Which artist would you say has influenced you most?
Is it a painter, writer, musician?
I was one of those kids who bought a lot of records in high school. Singer-songwriters were my artists.
And I was just sure that songwriters like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell were writing lyrics just for me. Along with all the books I inhaled, these songwriters were some of my earliest teachers.
So what do song lyrics have to do with entrepreneurship?
Quite a lot.
We’re all artists now
Growing up, The Artists were those special people who could write well, or paint, or write and sing songs like George Harrison.
It certainly wasn’t me. Or so I thought.
Sometimes my career in marketing felt “artistic.” But as it turns out, nowhere has the call to be an artist become more pronounced than when I set out to become an entrepreneur.
Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.
What makes someone an artist? I don’t think is has anything to do with a paintbrush.
You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.
Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient.
The entrepreneur commits to create work that resonates with others, that moves and changes them.
And those who haven’t made the artist’s commitment don’t last as an entrepreneur.
Almost two decades ago, one of the artists I really enjoyed was a folk singer from Vermont named Diane Zeigler. Diane is one of thousands of talented singer-songwriters who labor on in obscurity for decades and never break out into the mainstream. She isn’t as popular as Joni Mitchell or Carly Simon. Maybe she should be.
Sometimes as online entrepreneurs, we may feel like we’re laboring on in obscurity. But an artist doesn’t have to be a Joni or a Carly to make a living and reach an audience that resonates with their work.
Working until we reach that “tipping point” where our audience begins to notice us can require a lot of faith: In our work, in our voice, and in ourselves.
We’ll write posts for weeks without a single comment or link. Or maybe our subscription numbers remain static for months.
It’s this growth period that can get the average person down, and in fact, it’s at this early stage where the average person gives up.
But not the entrepreneur. We know this is the necessary part of becoming an artist. This is the preparation, the foundation from which business grows.
You will get your due
Many years ago, following a stint as a marketing VP with a few big launches under my belt, I thought becoming a consultant was the next logical step.
My launch into entrepreneurship wasn’t as sunny as I had hoped. Cue crickets chirping. No phones ringing. Panic. Sweat, tears. You get the idea.
A few years into a series of stops and starts, I stumbled onto an album with a bunch of songs that were ideally suited to my angst at the time, Diane Zeigler’s Sting of the Honeybee.
One of the songs on that album, in particular, really reached me during that time, a song called You Will Get Your Due.
Here are just a few lines:
There’s a man that I don’t know well . . .
And spinning stories seems to be his true devotion.But he says he’s gonna’ pack it in
Because he doesn’t see it rolling in
He thinks that ship is somewhere lost out on the ocean
I know you want to leave it behind
But it’s all there in your mind
And you can no more stop the songs
Than stop your breathing.
I can’t tell you how it’s gonna end
I know the lucky ones sometimes win
But not before they’ve paid a price
For all their dreaming.
But you will get your due
Believe that there is so much more
Even if it’s not right here at your door
And you will get your due.
(c) 1995 www.dianezeigler.com
Here was an artist reaching out to me with her words and music pressed into vinyl, giving me a gentle nudge to keep on going.
And I did.
Years later, I ran across Diane Zeigler online, and dropped her an email, thanking her for her great album and those lyrics that had inspired me. Surprisingly, she wrote back, happy to hear from someone who appreciated her music.
We know there aren’t guarantees for any of us. All any of us can do is our best work and hope it reaches an audience with whom it resonates.
And when that happens, that’s when our work becomes art.
If only Diane had Facebook
Like countless musicians before her, songwriters like Diane had to hit the road to be heard. She’d have to endure endless months away from her family, touring coffee houses hoping for the opportunity to get a gig at the bigger clubs, or get her record played on the local station.
Fortunately, we do have some advantages over artists of the past.
Shortly after Diane released that brilliant first album, she discovered she was going to be a mom. Despite the quickly mounting awards and accolades in the national press, she promptly dropped everything to raise a family.
What if Diane had the Internet at her disposal when she first started out? Her career could have taken a much different trajectory. She could have recorded at home, beaming her songs and performances all over the world. She could have linked her download site directly to her Facebook fanpage. There are hundreds of ways for artists to be heard online.
And we have the same options as well.
As an entrepreneur online, we don’t have to suffer through the equivalent of touring clubs hoping to be heard over the din of college drinkers.
We can reach out to a vast network of sites and get our art published. A ready-made audience can be had within a single evening with the right article placed on the right website.
Yes, brilliant people will still feel unheard, undiscovered.
But the Internet has evened the playing field for all of us.
All we have to do is embrace our inner artist, and step onstage.
I shared You Will Get Your Due with a friend a few years ago, thinking she’d like the music. She was at a place in her life where she was feeling unheard; her own brilliance wasn’t being appreciated by her boss or her coworkers.
She tells me Diane’s words gave her the courage to keep plugging along, to start her own blog and speak up.
That’s the power of the right words, delivered to the right person, at the right time.
And as entrepreneurs, that’s what we get to do. For work. How cool is that?
Get your art out there. There’s a whole digital world just waiting to hear from you.
Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
Who has most influenced your work?
Do you see yourself as an artist?
If not, what would it take to feel that way about your work?