This morning the rain is pounding the house like Niagara Falls. The noise is deafening, yet somehow makes the house feel more quiet, more secure. It’s almost like a giant hug from nature, and it’s saying, “Stay inside, don’t be in a hurry to go outside to get to your day. Take a day for yourself inside to relax, to read, to think.”
I cherish early mornings like this because of the quiet and solitude, and the chance to put my thoughts down on paper. It’s therapeutic. It’s also the calm before the storm, when the whirlwind we call family awakens noisily and in a hurry to get to their day — though the rain may keep them snugly nestled in their bunks since the sun won’t be tickling their eyelids on this soaked morning.
Last week I wrote about the melancholy of friendships when we have to part, following my Publisher’s Invitational paint camp in the Adirondacks. Over the course of the last week, I’ve received some e-mails and calls from people who were in attendance, and one such note got me thinking. You see, this one person sent me a note that said, in part, “You’ve changed my life. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not found you.”
Um, ahh, I’m a little uncomfortable telling you that, because I don’t want to appear for a split second to be full of myself or to make you think I’m arrogant or self-centered.
The full note said this…
“I don’t know how you do all that you do, and I don’t know why you chose to do what you do, but you’ve changed my life. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not found you. My life was a mess, and because of you, I discovered painting, which has given me purpose and peace. This event [the Publisher’s Invitational in the Adirondacks] helped me find my tribe, helped me make new friends, and helped me see how other painters approach painting, which not only made me a better painter, but helped me feel like I’m a part of something bigger.”
I get shivers when I hear things like this because it’s nice to know that I’m making a difference.
But I also have to tell you that my mind plays tricks on me and says things like, “Why me? Why was I chosen to be the one to help others find their path? Why do I do what I do? “
A Valuable Mission
I’m on a mission to help 1 million people discover painting, because painting changes lives. It changed my life, opened my eyes, and gave me purpose, a creative outlet, a whole new set of friends, and a whole new life and career.
I realized that something as powerful as the process of learning to paint will change others. I want to share that with the world. This got me thinking back to the times we created PleinAir magazine, Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, and the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE). Each was started out of passion. Each was based on seeing a need, and realizing that someone had to fill that need.
A Logical Step
At the time I began plein air painting, I was already making my living as a publisher, and I saw what I thought might be a growing movement. And I felt that since plein air painting was changing my life, perhaps others would get some benefit from it. By starting a magazine, I could amplify the movement. At that moment, I didn’t ask “Why me?” I asked, “Why not me?”
The same was true for the Plein Air Convention. It became clear that as the movement grew, there would be a need to see the quality of painting rise, so that all the people coming into plein air painting could grow as painters as quickly as possible. It was also clear that there needed to be a central gathering place to form a community where we could learn, grow together, and work toward ensuring a strong future for outdoor painting. Again, I thought, “Why not me?”
Rooted in Passion
When I started Fine Art Connoisseur, it was rooted in my passion for the new realism movement, based on the heritage painters of the past. Few artists were working that way, but I could sense it would catch on and that it was worth someone’s time to push and develop it. So at great financial risk, I followed my beliefs and launched the magazine. For many years I was shut out by skeptical advertisers, but I decided to be patient and do all I could do to keep it going. Someone needed to do it. Why not me?
Something New That Needs to Be Done
Now that community of realists is in need of a central event to bring them together for growth, training, for a strategy to build the industry, and for a sense of belonging. And I’ve had to ask myself once more, “Why not me?” The result is a new conference this coming November, called the Figurative Art Convention and Expo (FACE), for people who create museum-quality figurative and portrait artwork, and those who want to, to come and learn from top masters.
Doors Slammed in My Face
As I look back on a career filled with pain, failed businesses, having doors slammed in my face, almost losing everything I owned at least two or three times, and, yes, an occasional success, I’ve realized that the best things that come to us are not planned. They come accidentally and are fueled by passion.
Though I set out on a clear mission to be an on-air radio entertainer, starting at age 14, pretty much everything good in my career happened because I had a passion, saw an opportunity for a future, and jumped on it without a plan or any idea how I would make it work. Because I saw a need, believed that maybe I could fill that need, and said, “Why not me?”
In every instance my brain first told me, “Why me? I’m not capable. I’m not worthy. I’m not sure I can pull it off. I don’t have the money. I don’t have the time. I don’t have the expertise.”
When Self-Doubt Strikes
Self-doubt slips in every time, and sometimes it wins. So many times my mind played games and I told myself that I was not the right person, that someone else should take on this responsibility. But then I think…
“What if no one else sees what I see?”
“What if no one else does what needs to be done?”
“What if it never happens?”
That seems to convince me. So I either act on it, or in some cases, if I feel it’s not right for me, I’ll share the idea and suggest it to someone else.
So what about you?
Why not you?
I read a lot of biographies. Most great women and men had little confidence in themselves when they had their best ideas. Most did not feel deserving. Most did not have any special status or expertise. But they believed in their ideas, and in the changes their ideas would make in the world. So instead they asked, “Why not me? If not me, then who?” They believed that if they pursued their ideas, they would find a way.
Don’t Assume People Have Advantages
It’s easy to look at the people who have accomplished great things and assume they had special gifts, special contacts, special knowledge. Most did not. They had the same thing you and I have: passion and an idea that needed to happen. So they asked, “Why not me?”
You have special gifts. You can see things others cannot see. You have passions others don’t have. Why not you?
I’d like to encourage you this week to think about something that should happen, but won’t if you don’t take it on.
Don’t let that negative inner voice get in the way. Kick him or her out of your head and go for it.
When an idea or a cause is bigger than the negative voices in your head, that is the time to pursue it. Instead of asking, “Why me?” ask, “Why not me?”
Have a great week!