DON’T SPEND TOO MUCH TIME WORRYING ABOUT THE HIGHLIGHT REEL.

[More thoughts on The Ignored Series.]

DON’T SPEND TOO MUCH TIME WORRYING ABOUT THE HIGHLIGHT REEL.

We like to think that it’s our life’s highlights (our “highlight reel”, as it were) that make us happy.

That time we walked the red carpet. That time we stood in front of the Grand Canyon and took a selfie. That time we had dinner with the famous person. That time we gave a big talk at SXSW.

But it turns out it’s the little stuff we do daily that actually makes us happy long term.

That first cup of coffee in the morning. That bagel every Saturday morning on Lexington Avenue and 41st. That last whisky before bedtime. That half hour of reading before lights out. Sunday dinner after church. Tennis with Marcio after work on Tuesdays. Hanging out at the comic book shop with Phil. Walking around downtown taking photographs.

The highlight reel is all about what motivates you extrinsically. And the little stuff is about what motivates you intrinsically.

And “intrinsic” is where actually happiness- the kind that lasts- is found. Sure, you can build the “extrinsic” stuff into the mix as you go along, but to sacrifice everything some the former just to have a wee bit more of the latter is a fool’s errand.


never play dice with the universe

With some businesses, everything has to work first time, straight out of gate, or else it’s considered a flop and everybody loses their shirt. The movie business is like that. Restaurants, too (Here’s a very painful but compelling example of what I’m talking about).

In the art business, that single-role-of-dice approach is simply not going to work. As an artist, you’re going to try dozens and dozens of different things over time- different approaches, different job titles- mostly stumbling blindly forward, until one day you find something that clicks.

That’s how it’s done. It might take your five years. It might take you twenty. Nobody knows. No guarantees.

The only guarantee (which isn’t saying much)… is you.

i.e. You keep on working, you keep on learning, you keep your options open, you keep your sorry ass on the straight and narrow in the meantime.

But to let it all be decided by a single throw of the dice is beyond stupid. Life doesn’t work that way.


sell-out

I once had this artist friend, a Hispanic dude who was very quick to call other artists out for being a “sell-out”.

The slightest whiff of “commercial” and boy, that was you on his permanent shit list. Then he’d drop you like a stone.

What funny is that over the years he became the poster boy for that politically correct, identity politics crap (and it is “crap”) the museums and the Academy love so much these days. And because he was a minority from the wrong side of the tracks (which he would never let anyone forget, not for second), he fast tracked into that world of slippery words and dead meanings. He played the part. He was a “natural”.

Now if that ain’t a “sell-out”, I don’t know what is. But I doubt he’d notice the irony.


With reverence

[Originally posted Sept., 2004]

There are a lot of great marketing books and blogs out there. That being said, I still think the best marketing stories come from personal, first-hand experience.

Here’s a favorite one of mine:

Back when I lived in New York there was this fabulous, crazy-ass juice bar on West Houston called Lucky’s Juice Joint. I think it’s no longer there. I hear it’s moved.

It was the most out-of-place business south of 14th Street. Hard to describe, except as a “hardcore hippie haven”. Just had this weird, crazy, psychedelic-rainforest vibe. But damn, it had the best juice in town. It was amazing stuff. Tasted like the fruits and vegetables were picked that morning. Fresher than anything else I found in New York. And yes, I had searched high and low for even better alternatives, but never found one. In New York, this was really it.

The boss was this crazy looking tie-dye wearing guy who looked and talked like he had done too many drugs back in the ’sixties. A big ol’ middle aged, acid-head teddy bear. One day we struck up a brief conversation. I complimented the hell out of his product. “Wow,” I quietly gushed, “Your stuff is the best. It really is…”

“Sure it is,” said the guy. “That’s because we make it with reverence.”

You don’t have to get a job with a famous company or hot-shot industry in order to have a spectacular career. You just have to do what you do with reverence.