Jeff, like many of us, has had a winding path to his art. He’s a best-selling author of FIVE books including The Art of Work and his latest, Real Artists Don’t Starve. As a youth, he never claimed being a writer, but it was always something that lingered in the back of his mind. From joining a band to lingering at a comfortable job, he was just waiting for his mid-life crisis to push him into gear and start taking action.
Our conversation is chock full of actionable, tangible, you-can-and-should-do-them nuggets about how to go from starving to thriving as an artist. Perhaps the biggest nugget revolves around something I’ve been suggesting to you for years- don’t quit your day job while pursuing your side hustle. Keep your side hustle where it belongs, on the side, until it has enough traction to support you.
Today on the podcast,
- We go back into Jeff’s journey and unpack the curiosity, intuition, soul-searching, and grit to travel a winding road to his calling. There is no school or method to finding out who we are. Jeff drops some valuable tactical gems we can all use to find out way.
- Jeff’s curiosity lead him to discover more stories of artists and entrepreneurs. What he heard was “I can’t do that, because there’s no money in that”. We talk a lot about the idea of a starving artist explore what has enabled artists who are killing it to overcome that mindset.
- There’s no such thing as a solitary genius. We talk about how to use community and network to build collaborative partnerships that elevates your work.
Don’t take a leap, build a bridge.
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Some Questions I Ask:
- How does it feel to have the new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, released? [1:00]
- What has your personal journey been related to not starving as an artist? [2:11]
- What were the tactical things that you did to figure out what your gut was telling you to do? [9:20]
- What part of actively trying to find what your passion was the most important to follow? [14:56]
- Do you find that you have to be intentional about finding your sweet spot in the venn diagram between what you’re good at, what you life, and what people will pay you for? [17:14]
- Was it curiosity that took you to that first seminar? [19:40]
- Was it the act of doing the work that created the book, The Art of Work? [21:20]
- Can you unpack the first chapter of Real Artists Don’t Starve for us and why you included the story of Michaelangelo? [23:34]
- What was the jump between realizing artists don’t have to starve to the rest of the book? [29:46]
- Where does the myth that artists should starve come from and how can we put it to rest? [34:30]
- What is the prescription for not settling? [41:30]
- What do you mean by going to the scene? [47:00]
- Talk to me about not trying to be original. [51:00]
- How about “don’t work for free”? [54:10]
- Is collaborating with others an extension of being part of a scene? [57:08]
- There’s a belief that you have to bet it all. What do you tell the people who are afraid they won’t be able to support their family or meet their financial obligations? [1:01:30]
- Do you make money to make art and how much of a theme was this in your book? [1:11:40]
- Tell us about your CreativeLive class, Starving to Successful: How to Become a Full Time Writer. [1:15:20]
In This Episode, You Will Learn:
- How Jeff’s entrepreneurial journey started with having a kid and needing to support his family. [2:20]
- Parker Palmer – “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I need to listen to my life telling me who I am. ” [3:00]
- Jeff’s brush with international stardom and a story he recounts where he caused a young fan to faint. [3:45]
- How Jeff got a job as a marketing director with no marketing experience and then quit once he got comfortable. [4:50]
- How Jeff uses his friends and network to keep him on track with doing what he’s called to do. [11:00]
- Everyone around Jeff knew he was a writer, but it took a single moment during a mastermind meeting to convince him to write. [13:00]
- The one skill Jeff would give himself if he could go back in time… self awareness. [15:37]
- Check out Chris Guillebeau’s book, Born for This.. and maybe while you’re at it Lady Gaga’s album “Born This Way” aaaaaand Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run.” [16:30]
- How envy propelled Jeff into frustrated action. [18:00]
- “Clarity comes with action.” [21:11]
- How Michelangelo changed what it means to be an artist- from being a laborer to being an aristocrat. At the time, he was the ricchest artist who had ever lived and he paved the path for future artists to follow. [25:50]
- How the story Henri Murger wrote about why artists struggle shaped our thoughts on the subject. [36:00]
- Thomas Merton – “The worst kind of illusions are the ones we believe about ourselves and those are the hardest to let go.” [37:37]
- Don’t fear success of the wrong thing. Like Mark Twain says “when you see a fork in the road, take it.” [38:52]
- Apprenticeship is a lost art. Successful people always act like an apprentice. [41:50]
- The Art of Work talks about the 12 rules of successful artists, one if which is the rule of the scene. Be involved in your scene. If ther eisn’t a scene already, create it. [47:10]
- Will Durant “Nothing is new except arrangement.” [51:15]
- How Jim Henson brought an old art, puppetry, to America and made it fresh. Check out Jim Henson’s Wilkins Coffee commercials. [51:45]
- Why you cannot let yourself work for free. Your work is not worthless. Always work for something. [54:20]
- If you’re looking to harness creativity, don’t will it to yourself, go where it’s already happening. [57:28]
- The real world power of collaboration- how C.S. Lewis helped J. R. R. Tolkien get out of a writing rut while writing The Hobbit. Tolkien didn’t write one of the most successful books of all time while being a solitary genius. He shared his progress every single week and got feedback. [58:00]
- “Don’t take a leap, build a bridge.” If you quit your job to go all in, you’re 33% more likely to fail. How entrepreneurial legend Richard Branson “mitigated the downside” when building Virgin Atlantic [1:02:05]
- Walt Disney said “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make movies.” [1:11:10]
- Alan Bean, the fourth man who walked on the moon, quit his job as a moonwalker to become a painter. He’s found great success because he’s the only painter who’s been on the moon- he even adds a bit of moondust to every painting [1:12:00]
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