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Dreaming of Success? Learn from your heroes.

We all have heroes, people we admire for what they've accomplished, the effect their lives have on others, or for who they are as people. If you think for a moment, you'll realize you have many heroes in your life. Not all of them are given that honor equally. Stephen Hawking was one of my heroes, but so was my Aunt Maudie. I admired and respected both, but for very different reasons. I am confident that you have the same sorts of leveled hero worship yourself. But let's try a little experiment.

We are only going to consider people who are in our direct and specific line of business or artistic discipline. Oh yes, and they can't be dead. How is that list looking now? It's much shorter, isn't it? Perhaps at the top of that list is a mentor, or a teacher, perhaps an old boss. Create a list of at least 5 people you admire in your niche, and write their names down. They can be people you haven't met, or they can be people you know well. You look up to them for a reason, and that's the golden nugget we're after here. Why are they your heroes?

Write the list. I'm serious. Then think about why each of these 5 people is an inspiration to you. Is it some technical expertise? Is it their charismatic personalities? Is it their financial success? Write down one word, and a sentence, that you can use to summarize why each is a person that you admire.

Here's mine. I'm defining myself as a painter, so everyone here is a living painter.

  1. John Ross Palmer: Determined. He has refused to be a starving artist, and has built a brand and a successful business around his art.

  2. Stephan van Kuyk: Fearless. He is involved in everything, takes risks, and does not accept no for an answer.

  3. Zachary J. Williams: Skilled. Zach approaches his work in such a deliberate and expert way, and his work is exceptional.

  4. JJ Baker: Authentic. J.J. lives like an artist. He is pure, and raw, and is his work. He can't help but do art. It's how he communicates with the world.

  5. Gerhard Richter: Fame. I not only love his work, but I admire the fact that he is well known and successful.

So take that list, and see the kinds of values that emerge for your creative career. I want to be determined, fearless, and skilled in my art business, while reaching some degree of fame, but remaining authentic. Hell of a good start on a business plan, or an artist statement?

My hero list may and should change. And just because I have a certain view of these five artists, doesn't mean that they would see or value the same things in themselves. This is my list, not theirs. But it does give me the chance to follow their careers, glean what I can from their lives and work, and learn a lot about my own values and dreams along the way.

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