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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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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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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.