This post is by Jack White, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Jack has enjoyed a forty-one year career as a successful fulltime artist and author. He has written for Professional Artist Magazine for 14 years and has six art marketing books published. In 1976 Jack was named the Official Artist of Texas. He has mentored hundreds of artists around the world. Jack authored six Art Marketing books. The first, “Mystery of Making It”, describes how he taught Mikki to paint and has sold over six million dollars worth of her art. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
The Myth: There’s no way I can stop living a yo-yo life.
I remember thinking the same thing as a young man. Fortunately by the time I decided to become an artist, I had smashed that ugly myth. All too many are on fire one day and in deep despair the next, wondering how to make it till bedtime. Highs and lows seem to be a way of life in these trying times. The folks at AA teach the following: Yesterday is history (forget it) and tomorrow is a mystery (it may never come). Today is the present, because it’s a gift from God. The key to level living is doing it one day at a time.
I realize there are some who are not happy unless they are miserable. I have a friend I played football with in college. I don’t dare ask him, “How are things going?” He will take three hours telling me about all the negative things in his life. He’s one guy that wouldn’t be happy if he were about to be hung with a new rope. I have come to the conclusion some folks are only happy if they have things to complain about. They have mystery illnesses that no doctor can discover or their newspaper is late. Any small or even tiny excuse is a good one to vent their dissatisfaction.
Perhaps the “instant everything” of today adds to our uncertainty. We want everything to be instantaneous. After two weeks on a new job young people are ready to be CEO. I was happy with dial up until someone showed me broadband. Now we find 4G-type speed isn’t fast enough. Many are on Twitter for immediate information. They feel it’s important to learn how Brad and Angelina are doing or when Lady Gaga used the bathroom. During the Mexican American War (1846-48) news reporters took thirty to forty days to get their stories from Mexico City to the Boston. A group of reporters pooled their funds and hired a speedy courier to transport their stories to Baltimore where there was a telegraph. They called their group, The Associated Press, or AP, which is still active today.
I find when new artists exhibit too much enthusiasm in the beginning they tend hit a flat-line as they move forward. When they run into the doldrums, the area in the ocean where there is no wind to fill their sails, they sit down and declare defeat. They start with intense energy, then when things don’t go as easily as hoped these newbies begin to wilt like an unwatered sunflower in the hot, Texas summer sun.
I’m reminded of a story a minister told me when I was young and riding the roller coaster of life…spending most of my time on the bottom, fighting to get back to the crest of the “ride”. Trust me I’ve experienced my share of failures. I know the sting of defeat. I thank God I’ve also tasted the sweet smell of success.
Here is the minister’s story. A shrewd King asked his knights to go into the world to bring him wisdom on how to live constantly with no bad days. The seventy went forth, traveling the known world for five years. Returning tattered and exhausted, the knights presented their King with a twelve-volume set, titled The Wisdom of the World. Pleased with their efforts they sat patiently, waiting for his Majesty to peruse their findings.
Without lifting even one of the heavy volumes he spoke, “Too long.” With that the King waved his hand and pointed to the door, gesturing them to go back into the world seeking knowledge.
The seventy spent three additional exhausting years looking for the truth. Returning even more certain they had accomplished his wishes, they asked for an audience with the judicious King. They set a single, leather bound volume with golden edges about two inches thick in front of him. The title on the cover was The Condensed Wisdom of the World.
Once more the King didn’t open the gold edged book. In a disgusted voice he demanded, “This is much too long for the common peasants to understand. Go and do not return until you have learned the key to living with no bad days. I am getting old and I want to leave this knowledge for all who follow me. This will be my legacy.”
Seven years later, after most of the original seventy knights had died, the astute old King lay near death himself. The remaining group returned and the eldest spoke, “We have done the best we can and are confident we have found the answer you seek. We have discovered the single key that will assure all those who follow this advice will have consistent living, never getting too high or too low. Living with no bad days is possible.”
In a faint whisper, the sage King asked, “How long?”
“Sire, it’s one word. Attitude!”
“How can that be?”
“Sire, Attitude is everything. It’s the one resolution we all possess that we can use at any moment under our discretion. Our Attitude controls how we live our life. Attitude is what makes us have good and bad days. Attitude determines how we look at things.”
“Well done,” answered the prudent King, closing his eyes for the last time, knowing his subjects had indeed discovered the key to no bad days.
No one can make you unhappy unless you give that person permission to do so. Your attitude is what allows them to make you either happy or unhappy. Good or bad days are encased in your mind. It’s how you think that causes failure or success…happiness or sadness...good or bad days. If you think you will fail, you will. When you believe you will make it you will find a way. We succeed or fail because of our attitude. The Bible says a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
In 1990, Mikki and I decided to start putting an X on our calendar for bad days. When we had a bad day, we would mark a big red X on our wall calendar. I think the first year we had nine big X’s and about six tiny ones. We figured if the day was not a total disaster, then it only merited a small x.
At the end of the year we talked about living an X free life. The more we talked, the better we understood many of those large X’s could have been prevented with a better Attitude on our part. We also concluded all of the tiny ones could have been omitted. For instance, one day we were waiting for a delivery. As the time dragged on, our attitudes plummeted. Aggravation worked into frustration and frustration turned into anger. We allowed something totally out of our control to spoil our day. Unknown to us the delivery truck had broken down; the driver was truely experiencing a bad day.
The following year we eliminated the small X’s, then began reducing our recorded bad days. We would say this is not enough to make us have a full bad day, so let’s not mark it on the calendar. It took us another year to eliminate the X factor in our life. It has been eighteen years since we placed a bad day X on our calendar. We have not had one bad day since, just some days where something bad happened. BUT we didn’t allow it to ruin our entire day. Like the day the Mayo Clinic told me, “Jack cancer is half way up your back and you will never walk again.” That was a bad moment, but it didn’t cause us to have a bad day. We refused to accept the death sentence, determined to beat the cancer. That was seven years ago this Thanksgiving. I began walking after five radiation treatments. We traveled to Laguna Beach where I stood barefoot in the sand. The following week, I shocked my doctor by walking into his office unassisted. Attitude is everything.
We now live an “X” free life. We have chosen to not let any person or event cause us to have a ghastly day. Our attitude allows us to have control over how we feel. Things can only make us unhappy if we allow them. People can only disappoint us if we choose to let them. We can only fail if we give failure permission. Make up your mind one rejection will not stop you from making art, nor cause you to have a bad day. It’s all in your control. If insulted, you don’t have to accept what was said. It’s just someone’s opinion. You are entitled to have a different one. You don’t have to give power to a discourteous person.
I had a contract to paint forty to fifty old time Texas Ranger portraits at a large fee per painting. I finished seven, delivered them and had collected the money. Four of them are now in a museum. I had started painting the next ones in the series when I received a call from the lawyer who commissioned the work. He said, “Jack, I can’t continue the contract. I just lost $50 million on a Vioxx case. I’m going to be forced to sell my ranch to cover some of my losses.” I remember feeling sorry for him. I finished the three I was working on and kept them for our private collection. Looking back, I now realize I would never have been able to finish the portraits. My right shoulder is shot. A couple of years ago I lost what dexterity I had left. I now spend my days writing books. It’s true when God closes a door He opens a window. I’m working on my fourth lengthy historical novel.
Shortly after Mikki and I began our lives together, two young illegal immigrants in a stolen vehicle ran a red light and slammed broadside into my car, destroying my painting arm. I had the choice to not paint or learn to work with my left hand. My attitude allowed me to begin the next day working with my left hand. At first, I had difficulty picking up a brush. With persistence, I learned to paint well enough to sell all I could produce. When you squeeze a lemon, you can either make lemonade or lemon juice. One is sweet, the other is bitter. I could have pouted for weeks making others around me miserable, but I chose to move forward. Was I in pain? Does the sun rise in the east? My shoulder was busted into small pieces and the pain was excruciating; however, the desire to paint was even greater. I wanted Mikki to know that no matter how dark the situation, we have the power to make something positive out of it. Looking back, if I had not learned to paint with my left hand, Mikki may never have found her voice. Watching me painting in bold colors, doing impressionistic work made her want to give what I was doing a try. The rest is history.
Where does luck come into the picture of living with no bad days? Luck is not even the tiniest part of the equation. I once read, “The harder and smarter I work; the luckier I am.” Another person brilliantly said, “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” Happiness is not accidental. You don’t just accidentally have good days. They are made with the proper attitude.
Attitude has everything to do with how happy or successful you are. Those who become successful believe they will. They think success is possible. For them, the glass is not half empty, it’s half full. Napoleon Hill said, “If you believe you can achieve.”
The axiom "water seeks its own level" is true in art as well as life. We all end up where we think we belong. Attitude is more powerful than talent. Artists end up in bad galleries because that’s where they mentally see their work. They may talk about being in high dollar locations, but when these artists discover themselves in powerful situations, they find ways to destroy their opportunity. If you don’t believe you fit, you will find a way to get back down to your comfort level. Self-sabotage is a major factor in failure.
Artists seek the career level they are mentally programmed to have. “As a man thinkest so is he.” You will not accidentally become famous. You cannot help but become successful if you program your mind to believe you deserve to be at a certain level. Under your own tutelage, you will reach the level you feel comfortable. On the other hand, if you mentally see your career as a failure, that’s what you will be. Good or bad days reside with how you believe. It’s all about ATTITUDE. So have a great day!