It’s autumn now in Austin. We’ve had a lot of rain and storms recently so I have been reluctant to post as much. I don’t like to use my computer at home during thunderstorms, at least I try to avoid it. Today finds me posting from my laptop which is a much safer bet. It’s been very rainy, foggy, and misty which we are all enjoying, as well as the leaves are now turning their proper autumn colors. Lots of reds and yellows out in the wilds these days.
As the seasons change and the calendar also draws a new change, many artists find themselves taking stock of 2011. I have seen many posts about “Best of” or “What I did this year” and, likewise, I’m not immune to these sorts of things. I too love to take stock of the year that was and I do think it’s important for artists to do this.
One thing I have noticed though is that there seems to be a difference between successful artists and those who are more beginners, specifically in the “taking stock” phases of query. The beginners focus on what they did not do or what they want to do, while the pros or the more seasoned artists focus on what they do best or what they have executed. Good artists, professional artists actually, get things done. They are able to cut through all of the “red tape” and bull garbage to get things finished. Beginners allow small things to snag them up, snarl up their progress, and they let small things get in the way.
This year, as you are taking stock, I’d like to offer up a challenge. Focus on your strengths. What is it that you did well in 2011? Stop and really think about this. What is it that you do really well this year? What is the one single most important thing you did well in 2011 and why do you think you were good at it?
I’m a firm believer in the “Find Your Strengths” model of performance. It’s an interesting book if you have not read it and an interesting model to use to focus your efforts. In case you are not familiar with it, the notion behind “Find Your Strengths” is that you focus on what you are good at.
Let me give you an example here. Supposing your son came home with a report card. Supposing the report card looked like this: English: B, Math: A, History: C, Art: B. What class would you focus on? What would you have little Johnny do more of in school?
If you’re like most people, you would probably say “History” here. History since he got a C and he needs to improve, right? Well, the “Find Your Strengths” models all say to focus on Math, the class in which he got an A. It’s probably a safe bet that little Johnny is not on his way to becoming a historian, but that doesn’t mean he should focus on his weaknesses either. By focusing on his strengths, he can do better in what he’s already excelling at. He might be a good mathematician now, but he could be a stellar one tomorrow. He might never like history. So, go ahead, let him get a C in it. Let him do ok but “just pass” in an area he is weak in, instead focus on his strengths, concentrate on what he does well. Get him working some mathematics and see what he really can do if he opens up the tap, so to speak.
The same theory can be applied to the arts. What is is that you do well? Find what it is and go and do it. Don’t spend time, any time in fact, worrying over fixing what you are not good at. Instead, focus on what you do BEST. If you are bad at bookkeeping but you paint really well abstracts, paint a lot of abstracts in 2012 and hire yourself a bookkeeper. That’s a great path to success and this model really works if you take it to heart.
So, as you’re looking at 2012, as you’re taking stock of 2011, I’d encourage you to really stop and look at your strengths. What is it you do well. Where did you knock it out of the park in 2011? Why don’t you try to spend more time in 2012 doing that instead of trying to fix something else? Go on, push yourself and see how far you can go.
There will be many “Best of” lists in 2011. Many favorite music, best art, recaps, and recalls for the year that was, I’m sure. Instead of recapping (or maybe besides recapping) the year that was, why not look up to 2012 and think of it as the year that could be? Focus in on what you do best and see how far you can fly given a proper set of wings.
2012 is already shaping up as the year that could be. The big question is, what are you going to make of it?
Until next time…