In the aftermath of the 2008 crash our business suffered horribly. We thought we were prepared for a 50% drop in sales.
When the financial system imploded our sales dropped 75% to 90% overnight. Who is thinking of artwork when the world is collapsing.
You know what that’s like? It’s like preparing to fight the Soviet Union . . . but instead being invaded by Alpha Centaurians wielding weapons of such impossible magnitude that you are left crawling for cover like a stepped-on bug.
What did I do? I panicked and reacted badly.
In reality we made some
smart moves. Here’s the short version of the smart moves, played out over the course of a couple of years:
- We sold our dream home of ten years and bought one at half the value, to dramatically reduce our expenses
- Our staff left or was laid off. All but one part timer.
- We created a secondary stream of income which helped save the business. I went on the road in our big unused Sprinter van, transporting artwork for artists, galleries and clients. Because galleries were disintegrating everywhere, this business had an upswing as artists sought the return of their artwork. I crisscrossed the nation more times in a year than an elderly incontinent gentleman goes to the restroom in a week
My mantra became, “We’re going to survive this even if it’s by hanging on with one last torn fingernail.”
I said this to myself at first. Desperately. Then to others, often to amusement, even laughter. Because I said it with brio.
I said it often. It was the mission statement in my mind. Survive this! Survive this disaster. So that you’re still in business years from now when the economy begins to come back.
And we did. We survived this godawful gut-blow of a thing. Eight out of ten galleries in our area went under, most of them within the first two years.
It sounds savvy, our actions. There’s a thrilling story of survival to it. (And we’re doing fabulously well now by the by.)
But the mantra I used to keep myself going was possibly the worst mission statement I could have come up with. Or maybe the second worst.
The worst would have been to give up. To believe we had no power at all.
What would have been better?
A better vision statement would have been something I truly wanted. I didn’t really want to just survive this thing like a crushed insect lost in the weeds.
What would have been far better — and what I should have spent time articulating to myself and others — would have been something along these lines:
“We’re going to come out of this in better shape financially.”
“We’re not just going to survive, we’re going to thrive!”
Even better would have been to carefully craft our vision for where we wanted to be as if this crisis had never happened.
“We’re going to be able to retire comfortably if we want when this is over — just watch.”
Not that there wouldn’t have been pain. Not that we wouldn’t have experienced the devastation. More so that we could influence the outcome in that mucho mejor direction in ways large and small.
Because we’re always influencing outcomes whether we know it or not. In what we think, in what we say, and in what we do.
Be clear, often
You may be comfortable right now. Or your life may be a sweaty hell. I’ve lived both. And I empathize with both situations. When you’re comfortable you can be lulled into thinking, Life’s a warm bath right now, why step out of it into the unknown?
When you’re desperate, my God. There’s nothing that sucks as harshly as that kind of personal desolation. One bad event chases another.
No matter where you’re at right now on the comfort-desperation continuum, I know this. You want to be creatively engaged in your life. You want it to matter. You expect significance. You insist on infusing meaning into all you do.
Your particular form of creative engagement may differ hugely from mine. This earth plane is magnificent in its myriad creative possibilities.
A snowboarder is as creatively involved as a whittler of esoteric ganja pipes. As is a coder in California, a nun in Kolkata, an investor in Dubai.
It’s not the outward manner in which it is expressed that is of importance here. It’s the spirit of that expression.
Getting clear often is necessary, whatever your endeavor.
A clear signal accrues power in its transmission.
We lose power when we transmit chaotically. We want this particular aspect of a good life in our own experience — but we doubt it. We settle for something far lesser. We’ve weakened the signal.
Steve Jobs was famously said to emit a reality distortion field. His signal was that strong. What those highly intelligent people around him thought could not be achieved was swept aside by the Jobs possibility activator beam.
When you enter the space of someone who’s committed you enter a pure place of possibility.
Every time I walk into a committed artist’s studio I feel the same effect. Even for art I’m not drawn to. Suddenly I find myself entranced with what is before me.
It may have happened to you in museums. Or when you walk into a building built by Gaudi — or Gehry. Or stepped into a temple.
What you are experiencing is clarity of vision. Clarity of vision expressed.
is what you want for yourself. A vision so clear that you feel the tingle of a unique reality when you think of it . . .
For you —
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