I have been teaching Body Painting at the Make Up For Ever Academy this week, and as per who I am, my teaching is never just involves talking about technique. The students and I got into a discussion about ways to be successful as an artist whether you are a makeup artist, hair stylist, fashion designer, painter, writer, musician, or any creative trade…
I began to talk about the concept of not being afraid to fail…To keep doing the work knowing you will fail a few times, in fact if failure doesn't match in percentage to success, you probably could work a lot harder. A student raised her hand and asked “While developing yourself in this industry, we hear so often ‘be a harsh critique of yourself, and only show the very best work you can do. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Because of that I feel I always need to second guess my work, and it paralyzes me. How do you get through that and know what's good and what's not?”
I brought up my favorite quote by Andy Warhol on the screen:
Then I proceeded to tell her and the class what I know to be true as an artist… The key to success is obsession, not perfection. And 80% of success is just showing up (Woody Allen said that.) Most give up or stop their own process because they tried once and failed, and they allowed the pain and embarrassment of rejection, or the fear of not being good enough, to stop them. But if you are OBSESSED, and you keep showing up, keep writing everyday, keeping painting everyday, keep playing everyday, out of 50 tries you not only could get 20 successes, but 40 awesome lessons in what does NOT work (what you might call a FAIL). This is how you become an expert. I asked the class… DID YOU BECOME AN ARTIST TO GAIN OTHER PEOPLE’S APPROVAL? UM...NO. (Well maybe you did, some of us have some issues to work out). Hopefully we became artists because we were so powerfully pulled from our gut that this was something we wanted to do, this was the medium in which we could express our gifts, and seeing the difference it made in people gave us just a good a high if not better than any drug we could get our hands on. But just like any relationship, when you first start on the road to making your obsession into a profession… you realize the sparkles and lose a little bit of its luster when you realize it IS work to maintain. And just like a committed relationship it is not the world’s responsibility to make it better for you, its up to you to TRANSFORM yourself to make it work.
In meditation (which so many find so difficult), a successful practice does not start with being in perfect zen, 15 minutes of pure quiet focus, and inner peace...a master will tell you it starts with showing up to the pillow everyday. We are in an age of such immediate satisfaction, that if we do not see the result here and now, we give up, move on, find the next cheaper and faster thing that serves temporary fast results that will not stand the test of time.
People… you cannot become a master at ANYTHING with quick and fast. Everything has its season it must progress through to create a true foundation: a birth/new beginning, a childhood/an exploring phase, a vocational practice/the process on doing it religiously and making it you, and a master/elder level, taking your knowledge and giving it back. You cannot skip from birth to master…you cannot become an expert without ever making a mistake...without making a shit ton of mistakes. We live in an age of thousands mediocre artists, but a choice few masters, and there is a reason. Because the masters looked beyond having perfect work, and just wanted to do it everyday, not giving a sideways glance at the mistakes they made. All the while the mediocre artists sit and complain there isn't enough work, or they are not making enough money. They end up quitting and do a job they don’t love because they do not have the obsession to make their passion a living.
Do you know how many people I have met who swore up and down they would be in my next workshop, or leadership program and never show up? Know how many people I’ve mentored who say they want to be a leader in this industry, and be a success, but cannot take an ounce of constructive feedback without getting offended or defensive? (they say they want to change, but don’t have the cojones to show up). Promises to build their portfolio, promises to assist people, promises to learn Photoshop, learn a new language, learn to play the piano… but they never show up?! Even when you don’t feel like it, even when the passion falters, even when you doubt yourself (especially when you doubt yourself)...just show up to the pillow, and be there to receive and do the work. The day you miss class, might be the day that vital information was available that could change your life.
So just show up. Follow your commitment, not your feelings. Showing up no matter what builds strength, character, accountability, confidence, and mastery. Mastery also comes from making lots of mistakes, so take risks knowing you will make them, and they will serve you in becoming the expert in the thing you love.