart Radisavljevic's blog and video about the show.

This project is a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work. There were moments when my volunteers hanging the show began to show signs of the stress of mounting 465 artworks in a three day period. And there were moments when I wondered if I would end up standing all alone in a stack of unhung paintings on opening night as the crowd poured in. It had been in the papers and on radio, so they were coming whether we were ready or not. But everyone came through, bruised egos were set aside, frayed nerves were soothed, and the whole team stepped up. There was at least one point in the lead up to each of the shows where I seriously wondered if we had bitten off too big a bite to chew. The rewards and visibility gained by driving a project of this scope are phenomenal, but it takes time and energy, and a level of patience that you cannot know that you have before it is tested. When you pull off a project of this scale you will deserve whatever accolades you get.

There is one other hazard, besides the exhaustion and stress that one must consider when taking on such a project—it might be a flop. We had no idea when we started the Phantom Project if it would work. We didn't know if the artists or the public would respond. Now it seems obvious, but in the early stages, we got a fair amount of pushback from artists that we approached about helping. "It would require too much work." "The art community probably wouldn't support it." "The property owners would be difficult..."

Any time you try something new, you will get this kind of response from some, whether in a project like this one or in taking a new direction in your own craft. And the concerns for potential failure are real. There really are no guarantees. I am here to tell you that everything worth doing faces such obstacles. But then you know this already or you wouldn't be pushing forward in your own path outside the lines.

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Peggy Sonoda

Michael Reddell
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Cambria, CA 93428

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