Friday, April 28, 2017

Money, Art, and Happiness

A wise person once asked me: "How do you define success?" That's a great question and one everybody should seriously consider. We live in a consumer culture that tells you success is directly related to money. Make enough money and buy a bunch of stuff. If your stuff is better than the other guy's stuff, then you're successful. For some, maybe. But, the more I've pondered the question, the more I've realized, money has very little to do with me defining myself as successful. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying money isn't important. Like George Bailey said to Clarence, his guardian angel, in It's a Wonderful Life, "... it comes in pretty handy down here bub." I just realized that happiness is what I believe is the most important measure of success. In order to be happy, you need to be successful. On your terms. Not somebody else's. For a long time, I thought that money would make me successful. But, then I realized that was our culture's definition of success and not mine. So, no matter how much Money I had, it would never make me happy if I wasn't successful in my own eyes.

For me, to be successful, I need to do something nobody else can do. Anybody can make money. That's not it for me. I realized, I am the happiest when I'm creating. I've always been creative. Drawing and painting as a kid. Taking photographs as I got older. Writing when I got to college. When, I'm creating, it's purely my thoughts. What makes me happy. What I find interesting or important. These things are mine and mine alone. When, I share them and others feel a connection, I feel that I've really accomplished something. Something nobody else can do the same way I can.

As I've said before... art is an intensely personal thing (see Stealing Your Soul). For me, I need to separate art and money. To be happy with my art, it needs to be my art. Not somebody else's idea of art. If, I create something with an eye to making someone else happy or trying to sell it, there's an amount of dishonesty there. Art needs to be honest (see "Bad Art" is a 4 Letter Word). When it's honest, it can connect with the viewer in a deep, non superficial way. If somebody wants to buy my art, that's great. If they don't but I know my piece spoke to them, that's just as good... maybe better.

So making art makes me happy. Making art makes me feel successful. But art is a hard way to make a living. So, if I want to create art, I need to accept the fact that it's probably not going to be how I make a living. The trick is realizing what makes you happy and makes you feel successful and what you are going to do to make the money you need to live the kind of life you want. For some, that might be the same thing. But, for most, those are going to be two different things. Both are important. You need to be happy to feel successful and you need money to survive. Don't confuse the two.

"Money don't get everything it's true.
What it don't get, I can't use. I want money."

— Barrett Strong, The Beatles, Flying Lizards


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