The Key to Success

Defining success is the first step towards obtaining success. Success is a different notion to different people and will have wildly different outcomes, both materially and psychologically, not to mention emotionally, mentally, and spiritually (although I suppose I just mentioned them).

But that’s really not the thrust of this blog post. The thing I happened upon recently that I think will help the average artist the most is the concept of contentment with oneself. Life is a kind of striving, so therefore, the life of an artist will mirror that desire for progression. And progress is often a great thing, especially when applied to ability, awareness, knowledge, and wisdom. I’m not advocating against it by prescribing contentment.

I imagine a young artist, perhaps newly appreciating the world of professional art. There are a sea of influences and voices surrounding them, drawing them in with their beauty and craft. The young artist might be burdened by the onslaught and wonder of it all and consider how they will ever join that sea or even crest any of the waves. It’s a daunting thought that most artists have had at some time, occurring alongside ideas of developing a unique style or having an original thought.

This young artist may latch onto someone more established or famous, considering their work to be their greatest influence, the kind that resonates the most with their young soul. So they strive and strive to reach the same heights. They learn all of the correct techniques. They study each masterwork. They make incredible progress.

Yet they are not that other artist. Nor will they ever be that artist. When sat down at the same subject, with the same tools and abilities, the same techniques, and the same objective, the established artist and the young artist would not create the same piece, simply because they are different people. A drummer who can play with exact precision every John Bonham pattern and rhythm and who understands to their very depths Bonham’s every intention behind the creation of those patterns would still never improvise and create the same way that Bonham would, if given the same crack at the same song, simply because they are a different person.

This was the revelation I had. And it delivered me from pressures that I wasn’t even aware of. I could stop comparing myself to my heroes and simply paint what I liked, content. I could stop taking myself so seriously and simply paint scenes that I enjoyed, content. Contentment could reside in a heart that still seeks knowledge, wisdom, and ability because it has realized that creativity isn’t always a competition, but is more often enjoyed and made enjoyable as a celebration.

I think that is the key to success. Understanding that you are an individual with your own set of standards and practices will enable you to not only define success for yourself (please be wise in this defining process and give as much thought to the implications of different forms of success), but also to throw off the burden of expectations and comparisons in favor of contentment and joy.

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