alcoholism, artist as brand, arts, digital media, drugs, illustrators journal, innovation, Levinland studio, lon levin, painting, prison, sobriety
“Life is a tightrope walk, we try to keep our balance as we move towards our goals” Lon Levin
I know it’s a cliche and perhaps an annoyance but thoughts and goals for the New Year always seem to materialize once the ball drops in Times Square. And perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Taking stock of where you’re at and reviewing your 2013 year is a good idea. What worked? What didn’t? How much progress did you make? How can you do better?
2013 was a roller coaster ride for me. As the year started I found myself as the President of a boutique design firm (BTS Communications) manned mostly by recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. They ages ranges from 19 to 64, some had been in prison, some had spent time in numerous rehabs and some were still using which ultimately lead to their dismissal. Surprisingly we created awesome work and most of the staff was hardworking and dedicated to their sobriety and their work. My goal was simple. Help the staff and interns progress towards their goals and teach them all that I knew about the commercial art world. I was also charged with increasing the stature and the revenue of the firm over a year’s period. On both accounts I am happy to say we succeeded.
What appealed to me was the teaching and mentoring that went on. Aside from acquiring and servicing new clients there was a pure teaching element involved. Typically we had 6-10 interns and each had a different goal and interest. The staff and I mentored and help them with their work and their lives and most successfully completed a 6-9 month internship and went on to get outside jobs or become staff members. What I didn’t foresee is the effect it would have on me. I became a better person, friend and teacher. I saw that the struggles that people in sobriety have are the same struggles we all have. It’s not about the drugs or alcohol, it’s about decisions. Make a few bad decisions and you could find yourself in years of trouble. That I could relate to and that is what made me relate to my staff.
Together we discovered what brought us to our present positions in life and together we set goals to make our lives better. We had some spectacular breakthroughs and we had a few spectacular failures.
One of those failures involved a very likable and talented street artist who was our best and most capable intern. He was a likable 32 year old guy who had been in and out of prison and would do anything to help anyone out. After 4 or so months of working as an intern he decided to start using again. It was shortly after that he was caught using heroin in his car and taken to jail. He had broken parole and this was a third offense. I was shocked and wanted to why he threw everything he had worked for away. I went to Santa Clarita, Ca to a holding center where he was incarcerated. I got on the bus that would carry me to his jail block with other families and individuals. I wondered how many of them were visiting for the first time like me.
When I arrived at the barracks-type building I was escorted inside to a place where I could talk to this fellow. We were separated by a glass wall and we had to talk on a phone. I sat down and waited for him to come to our position. He was escorted by a guard to his seat. He was dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and had a huge smile on his face when he saw me. He was excited to see me. He hadn’t had any visitors. I looked at him and asked a question that was paramount on my mind. Why did he do it? Why did he throw everything away? He told me what I’ve heard from other addicts since then. “I did it because I could”. At that moment I realized how much we had in common. All the stupid decisions in my life that I had made without batting an eye carried the same reasoning…I could do it so why not.
This is where the tightrope walk is. Preparation, thoughtfulness and setting a goal is paramount to success. Make a misstep and you’ll fall. How hard you fall is a measure of how bad your decision was.
The commercial art world is tough enough without making silly mistakes that can be avoided. The windup here is take your time to consider what your goal is and how you expect to meet it. Test your ideas out on friends and colleagues. Don’t rush into things. Choose to pursue goals that are feasible. Divide your goal into sections to keep the overall goal from overwhelming you. Monitor your success and be flexible enough to change if you need to.
Believe in yourself and do not let anyone tell you you cannot succeed. That part is up to you. I’ve witnessed many talented artists who’ve failed and many untalented artists who have succeeded and all positions in-between the two.
This from Life Coach Mark Susnow
“When we live on the side of change, we know that life is full of new possibilities. We’re curious as to what these might be. We don’t fear or obsess about the “loose ends” because we know they are going to be there. They’re there to make sure we are fully awake. Life’s momentary setbacks or disappointments don’t’ get us down, or if they do, not for as long.
This ability to enjoy all of it, life, with all of its complexity and mystery, is the ultimate goal”