I have learned a lot of things running my own business these last 18 years. Today, I wanted to share the story of how this wild ride started and why I decided to take the plunge into self employment.
Whether you acknowledge it or not, I strongly believe that each of us is born with special abilities. I admit that many, sadly, never identify their gift and that some gifts are easier to identify than others. (I will dive into this topic further in future posts.) I quickly discovered my gift as soon as I learned to hold a pencil. With very little effort I could, with uncanny precision, look at any picture or object and recreate it with paper and pencil. I created the example shown above when I was only 5 years old.
Talent is a work in progress
We have all heard the term, “practice makes perfect”. Regardless of what your gift is, if you don’t use it, chances are you will lose it. More importantly, if you never search for your gift, you will never find it. Fortunately, human nature has a great mechanism for those that identify their gifts. Once we discover we are good at certain tasks, we tend to repeat those tasks and get better at them over time. For me, drawing was both a means of coping with the normal stresses of childhood and a means of bringing great joy to my parents and others. In short, drawing made me feel good.
Society needs artists
Human social behavior is both fascinating and terrifying. In early human civilizations those blessed with physical gifts of strength and wisdom were held in high regard for obvious reasons. If you were a great hunter gatherer or fierce warrior, your mere existence was critical to the survival of the tribe. As civilizations advanced those who used their intellectual gifts to advance, protect and feed these growing populations were held in higher regard. This ushered in a new age of story tellers, artists and song writers, who’s gifts were utilized to sing praises and build monuments to tribal elders and leaders as well as documenting important events.
I am almost certain that the first artist to coin this phrase had absolutely zero business skills. Unfortunately, the stigma, still exists to this day. Most artists and non artists believe and even embrace this falsehood. My high school counselor and art teacher were convinced of it and quickly discouraged any artistic ambitions I had in my future. Even my own mother, who encouraged my artistic passion, insisted I get a real job instead of following my passion as an artist. Upon graduating high school, I took everyone’s advise and took my first serious full time job as a gas station attendant, eventually transitioning into a 20 plus years as a master auto technician. All the while I kept drawing every chance I got.
Time is all we really have
If you spend 20 years doing anything and don’t learn something of importance, you have done more than a few things wrong. Even though my real job had nothing to do with the arts, my time spent during those 20 plus years were not wasted. I learned a tremendous amount about business and paid attention to other departments within the company over the years, picking up invaluable knowledge along the way.
Do what you have to do until you get to do what you want to do
I never gave up on my drawing and also managed to pick up some new sculpting skills by chance, simply by looking for ways to keep my kids occupied in the summer and winter. These new skills reignited my passion for the arts and even inspired my idea for a company dedicated to using art to sell and promote products and services. In the Summer of 2000, I built a small website, fitzysnowman.com , featuring my snow and sand sculptures. Within 2 weeks, I got my first major commission from a pretty large internet company. Over the next few years, operating part time, I was accepting projects all over the country. I was able to keep up with the demand by using my vacation and sick time to travel to different locations for work.
Comfort, your biggest enemy
By 2006 I had reached a cross road in my career. My part time business was taking off at the same time there was a significant drop in the automotive industry.
Had the automotive industry remained strong throughout early 2000’s, there is a good chance this blog post would never have been written. Fortunately for me it did not. I slowly watched my weekly paychecks drop due the pending recession and changes taking place in the automotive space. This convinced my that I had nothing to loose. My confidence was also boosted by the knowledge that I could always return to the car business if things did not work out. Still, leaving a steady 6 figure income behind was terrifying to say the least. The deciding factor came down to time. I was 39 years old, the same age as my dad when he passed away. That alone was enough for me to take the risk. For me regret was a worse fate than potential failure. I knew I could live with not succeeding but the though of never even trying was significantly worse.
Hard work rewarded
The first 3 years were the most terrifying, stressful, yet rewarding time of my newly minted career. I learned more in the first year of self employment than I did the entire six years operating part time. Today, now a full 18 years in business, including the last 12 years operating full time, I can say I have zero regrets. If I had to do it over again, I would not change a thing.