What Do You Give And Why?

by seanlow on November 6, 2015

There is no such thing as balance in creative business.  Balance is equilibrium, one point on the continuum where opposing forces are offset equally.  In a world of fluidity, balance is an illusion.  Literally, you would have to be recalibrating your art, your process, your life daily, hourly to maintain it and to what end?  There are moments that demand sacrifice (talk to any interior or event designer during final install) and moments that ask for contemplation (i.e., when a photographer thinks about the essence of what she wants to capture that day).  Balance does not exist in either case.

Instead, why not ask what you have to give and, more importantly, why you want to give it.  The reasons of why can be myriad – money, ego, artistic integrity, business necessity, honor.  What is almost always borne out of necessity of why.  We are compelled to create and devote incredible energy to the effort.  The real question then is whether the why is self-sustaining, a platform for growth, or, ironically, your own personal governor – the very limitation of your and your creative business’ potential.

When no one needs what you do, the reason you do it has to be because you believe your work matters.  Your work matters to your clients because they are transformed; to your employees so they can be fully invested in your vision; your peers so they can see the future of their art, their craft in your creative business’ eyes; and to anyone else who wants to pay attention how you, your art and your creative business live in integrity.

Yes, you need to make money and receive acknowledgement for your work.  In our world, that is how you get more.  However, these are the by-products of integrity, not its reflection.  Without fundamental responsibility for what you have chosen, the process you live to, the vision you manifest for yourself, your business and your clients, you will be lost in the external.  Success will only be when you are busy, not in how you moved someone.  So you will chase the dragon and the business will grow on the illusion that “busy” is the most important metric.  Regardless of how much you chase, you will eventually be challenged with the choice – busy or value?

Value is what lies underneath, the responsibility, the challenge to transform, the willingness to bet it all on the ability to create art that stirs both those who commission it and those that are simply able to enjoy it.

If you were unable to generate value for yourself, your creative business or your clients, why would you choose to give the energy even if there is the illusion of balance?  The project might pay a lot of money and allow you to be home with family but the client treats you with no respect at all.  Each day a frustration.  We have all been there.  The question I always ask myself when I find myself here is why and then realize I have been asking the wrong question.  It is never about balance, it is about joy and the hunger to create joy for those that can receive it.  Doing work that matters for those that care.

Sometimes you simply do not have it to give.  No time, no energy (physical, spiritual, financial) and maybe even no desire.  Honoring your own limitations is our most important exercise in humanity.  If, however, those limitations are caused by your own refusal to ask why you give first, then you have a ton of work to do.  The external will never fill you – money and/or fame are, and will always be, reflections.

Creative business requires faith in all that has been given, so much of which is beyond your comprehension.  You cannot point to the source of your talent any more than you can point to why someone else does not have it.  You cannot bottle what you have and can manifest; you just have to own it as bigger than you.  The work is its own reward, the ultimate reason why you give all that you do.  From there, you, your art and your creative business will go wherever you are meant to.  Why not let being the best in the world be a call to introspection and integrity rather than a measure of you against your competition?  Let what and why you give drive everything.  See where it takes you, even if there is never any balance.


Desire, Determination and Faith

by seanlow on October 29, 2015

If the opposite of what you tell me about you, your art and your creative business cannot be true, you have just told me nothing and wasted my time.  My design business prides itself on incredible creativity, service and attention to detail.  Seriously?  What design business does not pride itself on creativity, service and attention to detail?  So telling your clients that you do what every other design business has to do tells me exactly zero about what your design business does that is iconic to it and it alone.

Just like I noted in my last post, you have to stake your claim, tell your story that matters and then live to its truth.  Sounds simple enough.  As if.

Water goes wherever it is able to go.  Ask anyone with a leak.  So too your clients, employees, colleagues, even peers.  Your job is to make sure there are no leaks.  Why?  Because the journey is yours to share, not the other way around.  Yes, you can learn from anyone and everything along the way.  However, the path is yours and yours alone.

The real challenge here is when you move towards the very essence of what you do.  What happens when you own your process as yours and yours alone?  You will meet resistance.  Fact.  It will come from within – your employees, partners and, most importantly, your own head.  Your clients will think you unreasonable and inflexible.  Everyone will ask you why it has to be this way.  The only answer that matters is because this is the best way you know how to do your best.  It will not satisfy those that want more behind the answer (proof that it will work, reference to others that work this way).  Who cares?  It is your journey to share, not the other way around.

Your desire to create, your determination to create on your terms and your faith that your desire and determination will manifest in incredible work is the essence of your creative business.  When you remove all of your excuses, trap doors and potential fall guys, you are left naked with nothing but desire, determination and faith.  There is no more terrifying and necessary place to be.

Confront the fear you must though.  Eventually, you will come to learn that beautiful work without a better process is uniquely debilitating and ultimately soul sucking.  Place an image of your work in front of a potential client done for a disaster of a client next to work done for a dream client.  My guess: the potential client cannot tell the difference.  Maybe you can convince yourself that you can absorb the pain in the name of the work.  I pray not.

We all need to be seen for who we actually are.  As artists and creative business owners, you have to be seen as the guides you are, not merely the help.  For this to happen, you must be responsible for the power of the journey, your journey.  Water going where we tell it to go is among the most powerful forces humanity has been able to harness.  Your creative business is no different if only you have the desire, determination and faith to make it so.

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