If life had a soundtrack, I’d be listening to the quiet strum of soft guitar music as I sit here on my back porch overlooking the Texas hills on this pre-sunrise morning. Distant hillside homes, towers, and blinking lights are softened by the fog of this humid, almost-warm morning, waiting patiently for the sun to reveal what’s in store for the day.
For over a decade, this porch has been my muse, my quiet place, allowing me to stare into the distance inside my mind and gather my abstract thoughts. It’s where I sit when I feel lost, where I sit when I feel the need to escape, and where I sit to find myself. It’s where I create, where I write, where I ponder each day.
A Backward Glance
Looking in the rearview of life, it sometimes starts me wondering what lies ahead, what will keep me engaged, excited, and driven. What more can I do? What needs to be done that hasn’t been done?
Do you ever wonder about those things?
Where will you and I find new ways to change lives, to improve lives, to help others live their dreams? It’s a question I often ask, with no answers.
Answers always come with the right questions.
Though I’m a big proponent of mindset and life planning to create the most ideal life possible, it’s also important to allow for impulse, and random left turns. Think how boring life would be if we actually did everything exactly according to plan.
Last week I was meeting my son for dinner in a part of town I was not familiar with. Since I had some time to kill, I just started making random turns down roads I’d never driven, and I found it invigorating. Discovery took me past businesses and shops I’d never seen that I now intend to visit, and to parts of town I otherwise would have missed.
Happy Little Trees
There is also value in what the late artist Bob Ross called “happy accidents.” Though he was referring to a mistake in painting that turns out to be worth keeping, it’s those random and unplanned moments that keep life interesting.
My dad used to say, “No matter what you start out intending to do, you almost always end up doing something completely different.” That’s because things drop in our laps that are more interesting or appealing.
As a young teen I was lost, and the pressure of trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up was mounting. Nothing appealed to me, until one day I was accidentally invited by a friend to watch him do his radio show. After an hour, I’d found it so exciting that I decided that was what I wanted to do with my life.
Of course, I didn’t do that the rest of my life, because other things caught my interest.
For instance, I never set out to be a publisher. Until one day I had a meeting with a magazine I’d advertised in, and walked out as the new owner. And I certainly never had any intention of becoming an artist or an art publisher until those opportunities dropped in my lap.
I have no idea what’s next, but I have no doubt something new will drop in my lap and keep life interesting. It might be something related to what I’m doing now, or it might be something completely different. I want to keep an open mind, because the minute life gets boring, I need to find new stimulation and interests. That might mean a new hobby, or a new business.
Stop Pressuring Yourself
As you know, I have triplets, aged 21, and they are under a tremendous amount of pressure to figure out what they want to do with their lives. Yet I try to remind them, just try something, because your ultimate direction will drop in your lap once you get exposed to some new things. You are likely to change anyway. It’s true for them, and it’s true for most of us.
The key is to find things that interest you that you could become passionate about. Because life is too short to spend your precious hours doing what you don’t love.
I suppose this has a lot to do with your personality. I don’t think I could do one single thing, day after day, for my entire life. Others are just fine with that.
I also tend to chase shiny objects, which sometimes works out and other times distracts me from what I should be doing. Yet it’s who I am.
Are you the type of person who can find one thing and stick to it forever?
Or are you someone who likes new and different things?
I’m not looking for anything new. I love what I do, and I enjoy most days. But I remain open to what might pop up next. That’s why I read things that are outside my areas of interest, why I try to learn about things I didn’t think I’d be interested in, and why I will take random classes about random things, and it’s why I like to move every few years. Doing so keeps my brain elastic.
The odds of finding new things increase when you put yourself in situations where you’re forced to discover them. If we get stuck in a routine, it’s hard to come across something fresh.
The key is curiosity.
Are you curious?
An ideal life is filled with little hidden surprises. Though many happen by accident, most will happen when you look for them.
Are you looking?
PS: Sometimes I’m Mr. Butterfingers. Though I pride myself on understanding tech, somehow I messed up and did not send Sunday Coffee last week. I did not even realize it till I heard from some of you. Oops. Please accept my apology. Just think, I could have slept in.
A couple of weeks ago at my PleinAir Live online event, a woman told me she attended because someone her husband knew had told him about my daily Art School Live broadcast on YouTube, where I have different people teaching art every day at noon. She tuned in, and then heard about our virtual conferences.
What she said brought tears to my eyes. “My life has changed since discovering these broadcasts and online events. I wasn’t a very good artist, but now I’m much better, all because someone was generous enough to tell my husband about something I might like.”
That’s a great example of a random accident, followed up by taking the steps to try new things.
The most fun of the year, though, is our Plein Air Convention & Expo. It was once called “The Woodstock of Plein Air.” It’s coming up in Denver in May. You can learn about it at www.pleinairconvention.com.
(While we’re here, these are the reasons you should NOT attend PACE.
- I’m too old and feeble. I’ve given up.
- I don’t want to actually be around people yet.
- I’ve been before. What could I possibly learn?
- I’ve learned everything I need to learn.
- I can find better things to do with my money … like beer and pizza.
- I don’t need new friends.
- I don’t want to make art history by being part of the largest paint-out in history.
Don’t want to go? Buy a scholarship for a young person under 30 who is dying to go.
Just buy the ticket, then let me know and I’ll find someone who wants it desperately.)