I recently sold a big painting to a stockbroker. Out of the blue a guy phoned and said he’d always wanted one. He said he would like to pay about $60,000 and asked me to choose a recent favourite and personally deliver it.
Riding the elevator to the 17th floor with an unwrapped painting, I was sizing up the modest miracle I had anguished over for almost a week. A flicker of guilt danced across the tiny screen of my mind, but not for long. My new collector was over-the-top pleased with his painting, and showed me to a richly panelled boardroom where he and his secretary helped me hang it. He told me he had just put together a big IPO, “flipped it around,” and had taken home “a million bucks” for his trouble. “So no problem,” he said, handing me a cheque.
Descending by the stairs for the benefit of exercise and mental sorbet, I was thinking what a nice guy was my new friend. I was also getting an idea what this “Occupy Wall Street” thing is all about.
The currently popular book The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss tells us we should actually work a lot less and a lot smarter. Curious as to how Tim’s ideas might apply, I took the book to bed with me. DEAL is one of his acronyms:
D is for Definition. Define what you want. I had to agree with this one — too many of us are on the up and down escalators wondering what to do with ourselves.
E is for Elimination. Eliminate all the junk in your life. Less TV, e-mail, telephone, Web surfing — in other words, don’t waste your time with stuff that won’t get you anywhere. Hmm.
A is for Automation. Tim wants us to outsource grunt work to a VA (Virtual Assistant) in India or someplace. (“No no, Akbar, I wanted a little more blue in that sky.”) Tim also tells us to automate the money-making process so you have a lot of easily-won income — sort of like flipping a big IPO quickly by phone, I figured, except those guys do go to work early.
L is for Liberation. Don’t show up at the office. Take lots of mini vacations. Jog. Lift weights. Tag sharks for fun. Do wild and wonderful things to cleanse your brain. Oh yeah? What about me? I like to show up to work in my studio. Early, too. Regular, like. It’s the funnest place. I go there for weeks at a time. Don’t you?
PS: “For all their bitching about what’s holding them back, most people have a lot of trouble coming up with the defined dreams they’re being held from.” (Timothy Ferriss)
Esoterica: Like the guy who keeps repeating his old jokes, Tim recommends changing your friends. “You are the average of the five people you associate with most,” he says, “Do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.” Right now I’m thinking stockbrokers know something I don’t. I’d tell you more about this but right now I have to go out and join the protest.
by Scott Kahn, NY, USA
I recently sold a group of paintings to a wealthy collector. As an artist I felt a tinge of remorse. I don’t approve of what Wall Street and the wealthy have done to this country, but they are the very ones buying my paintings. Of course I need the money and I certainly wouldn’t turn down the sale but it does present a moral dilemma.
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The artist as activist
by Jean McLaren, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada
I so loved your latest letter. First I thought, what were you coming to? And then when you said you would join the protest, I said, “Yay,” as that is what I am going to do tomorrow. I am going to Victoria, B.C. to join the Occupation protest! Besides being an artist I am also an activist. Even if I don’t sell many paintings right now, the work keeps me happy and so of course does being an activist. I do mainly acrylic abstracts but I also sneak in some things that might inspire others.
A glib book
by Kate Lehman Landishaw, USA
Tim recommends changing your friends. “You are the average of the five people you associate with most,” he says, “Do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends.” This is very oversimplified, to say the least — he assumes the people with whom one associates most often are one’s friends! Or perhaps he’s just had poor luck with friendships. Or maybe he’s just attracted people as money-driven as himself? Although that seems to be what he prefers — hmmm.
I’ve noticed that a way to make some quick bucks is to write an easy-reading, somewhat glib if not caustic book that tells people how to make quick bucks, though I wonder if the author gives them to his friends. I don’t have time for that sort of thing. I’m too busy enjoying my deep, abiding, long-term, richly rewarding friends. They don’t make money for me, but one sent me an emerald necklace a couple weeks ago, some surround me with excellent art, some make dining more pleasurable, most make me laugh, and all encourage my work. Don’t know quite how an IPO tops that. Robert — I’ll see you at “The Occupation.”
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Level playing field for all
by Linda Karp, Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico
Well, clearly that book about working less and smarter was written for an audience already blessed with options. I think about all the people out of work, of poor and hungry children in the US, of single parents out of work, who either never had or never will have those options due to all the “isms” out and about in the world, and those who suffer the consequences of corporate greed and dishonesty (see “housing market/mortgage scams”). So let’s think about creating a level playing field for all workers in the world and then talk about working less and smarter. I know too many people who are dying, some literally, to work. Period. Not less or smarter. Just a job with pay so they can eat and feed their families. And live indoors with roofs over their heads.
What a week this has been
by Elizabeth Bazzell, Christiana, TN, USA
I love your emails! I want to be YOU! I am a baby, pleased that you have come into my email, and your words are much appreciated and savored. I have been painting for most of my life — just now, in my 42nd year, have I had the courage to share it with someone other than my husband or mother… and the work is actually selling. I agreed to consign at a very small local shop for a 60/40 split, and in only one week I have sold 10 paintings (I get the 60 — they get the 40). I do not know how to price them (so I just let them do that — and they want to make money, too. For now, I really just want to get my name out there. WOW, what a week it has been. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with those of us out here in the email world. I am thankful to learn from you!
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The art of losing friends
by John Carson, Dover, UK
Defining objectives is a great exercise brilliantly defined — and mostly ignored — by Stanislavski for actors, for instance. It also is, or was, ‘step one’ as defined in the Army manual. ‘Step two’ requires you to define the means whereby you achieve that objective. At which point, of course, you frequently find that you have to redefine step one: fun nonetheless. As for eliminating time wasters, I know that, having ruthlessly walked away from two thirds of my disorganized friends, the gospel according to Ferriss will spread accordingly and I will then find that my remaining friends have walked away from me. Studio here I come.
Gifts to the needy
by Mary Walberg, Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico
I am glad for your sale, but on the other hand this story somewhat saddens me. I hope this client also donated $60,000 (or more) to help feed starving people, or made a donation to the Salvation Army, Red Cross, World Vision, etc. That would really be something to get “over the top” excited about. Something to think about, don’t you think? At the end of our lives we will be judged not by the diplomas hanging on our walls, how much money we made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by — I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in. So out of your $60,000.00 how much did you donate? Just asking.
(RG note) Thanks, Mary. Nothing. But in the last calendar year I gave away 60 prints and originals for various fundraisers across the country and in other spots as well — hospitals, disabled people, the blind, children’s charities, etc. So far this year my assistant tells me I am up to 35 charitable gifts, and the giving season is just beginning. It’s a great way for artists to serve.
Toward a better system
by Beverly Theriault, Plano, TX, USA
Thank you so much for mentioning the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ folks in your current letter. These people and all of us who support them are standing up against the abuses of Wall Street. With the advent of Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s, businesses in the United States began moving away from the business model which stressed steady long term growth achieved by loyalty to producing quality products for their customers and sharing of the profits with the workers who were actually producing the wealth toward the current business model which stresses short term profits at the expense of quality products and fairness to the workers.
I would also like to thank you for the mentoring day you donated to the attendees of the FCA workshop on Gabriola Island in September. I feel very fortunate to have been able to show you some examples of my work. I value your critique and will continue to work toward producing more professional work.
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Can we take this rally seriously?
by Stewart Turcotte, Kelowna, BC, Canada
So everybody wants to Occupy Wall Street or Robson Street or my street… They say they are taking their inspiration from the Arab Spring. They have scheduled a protest when they don’t even know what they are protesting. They are actually canvassing the public via social media to see what they should protest. It’s really hard to take this kind of rally seriously. They say they are opposed to having to accept lower wages. Well, we have all felt the bite of this recession. Welcome to the real world. I own a business and have had fewer paying customers, so in effect I have had to accept a smaller income and I can’t complain to anybody. And these protesters are upset that those at the top still can have their caviar and crème cheese. Again, welcome to the real world. Even if Bill Gates lost fifty billion he would still have five billion. People will have different financial abilities forever. And remember, our banks and stock markets, although big business, have a right to make a profit — that is what the world is all about. And they don’t have some of the illegal tendencies that those in other parts of the world do. If they don’t make a profit, they will lay off thousands of workers and some of them may be those who are protesting in the rallies. I protested a war when I was young, I protested nuclear bomb testing, I protested something that harmed the environment but I always knew what I was protesting.
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Ferriss DEAL not ideal
by Bruce Barlow, Swanzery, NJ, USA
With all due respect, Tim Ferriss is talking to a vastly different audience who, secretly, profoundly dislike what they do every day, while thinking that the only reward — and the only scorecard — is the size of the salary or the value of the stock options. They may dream of being artists, or musicians, or hitch-hiking through Europe, but feel that they are trapped.
It’s life defined by economics, and we can see how well that’s working. Ferriss is trying to break the link between time spent and an economic yardstick, but he hasn’t quite become explicitly conscious of that in a deep way. “DEAL” isn’t a bad start, but he needs some genuine Zen to inform it. Or something that more directly addresses our spirit. When he does, he’ll realize that not all of DEAL applies to his passions — the things he really cares about that take up his time beyond 4 hours a week — and what does apply will allow him to accomplish more than he thought possible. Not bad. I can learn from that.
I did 100-hour workweeks on an assignment in Germany where I knew practically no one, and didn’t speak the language, and which was really hard. DEAL wasn’t an option. Since humans rarely remember pain, I have to remind myself what a horrible experience it was, because memory, thankfully, doesn’t serve.
Jeanne Thieme and Gill Truslow, two fine artists and wonderful people, sent me to your Twice-Weekly Letter. We usually pass around emails discussing it, and how it affects our art and, in my case at least, how I teach photography. You always make us think deeply. I can’t imagine a higher compliment.
Enjoy the past comments below for The 4-Hour Workweek…
oil painting, 6 x 6 inches
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Madeleine Kelly of Ridley Park, PA, USA, who wrote, “Funny how most artists are ready to rally for with the “occupy wall street” crowd or are ready to “share the wealth.” And yet you directly benefited from someone’s successful investing, one of the rich fat cats. Capitalism trickles down. Besides if we share the wealth, who is going to pay for a $60,000 painting… or a $3,000 one?”
And also Bill Hodgson of London, ON, Canada, who wrote, “You better watch out your new friend doesn’t decide to flip that painting around. It’s worth more if the artist is dead. Nothing personal, it’s just business.”
And also Melanie Peter of Gainesville, FL, USA, who sent us this quote by Fran Lebowitz: “I always say to people, ‘No one earns $100 million. You steal $100 million.’ People earn $10 an hour. People earn $40,000 a year. ‘Earn’ means work. Okay? It doesn’t mean steal, which with these vast amounts of money, of course you steal them.”