Coming to a dead stop in her flight across the sky, an eagle dives straight down to the water and scores a sizable fish with her massive golden talons. She has no fear. She does not think about what might happen if she fails, if she hits the water wrong and crashes. She is focused on her sole purpose. Getting food.
“Do the thing you fear to do, and keep on doing it. That is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” — Dale Carnegie
Some of us are born with no fear.
That’s not me. I have fear of a lot of things. But I never have feared starting a business, even from a young age when I made lemonade stands and sold candles, and over decades of business startups.
The Gift of Youth
When you’re young and naive, you don’t fear life as much. You have not yet seen the repercussions of doing doughnuts in the parking lot, racing down the highway at top speeds, or daring to dart in front of a speeding train just before it hits the crossing.
I did all those things. I was strong, confident, and I could never die.
Sadly, others did die. I had four classmates in high school who were driving drunk and were hit by a train. Three of the four died.
And as we grow older and wiser, we have more stories to tell of others whose reckless pursuits did not go well. That helps us mature.
When we start up a business for the first time, we have never experienced the difficult days — the decades of experience that make us exercise caution and play the “what if?” game.
At a young age, we have nothing to lose. Even if we lost our life savings, how much could it be? And we know we can easily make it back again.
It’s a lot easier to start a business when you have no spouse or partner, no kids, no mortgage, and no pressure. Once you have those things to consider, reckless pursuits are dampened by fear of loss.
The joy of parenting includes watching my kids make reckless decisions, like jumping out of airplanes, even though I begged one of them not to do it — a dear friend urged me not to let my kids do it after the painful loss of a child.
I, too, was an adrenaline junkie until I got married and had kids.
A New Chapter
A couple of weeks ago, one of my sons lost his job. I was not unhappy about it because he was never happy in that job, did not love the way he perceived he was being treated, and he was making almost no money. But of course we worried that he needed to get something else quickly so he could pay his rent. Plus, he is like me and can’t work for others. He rejects authority, as I do.
So he and his friend decided to start a tree service. He put out the word and got a customer to pay them a couple thousand bucks for a project the first day.
Beaming with Pride
For the first time in a long time, I saw pride of accomplishment in his face, and he was determined to get other customers by making flyers, knocking on doors, and making posts on Nextdoor.com and Facebook Marketplace.
He has no fear.
You can imagine how proud I am of my kid when he is launching his own business and got his first customer, and for the first time in his life, generated money from his own brain, his own labor, not getting his money from a job or a parent, but from a customer.
What Experience Tells Me
Of course, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “This could be tough.” It may have been beginner’s luck to get a customer, and the others might not come as easily. And of course, it was not long till he was discouraged because other customers were not jumping in the boat like the first one had.
Yet he continued doing all the right things to market and promote his business. And he’s learning just how hard it is, but still he has no fear. He is confident he will figure it out, and so am I. And once he has had a taste of business success, he’ll never have a job working for anyone else again.
The Power of Encouragement
I knew this would not be easy, and my first temptation was to talk to him about all the things he was not thinking about … like insurance and taxes and safety and 900 other things business owners have to think about. I could have told him all those things, but I bit my tongue. Instead I told him I had confidence in him, that I knew he would figure it out, and that he is doing all the right things, and that I was proud of him.
The Power of Discouragement
People are fragile. If someone they love and respect tells them that they don’t believe in them, or gets overly negative about everything that could go wrong, they will often stop and never try again. I’ve seen it far too many times in life. When people stop trying, they always wonder what could have been.
A Discouraging Word
When I was about 11 and told my aunt I wanted to get into radio, she told me it was a bad idea, that radio people were poor-quality people, that it was not a good industry to be a part of and I should pick something else. Instead of swaying me, it made me determined to prove her wrong. “One day I’ll be successful and show her,” I said to myself. I was passionate, I had found what I loved, and nothing was going to get in my way. And ultimately, my dream came true. I got into radio at 14, had my own show, worked on top radio stations, and even ended up as an owner of radio stations and radio-industry magazines and conferences. But what if I had listened to my aunt? I would have missed a lifetime of wonderful experiences and friends.
You Can’t Make a Living as an Artist
I can share countless stories of people whose parents told them to pursue something other than art, because they “couldn’t possibly make a living.” I have stories of people who allowed their parents to influence them and spent an unhappy life in some other industry before coming back to art and finding their joy. I also have stories of people who proved their parents wrong and became successful and made more money than they ever imagined (even though it was never about money).
Don’t Squash Dreams
Be a dream weaver, not a dream destroyer.
If I had known all the difficult things I would face in business startups, I probably would have backed out. Getting your teeth kicked in is part of the growth process, and though it still happens on a regular basis, it hurts less every time, and the benefits outweigh the difficult stuff.
Encourage people. Build them up. No matter how much you see that they might be in for a tough year or two, let them find out for themselves. Though your instinct is to protect them, we have to let them experience the tough stuff too. We grow from adversity.
What I Discovered
Most of the people in my life are dream destroyers. I’ve launched 20 or 30 businesses or business products over the decades that I was told would never work, were likely to fail, were stupid ideas that no one would buy. I even did research that told me something would fail, did it anyway, and had huge success. It’s important to understand that someone with passion or an idea has a vision others can’t see. So no matter how much you don’t understand it, or even if you think it’s already being done elsewhere, give them all the positives and none of the negatives unless they ask. Even then, be thoughtful about not destroying or discouraging them.
Besides that, nothing ever ends up the way you envision it. A good entrepreneur will pivot with the needs of the market.
Stories of Success
The world is littered with failures, but it’s built on successes. Every startup person will tell you they had more discouragement than encouragement, and that sometimes it was one person believing in them, and offering ideas or help, who made the difference between success and failure. You can move mountains when you know others believe in you.
What dreams did you not pursue?
Did someone discourage you? Did you do it anyway or did you listen to them? Do you have regrets?
Don’t do it to others. Build them up. Give them encouragement. Help them see even bigger visions. With your encouragement, they might change the world.
PS: Over two decades ago, I started PleinAir Magazine. But I almost didn’t because so many people told me it would fail. I ran it for two years and it did fail, and then they said, “Told you so.” But I believed so deeply in it that I found a way to bring it back, and started the Plein Air Convention. Again, people told me not to do it. Yet it’s been wildly successful. Thank goodness I did not listen.
The 11th annual convention is taking place in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this coming May.
A few years ago several people cornered me and said, “You always do your conventions in the West. Why not bring it east?” I told them that the majority of attendees come from the West and that our fear is that if we hold it in the East, those people may not come. And if they don’t, we would have a financial disaster that could kill the convention.
Their response was, “We’ll make sure every plein air painter from the East comes, so it won’t matter if people don’t come from the West.”
So I took a chance, booked a facility, and we’re holding our first convention east of the Mississippi. Will it work?
So far, the West is winning.
What I mean is that there are more registrants from the West (in other words, they are coming anyway), but the East is not doing its part. Don’t get me wrong, we have hundreds of people coming from the East. But unless we can see more participation from the East, it could impact future decisions about coming back that way.
So the challenge is on. Who will win?
If you’re a plein air painter in the East, the driving time to the convention from most of the U.S. is less than a day. This is your opportunity to prove the East has just as many plein air painters as the West.
If you’re thinking … “I’ll do it another year,” please know we may never be this close to you again. We have four pre-convention workshops: one with Joseph Paquet, one with Indian artist Amit Kapoor, one with pastel artist Aaron Schuerr, and our Essential Techniques Day for beginners, which is a great way to learn the whole plein air thing.
If you don’t know anyone, come anyway. You’ll make friends.
Oh, and the price goes up on Valentine’s Day. So sign up today. www.pleinairconvention.com
If you’re thinking, “I’ll attend the online version of the Plein Air Convention,” we are NOT doing that this year. But if you can’t come to PACE, you can still attend PleinAir Live, coming up in March. This has top masters teaching plein air, but it is not the online version of the convention.