Throw your efforts into the chaos, over & over & over again
8 things people forget to tell you when you quit your job to follow your dreams
What is it that you are meant to be doing? You might be thinking, “Because this isn’t it.” When in June of 2012 I left my entry-level job at Google I had 6 months of San Francisco rent money and no idea how to paint. Today I show in London and LA, have worked with The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) and The Victoria & Albert Museum, and train with one of the best living painters. This complete career change was sustained by the constant guidance and advice of many different people. There are, however, a few things I wish I had known earlier.
Here are 8 things I wish someone had told me my first day of non-traditional employment. They are 8 things I need constant reminder of. May they help your dream become what you live.
1. Hard work is a transferable currency
When I was about to graduate I talked with my minister regarding what to do. I expected him to suggest, “doing good.” Instead he told me that, “It doesn’t really matter. Whatever you are doing, pour your whole self into it; practice going all in. We are not born knowing how to give ourselves to a career, a relationship, or a community. When you do identify the right thing, you need to be prepared for it.”
I’ve been surprised by the odd ways running & my work in tech have prepared me how to receive my new work as an artist. If you are working hard, even at the wrong thing, you are preparing yourself. This also means that if you know you aren’t in the right vocation you still have no excuse not to go all in.
2. What makes you unhappy is most likely you
When I left Google I was completely in control of my day yet still found myself anxious, stressed and unhappy. Without a manager, commute, or meetings to blame I was forced to identify elements within myself that needed to be addressed and healed, issues that I had mistakenly thought related to what work I was doing, where I was living, or who I was with.
3. Find a mentor that you are ready to listen to
From the beginning I wanted a mentor but didn’t understand the faith and patience required until I met Billy Childish. I want to emulate Billy’s style but more importantly, I want to embody and reflect his approach to painting. Find someone who gives you advice that you inherently trust.
4. Be willing to fail but also be prepared to be ignored
For my latest exhibition I sent 20 emails inviting curators, critics, and gallery owners to my show at The White Building. None of them responded. Remember, unless you play baseball it is unlikely that anyone is tracking your RBIs. Constant failure and frequently being ignored helped me shape a personal definition of success.
5. Be public
Post, share, & write about what you are doing. Writing involves rigor and time. Even if no one reads it, writing forces self understanding. Being public allows you to find your community making rejection from others easier to digest.
6. Put other questions to rest
If where you live, who you share your life with, and what you eat for breakfast is at peace you clear your mind for the task at hand. I’m sure kite boarding is fun, muesli an interesting breakfast, and Berlin an inspiring city but when you are starting something new, these choices are distractions.
7. You are already dependant on other people
Earning a steady income form a good corporation obscures how dependant we are on others. This was harder to forget when I was drifting between couches to avoid sleeping in my studio on the yoga-mat-couch-cushion “bed.” Being openly dependant on my friends and family, especially in my first 6 months, shaped the strongest relationships I have today.
8. Focus on being faithful, not successful
If you’ve taken the leap you already have a system of beliefs that has gotten you this far. Let those beliefs shape your priorities with a focus on doing your work faithfully with success a side effect, not a goal. We are only in control of the work we do, not it’s ultimate result. Throw your efforts into the chaos, over & over & over again.