Five Tools for Success

SVA asked me to write an article for the VAJ,  so since I am editing my upcoming book due to Allworth press on June 15th and am in crazy re-write mode, I took an excerpt and adapted it for the Visual Arts Journal coming out in Fall 2012. I like it. Wanted to share it.

Let me know what you think.

 What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Information is power.  Knowing what you want and understanding the marketplace and what it needs is powerful.  From that place of knowing, you create a career plan. What are the directions available to you as you pursue your creativity in the workplace? Which one or two will you choose and why? There are many tools and techniques to put into play to create a successful career.  But first, you have to know what you want and what success means to you.

 The tools you use for success need to empower your creativity and then guide your career plan. You clarify, re-energize and flesh out new directions and new ideas throughout your career. It is never too early or late and you are never too young or too old to adapt, become more knowledgeable, and refine what you want and what you do.

Start by knowing what a successful career means to you, what it would look like. Then make a deal with reality, choose a direction, take action. Like a jigsaw puzzle, piece together what you want to do and what is on trend, then prioritize and focus your goals. So ask yourself:

  • What does success mean to you?
  • What kind of creative career do you want?
  • What kind of artwork, service or product do you want to offer?
  • What would it take to turn your dreams into goals?

Does success mean having work published? Do you see yourself having a large audience? Or a small specialized niche? Do you see yourself telling a great story, a hard story, a story others may not want to hear but needs to be told? Can you imagine that your work brings illumination, understanding, edification and inspiration or confrontation and challenges the ideas of others?

 Does success mean working for yourself on assignment or by commission? Do you see yourself maintaining strong relationships with editors, art buyers, art directors, gallery dealers, agencies, studios? Can you see yourself on staff in a large agency or studio or working for a small start-up? Can you imagine you start your own business?

Does success mean having a commercial gallery represent you and exhibit your work? Does it mean having the space and time to deepen your message and make your work regardless of where it’s shown or if it’s shown? Do you see your work in the street or going viral? Is it for sale to collectors, individuals, galleries, museums or in corporate collections? Can you imagine your work is funded and in public spaces? Does the art world even matter to you?

 #1 Tool for success: Where do you see yourself?

Close your eyes for a moment. Image your work, and let it be in the world. Where is the first place you see your work? Imagine that people are looking at it, who are they? How does this feel? Go with it for a few moments. Breathe. Imagine you are successful. Imagine you can see yourself being a successful creative in the world. What do you see?

#2 Tool for success: Confirm your own nature and wiring

Take stock of yourself, be honest and take a good look. Are you independent and inspired? Are you a planner or spontaneous? Are you outgoing and social? Or are you private and quietly determined?  Do you need a low stress environment or a fast pace with pressing deadlines?  Confirm your nature, work with your wiring.  You need to create a career and take the steps to make it happen based on your wiring. Success comes to those who know themselves and make choices suited for their temperament as well as their skill set.

#3 Tool for success:What would you do if you couldn’t fail?

Ask yourself “What would I do if I couldn’t fail?  What do you need to do to take the first step towards that career? What do you really want most in life and in your career ? Can you risk breaking free of preconceived options that others have defined for you and step up to the plate? Can the real you stand up?

#4 Tool for success: Turn your dreams into action steps

Each choice you make, each decision you make can be towards reaching that goal in your heart of hearts. Imagine, each step you take brings you closer towards the dream you have in mind. What is the high road for you? Brainstorm a list of  key moves you could take to move you in the direction of reaching your goals.  Make a list of action steps, and then add dates to your steps. Put them on your calendar and do them one at a time.

#5 Tool for success: Make conscious choices

There are many ways to fashion a career from the possibilities in front of you. Know your dreams but then match yourself to what is real, based on what suits you and what is available. This means you assess your talent, your skills and your education in relationship to each type of career you envision.  Take stock of where you are and where you need to get to and make your choices purposeful.  Your choices will determine your direction.

Are you – right now – who you want to be? What you dreamed you’d be doing? Can you make new choices to move towards a new direction?It’s easy to get caught up in life, in the “busyness” of routine and survival, in the busyness of being busy.  Check in with your definition of success and how you see yourself as a creative professional periodically. It can and will change over time. Don’t judge, don’t censor. Go for it and see what comes. Then adapt and try again. Let your dreams become goals and your knowledge lead you to action.  When you define what you want to accomplish and when, you have self-determination. And there’s no stopping you.

 Let your answers to the following questions guide you:

  • What am I doing right now with my creativity? Does it make me happy? Do I feel fulfilled?
  •  What do I keep dreaming of? Is it different from what I am currently doing?
  • What do I want? What do I want most? For my life and for my career?
  • What do I value?
  • What do I need to accomplish in this lifetime to look back and really smile?

 Then do it. Take the first step. Connect with yourself and use the above tools for success to guide your planning process and re-inspire yourself. It will lead you to a more meaningful career and a feeling of self-empowerment which will spread into every area of your life.

Note: This is an excerpt adapted from “Create Your Art Career : Practical Tools, Visualizations, and Self Exploration Exercises for Empowerment and Success” by Rhonda Schaller, Allworth Press, an imprint of Sky Horse Publishing coming this March 2013


About Rhonda Schaller

I am an artist, gallerist (on sabbatical), writer, creative mentor and educator. I am the Director, Center of Career & Professional Development and Visiting Associate Professor at Pratt Institute. I am the author of Called or Not, Spirits are Present, Blue Pearl Press 2009, and Create Your Art Career, Allworth Press 2013. I sat on the board of Directors and Faculty of the New York Feminist Art Institute. I am the co-founder of the Ceres Gallery, NYC; founder of Schaller Jaquish Art Projects, NY, NJ; Director, Create Meditate and co-publisher of Blue Pearl Press along with my husband environmental studies professor and Vedic scholar Dave Jaquish. My artwork is in the permanent collections of the C.EVERETT KOOP INSTITUTE at Dartmouth University The Art of Healing Gallery; LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, Washington D.C. - EXIT ART, Reactions collection; MEMORIAL ART GALLERY UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER; MUSEUM OF MODERN ART- Franklin Furnace Artist Book Collection, Mail Art collection, and the Alan B. Slifka Foundation.
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7 Responses to Five Tools for Success

  1. Adam S Doyle says:

    Great article! Are there any books by Holmes that you’d recommend for further reading?

  2. Andrea Kahn says:

    “Private and quietly determined….” That would be me.
    Great article that takes in the possibility of a vast array of personalities who need to find what exactly determines success (for them).
    So much looking forward to this book! It’s going to help guide a lot of people forward!

  3. Thanks Adam and Andrea!

    Helping others just feels right – glad you liked the article. RS

    • Andrea says:

      I say this about few people; you are MEANT to be doing what you are doing!
      I will be first in line to buy your book and will spread the word liberally.
      It’s always a pleasure to see someone do something they love, and do it well.

  4. Pingback: Five Tools for Success – Artist Marketing Resources

  5. Val Sereno says:

    Completely agree with one of the other comments – you are truly MEANT to be doing what you
    are doing. Congratulations on your book Rhonda you are a real talent>

    Val Sereno

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