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Being A Busy Artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just Do That Thing, But Have Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Morning Thoughts On Blazing A Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just food for thought.

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I’m Scared, So What Now?

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.”

So what?

“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.

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Stop Making Excuses: 10 Excuses I Made And Why

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.

Cracks-In-Reality

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.

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When The Going Gets Tough, Just Keep Going

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyhow…

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

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

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

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

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


HELP ME WRITE MY BOOK!

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

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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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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.