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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.

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Be comfortable with who you are

A really popular phrase is – no one’s perfect. But so often we compare our insides to other people’s outsides. Dwelling on our flaws, what we’re not rather than what we’ve got, or who we really are.

I would challenge everyone in the world and say, yes you are perfect. You are the most perfect version of you that exists out there. No one can be like you, and you can’t be like anyone else. There has never existed someone exactly like you, there is no one like you now, and there will never be anyone like you… you are it.

Love Yourself

I think imperfection comes when we try to be like someone else, because we see them as perfect, or more perfect than us. Sometimes it’s things like looks, hair color, skin color, beauty ideals, education, height, weight, eye color, and so much more. But who is to say what is perfect and what is not?

First of all, ask one hundred people to describe what is perfect and you will get 100 different answers. Usually, these people will be describing someone other than themselves because they think they are flawed. This version of the idea of perfection is what is flawed.

Nature Of Love By Rafi Perez

Listen, you are beautiful, unique, and perfect just as you are. Simple. You don’t have to be ANYONE else in order to be perfect, you just have to be the best version of you that you can be.

Feeling like you are flawed, letting people down, a loser, ugly, dumb, unmotivated, not good enough, and other popular presets of society is not going to help you achieve the perfection that is you… No, you are going to act like a dumbass, because you feel that you are nothing more than a dumbass compared to that jackass over there.

Golden Glow By Rafi Perez

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, there is no comparison. Focus on being the best possible version of you that you can be. Take time to determine that for yourself. You know you are there when you think you are beautiful, but you also think everyone is beautiful.

If you think you are more beautiful than someone else, then you’re just playing the same stupid perfection game that everyone else plays.

Learning to accept ourselves and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong increases our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our well-being. It also helps us accept others as they are. So figure out who you really are for yourself. Just food for thought.

What is the real you like?

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Time To Smell The Weeds

Ever felt that there must be more to life? Well, good news, there is! And it’s right here in front of us. We just need to stop and take notice.

As an artist, I have taken a notice of color and contrast in the world. There are times where a vivid sky or blade of grass will stop me in my tracks, I will take in the color combinations and imagine using them to translate into the emotion I’m feeling at that very moment.

I remember at a very difficult time in my life, where everything just seemed wrong and I found myself downward spiraling into despair, that hope came from a simple place. I was on my way to work, and I felt like breaking down. I pulled over and despite running late, decided to sit down at a park bench.

There I saw people walking their dogs, playing with kids, and relaxing. This was a stark contrast to my mood, and actually caused me to feel more bitter. Suddenly, a sad little weed caught my eye, it was the way the sun was casting a shadow that almost made it seem to glow. It was this ugly, little, insignificant weed, and it was glowing brighter and more vivid than anything else in that park. Suddenly, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

I sat there, me and my new glowing friend, for quite some time. I turned off my phone, and just sat there, and took everything in… This time, without judging what I was looking at through a filter of misery.

For the first time in probably my whole life, I just sat there and took everything in. I wasn’t thinking or worried about the future and I wasn’t dwelling in the past… I was just there, in that moment.

That moment changed me forever.

Magic Seasons Trees Textured Original Painting by artist Rafi Perez on Canvas

Learning to be more mindful and aware can do wonders for our well-being in all areas of life. It helps us get in tune with our feelings and stops us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, so we get more out of the day-to-day.

When do you stop and take notice?

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3 Artist Rules That Apply To Life

Along with our creative careers, Klee and I also do YouTube Videos. The videos are mostly geared towards artists, but also have a lot of life advice that we have picked up the hard way, mostly by living life as career artists.

When you are an artist, you live a life full of fun things like constant rejection, people thinking you do drugs, people feeling sorry for your life choices, banks denying you for a home loan (while smirking at how cute it was that you walked into the bank in the first place), people thinking you should get a “real job”, and general disapproval of your status as a contributing member of society.

Don’t get me wrong, being a career artist is amazing, but not everyone looks at us in a healthy light, and if you don’t have your thoughts in the right place, it can destroy your emotional state. I’ve seen people crumble after one rejection and give up.

That’s why I think as artists, we can have an advantage in living a happy life, because we have to face rejection, find our inspiration, manage a business, manage a stream of income that is unpredictable, create product that is considered a luxury to most of the world (even though I will argue that owning art is one of the healthiest things you can do), deal with our own insecurities, and constantly have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to stay relevant… I know, I’m not selling the concept, but bear with me.

Rafi and klee

As an artist you have to face your fears, if you run away from them, there really is no way to make a career of it.

So, here are the 3 rules that I would say apply to everything in life, but also to having an art career.

  • Be authentic.
    Paint or create only that which interests you, in the way you choose to paint or create it. Don’t change your approach to gain sales, popularity or acceptance. You will never do your best work if you do. In life, you will become trapped in a version of you that isn’t real. It is much simpler to be yourself, that way you can surround yourself with people that you don’t have to put on an act for.
  • Compete only with yourself.
    Avoid competitions, contests and measuring yourself by how many shows you’ve gotten into or awards you’ve won. Seek validation internally, you will never please everyone. Don’t ever compare yourself to anyone on any level. You are the most perfect version of you that exists in the world. It’s when you try to be someone else that you’ll think you see flaws in something that is inherently perfect.
  • Remember that it takes a lifetime.
    You can’t just sign up for a workshop or go to an art class once a week and expect gallery representation and collectors to follow shortly thereafter. It takes time. Be patient in life, but take every opportunity you can to smile, laugh, love, show your art, and have fun. You may get rejected, but that’s all part of this wonderful journey we are on. If rejection doesn’t bother you, then you are halfway there.
Rafi and Klee Photography

The goal should not be to get famous or rich, just to enjoy your precious life as much as possible. If you get rich and famous in the process, that is just bonus.

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I Burst Into Tears… Well, Kinda.

Empowering Art By Rafi Perez

The other day I was thinking about working on a special piece. I started sketching it out and thinking about the meaning. Someone being pulled in so many different directions that he becomes a puppet to the world around him.

Art By Rafi Perez

While talking to Klee about it, I broke down and my eyes started tearing up. The only reason I didn’t go into a full sob was the fact that I was so surprised at my emotions.

Listen, I am a grown ass man, and I’m not embarrassed to cry, or admit that I cry, but this actually caught me off guard.

It made me realize that something had felt off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but deep down I knew something was bothering me.

Do What You Can Rafi Perez

For the most part I’m a pretty happy guy, in fact our following online knows us for our upbeat perspectives on life and being artists full time.

Over the last few years I had developed a public image of a guy who’s genuine, creative, happy, upbeat, and loving life. But recently I had been a little stressed about some things… and I didn’t feel like myself. Worse, was the idea that I had never been that guy and that my entire life was a sham.

Luckily, Klee was there to talk sense into my confused brain unit. She told me that the only reputation I had to uphold was to be the real me. She said I have a really hard time being anything not real, so I have nothing to worry about.

2 Birds On A Wire By Rafi Perez

I guess sometimes you may try to bury things inside, but they’ll always come up to the surface for you to look at and face head on. So next time you cry during a cheesy commercial, think about that.

I was allowing myself to feel like I was less than who I am, and that everyone was pulling me in different directions. I have done a lot of work on myself for over a decade, to make sure I am comfortable with who I am, and that’s who everyone sees.

Whether it’s in a YouTube video, a blog, a work of art, it will always be me… So, if anyone expects anything different, then they’ve never looked at any of my stuff before.

Moral of the story… Just be you, it’s way easier than not being you.

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Get Out of Your Head and Into The World

As an artist, I work from home, in my studio, on my laptop, at the easel, and sitting on the couch sketching. We have a YouTube channel, Patreon account and other social media where we connect with many people online, but few “real-life” interactions.

Rafi Perez in his art studio

Luckily, Klee and I share an art career and get to spend that time together in the studio, but sometimes we can spend over a week inside. There are times when talking with the cashier at the grocery store is the social highlight of our day.

Klee In The Studio

In a world where so much happens online, we have to be careful to not neglect the importance of real face-to-face connection.

I find that sometimes things can feel a little disconnected when you don’t venture out much. Listen, I love our studio time, and I totally thrive as a hermit… but sometimes it can go too far.

If you’re going through a tough time, you might feel especially inclined to isolate yourself, but it’s only going to make things worse. I find that even when I don’t want to be around people, it’s important to surround yourself with people you love, and people who inspire you.

Rafi and Klee Art

So next time you are feeling a bit down, or you are stuck in your head, go outside. Interact with humans, have fun, and live an adventure with people who inspire you.

Then, once you get your fill, go back to your creative hermit hole inspired to create your next masterpiece.