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Sometimes Life Happens And It Sucks

I have been told on occasion that I’m so lucky to be able to live the life I live. Someone sees a snapshot of my life as an artist on social media and thinks that is the whole picture. As if everything is easy and just sunshine and rainbows float around my life. The truth isn’t as glamorous.

I try to be as honest and authentic as I can be with any content that I share with the world, but even then you are only getting part of the picture. In a world saturated with smiley faces and picture-perfect snapshots of everyone else’s life, it is easy to think that you are alone in feeling unhappy.

We all have our moments. When you see a picture of me creating a work of art, you don’t see all the insecurity, doubt, and worries I may have at the moment. When you see a picture of me smiling, there is no way to know if I have lingering doubts in the background of my mind.

Back to back questions can fill my head like “Am I going to have enough money to pay the bills this month? Do my children hate me? Can I pull off this next art project even though I feel like an impostor? Am I doing enough to promote myself? Why do I feel so invisible? Why am I so fat? YouTube is probably slowing down because I’m old and ugly? Aaaaaarg!”

Sometimes Life Happens And It Sucks

You know… I woke up this morning feeling unmotivated and defeated. The book is eating up a huge portion of my life right now, and my days are spent sitting on the couch typing. I can easily get overwhelmed trying to balance writing a book and running my entire art and media business. Throw a small wrench into the mix like a water pipe bursting over your bed and all of a sudden it seems like the end of the world.

No matter how wonderful someone’s life may seem, we all have insecurities creep up, we all feel overwhelmed sometimes, and we all have things we are afraid of.

This morning, I feel like I’m a failure at my art business, YouTube, Patreon, and life. I hardly make any income from all the work I put into a lot of online platforms and I have to wonder if I’m wasting my time. Am I wasting my time writing this blog? I feel like I’m letting everyone who believes in me down and everything I create is crap.

From art to podcast, to videos, to life choices, to writing, to everything I do, it all feels like crap. I feel like everything I try to do is harder than it should be, and I feel isolated and alone.

Listen, I’m not sharing this with you because I think my life sucks or anything. I also don’t want you to think I’m complaining, because I’m not. I just want you to know that you are not alone, we ALL have days where our thoughts are less than satisfied with our lives. We all have those moments where we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. No matter how wonderful you think someone’s life is, I guarantee that daily, they may have something they are struggling with.

I think the reason I keep going with everything is a stubborn determination to smile. I don’t quit. I know that at some point during the day, I’m going to discourage myself. I know that there is a huge possibility that I’m going to call myself names. I am probably going to worry about the future and make myself feel bad about the choices I’ve made.

I know that a part of me will do whatever it takes to keep me comfortable, small, and hopeless. That is a safe place to be because you don’t take risks from that place. You don’t put yourself and your ideas out there if you feel that you don’t matter. My brain will do whatever it can to protect me from rejection or failure… even go as far as saying some really hurtful stuff in my own head and heart.

Insecurities are complex and hard to describe. We all have them, and they are all different and multifaceted.

I just don’t buy into mine as often as I used to, and when I do… I remind myself that when you are about to make a breakthrough, that’s when the negative voices in your head get louder and more desperate. I also don’t give myself any labels that are damaging. You may be feeling depressed, but you are not depressed, it is a momentary feeling.

We all go through this, and we all deal with it in our own way. I channel my emotions into all my creations and find a way to feel empowered by the experience.

Some commiserate with each other, some find a way to smile despite all the setbacks and some rise above the crap. Some choose to believe in themselves and focus on their life, and others compare their lives to what they assume others are experiencing.

It is after the experience, where I have faced the worst of it that you may see a picture of me smiling on social media. Shit happens, life can feel like it sucks, and times can be tough, but you get to determine how you respond to all of it. If your day sucks, then so be it, but don’t isolate yourself by thinking you’re the only one.

I share this with you because I think you’ve got this. I’ve got this… we can be heroes of our own story. We can all be champions of our own life… Just gotta choose to be awesome and roll with the punches.

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Being A Busy Artist

I have been very busy lately juggling a full-time art career, YouTube media studio, weekly podcasts, commissions, writing a book, art shows, giving presentations, gearing up for the holiday season and maintaining a happy & healthy relationship with my wife Klee. She is running her side of the business as well, and it is easy for both of us to get lost in the overwhelm of to-do lists, meetings, and deadlines.

First off, I’m not moaning about how busy I am. Often when someone complains about being too busy, it is actually a thinly veiled boast disguised as a complaint. I have, admittedly, worn the “busy badge” in the past during moments of insecurity. This is where you make it a point to illustrate how your life cannot possibly be silly, trivial, or meaningless because you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

The problem with all that boasting is that it has a tendency to make you feel even busier than you are. Us humans tend to believe the things we tell ourselves, while also inadvertently making others feel overwhelmed too. I finally came to the conclusion that it wasn’t helping to gripe about it, in fact, it was making the overwhelm worse. Besides, if you’re genuinely that busy… are you sure you can spare the time to be bitching about it?

Another unhealthy way I started to give into “being busy” was paying too much attention to the rapid pace that the world seemed to be heading in. I began realizing that the urgency-addicted culture that I lived in was having a huge impact on the way I lived my day to day life, and that was an eye-opener for me. I was convinced that just a bit more speed, time, productivity and I could stay in control. I started to grow unwilling to tolerate the discomfort of slowing down. Taking a break, even a small one, even for good reason, started to seem unproductive.

When you find yourself on this treadmill of urgency, it can feel unacceptable to slow down. As it turns out, the idea that you need to go full throttle all the time is completely unproductive. Your mind and body need breaks from what you are doing or you will end up burning out pretty quickly. I now take a 15 to 30 minute break every 2 hours, even during the busiest workdays. Believe or not, I get so much more done now than I did when I pushed through, and my days are less stressful and much more enjoyable.

A to-do list can be both a blessing and a curse. It is a trackable list of tasks that fuels the ambition of getting completion in a day, but adding one more item to the list feels effortless, so it’s dangerously easy to over-commit. I feel like I used to have lists that were a mile long, and when I didn’t complete them, I felt like a failure that day. I then went into the next day feeling like I was already behind.

I now have a cap on my daily to-do. Instead of an open-ended list, I only allow myself to schedule 5 items for the day. If I complete the items on my list, then I’ll add additional stuff that is small and easy to do. If I do not finish my list, I add the incompleted items to the top of the next day. I also have a Fantastic 4 list that I write about in my book, but that involves special tasks that are designed to break large overwhelming projects into tiny chunks.

Most importantly, remember that life is short and you don’t want to spend these precious days feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. It is something I remind myself of every day as I sit silently for ten minutes, battling the voices that like to say I’m being unproductive.

Give those voices the middle finger, and enjoy your day.

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Just Do That Thing, But Have Fun

There are six things that I look at whenever I find myself floundering in my career or in life. These are six things that I take a close look at when I think to myself “I should do that thing” and another side of me says “but…”

Most people think that I am full steam ahead, have endless amounts of energy and am able to somehow warp time and space. They say things like “Rafi is the hardest working artist I know.” If I’m not careful, this kind of vision of myself can become a badge of honor and I would become the hardest working artist out there, which honestly would be a total drag.

I don’t want to be the hardest working anything. In fact, I don’t want to work hard, I don’t want anything I do to be hard work in the traditional sense, I want it to be fun.

I think one of the reasons things seem like hard work for most people is because, for the most part, we are not being chased by lions anymore. Stress, anxiety, and a plethora of other emotions are tied up in this little thing we do when we go into fight or flight. It is a natural response to danger. The problem is that we go into this danger response when we feel a looming deadline, or there is a bill that is due at the end of the month.

For a lot of people out there, the simple act of speaking in front of a group is paralyzing. It can feel like a life or death situation. People will say things like “If I say the wrong things, I’ll be so embarrassed I’ll die.”

Imagine starting an art career, or any other harebrained idea that has been nagging at you. How much of that is put to a standstill because of this crazy response that is designed to keep you from becoming supper for a lion? Here are six things I tell myself to motivate myself to do that thing, but also remember to have fun.

  1. My Voice: I have one, and the only way I will find it is by doing this thing. I might be scared, but it’s not about making a good impression, it’s about speaking my truth. It’s just my opinion, everyone has one.
  2. The Fear: The purpose of FEAR is to stop you. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like when you are in immediate danger. But, if you are holding yourself back from doing something you know you love, the only way to get to the truth is to face that fear as many times as you have to. Make it an exciting game. Btw if the thing you want to do is put your head in a shark’s mouth then I would say actual life-risking fears require more prep and research… don’t just find a shark.
  3. Get Started: Starting is where most people don’t even get to. There are millions of talented and creative geniuses walking around on the planet, but they just don’t start. You don’t have to dive in, but at least take a baby step daily.
  4. Momentum: Once you start, keep going. The more you do it the more momentum you gain and eventually, you become an unstoppable force.
  5. Habits: Understand that everything you do and every reaction is creating a habit, so create habits on purpose.
  6. Give Yourself A Purpose: This could be anything. To make beautiful art that speaks to people, to voice my opinion, to write music that will change a generation, or just to paint pretty pictures… it doesn’t matter what other people think of your purpose, just that it matters to you.

I guess the most important take away for me is that life is a short occurrence, so you might as well do the things you want to do… and have fun.

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Morning Thoughts On Blazing A Trail

This morning I found myself contemplating my life and the different ways I have lived it. Since I am in the process of writing a book, I am looking at notes and different events in my life that lead me to this point. I am a very happy individual, but I also spent the majority of my life feeling trapped and unhappy.

Growing up, I was influenced by television shows, parents, friends, friends families, teachers, the weird neighbor with the giant hairy mole, and pretty much everything and everyone else in society. I was told that my airy-fairy ideas of becoming an artist, musician, or creative were a cute thing to hold onto as long as I was a child, but eventually I would have to grow out of it. The influences were subtle and mostly unspoken. Most tv shows that I loved involved the man having a job he hated to support his family, the wife stayed at home and took care of the kids, and that’s just how it was. Usually, the job sucked really bad, but the man took solace in the fact that his sacrifice was for his family.

I gotta tell you… that whole scenario of putting your dreams aside, working a job you hate and sacrificing your happiness for the greater good is a piece of crap-turd. First off, that sucks for the man. I was that man for 20 years, and I can tell you, it sucked pretty bad. Second, I wasn’t benefiting my children at all, if anything I was teaching them first hand the same bad influence I had growing up. Third, I started to secretly resent my family because I felt that my sacrifice was being taken for granted, and that slowly tore everything apart.

After that experience I realized that no one had a handle on happiness or what you should do with your life, just a plethora of opinions based on other peoples’ opinions, and the majority of those opinions were outdated crap. It wasn’t out-of-the-box-thinking-trailblazers telling me my dreams were impossible, these were people that had conformed to living a life like everyone else, and most of them weren’t feeling fulfilled or happy.

Listen, I’m not saying you have to work for yourself in order to be happy, you can have a job somewhere and be happy and feel fulfilled. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of people that just settle for what they can get and ignore the yearning that comes from within, and in my opinion, that’s just misery. I think whether you pursue your own career or you work for someone else, it’s really all about how you choose to live; whether or not you are willing to blaze your own trail or simply conform to the status quo.

Blaze a trail:
Find a new path or method; begin a new undertaking. By extension, to be the first to do something, often that which is later emulated or built upon by others. Note: New trails or routes through forests were often marked by `blazing’ which involved making white marks called `blazes’ on tree trunks, usually by chipping off a piece of bark.

If there is anything that I pride myself on now, it is that I stubbornly do things my own way and continue to move forward despite the fact that I may have to pole vault over obstacles every once in a while.

That being said, if there are portions of the well-worn path that suit my needs, I don’t avoid them, but I make sure not to allow myself to get comfortable with the easiness of it.

One thing I can take away from these very unfinished thoughts that I’m sharing with you is this: No matter what, you have a choice. You get to decide how you are going to live your life. Some people may be disappointed by your decisions, and they may even get angry at you… some may never talk to you again. Most people will come around eventually, and they’ll say things like “I always believed in you and knew you could do it” despite what they may have said in the beginning.

I think that no matter what, it is always worth looking at your life and answering one question… if I was on my deathbed right now, would I have any regrets?

Just food for thought.

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When The Going Gets Tough, Just Keep Going

Recently I felt like a little mouse, with a tiny helmet, attempting to figure out a way to get the cheese out of a giant mousetrap. I’m not going to bore you with the details of how I got into this situation, I’ve already talked about it in length in my last blog, I will say running a creative business is a bitch a lot of the time…

Heck, being a human can be a bitch a lot of the time, so what do we do in this thing that we call life?

A lot of artists ask me how I managed to “succeed” in a field that actually carries with it the stigma that you are automatically going to starve if you pursue said career. The word “artist” is synonymous with “starving” and a lot of the time, they seem to go together like email spam and my grandmother opening it.

What is funny to me, is that I don’t focus on having a successful career. So whenever someone asks me how I did it, I usually don’t have that clear of an answer. I do, however, have certain things that I try to remind myself daily, and that’s probably one of the reasons people assume I’m doing so well. These don’t have much to do with career, they are the way I want to see the world and myself. Simple little reminders to keep going.

  1. You’re alive right now, and if you are alive, anything is still possible.
  2. You’re expecting too much of yourself. Most successes are not overnight successes. Take your time and find a way to enjoy the slow burn. Keep chipping away, little by little, you’ll get there.
  3. Remember that you are stronger than you think. You might privately think to yourself that you can’t handle the pressure. Trust me, we all do that, but we can do so much more than we think… and we can especially do way more than some people think we can.
  4. Even when things seem to be falling apart, you have reason to smile. This one is tricky, don’t lie to yourself with false positive thoughts, but find a genuine reason to smile and change perspective.
  5. Don’t compare yourself to people who you think are doing awesome. Instead, I think “If they’re doing great then I can too.” Besides, you haven’t walked in their shoes, you don’t know how they feel, but you know how you make yourself feel when you do something dumb like feel bad comparing yourself to someone you don’t really know anything about.
  6. I can find a different “How.” Take a deep breath, do number 4, and then find a different way… especially if you have been knocking on a wall for days… you may just need to move to the left about 3 ft and knock on the door.
  7. Can you find the fun in doing this? If not, consider the fact that maybe you should be doing something else. For this to work, I have to be honest with myself, because I can easily deceive myself into stopping. It’s important to remember why you started whatever you started and find your why… then check with yourself that you haven’t deviated from that purpose with your current project.
  8. Take a break and work on something that will make you feel like a bad-ass. We all have things that we are really good at. Sometimes, I’ll take a break from the thing I am currently failing at, and work on something that makes me feel awesome. An “I am forking AWESOME!” break… We need that reminder sometimes, and I find that it is best to remind yourself by doing something you are a rock-star at, even if it is totally unrelated.

Usually right after I remind myself of these things, I have a momentary lapse into despair. It’s the lowest point in your whole journey, a hopeless-looking place that comes right before feeling good. Because I expect it, I handle it pretty well, most times. It is the brain’s last ditch effort to keep things safe and maintain the status quo.

I know, it’s a weird relationship we have with our brain, but most of the programming we have in our brain is designed to keep us safe and sound from anything perceived as a threat. Recently, the idea of leaving the safety and comfort of Etsy to pursue our own platform was seen as a threat to my well being, so my brain did everything in it’s power to protect me. It’s why some people giggle when they are nervous… not sure how that would save you from a saber-toothed tiger, but maybe you can giggle away ghosts or something.

Anyhow…

When you’re pursuing anything, it’s almost inevitable that at some point you’ll think one or more of the following:

“This is harder than I thought it would be.”
“Why is this taking so long?”
“I’m getting nowhere with this.”
“I keep failing and screwing it up.”
“I can’t do this. What was I thinking?”

And when you do have one—or more—of these thoughts, it’s very likely that you’ll want to give up. When that happens, I remind myself of the points I made above.

Achieving large, hairy life goals isn’t easy. Doing much in life isn’t easy, and somewhere along the way it’s very likely that you’ll want to quit. But when you feel like quitting, and the going gets tough, just keep going.

Beside, it’s not a failure if you don’t quit… It’s just a work in progress.


HELP ME WRITE MY BOOK!

Pretty soon I’ll be starting a crowd funding campaign to help me finish my book(s) and audio-books. It’ll be the first of a series that I have been working on for the last 8 years. I am both excited and nervous!

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When Someone Tells You To Grow Up

Today you’ll join me in my brain… There is something on my mind and you’ll be following me through the twists and turns of my thought process when something pisses me off.

If you’ve been following along in our adventure, you know that we had the whole Etsy conundrum and decided to move on to greener pastures. Of course we ranted about it on YouTube and pointed out the reasons for the move and some of the shady stuff that Etsy was doing.

We received thousands of responses to the videos, and although 99.5% of people that watched and commented were constructive in sharing their experiences with and thoughts about the Etsy situation (some in agreement, some not), there were some comments that caused me to scratch my head and fume a bit.

One that seemed to reoccur a couple times was “Oh grow up! and quit complaining. Just roll in your shipping and raise your price.”

These particular comments caused me to stop and think about whether or not we were simply complaining about the situation. Well, only after I thought “BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP CENSOR BLEEP BLEEP!!!”

In the videos, we lay out the problem we have with the new Etsy free shipping push, point out a few of the ways this would be a problem for the small business owner, and then talk about a plan of action moving forward.

I’ll be honest: when I’m around someone who is chronically whining, complaining, bitching and moaning it’s as difficult for me as it is for anyone else. The energy of those dynamics is one of powerlessness.

And I don’t do powerlessness.

The simple fact is that people respond to emotions in an interesting way, based on how they view the world… based on the experiences they’ve had and how they view themselves. They will lump themselves up into a group and do the same with other people. For example, we were protesting Etsy’s new policy, and thus we were grouped into their perception of what a protester is. Someone who is whining and complaining about stuff and making a ruckus, that is the point of view of someone who would never protest. People divide themselves into groups because it’s safe to feel like you are part of a group… left, right, this movement, that movement, this group, that group, religious, non-religious. My problem with this is that if you have an “us”, then there is a “them”, and that’s where things get stupid and dangerous. Who knows where artists fit in this spectrum, but I’m sure there are several people who assume we are just irresponsible and childish… and some are, because they are human, not because they are artists.

I think it’s interesting that the term “grow up” is associated to, and often used as a verbal fly swatter against speaking up for yourself. I know that when I was a kid, if I didn’t agree with something, or was against doing something, an adult would get mad and say “Oh grow up.”

So, for some people it must mean that being a grown up means staying quiet when you disagree and just taking it. Because if you speak your mind about something, then you are being childish.

In our example, Etsy decides to use gentle coercion to get us to change our policies which would require us to be dishonest with our collectors. It also will cause us to be treading illegal waters. If we don’t do it, we will be gently penalized by having our products show up at the bottom of the pile.

So in order to be “grown up” I shut my mouth, change the policies of my business, and deceive my customers. I basically just take it up the keester. I guess at that point I would have to be ok with Etsy telling me how to run my business, lie to people, and just not stand up for what I believe in. That does sound very adult like. I would have to make all kinds of excuses to justify my actions, allow myself to continue feeling helpless while telling myself that I was in control and ultimately made the sacrifices one makes when they are a grown up.

I’ll be honest… That sounds so stupid. It’s ridiculous that people live that way… but they do. I lived that way for most of my life. I didn’t make waves, didn’t rock the boat, I was a good boy, so quiet and respectful, and so spineless. I also, would get mad and tell people to grow up when they just didn’t fall inline, because I was so twisted inside by the justifications and fear I had of causing a ruckus that I didn’t even know what to believe any more.

I’m not that way now. In my mind, the question of whether I’m a grown up or not is a crock of shite. We are all a bunch of kids pretending to be grown ups, making serious faces when we think we are supposed to be serious, and pretending to know what we are talking about. We don’t have any absolute answers to “life, the universe and everything”, we are all just figuring it out as we go.

So, for me… Speaking what I believe, yet being open and flexible is the responsible thing to do. Moving away from an e-commerce platform that is trying to tell me how to run my business, and ultimately has control over how well my business performs is probably the most grown up thing I can do… whatever that means.

I’ll leave you with this thought. Perhaps speaking up for the things I believe in is annoying to some people. It’s really all too easy to turn a blind eye to things that don’t sit well with us, and it can even seem more comfortable. When someone speaks up about an issue and we have to look at things we otherwise don’t want to, it can be a disruption of the status quo and that’s inevitably going to upset some percentage of people. And maybe it’s even true, as one comment suggested, “You just don’t understand how big business works.” Well, maybe so… but I do have a pretty good understanding of small business and the values that keep it going… and I sure as heck have a good understanding of my business, and how I choose to run it. If that’s childish and naive, then so be it.

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What Happens When You Speak Up As An Artist? Etsy Free Shipping Policy

So, this post is not going to be my usual feel good post, because there’s just a little something I want to get off my chest. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all “Rage Against The Machine” here, but I’ve got something to say.

If you follow us on YouTube, you know that last week just about every video we posted had to do with our feelings about the new move by Etsy to coerce their sellers into providing “free shipping” and roll the lost shipping cost into the item prices. Which means we lie to our collectors, which neither Klee nor I were prepared to do.

Also, this whole policy change came with a clusterfudge of other problems as well, such as inflation of price means some buyers will pay multiple hidden shipping when they didn’t need to and shops with unpredictable shipping rates would have to price themselves out of the market. Plus, items that are fragile and hand made would be problematic to estimate shipping in the first place.

Klee and I also discovered that it’s illegal to deceive customers this way, taxes would now be charged on shipping cost, and international buyers would pay inflated price plus shipping… plus more, we lay it all out in the videos.

What was interesting about this whole thing was the response we received.

Most people that responded were in the same boat, as sellers, in facing this dilemma. Like Andy King who said “We just spent the day jacking up our prices, but like Rafi we sell paintings…so we added the cost to ship to California (which is the most expensive shipping for us typically). It’s ridiculous, because now etsy has the same stuff priced radically higher than we have it on other sites…extremely frustrating, because we even though we sell less on etsy than elsewhere, we’ve really enjoyed the platform and the fact that it’s always felt very supportive.”

Some hadn’t joined Etsy but agreed with our point of view. Like Missy B. who said “I am so glad I never did an Etsy shop. Many have suggested I do it but I would not. I watched enough videos on how to have a successful shop to know it just wasn’t for me. Now I know it is really not for me! Good for you standing firm.”

Some said our country was going to crap and went a little overboard in the comments. I’m guessing they were a little more upset than usual.

Expressions Series By Rafi Perez
Expressions Series By Rafi Perez

One person said I was whining about corporate change. She said “It sounds to me like Etsy is trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, it sounds like you don’t understand how business works. If you are selling enough art on Etsy, then this policy change should not bother you. “Rolling shipping into the selling price” is not new. It is a marketing strategy using psychology. And it works. Please do some business research before you publish videos trashing the hand that feeds you.”

To which I responded “I’m not sure you would be qualified to give me business lessons, especially because Etsy is not the hand that feeds me, they are merely one of many platforms to sell on. If anything, makers are the hand that feed Etsy. I’ve been in business for most of my life, and if you are selling cheap crap, then rolling in prices would be the way to go to trick people into purchasing by saying something is free when it’s not. You can justify it however you want, you’ll get no judgment from me, but don’t be offensive simply because you are trying to justify your point. You don’t know me, nor do you know my experience. So go on with your happy self.”

People are just different with different opinions, some will agree with you passionately, others will disagree passionately, most won’t care, and others just ignore you.

Art Chair By Rafi Perez

I was surprised to find that with the thousands of responses I received from Etsy sellers, forums of people who are upset, and plethora of videos discussing this issue, that none of the news outlets are talking about this. In fact the only real media you find is Forbes and other large outlets briefly mentioning that people are upset, followed by a plethora of quotes from the Etsy CEO talking about how great this move is for Etsy.

Etsy itself hasn’t made any kind of follow up statement… but then again they’re not facing any pressure from the mainstream media.

Small creative business be damned.

Rafi Working In Studio

So, how do I feel in all this?

Eh, I’ve moved on. Looking towards the future of my business, which does not involve Etsy. Not because I’m up in arms or looking for a fight, but because we no longer make good business partners. End of story.

I think what was most interesting about all of this is the way some people perceive Etsy sellers. Although we are small businesses with profit margins, overhead, costs, labor, business taxes, and everything else that it takes to run a business… there are some people viewing us as mentally unstable protesters, just using any means possible to bring down the government.

It’s just so interesting sometimes, to see how people react to what they believe is going on, without actually looking into it. Reading some of the comments, I was like “Did you even watch the video??”

Either way, we got so many amazing and supportive responses from so many people around the world, that it makes up for the idiots who think I’m a radical or something.

The truth is we are always going to be facing some challenges in our creative business, and how we handle it is up to us. Whether or not people perceive me as a victim, someone who is standing up and moving on, or some troublemaker, is none of my concern. Only I know what is good for my business, and honestly whether or not someone stays with Etsy or they go is none of my concern. They ultimately know what’s best for their business, and I support their decisions.

Personally, I will not advertise free shipping and not actually provide free shipping, it may not seem like a big deal and really it isn’t, but I will not compromise my ethics in order to make an extra buck. I will also not support a company who is willing to force their partners into doing such things at the expense of said partners. It also makes me sick every time I see an advertising from Etsy offering free shipping to people knowing that that person is paying inflated pricing… just not willing to do it.

All I know is that I’m looking forward, getting excited about my new chapter and new e-commerce ventures, and having fun… that’s all that matters.

If you want to watch the videos that started this adventure go to

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Why Remove Toxic People From Your Life

I had a conversation with someone at the market the other day and they were telling me a terrible story about something that their friend said to them. It was discouraging and mean, and immediately I thought “Why would you have a friend like that?”

Years ago, when I was a corporate dude, I had a lot of friends. In fact I prided myself on how many friends I had. It was almost like the more popular I was, the more value my life had. I also had a collection of friendships that were bronzed by longevity, a group of friends that were at the top tiers because I had known them longer than anyone else.

Despite having a close circle of friends, I wasn’t what you would call happy. I think the problem started because I wasn’t very popular in school. Trust me, I have no qualms about it, I was a weird ass kid… I mean I wasn’t scary weird, just quiet, awkward, and unsociable. I think my need to fill in the empty space, caused me to not question my friendships and feel grateful that people were actually willing to call me their friend.

It wasn’t until years later that I started to take notice of the dynamic personalities that I took on around certain people. How in most cases, I was too afraid to be myself, and how I wasn’t really sure who that was any more.

Some people that I considered really close friends ended up being the most toxic. I didn’t realize it, because we had slowly over the years created a dance in our relationships, where I willingly played a role and they played theirs. It was like our dynamic was perfectly choreographed.

A truth that I had to face, which was very difficult for me was this. You will allow people to abuse you slightly less than you abuse yourself and others, or you would leave immediately. It is only because you think you deserve it, that you make all the excuses to stay. Either from the beginning, or slowly throughout your relationship, you allowed yourself to stay and take the toxic relationship.

This wasn’t a happy thought from where I was standing. I wanted to deny it, and say it was just some crap that some stupid self help guru made up.

But, once I started thinking about it, I couldn’t stop. I realized that the source of my unhappiness had noting to do with the people I surrounded myself with. I surrounded myself with toxic people, because I was toxic to myself and others. A positive person entering my life wouldn’t last long in that dynamic, they would get weeded out eventually or simply leave.

I had to change my relationship with myself.

When I started on this journey to becoming my biggest cheerleader, most of my friends were put off by it and called me all kinds of names.

I associated it to this analogy:

You go to a bar every night and meet with five friends. Every night, you complain about your job, your spouse, the weather, and yourself. You all commiserate about how tough things are for you and how life sucks. All you know is the inside of that bar, that is where you are comfortable.

Then one day, you go for a walk instead. The day is beautiful, and you stand by the ocean. At first you are uncomfortable, and not really sure what to expect. Part of you wants to run back to the bar, the other part of you wants to see where this goes. So you stay. You sit in the stillness and watch a sunset for the first time and you are overcome with beauty.

You go back to the bar the next night and try to convince your friends to stop their routine and experience the sunset like you did. You tell them that it is beautiful, and that you feel amazing. They tell you that you have changed, and they feel like they don’t know you any more.

At that point you have a choice… Go to the sunset alone, or stay at the bar.

Choice is yours.

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Everything Happens For A Reason

I know what you’re thinking, oh boy Rafi is going to give us an airy fairy lecture on the universe or some crap like that. Maybe, but I wanted to share a piece of advice that I would have given my younger self. It’s a piece of advice that has changed my life for the better, a different perspective than what is the norm.

When I say everything happens for a reason, I don’t mean what most people mean when they are trying to see the silver lining in a tragedy, because honestly, sometimes there isn’t one. Life can suck royally and sometimes shit happens that we have a hard time bouncing back from.

It’s more about taking responsibility for your life and how you feel. In other words, not blaming yourself or others for the circumstances and events that take place in your life. Understanding that every moment, every circumstance is an opportunity for you to show yourself who you are.

Whether it’s good or bad, if you understand that everything comes into your life for a reason, even though at the time something might seem like your world is falling apart, you’ll be more equipped to handle it.

Life By Rafi Perez

It is only natural to feel like things are not meant to happen in a negative way — people are not meant to leave, you are not meant to get rejected, accidents are not meant to happen — and if you had done something differently, the situation might have turned out different.

However, as time passes, you realize that things happen, life goes on, and you are left stronger and wiser for it. Sometimes people come into your life to teach you something about yourself, or to bring you to the opportunity to empower yourself. Things that seemed horrible, painful, or unfair at the time usually lead to an opportunity to stand up for yourself. Years later in reflection, you may realize that they happened because you allowed them to happen, and eventually got stronger for it. That is taking responsibility.

My Life Drips Away

So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my younger self:

Everything happens for a reason — understand this. Without mistakes and failure, you would have never learned. Without breakups, you would have never met someone new. Without pain, you would have never grown. Once you understand this — really understand this — you will know that everything can serve a purpose. Don’t dwell on disappointments or view unfortunate events as regrets. But rather, see them as opportunities in disguise — an opportunity to know yourself. Try to understand the fleeting nature of events in life and don’t stress or ever think that life is unfair, because everything happens for a reason. And only time will tell.

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You Were Born A Creative Genius… Really.

When I was born, I was so surprised that I didn’t even talk for a whole year and a half. During that time, no one knew the creativity that was waiting to burst out from my drooling tiny lump of a body. The truth was set free the day I discovered markers and scribbled my art on every surface I could find.

If you want to be creative, do it. Forget the prejudice that creativity is saved for the select few. We are all creative, it’s just a matter of understanding where creativity comes from. We are ALL born with it… It’s definitely not Maybelline.

Rafi The Beardo

Honestly, if you’re not feeling creative, the simple fact is that you unlearned creativity, by following rules and being well behaved. No, I’m not saying you have to be an anarchist, but I remember my grade school teacher telling me that I couldn’t draw on or in my folders and notebooks. In my mind I was like “You don’t own these, they’re mine, I can do what I want.” If I hadn’t had that mentality I wouldn’t have gotten so much practice drawing and sketching while my teacher droned on about stuff I wouldn’t remember years later.

Listen, before you complain, I had a lot of teachers who were passionate and had my attention during class… I love those teachers and their classes were memorable, but I also had some crappy teachers who shouldn’t be allowed to mold the minds of young children into the mush they were shoveling.

Me Teaching, Hopefully I’m not Shoveling Mush

Creativity can be learned or unlearned, but no matter what, you were born creative. In 1968, Dr. Land tested the creativity of 1,600 children. He re-tested the same children at 10 years of age and again at 15. The results were astounding.

  • Test results amongst 5 year olds: 98 percent creative
  • Test results amongst 10 year olds: 30 percent creative
  • Test results amongst 15 year olds: 12 percent creative
  • Same test given to 280,000 adults: 2 percent creative

“What we have concluded,” Land wrote, “is that non-creative behavior is learned.”

The creative adult is the child who survived the trials of conformity.

What I gather from this, is that the more you follow the rules, the less creative you become. Luckily, you can just as easily decide to blaze your own trail and ignite your creativity fuse again.

Urban Swinery Art By Rafi Perez

A good way to do that is experimenting, exploring, questioning assumptions, using imagination, going outside comfort zones, starting a project you are not sure you can do, and doing vs thinking about doing.

Also, think in a divergent way. Someone hands you a phone, think about all the different ways you can use the phone that are not what it was meant for. I put my phone on airplane mode and threw it up in the air. WORST Transformer EVER.

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact — everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.

Also, remember not to take yourself too seriously as a creative. In my opinion a real artist doesn’t need anyone to take them seriously. When I get asked “how did you become so creative?” I usually respond with “I ate a lot of paste as a kid.”

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez
Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

Create what you want, write what you want to read, build what you want to use, cook what you want to eat and share it with the world. If the world responds positively — cool. If not, who cares? At least you’re doing what you enjoy and you are showing yourself what a creative genius you actually are.