Want Success? Take The Long View

You’ve heard of people who have had overnight success.  They usually say it  took them 20 years.  At least.

UnknownThere is such a thing as instant success, but more typical in creative fields is someone– a singer, an artist, a writer, a teacher, who works at their craft or art for years and then becomes well known or popular.

Yayoi Kusama is now 84 years old and is one of the most popular Japanese artists. She just had a major collaboration with  Louis Vuitton and her paintings sold for $2 Million last week at Art Basel Hong Kong. Her prints are selling for $8-10,000 USD now but I can remember when I could have bought hundreds of them for $500 each. Framed. [That was only about 12 years ago.] It has taken her many years to achieve this kind of recognition.

About a year ago, we had a show in the gallery with a foreign artist. We brought him here to Japan, paid for hotel, air ticket etc.  At the end of the show, we didn’t sell one painting.  Not one.  We were all disappointed, but not sad.  The artist felt bad for us, but he didn’t stop being an artist.  He told us, “this is what I do, I’ll continue painting.

We’ve had some success in selling his work since then. We’ve worked hard to get the work seen and he has done the same.

People ask me how they can achieve success as an artist.  [I wonder the same thing about myself as a writer. ] I answer them, “let you work be seen, let people know what you do, let them see what you do.”

And by them, I don’t mean only gallery owners if you are an artist, or record companies if you are a musician. I mean show and speak everywhere.  Use the multiple channels that are open to all of us, including etsy, Facebook, linked in, twitter, and more.

One of our artists, just turned 50.  He’s been working at another job for twenty-five years.  All this time, he has been working at his art too and for the past five years, he has been putting it out on Google, Facebook, Twitter and more..  He has  become a star on the internet with thousands of followers.  He wins award after award.  One of his pieces just sold at auction. Magazines and newspapers contact him for images.  Two publishers plan to produce his books.

imagesOvernight success?  No I don’t think so.  He’s been doing the work and it’s now beginning to pay off financially. It always paid off professionally and creatively and now it is paying off financially.

If you’re a writer, a consultant, a yoga teacher, an artist, a writer,  or in any creative profession just do the work.  Just keep on doing the work.  You will have the intrinsic reward of being able to do the work.  You’ll be getting better and better.

And put the work out there.  If the work is that good, people will come to you. They’ll find you.

I tried for many years to be a columnist.  I sent sample columns to the Boston Globe, Japan Times, LA Times, but only got ignored and rejected.  I gave up writing for a while and focused on my teaching and consulting.  I started writing again about 6 years ago.

I didn’t pitch any more newspapers, but I did  put my writing out there on  blogs, on social media, on youtube.   I started getting offers from magazines and on-line news channels.  I was a columnist for one online magazine for two years.

Once I started putting my work out there for people to see, even more chances have come my way.  More than I ever expected. No matter what you do, let people see what you do.  If you’re a writer, write. If you’re an artist, paint.

Sometimes achieving success works in the same way as finding love.  Don’t go looking, don’t look desperate. Do what you do and what or who you want will come to you.

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  1. Interesting post, Dr. Bob, and I like your philosophy. I am a full-time working artist, and I’ve been doing this for 12 years. You’re right — I think it does take a long time for most artists to achieve financial success, but I wonder why it’s so difficult for so many people.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. I have been thinking about your question a lot. Here are a few thoughts about why it takes so long for an artist to achieve financial success.

    It takes a while for the work to so purely reflect the emotion and the talent of the artist.

    I think there are also some people who influence what other people choose and these people are inundated with other images.

    Third, and this relates to point number one, the work has got to “stick” in people’s mind-be so unique and touch so many people that they remember it.

    And finally, there are often some things in us that prevent us from achieving the recognition we might want. In other words, it takes a while for us to accept recognition and final success.

    Thanks again for your comment and all the best, B

  3. I enjoyed reading this. I’ve been doing exactly what you’re describing and have had a measure of success recently. Success doesn’t come over night. We all have to continuously work hard. Eventually, we’ll see fruitage from our labor. This post should definitely be shared with many aspiring artist ready to give up. Just keeping doing what you do…

  4. Thanks so much for your comment. I think the hard work never stops, and we never stop.