Motivation is the lifeblood of every artist. Without it we are lost and unable to realize our goals. But what exactly is motivation? and how do we get it?
Over the years I have come to realize that what motivates us is not just the good and inspiring things that happen to us, but also the upsetting things that move us and instill in us a quiet determination to do something with our lives.
Life is a strange journey for all of us, and one in which we can either take the wheel or simply sit back and watch the journey unfold. We are all on the journey whether we like it or not, but not everyone sits firmly at the wheel of life. Artists, by their very nature are dreamers and find lifes journey a difficult one, often distracted and preferring to take in the view rather than drive.
Motivation is what we need to succeed and it can come from some surprising places. In today's world we strive endlessly to make everything good, to nurture, protect and encourage. There's nothing wrong with that of course, but the human spirit does not thrive on a sugary sweet diet alone and a more enlightened view, is to accept that life consists of good and bad and that even the bad things can be appreciated when their true value is understood.
Paradoxically it can be a negative experience, that fires our determination even more than a positive one. Somebody putting you down and telling you that you will never achieve something can sometimes work more powerfully than the words of encouragement we all love to hear. 'I'll show you' can be an incredibly strong motivator.
In my life I've always made use of this. The more people told me I could never make a living from art or the more rejection letters I received from galleries and publishers, the more my resolve to succeed strengthened.
A gallery owner once rudely put me down in a crowded gallery, telling me I would never make it with my animal paintings. I left the gallery humiliated with my painting under my arm. Many years later after seeing my work auctioned at Christies, the very same gallery owner wrote to me asking if I would consider putting some work in his gallery. It was a sweet moment turning him down, but in the bigger scheme of things, maybe I should thank him for increasing my determination to succeed.
I recently read the biography of Robby Robinson. A man who overcame great adversity in his own life to become an international bodybuilding superstar. It is a fantastic read and one particular anecdote really struck a chord with me.
As a schoolboy in the poor south of Florida, he dreamed of escaping the poverty and becoming a sporting hero. His teacher caught him reading a issue of 'Muscle Builder' magazine in biology class and humiliated him in front of his classmates, telling them he would never be like the men in the magazines and saying to his face 'You will never be like this' With tears rolling down his cheeks he quietly vowed to himself:
'Oh yes I will'
Years later, when Robby achieved his goal and saw himself on the cover of that very same magazine, one of the first things he did was post a copy to his old teacher. That must have been a very satisfying thing to do. It certainly made me smile when I read about it.
It's a tough world and you need to use every tool available to you if you want to succeed. When people put you down and try to distract you from your goals. See it as an opportunity to use that energy to your own advantage.
Life throws a mixture of good and bad things at you, but you can use both in a very positive way.