25 06, 2017

Why Not Me? If Not Me, Then Who?


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!

Why Not Me? If Not Me, Then Who?2017-11-17T15:40:54-05:00
18 06, 2017

Ode to Friends


You’re looking especially fine this morning. If you’re a dad, happy dad’s day. If you’re missing your dad, please know my heart is with you. I always look forward to what the kids come up for me to do with them on this day.

I’m up early … the sun has been coming up about 4:30 these days, and these early mornings are so peaceful. The lake remains still. The light has not yet hit the “golden” moments, but it won’t be long. Meanwhile, the mountain is reflecting a deep bluish-green-purple color in the water, and we’ve got some puffy clouds. Hope it’s not rain. I’m sitting in a bright red Adirondack chair, which is entirely appropriate, considering I’m at a lake in the Adirondack Park.

Mixed Emotions

Today, I’m happy and I’m sad. Happy because it’s Father’s Day and I’m blessed to still have my dad around and in excellent health. Happy because it’s my day and the kids pay a little more attention than normal.

But I’m also sad. Not “someone died” sad, but “friends are leaving” sad. You see, this morning as I awoke, the reality set in that today we all go home, and some of us may never be together again.

The Last Day

This morning is the last day of my Publisher’s Invitational in the Adirondack Mountains. We have been together since last Sunday, when everyone checked in and we had our orientation and opening dinner. Then we got up each morning and had breakfast together, went out and painted in the most amazing scenery all day every day, then gathered for dinner together each evening. We sat up at night telling stories, viewing one another’s paintings from the day, having drinks together, painting portraits, and playing some music. It’s a pretty festive week.

The best part of the week, other than painting all day with no pressure to be anywhere, and no pressure of competing in a show, is that we all become very close. We develop some fabulous friendships during the week, and for those who return year after year, we get even closer and look forward to the following year.

Summer Camp

I can remember having this same sad, sinking feeling after summer camp as a child. I was nervous going to camp not knowing anyone, but by the end of a couple of weeks I did not want to leave my friends, who all went to different schools in different cities. I also remember looking forward to returning year after year. This week is a lot like that because, after all, I call it “paint camp.”

The concept of this event started out simple: friends getting together to paint and play for a week, because the painters’ circuit is busy and competitive and we simply never get to do that. We started with seven painters, and they began bringing their friends, and this week we had 77 painters.

Hanging with Friends

Though my intent with the Invitational was to spend time with old friends, the unexpected benefit has been the new friends. When friends bring their friends, suddenly your circle of friends grows. I’ve always got room for new ones, and just when you think you have enough really close friends, something deep develops unexpectedly.

My Grandmother Luella, at age 92, told me, “You have to work at friendships to keep them alive.” She taught me well. She was always calling friends around the country and updating them on the family. She had hundreds of friends accumulated over 90-plus years. My dad is the same way. Learning this was a gift that has enriched my own life. I hope I can pass it on to my kids. This little Sunday missive is one of the ways I keep in touch.

We make discoveries by accident, but what my grandmother said was really true … you have to work at friendships. I create a lot of things to nurture friendships. I invest in finding time with special people.

Cycles of Life

I tend to believe that our lives have friendship cycles. There were times in my life when I spent a lot of time with certain people, had lots of good times, and then those people naturally faded from my life. They were little gifts. In some cases we served a purpose for one another for a time, and then we grew apart, intentionally or unintentionally. My radar is always open to new people for a new cycle in my life. Not all friends need to stay forever.

What I’ve found is that friends grow apart when the circumstances bringing them together change. I can remember friends I met in the radio business, people I spent a lot of time with because we were at the same meetings and same events and we grew closer, but then a few years passed and they moved on to other jobs or industries, and we simply don’t run into one another anymore. Sometimes too much time passes and you discover you can’t even find people anymore.

Difficult Friendships

Another hard lesson I’ve learned is that sometimes you have to shed friends. Though I’m never calling anyone and saying, “We’re not friends anymore,” there are times you just have to lay low because someone has become toxic. It was a hard lesson, because I never want to let anyone go, but when people become abusive to themselves or others, when they are doing things that are not healthy for themselves or the relationship, I have to keep my distance. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened often.

Of course, there are also the pretend friends. They tell you one thing and tell others another, and it gets back to you. It’s pure evil. I still hurt thinking about how I believed in some people and I was betrayed, yet they still pretend all is well.

Deadly Gossip

I recently lost a good friend because I told another mutual friend, out of concern, about something I’d heard — and that friend told my friend, who called me on it. I’ll think twice before I do that again because the loss of friendship leaves a gaping hole. It’s best just to keep my trap shut. Gossip is deadly even if you didn’t intend it as gossip.

The best friends are the lifers, of course. Sometimes you’re not in touch for years, even decades, but you still consider one another friends, and when you’re back together you don’t skip a beat. Facebook has been great for staying informed on the lives of friends I don’t often see in person.

My best lifers are the ones who nurture their friendships. It’s forced collision — I try to force it annually.

Together All Year

One of my closest lifer friends and I are like the two characters in the movie Same Time Next Year. I do an annual event at the Harvard Club in New York for my radio magazine, Radio Ink, and he likes to attend, so he always comes in and we room together at the National Arts Club, go to dinner and breakfast together, and get caught up on families and feelings. It’s something we both cherish because we talk for hours.

Though we talk randomly throughout the year, this is a way we carve out time for one another. It’s a big sacrifice for him to make the trip, and it’s one of the most meaningful times of the year for me. I look forward to it all year. We’ve done it for probably 10 years, and last year he missed it for the first time because he had a chance to go to Asia. It was truly lonely without him, and a time when I realized that one day that friend could be gone. As they say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

I’m not sure why I feel so strongly about friendships. Maybe it was not getting picked for either team as the fat kid in elementary school, or being so weird that me and the kids I hung out with were the school losers (according to others, not us).

Driven by Friendships

As I look back on my year and my events, I’ve realized that friendships drive the whole thing. We really do get close at painting events like this week’s Adirondack Publisher’s invitational, next October’s Fall Color Week in Acadia National Park in Maine, and trips like the one I’ve taken painters on to Cuba and New Zealand in the last 18 months, or even our annual art cruise (this year, for the first time, it’s not a cruise — we’re going to Russia). I’m sure I’ll make friends on next year’s African Art Safari. Of course, the Plein Air Convention (PACE) and the Figurative Art Convention & Expo (FACE) will be filled with new and old friendships.

Though I started kinda melancholy this morning, I’ve just realized how fortunate I am to be in a position to make so many friends. I can always be a better friend, I can nurture more, call more, and stay in better touch. Some friends I rarely see, others I see frequently, and it’s still not enough.

My grandmother had a rich life with deep and meaningful friendships, and I think her advice to stay in touch and nurture those relationships has paid off. It makes life so much richer when you can share it with others.

I feel like the luckiest man alive…

Today may be Father’s Day, which comes with its responsibilities, but why not seek out and nurture some friends today and this week?

Ode to Friends2017-11-17T15:43:20-05:00
11 06, 2017

The Secret No One Ever Told Me That I Had to Discover on My Own


I’m in a relaxed state of mind as the fog lifts off the lake this Sunday morning. There is a loon about 30 feet off the dock and she just took a dive, startled by the noise of my fingers on my iPad’s keyboard. The lake is quiet and peaceful, no boat noise. I did see an early morning canoe in the distance, in the shadow of the mountain. There are layers of trees, each a little lighter and grayer as they recede into the distance, and the water is still as a statue. The lake is like a giant amplifier, and I can actually hear the conversation of the couple in the canoe though they are a half mile away. Nothing interesting, just small talk.

Last weekend I was invited to be a part of something I consider pretty special: the Putney Painters, a painting group in Putney, Vermont, headed by legendary artist Richard Schmid and his wife, Nancy Guzik. As my Grandmother Luella used to say, “a red letter day.” I’ve been once before, when Richard painted my portrait. But this time I was invited to paint with the group.

This was the second-to-last official Putney Painters gathering involving Richard Schmid. He has decided to end it officially because of other things he wants to accomplish drawing his time and attention. The group has been meeting weekly, certain times of the year, in a lovely old red barn called Village Arts of Putney for the past 10 or so years.

Sometimes I get invited to places because people want press or coverage, but that wasn’t the case this time; no one was over-promoting or asking for coverage. It was just a calm, easygoing day, where we all painted. And because I set up directly behind Richard, where I could see every brushstroke, I learned while I observed and painted.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing Richard paint before, and one day I set up in the garden next to him and did a painting of him painting. Of course, I’ve watched all his DVDs, and I’ve read his books, including the new version of Alla Prima, the must-read bible on painting. He also told me how excited he is because before Christmas, he is re-releasing his book The Landscapes with more content, and even more brilliant scans and printing, making the few remaining copies of his current Landscapes book a rare collectible.

What I learned in painting with Richard this time was that he is not in a hurry, as I tend to be. Everything is slow and deliberate, even though his paintings look like they were done rapidly and are filled with energy. He takes time in observation, then takes time mixing, then more time observing, then he lays down a perfect stroke. He once told me he used to spend his time correcting mistakes, so by being more deliberate and careful, he eliminates mistakes up front.

I also noticed how softly he paints. He spends a lot of time laying down soft brushstrokes, and in some cases he softens them still further, with a sable brush or even his hands or a rag. It was an important lesson for me … slowing down and being soft.

He talked about how likeness is achieved by squinting down and painting the big shapes, saying that one does not need to know anatomy, but just to paint the shapes one sees. He talked about the importance of squinting for shape — but not making things as dark as they appear when squinting.

But I’m not here to provide an art lesson today.

Richard finished his painting early and walked through the room to talk with and help most of the painters, people who had all been painting with him — in some cases, over decades. It was amazing, the quality of the paintings by the people in the room … people like Kathy Anderson, Stephanie Birdsall, Charlie Hunter, and many others I’d met only once or twice before. Stephanie was like a giddy little girl after Richard spent 10 minutes showing her how to get perfect soft edges on her painting. “I’ve been here on and off for years, and this one day was one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned,” she told me.

I shuddered inside when the master sauntered up to my painting, studied it, then said, “I think your drawing is off on the back of the head.” (We were painting Symi Jackson from Rosemary & Co Brushes.) Then he took his brush and measured and said, “Nope, I was wrong. It’s perfect.”

He looked at me and said, “I had no idea you were such a good painter.” Then he walked away.

Though I’ve always found Richard to be encouraging to others, I also know he does not throw out compliments unless there is good reason. He always looks for something encouraging to say to someone, for sure — “nice colors” kinds of things. But to hear this sent me to the moon. Of course, what I did not tell him is that I was watching and trying to emulate what he did. So the compliment may not be fully deserved … but I’ll take it.

That then brings me to my point for today.

The secret no one ever told me about, for decades, is that the biggest, most successful people are generous and focus constantly on generosity.

Though the media makes out big business leaders as ruthless, hard-nosed jerks, I’ve learned that for the most part, the opposite is true. Most of the business owners I know, some of whom have even become billionaires, are not ruthless at all. Instead, they are generous. They have learned, as I did, that if you set out to actually change people’s lives, set out to help them while expecting nothing in return, you magically end up more successful. It could almost be considered one of the laws of the universe.

I spent many decades in business without fully understanding this principle. Though I’ve always been a giving person, I kind of separated that out to my personal life. It was radio talk host Dave Ramsey who urged me to incorporate a spirit of generosity into my business.

It was like flipping a switch. When I told my team to approach everything this way, it was an eye-opener for us all, and suddenly it gave us more purpose. Suddenly things were not just about business or profits, they were about using the business as a tool to change lives, to make change in the lives of others. Showing up for work had a new meaning, and my entire demeanor changed.

No one likes to show up for work unless there is a bigger mission, and my mission on the art side of my business is to teach 1 million people to paint. Painting changed something inside of me, and I want others to experience the joy, the satisfaction, the continual stimulation, and the ability to use their creativity.

If I had to define my purpose in everything I do, it’s to educate, inspire, and engage people. If something pops up and it does not fit within those three words, I don’t do it. It’s got to fit the mission.

One thing I hear continually about Richard Schmid is that he is generous. I could see it when I watched him truly interested in helping the Putney Painters. I’ve heard it from dozens of people who say his true interest in helping them resulted in their entire careers blossoming.

I was raised by generous parents and grandparents who instilled those values into me at a young age. But my mentors in business never taught me this important lesson, and I ultimately had to find it on my own. I spent a lot of years wandering around without a mission. Though I had goals, I did not have a bigger purpose.

Since changing that attitude a few years ago, everything has changed in our world, and we’re able to affect a lot more lives in so many ways I never thought would be possible. We even managed to pay for and build a home in a homeless village because we take a significant part of our earnings and try to put them to good use for charities. It sure feels better coming to work every day knowing that our work has deeper meaning.

Once generosity found my heart, I kept running into others who operate on this principle, and I’m seeing lives and attitudes change because of so many others taking this approach.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t work if you do it for the purpose of growing your business. But it will help your business grow, as a side benefit. And even if it doesn’t, it makes showing up for work much more pleasurable.

As you know, I teach marketing for artists, and I spend a lot of time studying the biggest successes. And I’ve since discovered that though all are savvy marketers, the majority are very generous. I think that’s why Richard Schmid became so famous. He’s a brilliant painter, but there are other brilliant painters who have never been discovered or become so successful. I think it’s that spirit of generosity that propels people beyond anything they could do on their own.

I asked Richard where he learned this spirit of giving. “My mother,” he said. “We were always raised to put others first.”
So our thought for this week is: What can you do to be more generous to others, expecting absolutely nothing in return? In what ways can you go above and beyond to be generous?

Though this weekly note is fairly new, readership is already soaring. Imagine how much impact you and I can have if we each implement more generosity for a solid week. I think it could be huge.

Recently I discovered a hot young artist by the name of Sean Escott, who I think is the next budding superstar plein air painter. He sent me an e-mail asking for some advice, and though time is tight, I gave him more time than I had to help him launch his career. Frankly, once he is discovered, his life is going to change.

Anyway, at the end of our talk, he said, “How can I repay you?” And though it was tempting to say, “Send me a painting” or something, my heart told me that would send the wrong message. My reply was simple: “One day you’ll have a chance to help someone learn the important lessons you’ve already learned. The best thing you can do to pay me back is to do this for someone else in the future. Pay it forward.”

That, my friends, is what we all need to do. Play the long game. Pay it forward. And even if business rewards don’t come, it doesn’t matter, because seeing someone’s eyes light up when you’ve been unexpectedly generous — that’s the best possible reward you can ever get.

This week, be generous. It truly is the secret to success.

PS: I took some photos at the Putney Painters that day. You can view them below.

The Secret No One Ever Told Me That I Had to Discover on My Own2017-11-17T15:46:21-05:00
4 06, 2017

The Thrill of Spontaneity


As a family we had been spending our summers on a lake in Indiana for three generations (four including my brothers and me), and I remember my dad saying that when his grandfather used to take him fishing on the lake, there were no speedboats, no noisy Jet Skis, and almost no homes on the lake. But that all changed, and my dad began to realize that the only reason our family was still on this lake was because he’d grown up there. We were there for tradition. His grandfather had been there because it was a beautiful and peaceful place at the time.

About that time the movie On Golden Pond came out, and the scenes were of a lake in New Hampshire, with deep pine trees, aging log homes with squeaky screen doors, the smell of pine needles, and lazy days spent fishing, running, and jumping off a dock.

“This is what our lake used to be like,” said my dad, “but it’s not that way anymore.”

Instant Action

While most would come to the realization and accept it, my father took immediate action by calling around to find out where the movie had been filmed. Two days later he was on that lake in New Hampshire, looking for a place to relocate for the summers.

Because of the popularity of the movie and the lake, the prices were way out of his range, plus there were things he wanted that he could not find near that lake.

More than Gas

Being the friendly guy he is, he wandered into a gas station and struck up a conversation with the attendant. “Do you know any other lakes like this one? I like it, but I’d love to have some islands in my view, and then a distant mountain. I want something quiet, no Jet Skis, and I’d love a lake that is mostly old wooden boats and old cabins. But I don’t want to pay these kinds of prices.”

Others probably would have kept this vision to themselves or assumed that the attendant wouldn’t know, but this attendant did know.

“I know just the place, but it’s not around here, it’s near the Canadian border in upstate New York. I used to date a girl who lived on the lake I’m thinking about, and I heard the house was for sale because her dad is dying.”

A Life-Changing Phone Call

My dad walked over to the pay phone, gave the man some change, and said, “Do you mind calling them right now?” The conversation went like this:

Gas Guy: Hello, you may not remember me, my name is Jimmy, and I used to date your daughter.

Lady at House: Of course I remember you, Jimmy. We always liked you. My daughter ended up marrying a bad guy, and it’s been nothing but problems.

Gas Guy: I’m sorry to hear that. We can talk about that at another time. I’ve got a friend here with me, and I was telling him I heard a rumor that your husband was ill and that you might have the house on the lake for sale.

Lady: Well, that’s true, but we just sold the house yesterday.

Gas Guy: Oh, that’s too bad. I’ll tell him.

Dad: Let me talk to her, please. I’d like to meet her.

Gas Guy: He wants to talk to you and meet you anyway.

After a brief introduction, Dad says…

Dad: So, you say you sold the house. Have you closed on it?

Lady: Well, no. We’re fighting over the china and the piano. We can’t close until that is resolved.

Dad: I’ll tell you what, I’ll solve that problem for you. I’ll buy the house, and you can keep the china and the piano and anything else you want to keep. Do you think you can cancel the other sale?

Lady: Well, I can check on that. But don’t you want to know the price of the house? Don’t you want to see it first? What if you don’t like it?

Dad: I’m sure the price is fair, and if I don’t like it, you’ll never know. I’ll phone you tomorrow to see if you can get out of the sale and I’ll overnight you a check.

Welcome to Shangri-La

Less than a week later, he had closed on a house he had never seen. Once they had moved out and he saw the property, it was the most beautiful view on the lake, just as he had envisioned. Quiet, peaceful, old cabins, lots of wooden boats, no Jet Skis, and lots of creaky screen doors. It was much better than he ever expected.

I tell you this story of spontaneity this Sunday morning because his willingness to be spontaneous changed a lot of lives, including mine. Several hundred painters have been guests at this special place as part of my annual Adirondacks paint camp.

Resistant to Change

Though I resisted giving up my friends and our lake place in Indiana, and though I did not want to like this new place in the Adirondack Mountains — which I had never heard of — it turned out to become my muse for photography, and then painting. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen and has inspired some of the best painters on earth.

In fact, I loved it so much that I created an event here called the Publisher’s Invitational, where I host a group of painters each year to paint this magnificent 10,000-square-mile state park, which is bigger than most national parks and equally beautiful and pristine.

I learned the art of spontaneity from my dad long before this moment in time, and it has served me well.

Planning to Death

You see, most of us plan everything to death. Though I love to plan things and to have things to look forward to (I always try to plan a trip to someplace exotic at least a year in advance, and I love having events to look forward to like the Adirondacks, Fall Color Week in Acadia National Park, the Plein Air Convention, or my African Art Safari trip), I also know that my heart will follow something not on the plan.

The Best Is Rarely on a Plan

I have to admit that the best things that have ever happened in my life have been the result of being spontaneous. For instance, my trip to Russia was the best trip I’ve ever taken in my entire life, and it occurred spontaneously (read about my new trip here). My first instinct was to tell myself there were a thousand reasons I could not go (and there were), but I just said, “What the heck,” and went for it because I knew I would always regret not going.

In fact, I turned down an all-expenses-paid three-week painting trip to China because I had lots of reasons I could not go. To this day I regret it. Though I told myself there would always be a next time, the reality is that there isn’t always a next time. None of those reasons would have mattered.

On-the-Spot Decisions

Spontaneity isn’t always about travel or trips. I’ve met people, talked about ideas, and cut deals on the spot that have turned out to be wonderful opportunities to boost my business or help others. I’ve been in meetings when someone will come up with an idea and I’ll react by saying, “Let’s do it,” without researching it to death and finding all the reasons that “it won’t work.”

Spontaneous Radio

In fact, I bought my first radio station spontaneously. I had been a consultant for this company, and it was renewal time. They told me they were not going to renew and were not going to give me the new station they had been planning to put on the air. Spontaneously, I said, “I’m so convinced that this will work, I’ll buy the stations from you. Name your price.” They called my bluff, and I ended up buying my first AM/FM station.

I’m sitting here on the dock, writing this on my iPad, coffee resting on the arm of a big deep-green Adirondack chair, because of spontaneity. I’ve been able to spend my summers here for the last 15 years so my kids can experience this place every summer of their lives because I spontaneously decided I would work from here each summer, even before we could get Internet up here.

I looked up the word and I got this: “voluntary or undetermined action or movement.”

But I think it’s more than that. Something within us that stimulates spontaneity.

Following Your Gut Instincts

Years ago I attended a decisionmaking course, and they told us that nine out of 10 times, when a decision has to be made fast, without thinking, we make the right decision because of something that occurs in our subconscious mind. They told us to learn to listen to our gut, because it was usually right.

In testing at school, my teachers used to say, “Write the first thing that comes to mind,” and often when I’m asking someone’s opinion about something, I ask them what the first thing to come to mind was. I value that first thing as the “gut” that is telling us what we really want.

Spontaneity is a reaction of the heart. Thought is a reaction of the mind. Both are important, but I like to think that our lives are better when we lead with the heart.

(Now I’m really sounding like an artist.)

When I interview prominent artists in my podcast, they often talk about painting and responding to the initial reaction we have when we see something we feel we need to paint. That too is spontaneous, and a reaction of the heart.

Myers-Briggs Corporation tells us there are four personality types, two of which are prone to leading with the heart, while the other two lead from the head.

This Is Insane!! I Can’t Just Do This!

Half the people reading this are having a strong reaction and maybe a sick feeling in their stomachs because the idea of doing anything spontaneous is just wrong. These same people make wonderful accountants and lawyers and doctors, because those are professions where shooting from the hip will get you in trouble.

I think I have a nice balance. I lead from the heart, but I’ve trained myself to listen to my left brain, too.

Why am I telling you this?

Simply because there could be some wonderful opportunities you’re missing because you’re trying to rationalize everything with the left brain. Logical and practical is good, but it’s not always as entertaining. You could be missing out on the best things in life because you need all the pieces to fit perfectly into your plan.

Naked in the Streets

I’m not suggesting you throw caution to the wind and go running through the streets without your clothes while trying psychoactive drugs. I am suggesting that you might feel a sense of freedom if you’re willing to take a chance, listen to your heart, shed all the reasons it seems like a bad idea, and just try something spontaneous.

Give it some thought. This week, try to listen to what your heart wants to do and take a shot at doing something your left brain thinks is totally impractical. It will be difficult at first, but you’ll find you’re happy you tried it. And keep an eye open for a chance to be spontaneous this week.

The Thrill of Spontaneity2017-11-17T15:49:22-05:00