Bright green backlit leaves are glowing high in the sky as the warm sun filters through them and projects little leaf-shaped shadows on the spring grass. As I breathe deeply, the scent of wildflowers and roses reminds me of my grandmother’s garden. The day is perfect for all my senses. Even Mozart would be inspired by the songbirds singing from every direction. Though the old night owl is safely in his “owl box” atop one of our trees, his occasional question interrupts the songbird symphony as if to say, “Who, who is making all that noise while I’m trying to sleep?”
Last night the warm spring weather inspired me to fire up the grill. I walk across the deck with the lighter in hand, turn on the gas on the grill and click the lighter, sparking a small flame. Suddenly, “Whoosh!” The sound of the gas igniting fills my ears.
Small Spark, Big Result
No matter the size of the container … a small grill, or a gas-filled building … it takes only one small spark to set it off. Our cars operate only because of a small spark in the cylinder. But what do sparks have to do with our lives, our careers?
We are surrounded by sparks.
You Wanna Be a Star, Kid?
As a young boy of 14, I visited my first radio station to watch my friend Charlie Willer do his radio show. I was hooked, and his encouragement and the spark from that day resulted in a 50-year career in and around the radio industry.
A Giant Painting
Seeing a painting of pirates sword fighting when I was 12 and on a family vacation was a spark that created a lifetime interest in art, and at age 40, the spark of an art lesson as a birthday gift set me on the path to becoming an artist. That spark resulted in my career in the art world.
We never know when sparks will fly and ignite a new passion, which is why it’s so important to try new things, read everything we can get our hands on, and visit places NOT on our radar, to spark curiosity.
It’s also important to be a spark, to help others find and ignite their passion.
Not only can we ignite others or be ignited, we can often seek sparks. My dad always tells me, “Son, you can change everything about your life or your business in just 90 days. You can go from being broke to rich, go from unsuccessful to successful. All it usually takes is one small change.”
Comfort Is the Enemy
All too often we get stuck and set in our ways, and we end up repeating Groundhog Day over and over, never seeing ways to change things up to keep them interesting, or to make what we have to offer ourselves more appealing. Yet listening to others may give you the one small spark you need. It usually takes removing yourself from your comfort zone, yet it can be so invigorating to try something new.
My friend and mentor Jay Abraham was talking one day and I asked his advice on how I can teach a million people to paint, my biggest goal. He told me that the best way to get big fast was to get on national TV with a show (more about that later). He suggested that a TV show could be the spark to reach millions and hit the goal fast.
Where do you need a spark?
Where can you be a spark?
The longer I’m alive, the more I understand that the best things that happened in my life and my career came from accidental sparks I never would have followed on my own. But I also discovered that to ignite at the very second the spark hits, the gas has got to be on. You have to be constantly on the lookout for sparks, and when you feel them, they won’t ignite without your instant pursuit.
Create Your Spark
And, though accidental sparks will happen through random moments, the longer you’re around, the more established you become, the more it’s critical to create your own sparks. I have to help those on my team find their sparks, I have to push and pull to get people out of their comfort zone to move to a higher level, or else we’ll never do anything new. And I have to get others to step up and offer ideas, and be willing to listen to them. It’s not easy.
What have been the sparks in your life that were accidental but ignited your passion?
In what ways can you ignite a spark in others?
Listen, be aware, and know sparks are always flying, but often go unnoticed. If you’re on the lookout for them, you can change anything in your life, your work, your family, your business, in just an instant.
In an Instant
I received a lovely e-mail from an artist friend this week who said this … “I was stuck … I was one of those people that could do anything well I set my mind to, yet I tamped down my potential with alcohol and fear of success. Eleven years ago, I said no more. I stopped self-destructing … simply made up my mind and never looked back. I shifted my own paradigm. It was then that I decided I was going to not talk about chasing a dream, but I was going to LIVE the dream of moving through the rest of my life as an artist. Embrace the hard years of choosing between electricity or food or gas and strive and improve until I could find the other side. What I learned was that the moment I made the decision internally, with no room for inner argument, I became.”
The magic of a spark is that the moment it ignites your passion, you become. It takes a split second.
The split second I was exposed to radio by my friend, I became radio. The split second I was really exposed to painting, I became an artist. Though there were a long and often painful few years to follow, passion overcomes pain because your head has moved to a new place.
Seek to spark and be a spark.
Blessings and Lessons
We’re in a new normal. There have been blessings and lessons learned from these strange times. We might look at the sparks that happened to us over the past few weeks and ask which ones we no longer want to ignite, and which ones we need to pursue and change.
I’ve had over 2 million views of our samples of art instruction videos over the past few weeks, and an average of 59,000 viewers per video. It has sparked a new path for us, all because we were trying to be a spark to entertain, educate, and inspire others during this pandemic. It will change everything.
I’ve learned I don’t want to return to the adrenaline-driven life of being so busy, spending life on a plane, and being separated from my family. I want to be home more, I want to have more time, and to not always be doing something to keep me busy, and I want to learn new and interesting things. So I’ll be shedding some of my skin for a new, reinvented me.
What about you?
What lessons, what new normal, will come out of this for you?
What has sparked you?
PS: My initiative to teach a million people to paint is driving me to do a national TV show on a very large TV network. The topic is a plein air painting reality show called The Great Outdoor Painting Challenge. It will reach over 20 million people per episode. I hope it will teach millions to paint or challenge them to explore painting. I’m in the funding process now (seeking big donors) and hope to have it on the air in about a year.
Last week I listed all the things we’re doing, all the videos created. I’m reposting that updated list here so you too can find something to spark you.
- Lee Milteer: Managing Your Mindset
- Stephanie Few: What you need to know about government assistance for artists, galleries, and small businesses.
- Stephanie Few: Financial help for artists and galleries
- Jay Abraham: Survival for artists and galleries.
- Jean Stern: Artist Survival Strategies
- Free Painting Lessons for Beginners: www. PaintByNote.com
- Gallery Profile: Rehs Gallery
- Daniel Greene, N.A. Memorium (1934-2020) FACE 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
- I’ve recorded over 200 artist interviews in my plein air podcast. You can find them here.
- Free daily art instructional video segments via Facebook Live
- Learning From Home Video Collections