This post is focused on capital, both emotional as well as material, in regards to our probability of succeeding in whatever we are focused on doing. When I look out into the landscape of experts, in all fields, I see a characteristic trait which is ‘I can help you with what you are insecure about or lacking’. Their power of suggestion typically drives us to ‘need’ not to finding our own independence. For me once I hear an apparent statement of authority I struggle with its ramifications particularly if it is a weak spot in my makeup. There are so many examples of this but one area that I have always had to contend with is, ‘do I have enough capital to do the thing that I want. This was primarily material capital as I didn’t learn about emotional capital till many years later.
The traditional wisdom is that the majority fail because they didn’t start with enough capital. The second wisdom is , ‘don’t risk money you can’t afford to lose’. I want to elaborate on these 2 common bits of authoritarian suggestion. Everything contains a bit of truth but the complete truth is that challenges can be overcome even if the so called odds do not favor you. I have the luxury of talking about my own experiences now that they are history. When I began my career as a studio artist in 1976, almost out of high school, everyone said, ’your dreaming’ and you have 2 small kids to support. I started with $1000 to buy materials and 1 customer who purchased at wholesale. I worked 60 hours a week and slowly built from a very humble beginning. For 10 years I scratched and clawed to keep doing what I wanted to and my small bit of capital was enough to get me the life I had dreamed about.
The common wisdom was I didn’t ‘have enough’ to have any chance of success but I made it through and proved it could be done. In the early 1990’s my career took off like a bullet and I was eventually acquired by museums and showed in the top galleries in America. I was making more money than I could have imagined and I was beginning to physically feel the results of working long weeks. Carpel tunnel, neck and back issues but despite that I couldn’t make enough work to keep up with the interest. Inadvertently I had stray thoughts of, ‘imagine if I could sell other artists work that I didn’t have to make’ but I had no real desire or plan to have a gallery. A friend had taken a rental nearby and had a room he wasn’t using and I commented, ’what a great gallery space’. He said, I am not using it why don’t you put up a show and see what happens.
I said I would think about it and shortly after organized a small show for the fun of it. This gallery started when I had $400 in the bank allotted to doing the first exhibit. Not enough capital to be successful according to the experts but don’t think I wasn’t thinking about it. This was in 1996 and the first 3 years were very thin until I sold my first piece for $6000. It was the biggest sale to date and my initial $400 capital stake was digging in and producing modest results. After a move back to my studio building, which we renovated into a 6000 sq ft gallery, this trajectory continued each year as word of our exhibits spread. While things were always challenging, as art typically goes, in 2008-9 I had exceeded a million dollars in sales in my humble barn in the bucolic countryside. My $400 capital stake had brought me to this place most would call success.
The power of suggestion can hold us back if the suggestion is at war with what we want. ‘Most fail, not enough capital, I’m not good enough, you need a mentor to succeed’ and on and on all intend to drive us to someone or thing that without we cannot fulfill our dreams. So a new Power of suggestion from me. Where there is a will there is a way no matter what we lack when we begin. Each of us is resilient, creative, enough to make something out of almost nothing. I have done it more than once. You don’t need capital you need drive and persistence. Mechanics can be learned but how we use them is our unique value in the world. Find the mechanics teachers and then do your thing and anything will be possible. They say never risk money you can’t afford to lose. Really? I want to value each dollar of that $400 that started my gallery and I couldn’t afford to lose a penny of it.
I will suggest take some money you desperately need and make it work for you because you know you have no other choice. All I can say is this is what I have lived. It is my story and I hate the experts who kill dreams and make us need them. I want to be independent. Free. I will seek out those who can help me with the mechanics and will apply myself to getting better. In the end success means so much more when you find your truth and your story which becomes undeniable and then you become the expert we thought we needed.