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Another New Year's Resolution...

One of my several New Year's Resolutions, a bizarre goal setting practice that I seem to be willing to fail at year after year, is to be better at consistently posting my blogs weekly. Now today is only the 5th of January, and I've already blown the promise that I will exercise daily. I must say, I wasn't willing to bet money on the success of that particular resolution. I do though feel more confident about my commitment to blogging. The reason for that security is less about the importance of one goal over the other in my life, but rather that I actually have made practical steps toward the success of blogging. I've made no such rational or positive move toward daily exercise. I'm not saying I'm proud of that realization, but my hunch is you'd rather read my blog than watch me attempt jumping jacks... not a pretty sight.

Bogdan and I create a good bit of content as an art business. In addition to the constant marketing on social media platforms, attempting to get our artwork out there in front of a world that may want to buy it, we also create this blog, a vlog, a live chat program, and a video/audio podcast. That's a lot of content. I am often cautioned that because we've undertaken such an aggressive program of content creation, we're doomed to produce all of them badly. I certainly hope that's not the case. But let me try and justify why I believe we're doing the right thing.

Anyone who is running a small business will realize that we, as business owners, are required to do all of the same things that larger businesses do... ourselves. Just because I'm not a large corporation with loads of departments and employees, does not mean that I can neglect all of the things that those larger organizations must do to be successful. As a small businessman, I have to create products, market, sell, keep records, pay taxes, budget time and resources... and ultimately make a profit. The notion that I can back away from any those responsibilities would end my business quickly. I have to be an accountant, and a photographer, and a sales executive, and a craftsman, and a writer, public speaker, and risk analyst. I have to do it all.

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Now I suppose there could be an argument that I cannot possibly do it all well, but I wonder if that's really the goal. Is it my intention to be the greatest art business in the world? I do believe it is my responsibility to do my best, but is my best necessarily "the" best? I have always believed that I must apply myself fully to everything I undertake, but never blame myself when that falls short of perfection. That's not to say I haven't made huge mistakes, some of which I am truly ashamed to have made. I have, and doubtless will do again. But the argument that I should somehow back away from my responsibilities because I may fail seems inconceivable to me. If I were to believe that argument, then I would never create art. I do not for a moment believe that I'm not a better artist today than I was five years ago. If I were to abstain from painting until I was really good at it, I would never get really good at it. I need to continuously work that creative muscle to get better each day, and to find out where the limits of my talent lay.

So what if I extend myself to various platforms at the same time. As long as I do not burn myself out, what does it matter if I am not the best blogger or vlogger on the internet? I can see at a glance that I am a much better vlogger today than I was when I began five years ago. I also feel that my blog entries are substantially better than when I started. Isn't that the point? So no, I do not seriously consider that I'm hurting my business by not being the best at anything. Having said that, I do think it hurts my business to be inconsistent. I know from my own viewing and reading habits that I come to expect regularity from my favorite channels, I feel disappointment when they are not consistently communicating with me. I don't really care what their frequency is, but if I know that that on Sunday morning I look forward to hearing from my favorite van-lifers. I'm discouraged when there's no content there. This is the core of my New Year's resolution. I want to be consistent in my content, even if I'm not the best content creator out there. I should say, if you are reading my blog because you're expecting me to be the best writer you've read, you probably need to read more blogs. I'm not proud of that shortcoming, but I do embrace it as a reality.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Which brings me to the subject of creating business goals and objectives. I love them. I mean it. Again, I'm not claiming that I will always meet every goal, or even that every objective we create is achievable. However, the process of creating an actionable plan for our business, one that we can use to evaluate and to measure our success, is hugely important. And that's why we have always spent time at the start of every new year to forge a set of goals and measurable objectives for our art business. We carve out time to host a Goals Retreat, where we go somewhere that is not home, and not the studio, and dedicate uninterrupted attention to evaluating the previous year, and making a plan for the year to come.

Last January we drove down to South Texas and spent a few days on South Padre Island for our retreat. This year, we're heading to Austin. The hope is that, in addition to having some sort of relaxation, we will have fewer distractions to the conversation at hand. Our first consideration is always to evaluate how we did with the prior year's goals. Did we achieve them? Were they the right goals after all? We will look at those same goals, try and determine if they still address the needs of the business, and either throw them out, adjust them, and add new ones to the mix.

As important as the goals are the objectives. Where goals are more general, the objectives are more specific. Each objective must be measurable and time sensitive. If we create a goal to "increase art sales", then the objectives may include things like; attend at least two art fairs by the summer; or place artwork in three consignment venues by November. As the year progresses, we can plan for the deadlines we have determined, evaluate whether or not those objectives have been realized, and whether or not they have actually increased sales. Next year, we may decide that that goal was successful because we can track increased sales. We may determine that our objectives were the reason for that success, or not. We may find that there were other factors that lead to the success or failure of that goal, that had nothing to do with our objectives. We can then reevaluate and rewrite our goals and objectives to better fit our situation.

To me the most important thing to remember when I'm creating business goals and objectives, is that they are MY goals and objectives. I have every right to change them, ignore them, or fail at them. They are tools that I create to help me run my business in a considered, rational, and intentional way. If at the end of the year, or even half way through, I come to the conclusion that I cannot improve my sales by attending art fairs or through consignment shops, then I can jettison either or both of those objectives. I may even decide that the actual problem I have is marketing, not sales. I may determine that before I can expect increased sales, I must make another set of measurable objectives to improve my visibility to potential customers. They are my goals and objectives. I can use them any way I like. Even if they're not effective this year, that doesn't mean I shouldn't have created them.

I can never assume that a failure of a goal or objective is a personal failure, or even a business failure. I often run into people who tie their own self-worth to the success of their goals. I think we have been trained to admire people of single minded clarity who set out with certainty on a path, and make it happen. Yeah, I guess that's noble in a way, but that's never been my path. Look to history, or to literature... the heroes we admire are unlikely candidates, who through trial and error, with help from strangers, who through the very strength of their character, achieve success in spite of their weaknesses. I don't mean to demean the amazing clarity some people, some artists, have in the way they march toward success. I just want to point out that there are other paths up that mountain. Some of us must scramble, slipping up the hill, even if there are those who march upward with confidence. Don't every allow self sabotage when you compare your success to that of another. Celebrate their victories and go out and win your own. Sermon over.

This week we've been super busy preparing and installing a solo exhibition for Bogdan. I'm very pleased with the work so far, and the exhibit is now open and running. The big test for us will be the opening reception, which happens next week. Keep an eye on our other content if you're interested in the planning and execution of that show. While the end goal of the exhibition may be to make money, there is so much more that goes into a show like this... and so much more that can be gained from it.

Have a great week, and Happy New Year.

“Art Life Blog with John & Bogdan” is a weekly blog/vlog/podcast that creates a community, a conversation, between creatives in all sorts of fields at all sorts of levels.  We want to discuss what we’re learning, what we’ve experienced, and whom we’ve met in our journey of running a freelance creative business. John Bishop is a visual artist living in Houston, Texas. His work is largely abstract, and explores how to turn mythic, archetypal symbols into individual experiences allowing us to see them in a new way, with fresh eyes. Bogdan is a videographer and fine art photographer who constantly seeks to stretch the boundaries of traditional photographic work, with the added flare of his artistic eye.  Both artists’ work can be seen online, or at their studios at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street, in Houston.

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