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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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How To Get Noticed

I get approached by a lot of artists who are just starting out, who ask me how they can get noticed in a saturated art market. They think there is some trick to it, some magical formula that exists that causes millions of people to suddenly flock to their social media page. Usually, I leave them very disappointed with my answer, because unless you are selling a gimmick, it is going to take time.

Being Childish Is Fun

What I do tell them is that it is time to take that scary step and stand in the limelight. I also tell them to think of their future followers and collectors as human beings and not just a gathering of statistics. The answer is NOT about having the lowest price, being the best, offering free shipping, or any of the stupid gimmicks people pull to try and close a sale. Besides, amazon already has that jazz on lock-down. Certainly, some of those things are nice, but honestly, in an age where the masses are taking that route it is not going to set you apart. Standing out is about building relationships and that starts with each and every encounter you have. Whether you are developing a relationship online or face to face it is that extra humanity and authenticity that will set you apart.

Rafi Perez Live Painting Vinyl

Be genuinely interested in people. People are what make up businesses, galleries, art studios, and everything else in the world. Create a real connection by actually being interested in them, instead of focusing on what you can get out of the relationship. On social media, it is impossible to look at everyone’s feed, especially when you start to get a lot of followers, but make it a point to acknowledge everyone that makes the time to communicate with you.

Most importantly, ask yourself: how can you add value to their lives after knowing what you know from meeting them. A lot of typical marketing is mass targeted, and with that approach you might as well be throwing a wet sock at the wall and seeing if it sticks (the imagery of both makes me gag a little). When you are genuinely interested in the people you connect with, you reach out to them with specific content or creations that are relevant to them. Things that you know they are interested in because they are interested in the genuine you.

Rafi Perez Live Seminar

“Be genuine, authentic and have people in your life that will call you out and hold you accountable.” – Jim Palmer

A lot of people will tell you to be unique so that you stand out when you market yourself. What they don’t tell you is that you are already unique. There is no one out there quite like you, nor will there EVER be anyone out there like you. That is why, I think it is most important to be authentic. I think a lot of people will look to someone else as a guide on how to act. The problem with this method is that you are playing a role and eventually that is going to become exhausting. Also, the most loyal collectors will be those who have gotten to know you… the real you.

News Journal Photos

And last but not least, put yourself out there. Take action, starting today, right now. Open your mouth, let your opinion be known, share your art, share your music, share your writing, share your videos, be remarkable and go big or go home. Putting yourself out there might mean stepping outside your comfort zone, doing something that you have never done before and taking some risks. Push yourself beyond the walls that you have built around yourself for so many years. Stop telling yourself NO and start telling yourself YES. You got this.

At the end of the day, getting noticed is all about realizing that you are remarkable and you have a voice. It’s not about forcing your opinions on someone, but simply speaking your truth and sharing it with the world.

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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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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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When A Harsh Critic Attacks – How I Handle It

Not well sometimes… but I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve that have helped me get better and better at dealing with poo flinging critics.

I think it is a necessary plight that one will have to get used to when you are putting yourself out there. I am an artist who creates art, music, writing, YouTube videos, and puts them all out there for the world to see… I get a lot of negative criticism.

People Can Say Mean Things About My Art And I Don’t Care

Comparatively speaking, I mostly get a lot of beautiful comments on my creations. We have a following of some of the most amazing humans I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with.

Yet, negative comments can still throw me off kilter, despite the overwhelming positivity I experience in the world. It’s almost like a temporary reminder that the world isn’t such a wonderful place… and there is an a-hole around every corner, just waiting to jump out and say you suck.

I want to be clear about something, I’m not talking about constructive criticism. Listen, sometimes even a helpful criticism can be hard to hear, and our first response may be to run away flailing our arms helplessly, but sometimes it’s valid. Follow the source and stop for a moment, get off your high horse and check to see if it is valid and constructive. If not, then we are talking about destructive criticism. If the criticism is constructive, then it’s intended to guide you and to help you improve as a person, not to bring you down and make you feel inadequate.

People Say Mean Things On My YouTube Channel All The Time, And I Don’t Care… Kinda… I’m working On It.

If the criticism is completely invalid, totally off, and only meant to hurt you, then that’s what I’m talking about here.

So what do I do when someone is all “blah blah blah you suck Rafi blah blah blah!” I Don’t take it personally. It takes a miserable person to try and make themselves feel better by giving some misery to someone else… don’t take it, it’s not yours, and it doesn’t belong to you. Understand that people who are in pain say really hurtful things, especially people that may know which buttons to press. Think about a time where you may have said something terrible to someone. Were you in your right mind? Were you in pain? Were you feeling like a victim? Some people live there in that place… don’t take it personally, unless you wanna visit and stay a while.

Recently A Friend Said Something Mean About My Singing And I Don’t Care.

Understand that it’s your buttons. Why is it that one person can be called ugly and not even react a little, but someone else will blow a gasket? It’s because we all have our own little triggers based on our own insecurities. So if someone says something and it bothers you, take a look and see if you can identify the insecurity or doubt behind the emotion. In my opinion, when someone says something mean and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are full of crap, you hardly even react, but if they touch on something that pushes on an insecurity it can be devastating. Just remember, they are your buttons. Figure out what’s behind it and sort it out.

Keep doing what you’re doing. Are you going to stop being who you are simply because someone spewed some garbage at you? Of course not. If the criticism has no basis whatsoever, then the best thing you can do is to ignore it completely.

Honestly, only very few people will talk smack, and I’m going to keep doing what I do… and they can kiss my booty.

Listen, people talk shit all the time because they are not putting themselves out there in the muck, sweating, bleeding and enduring the terrifyingly exhilarating ride that is fulfilling your dreams. They are going to say you can’t sing, you can’t paint, you’re not funny, you’re are not good enough, and everything else that they can say to destroy your hope and get you to stop. Don’t EVER let someone who is not putting themselves out there in the muck discourage you from going all the way. If they are not doing it themselves, and facing critics of their own, then they have no right to talk.

Don’t feel bad if you’re not able to push all of the negative words aside right away. It takes practice to work it out and get to a place where it’s no thing… But you got this.

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5 Reasons Why I Don’t Need Drugs To Feel Good

People tend to think that artists are on the fringes of society and completely out of their minds. I can only assume to know what kind of craziness they think ensues in my creative life. I’m sure they picture me wide eyed and completely detached from reality stuck in front of a canvas throwing brushes at imaginary people… or doing drugs. Let’s be honest, most people think artists are on something.

I hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t do any drugs and I’m really quite boring… but awesomely boring. Although, if you saw me right now you would think I was out of my mind or on drugs. Listen, just because you’re in your studio shaking your fists in the air and screaming “You’re gonna die!” doesn’t mean you are crazy… it might just mean that a fly got in and it’s been flying around your head for the last hour.

Anyhow, the article is all about why I don’t need drugs, so let’s get into it.

1. I do something nice for myself every day.

Simply put, I make sure to do what I want to do for a few hours. Not a to do list, not a job, not errand, simply what I want. It might be paint something, or sit in a chair and stare at a wall, whatever it is, I’m gonna do it.

2. I listen to myself.

I pay attention to how I talk to myself, or how I describe myself in conversation to other people. I’m always paying attention to make sure that I’m not discouraging or putting myself down. I feel like it is a social norm to get down on yourself, and say things like “Yeah, I’m stupid.” or blah blah blah… In fact, most people don’t want to say too many nice things about themselves for fear that someone might think they are conceited, which in my opinion is stupid.

3. I forgive myself

I screw up a lot, and make all kinds of mistakes. I do a lot of great things too, but the problem is that most of the time we tend to dwell in the mistakes and all but forget the wins. I make it a point to learn from my mistakes and move on.

4. I accept myself as I am right now.

For starters, that means accepting the body that I have today, which is a very different body than I had forever ago. If there is any habit that I picked up from my family, it is obsessing about my weight and my age… weight, I can do something about if it gets out of hand, age not so much. Either way, being happy with the you that is you right now is the only thing that matters.

Self-acceptance also means accepting my income and success level, and getting out of the stupid mentality that I’m not enough. Honestly, accepting yourself is stating to yourself that right now, in this moment, you are enough… plain and simple.

5. I eliminate toxic people from my life.

I do not allow or tolerate clients, friends, family, collectors of my art, YouTube followers, or anyone to make me unhappy. I have no problem hanging up on, deleting, or not continuing a relationship with anyone who is toxic. It’s not worth it.

All in all, it’s about feeling a sense of freedom and appreciating your life more. I feel like a lot of my life was spent feeling like a victim, and needing to escape. It’s still a work in progress, but I mostly feel really good about my life. I no longer feel like a victim to toxic people, my own self talk, my mistakes, my age, my body, time, the world, or much of anything… except that damn fly.

I gotta go… “YOU’RE GONNA DIE FLY!!!”

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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.