What is Success? It’s something that has many layers from the personal to the universal. In the narrowest sense its something unique and subjective that you have to define for yourself. There are general themes like recognition, fame, earning an income, financial freedom, happiness, etc. But the exact definition really depends on the individual and what makes them tick.
At the other extreme there is a broader context of success – one that goes beyond the personal into the universal and looks at the legacy we leave for those around us or who come after us. Would Van Gogh have considered himself a successful person? Probably not – and yet even a few years after his death his art was inspiring a whole new generation of artists unhappy with the status quo. And today? How many hundreds of millions of lives have been enriched and changed by Van Gogh’s work?
My definition of success is more abstract. To me, each of us has a golden contract we agreed to before we arrived on the planet and success simply means fulfilling that contract. Some of us figure out what that contract is early in life, for others the contract involves a long journey through life seeking answers. It might be that for one person the contract involves learning the experience of fame or financial rewards. For another it may be excellence in business or mastering writing or art or motherhood. There are no boundaries or limits to what might be in your golden contract!
Lets say though that you’ve figured out that your golden contract involves success as an artist – be it with our without fame and fortune. How can you cultivate success in completing your contract and enjoying the rewards? Here are six secrets to nudge you along the way…..
Find Your Passion
If you’re an artist there must be passion for what you do. Finding and creating what you love is central to the whole idea of being an artist. All the other secrets to success are completely irrelevant without the passion to create.
Take a wander around any of the worlds great art museums and you’ll see passion everywhere. Getting back to Van Gogh – do you think those amazing wild works of art would have happened without a large helping of passion? If you want to learn what passion means I recommend “The Agony and The Ecstacy”, Irving Stone’s biography of Michelangelo. That novel is the definition of artistic passion.
Find Your Mentors
Mentors are one of life’s great gifts – the master principle in action where we learn from those with more experience. In Michelangelo’s day all the artists and craftspeople started their careers as apprentices to the great artists of the time. From those humble beginnings, with appropriate teaching and inspiration from their mentors some rose to become great artists themselves.
Seek out and learn from the best of those who have gone before you in the area of art you want to master. Artists, teachers, art dealers, etc – all can mentor you in different ways. And don’t ever think of them as competition – you’re running a relay race through life and at some point your mentors will pass the baton to you to take it further than it has ever been before.
Be Disciplined and Work Hard
Artists ride the cosmic seas of life and bring back beauty and passion that is largely hidden to the rest of the world’s inhabitants. A big part of your golden contract is to share what you bring back – it’s a sacred trust and it can’t be done if you are lazy and undisciplined. You start as a diamond in the rough and through consistent effort you may become the perfectly polished artist and create masterpieces.
Television and Social media play down the effort needed to be successful. In many sitcoms we see successful young people living in New York City and living in lovely upscale apartments. They spend their large amounts of away from work time at parties and in bars and their only anxieties seem to be about relationships and trivia.
It’s an illusion! I know because I lived there and I hung out with real artists and its really really hard work. There are so many gifted people and in a place like New York and is right in your face. The few who become successful have many things going for them, but the most important one is that they are completely driven to be the best they can be. And remember – I’m not specifying what success means here – it might be mastery of the craft or it may be financial success – or both.
Develop a plan for creating new work and improving your craft and work the plan. That means many hours a day! It’s ok and healthy to be intense!
Choose carefully what you put your attention on
Your mind and body are an incredibly sophisticated biological computer. When you consume information from television, the internet, movies, and stories, you’re effectively downloading programming information into your neural network that will get played out in the rest of your life. Don’t believe it? Then try reading something really depressing and see how creative or motivated you feel afterward.
If you want to have a successful attitude and see great results, put your attention on inspiring and stretching stories, movies, and art. When I lived in New York one of my inspirational treats was visits to the Met, the Guggenheim, and MOMA,
The same goes for music – everyone’s musical inspiration is different and you’ll have to figure out what works best for you – but you can never go wrong with Mozart as a starting point.
The last important piece of focusing your attention relates to meditation and prayer. You can choose how you do it but allow some time each day to go within and plumb the depths of the infinite. Listen.
Be Really Healthy
We are experiencing a golden age with health on the planet today. Sure – there are many challenges – but we’ve living in a time of unprecedented access to cutting edge health information and amazing food. This is important for the successful artist because our creative abilities and stamina are heavily dependent on a strong healthy body and mind.
You can choose to be lazy and eat junk food and pop medication while getting no exercise and feeling like $%#@ – or you can be conscious and eat locally produced natural whole foods, supplemented with super-food supplements, exercise, and natural treatment therapies like Chinese Medicine, and feel energized and creative for 12 hours a day!
Which will you choose? Are you motivated enough by success to actually change your long-standing lifestyle behavior? Your long life and success depend on it.
Sleep and Dream
Good sleep is essential! During sleep we go through 5 distinct stages and in the process the mind-body supercomputer repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, strengthens the immune system., consolidates memories, and dreams.
A recently published study in “Current Biology” has also shown that the brain can be started on a task just as a person is dropping off to sleep and then, during slumber, take in new auditory information and then process it. Pretty incredible….
Amazing things are happening while you sleep – and we haven’t even started on the importance of dreaming. Depending on which school of thought you choose to tie your camel to, dreams are either an unconscious rehashing of the days events, deep insights into your psyche, or actual inner world travel in alternate dimensions accessing other levels of creativity and things not available on planet earth. Whichever school you subscribe to you there’s definitely value in dreaming for the artist.
To recap the 6 secrets for cultivating a success consciousness as an artist:
- Find your passion.
- Find your mentors.
- Be disciplined and work hard.
- Choose carefully what you put your attention.
- Be really healthy.
- Sleep and dream
Work with these secrets and you’ll have access to far greater creativity, success, and creative fulfillment than you ever dreamed possible!
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Hi Stan, Very much appreciate the different views. Perhaps your golden contract was, “to come here because I knew it would be a whale of an exciting and enjoyable experience and I wanted that” 🙂
Good point on the focus and clarity too. Partly what I was trying to get at in (4). If you avoid garbage in its easier to be clear and focused – at least that is my experience.