Today Klee and I were talking about the art stock market on our podcast. That’s the name we coined for the big-ticket commodities art market that you see blasted all over the news and in documentaries. Considering the amount of press that gets focused on large art auctions and big-name galleries, it’s easy to think that you are not actually an artist until you’ve somehow made it there.
It got me thinking about the way that people perceive the art world in general. When you think about it, what people call the art market in the media, is only about 1% of the actual art market. There is no mention of the everyday people that make up the art market, the real art market, the real world.
The real art world is made up of one-on-one interactions, and I think we forget that sometimes in this media blasted quick paced world. It’s not about how much money the art sold for, or how wealthy the collector is, or how much prestige the sale brought the artist. Honestly, the corporate companies I worked for would print out prestige in the form of “You did real good.” certificates, and I would put them in cheap frames and hang them on my wall as a symbol of how important I was. I feel like we miss the point when we confuse success with awards and accolades. You can add them to your resume, but I feel like we’ve lost the point of what it is all about.
It’s about the friendships developed, and the relationships we establish as artists, with the people that connect with us through the art we create. It’s about the creative process and the astonishing ability to face rejection every day and share your art with the world. It is about the collector who proudly displays your artwork on their wall, or wears it on their body, or listens to it in their car. It is about that connection that would not have been possible if that individual artist did not break through the barriers of fear and share their creations with the world. It would not have been possible without the vast amount of humans out there who buy art because of the value it has to them, not because it has market value.
As an artist who had to make his own way, I have trained myself to see the world quite differently than I used to. Where I once had hopelessness in an impossible art career system, I now see the opportunities, the misdirections to be avoided, and the hope for everyone to pursue their creative spirit.
I think it is easy to forget in this world that is so focused on money and success, that we artists create because of the love of creation. We create to express ourselves and bring back a childlike sense of imagination, wonder, and feeling into our world. Creations that can remind us all to pause and appreciate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Momentum: Once you start, keep going. The more you do it the more momentum you gain and eventually, you become an unstoppable force.
Habits: Understand that everything you do and every reaction is creating a habit, so create habits on purpose.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Most of you know that I launched my book campaign recently. What you may not know is that I am terrified to put a book out into the world.
When I was a wee little lad there were some dreams that I had for myself. One, was to become an artist and the other was to become a writer, then there were little sub dreams like a musician and an actor. I wanted to be a creative individual who had the ability to communicate his ideas via his art.
I have successfully communicated my ideas with my paintings and sculptures for the last decade, but any time I approached writing, it became a side hobby. What I didn’t realize at the time when I was making all the excuses in the world to not sit down and write my book, was that I was scared.
I mean, I am a full-time professional artist, I make art for a living… I’ve faced all the rejection, all the stereotypes, all the discouragement, and yet here I am. I persevered and showed myself and the world that I can do it. I have faced fear head-on blazed my own trail through the wilderness.
Apparently, none of that means a rip when it comes to putting a book out there. Suddenly a lot of old fears started to surface from when I first talked myself out of pursuing an art career. These fears where slightly different, not the same ones I had overcome.
What if my ideas are wrong or invalid, or that everyone already knows what I know?
If you have ever attempted to put yourself out there in the arena and face rejection head-on, chances are you have had some or all of the questions below running through your mind. Especially when you are going to put a performance or creation out there into the world.
“I don’t think I have anything new to say.” “What if I put this book out there and everyone figures out I’m a loser?” “Everything I have to say is stuff everyone already knows.” “I’m afraid this has all already been said.” “My book won’t be any different from other books on this topic.” “Surely if there was one book that did not need to be written, it’s this one, right?” “I’m afraid my book won’t be perfect.” “I’m afraid I put too much in.” “I’m afraid I didn’t put in enough.” “I’m afraid I’m going to forget everything I want to say.” “I’m afraid of leaving things out.” “What if no one reads it?” “What if there is no audience?” “What if my book doesn’t impact anyone?” “What if this is a waste of my time and effort?” “I’ll be embarrassed if people criticize my book.” “I’m afraid this book is going to make someone mad.” “I’m afraid of being judged.” “I don’t want my book to upset my current clients.” “I can’t say these things about people.” “What if my friends read it and hate it?” “What if I sound bitchy or stupid?” “I’m afraid I’m going to look stupid.” “What if I get all one-star reviews?” “What if everyone who reads it, hates it?” “What will people think if there’s a typo?” “I’m afraid something will be wrong with my book, and I’ll look stupid to everyone I know.”
Sound familiar? These were the same fears I faced when I started showing my art full time.
So, what do I do with these fears…? I’m not sure yet, but I will tell you this. I am writing this book because it is the book that I wish I would have found when I started my art career, and I believe it is going to be amazing, despite my fears.
So, I’ll oblige and answer each question and respond to each statement.
“I don’t think I have anything new to say.”
Of course I don’t, there are only so many words in the English language and I’m not inventing any new ones. I do however have my own unique perspective and that will have to be enough.
“Everything I have to say is stuff everyone already knows.”
We already know a bunch of crap, but usually when we hear it from someone else’s experience, it makes a difference.
“I’m afraid this has all already been said.”
“My book won’t be any different from other books on this topic.”
Oh yes, it will, you’re not smart enough to write like those guys.
“Surely if there was one book that did not need to be written, it’s this one, right?”
You know that’s bull, this book needs to be written by you. Even if no one reads this, you need to write it.
“I’m afraid my book won’t be perfect.”
Good! Perfection is overrated.
“I’m afraid I put too much in.”
That’s what editing is for, better to cut than not have enough.
“I’m afraid I didn’t put in enough.”
Seriously, make up your mind. Trust me… You can’t keep your mouth shut, this is not going to be an issue.
“I’m afraid I’m going to forget everything I want to say.”
Only if you forget who you are, how you live, and what your entire belief system is.
“What if no one reads it?”
I’m sure at least Klee will read it, so no worries there.
“What if there is no audience?”
Your crowdfunding campaign is already 70% funded, I don’t think you have to worry about that.
“What if my book doesn’t impact anyone?”
If it impacts you, it will impact someone… write it for you.
“What if this is a waste of my time and effort?”
If you don’t do it, you will regret not spending the time and effort into it. That means that no matter what, it’s worth it.
“I’ll be embarrassed if people criticize my book.”
People criticize you all the time, and they will definitely criticize your book, so get used to it… sissy.
“I’m afraid this book is going to make someone mad.”
Oh well, people get mad over stupid stuff all the time, so don’t worry about it. You’re not a jerk who likes to provoke people, remember that.
“I’m afraid of being judged.”
You get judged every day… get over it.
“I don’t want my book to upset my current followers.”
The ones that don’t like it aren’t part of your tribe. Besides, the book is going to be awesome.
“What if my friends and family read it and hate it?”
They don’t like anything you do anyway, so who cares?
“I’m afraid I’m going to look stupid.”
Well, the book is not going to change your looks… so, get over it.
“What if I get all one-star reviews?”
Sweet! You got a star!!!
“What if everyone who reads it, hates it?”
Then, it’s bad and you should make changes for your second book.
“What will people think if there’s a typo?”
Dude… You are the typo master… if it happens big deal, own it.
“I’m afraid something will be wrong with my book, and I’ll look stupid to everyone I know.”
Everyone you know already thinks you’re stupid and they love you for it.
Basically, the idea is to get to a neutral place with fears. Not running away from them, but facing them head-on and taking away their power. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m getting there.
And… This book is going to be amazing because of it!
If you would like to help me make this book a reality, click on the image below to find out how.
I was thinking about the concept of being awesome the other day and I looked it up. It’s embarrassing, because I use the word so much, but I realized I had my own definition in my brain goo for what awesome means. To me it means to be full of awe and inspire awe.
awe·some /ˈôsəm/ adjective extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear. “the awesome power of the atomic bomb” synonyms: breathtaking, amazing, stunning, astounding, astonishing, awe-inspiring, stupendous, staggering, extraordinary, incredible, unbelievable; More INFORMAL extremely good; excellent. “the band is truly awesome!”
Yeah, it works just fine and that is awesome… see what I did there?
When I was a kid, I was very quiet with my nose in a sketchbook. In fact, I would say that I was invisible. A compliment (if you want to call it that) I heard as a kid all the time was “He’s so quiet, it was like he wasn’t here.”
I spent most of my life that way, always quiet, not making waves, keeping my opinion to myself, and hiding my real emotions. I can tell you from experience that living that way is unstable, because things get buried and man oh man, it can get ugly.
I won’t go into details and share my pity party with you about my life of silent desperation, but I will share something that inspired me to change. The following quote will let you in on a little secret about yourself. It will make you feel something, and in the investigation of that something , you’ll get an insight into what kind of person you are, and what kind of person you may want to be.
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” ~ Ayn Rand
I’ll be honest, if you aren’t comfortable with this attitude, it’s going to be really hard to be awesome. Sorry. You can be good enough without being assertive, but to a large extent, being awesome requires that you initiate, take action, and chart your own course through the norms of mediocrity.
Back in the day, making excuses was like breathing air for me. I had some great ones, in fact they were so good that I didn’t realize I was even making excuses.
With that in mind, let’s break down 10 of the many excuses that I used to make, and tell me if they sound familiar.
Excuse #1: There’s just not enough time…
I still use this one every once in a while. What I found is that when I make this excuse I’m just not feeling enthusiastic. Usually, at the core of this excuse is the fear that I’m not good enough to do the thing that I’m claiming I don’t have the time to do. The moment I feel overwhelmed by lack of time, I can talk myself out of anything. Sometimes it may be something that I genuinely don’t want to do, and in that situation I would rather cancel the project than keep it rattling around in my brain jar. But when it is something you really want to do, but your claim to non-fame is that you don’t have enough time, ever… then I would think twice about that excuse.
In fact, if I look at my behavior in moments of overwhelm, I actually become less productive, which causes there to be less time, and even more overwhelm.
Excuse #2: There’s just not enough money…
I find that no matter how much money I have in the bank, whether it is thousands, or negative somethings these words will blurt out of my mouth. To be honest, I have a weird relationship with money that I have been working on throughout the last few years. I think it is important that we look at our relationship with money because it is either one of two things: a good relationship or a bad one. In other words, if you feel like a victim to green pieces of paper then it’s a bad one. Most of my baggage when it comes to money is partly from poor money mentality in my household when I was growing up, but like most relationships, it is something you can improve once you look a little deeper into yourself.
Excuse #3: I don’t have an education…
This was my number one excuse when it came to pursuing art as a career… well, it was one of many number one excuses. There are numerous multi-millionaires and billionaires who have nothing more than a high school education. Some don’t even have that. Yet, I spent a lot of time in my life wasting my precious brain power believing this gibberish. I’m not knocking education, there’s value in it. If you want to pursue an education, pursue it. If you want to be an excellent brain surgeon, definitely go to school. If you want to sharpen your creative skills by taking classes, by all means… but don’t let an education, or lack thereof, define what you can accomplish with your talents.
Excuse #4: I’m just too old or too young…
I’m old enough to have used both of these excuses… blah blah blah. Right now, it’s the too old excuse. I’m too old to be in a band, I’m too old to do YouTube, I’m to old to make a significant impact in the new generation of humans… blah blah blah. While you may not see me on American Idol anytime soon (they have a no geezer age limit of 28 which I find outdated and discriminatory, but whatevs…) I am most certainly young enough to excel at whatever I gosh darned please, as long as I’m breathing.
Bonus Excuse: I don’t know how…
This is an excuse I rarely use because I am very dogged at figuring stuff out. I am a stubborn figurer-outer. This means I make mistake after mistake after mistake, until I get it. I simply don’t like not knowing how to do something, or being afraid to try. This has, so far, worked out in my favor.
Excuse #6: I just can’t change…
This used to be true for me, I was pretty set in my ways and the words “That’s just who I am!” would spout out of my mouth as an excuse to justify some stupid thing I did. It wasn’t until I started thinking long term, determining whether that’s how I wanted to be and live in ten, twenty years, that I realized perhaps being willing to evolve is to my benefit. When you think about the cycle of stubborn habits repeating time and time again over the course of twenty years, you get a fire under your but to start that change immediately.
Excuse #7: I’m afraid to fail…
I think we get taught this stupid thing in school… “Do everything you can to succeed, failure is the mark of laziness or lack of skill.” I’m sure that might seem like sound logic to those who have never tried to do something that hasn’t been done before. But, if you want to blaze your own trail, you are going to have to fail several times in order to reach anything resembling success. I think we should embrace failure, learn from it, and plan ahead so we know how to use the failure to do it better the next time.
Excuse #8: It’s just not the right time…
Yeah, if these little words pop out of your mouth then you should just swat them down mid-air like a fly, before they reach anyone’s ear holes. I knew a wonderful woman who was in her 90’s that fused the following words into my brain “If not now, when?” and I get it, sometimes it’s just not the right time to take action. However, more often than not this is just a lame excuse.
Excuse #9: I am not ready…
Sometimes you will hear this come from someone who is standing at the edge of a pool, about to jump in and they say “I’m not ready!” when actually they are merely paralyzed by fear. There they are, standing there in their swim suit, the water is good… how much more ready can you get? There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future or taking the time to lay out a clear plan of action. However, if planning is all you do, this could indicate that there might be fears preventing you from moving forward. Understand this and you will overcome your need for over-planning… in due time.
Excuse #10: I’m just not inspired…
This is a big one, yet I find that most of the time when these words come out of my mouth it has more to do with laziness than inspiration. I know that’s harsh, but it’s true. Sometimes I’m not inspired because I’m too busy feeling sorry for myself and clogging up my brain circuits with all of the above excuses. Whatever the cause, when this excuse crops up I know it’s time to take a leaf blower to whatever doom cloud is lurking overhead, and start fresh.
Sometimes we get so absorbed in making excuses about how things didn’t turn out the way we had expected, that we forget to focus on making the best of every situation — no matter what the outcome.
So go out and make excuses for how awesome you are. Make excuses for how you have more than enough time, and how it is the right time for you, and how failure is no big deal. You can say and do anything you want, just pay closer attention to the words that come out of the hole in the front of your face.
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.
You’re alive right now, and if you are alive, anything is still possible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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