by David Carus
Today’s artists may consider it a challenge to get noticed and build a fan base. You’ve heard that people don’t buy like they used to, there’s a million things competing for their attention and what you really have to do is know the right person. The picture being painted is that your chances of making it big are about as good as winning the lottery and you’re not successful unless paparazzi chase you. It’s easy to get discouraged if you think you need millions of fans to be a success. The truth is you only need one.
Ever hear of these four guys from Liverpool? The Beatles are widely considered the greatest rock band of all-time but before they had thousands of screaming fans waiting for them at the airport and the British Invasion taking full effect, they needed a hit record to catch on in America. Beatles records were sent to radio stations and they were all huge failures. Nobody was interested in listening to the greatest rock band of all-time! That is except for one 14 year-old girl living in Maryland who discovered the Beatles and called her local radio station and asked why they didn’t play their music. The DJ she spoke with obtained a copy of I Want To Hold Your Hand and the record took off like a rocket, establishing a foothold for the Beatles in America that quickly spread to other cities. In a short time they were the biggest musical act in the country and had thousands of screaming fans, but it started with only one true fan.
How about the story of Sixto Rodriguez? Who is that you might ask? He was a little-known folk singer from Detroit in the 1970’s with a couple of albums that sold practically no copies in the Unites States. He thought his music career was done and went back to working construction. But someone liked his music and began making copies of it and gave it out to friends. His music became huge in South Africa and an entire generation of people grew up on his music and he became bigger than Elvis there. Rodriguez had no idea until decades later. His story became the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man and the Dave Matthews Band has even covered his music. Dave Matthews, one of the biggest musicians in the world said he grew up listening to Rodriguez when he lived in South Africa. All of this happened because of one true fan.
Don’t focus on the fans you don’t have. Focus on the ones you do have. So David Letterman isn’t interviewing you on his show tonight and you’ve only got 24 likes on your Facebook Page and the only people that follow you on Twitter are from Indonesia — it doesn’t matter. Make great art and find one true fan that loves it. You never know who they might share it with and how far the word might reach. So forget the sold-out audiences that aren’t there and see the audiences that are there. You probably already have a true fan and have been too busy to notice. Speak to them. Smile and wave and let them know they’re important — because they are.
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by David Carus
He has been called the biggest movie star in the world. He’s worked with every big name director and star in Hollywood. For decades his films have consistently generated millions at the box office. It’s safe to say the kind of success Tom Cruise has experienced is no fluke but instead the result of hard work. So what did he do to make it?
Tom Cruise didn’t come from elite Hollywood royalty. In fact, his family was poor, his parents divorced and his career path wasn’t easily laid out for him. When he decided to get into acting he wasn’t immediately handed the role of Maverick in Top Gun. There were lots of smaller roles to be played before he solidified himself as a star. His first big screen role was Billy the arsonist in the movie Endless Love and Cruise was only on screen for 47 seconds! Some actors might have been frustrated about getting so little screen time but Cruise decided to take his character and create as best he could with him so his 47 seconds would be memorable and they were! So much so that it helped him land his next role in the movie Taps.
Once again he was only supposed to play a minor part but after seeing how committed the actor was on set (he was out-marching the other cadets) Taps director Harold Becker gave Cruise a larger role. With it he established that he could play a killer, so much so that when he expressed interest in the title role for Risky Business, the director Paul Brickman said no way. Despite this Tom Cruise showed up unannounced, created an opportunity for himself to audition and landed the coveted role. He slid across that floor in his underwear and let America know a new star had arrived. By the time Top Gun hit theaters there was no stopping the actor.
How did he pull it all off? He used hard work, committed himself to the roles he played, no matter what they were or required and showed a passion for creating movies. He built each character, was determined to become that person and did what it took to see them through. He’s one of the few actors that does his own stunts. Why? Because he knows that’s what it takes to make the best picture he can make. He once said, “That’s what works for me: the power of my own imagination and my own ability to believe.”
He makes it look effortless, like being a movie star is something you’re just born with but on closer examination we see that he just showed up more times and spent longer hours than anyone else to get the job done. He made up his mind that he was not only going to be an actor but that he was going to be a great one. You can tell the level of responsibility he has for his work because he also produces his own films. Despite whatever happens in the tabloids or press the guy continues to get in front of cameras and create. His films are the work of a true professional and stellar artist. One who keeps showing up eager to make something great and no matter the limitations finds a way -- he creates!
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by David Carus
The one constant love of my life has always been reading. As a kid I’d leave the library with a huge stack of books almost as tall as I was and race to finish them all before I had to take them back. When I got a little older I was through the roof when I discovered I could buy paperbacks for $0.25 at the local Goodwill and started amassing my own library. It was reading books that empowered me and it was always my most successful action in life to get where I wanted to go. So you can imagine my excitement when I recently woke up and realized where technology has taken books and what reading them looks like moving towards the future.
The idea of electronic books (ebooks) is nothing new. They’ve been around for a few years, but today it is easier than ever to read them and that is changing everything. I remember my first ebooks were internet marketing related and I could only read them on my computer so they’d go unread. Who wants to read a book on their computer screen? It’s not a comfortable experience. But then things changed when smart phones and mobile devices hit the scene. Now you could read an ebook anywhere, just like real books! When the first iPad came out I couldn’t wait to start reading ebooks on it. I laid down on my bed with my iPad, ready to be swept away to the future, but it wasn’t what I expected. The ebooks cost nearly as much as regular books and after awhile my hands started cramping up because that first generation iPad was pretty heavy. So I gave up using my iPad for reading ebooks and used it instead for watching Netflix, checking email or writing notes.
A couple of years later I couldn’t help but notice some of my author friends were publishing ebooks using Amazon. They’d send a message asking me to download their ebook and many times they were free. I didn’t know how I would read them but I clicked the purchase button on my phone. I’d always planned to be a published author myself so I became more interested in ebooks the more I saw them mentioned across the internet. Amazon Kindle kept popping up and so did Nook. I found out I could download a free Amazon Kindle app on my phone and read those ebooks I’d purchased. Having a toddler is pretty challenging and in recent years I’d found it harder to read as much as I wanted but suddenly with that app on my phone I could get through tons of reading quickly and easily anytime I had a spare couple of minutes. I always had my phone with me so I could read anywhere at anytime. It was life changing.
I started to read more than I’d ever been able to read before. It was because I didn’t have to carry around physical books, prop them open or worry about losing my place. Reading ebooks had some big advantages. You could carry hundreds of books weightlessly in your pocket. You could jump from one book to another and your place in each of them would always automatically be kept. I used to hate reading books with difficult vocabulary because I’d need to have a dictionary close by to look up words. When you read an ebook all you have to do is press your finger over a word and the dictionary definition pops up! You can even make notes and highlight sections of the text. You can make the font bigger. When you’re reading in bed at night you don’t need a special reading light because your mobile device is already lit, and you can adjust the brightness!
I was loving the experience of reading ebooks so much that I bought a Kindle. My iPad had cost $500 but I got my Kindle Fire HD for $120. It was the perfect size, built for reading ebooks and the store was affordable and easy to use. It didn’t take me long to see that reading books on a device like a Kindle was a huge leap into the future. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel the need to buy physical books. Why would I when books were easier to store and faster to read for me digitally? I understand people will always want to read physical books and some couldn’t ever imagine themselves reading books electronically. I hear it all the time. People say, “I just like the feel of an actual book.” I know that feeling all too well. Books are awesome! With that said though, I think there are a lot of people that might view ebooks the way I used to view them: as unwieldy, sub-par and less accessible. For anyone that hasn’t tried reading them on a mobile device like a Kindle, a Nook or one of the smaller iPads out now, give it a try. I think you’ll be blown away like I was.
I’ve been so excited about digital publishing that it’s made me dust off my old manuscripts so my books can be part of this revolution. It’s still early in it, so if you’re an author you should get moving too. There will be those that hold on tight to hardcovers and paperbacks but as more people discover ebooks they will only continue to grow in popularity. It will become the primary way people read. There will always be physical books just like there will always be vinyl records but they will become more rare, reserved for those books we want for our special collection. I can’t imagine letting go of all my physical books but I know for the most part, I’ll be buying ebooks from here on out. I can access and read them faster. What’s more important? The books themselves or the knowledge gained from reading them? The world is about to get even smarter.
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by David Carus
Once in a while an artist comes along that changes everything. Michael Jackson was that kind of artist. His influence on popular culture continues to resonate and his legacy is as rock solid as they come. People will be talking about Michael Jackson for generations; but why? What was he able to do that set him apart? How did he go from intensely shy to the greatest entertainer in the world? He was so famous he couldn’t walk the streets of any country without people recognizing him. How did he do it? His story may surprise you.
Most people look at someone with talent and say things like, “He’s a natural,” or “He was born with that talent,” and in the case of Michael Jackson you’d be tempted to say these kinds of things. However, there is no talent gene or magic dust sprinkled on a few lucky folks. When you see talent, know that it is the result of practice alone, and in the case of Michael Jackson he had lots and lots of practice. He not only had to work hard to sing and dance like he did, but he had to fight his way in from a very young age. Many people remember he got his start performing with his brothers in the Jackson 5, but he was never supposed to be in the group. His older brothers wanted to form a band and make music and when young Michael came into their bedroom, they’d kick him out. He was too young, just a kid. But he kept knocking on the door and eventually he became part of the group when they heard him sing. He had music around him his whole life. His father was a musician and his tight knit family always had music around and he’d been listening and learning.
The Jackson 5 didn’t explode onto the national scene right away. They performed lots of shows, practiced to get better and worked hard to get signed to Motown Records. Once there, Michael Jackson became surrounded by musical greats like Diana Ross, James Brown, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and others who all influenced him. As a child he got a priceless education, recording and performing during one of music’s greatest eras. His career wasn’t founded on natural born talent or luck, it was the result of study, practice and hard work. And what makes it even more incredible is the fact that Michael Jackson was one of the shyest people you’d ever meet. He’d spend so many hours practicing that by the time he went on stage he completely owned it, exuding tons of confidence.
Michael Jackson achieved great success performing with his brothers but no one could have foreseen just how successful his solo career would be. One of the key factors in his success, aside from the hours he devoted to his craft, was writing his own material and consciously creating his image. Michael Jackson and his brothers had been restricted at Motown. They were told which songs to record and never got the chance to produce their own music. By the time Michael went on his own, he believed in his ability to write songs and determine the course of his career. He was the one that chose to work with Quincy Jones and from his first album “Off The Wall,” music would never be the same again. The follow-up “Thriller” would sweep the Grammy’s and go on to sell more copies than any album ever had. He went on to dominate music and change its entire landscape.
How was this achieved? Michael Jackson had a vision. He knew what he wanted to create and all those years of hard work and practice paid off. This didn’t mean now he then coasted and took it easy. He worked even harder, spending countless hours recording and performing to give the world what we now know as Michael Jackson. This image was his total creation. From the fedora hats and sparkling glove to the groundbreaking videos and moonwalk, Michael Jackson knew what he wanted and made it happen. There were no favors, no back room dealings, no luck, no connections, just 100% working on art. Michael Jackson chose to be an artist and achieved such phenomenal fame because he dreamed more, imagined better, worked harder and practiced longer than most people dare to do. The next time you watch him effortlessly glide across a dance floor understand all of the effort that went into making it happen. There’s no reason you can’t moonwalk like Michael Jackson. You just need to practice.
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by David Carus
If someone is not an artist they might think success as an artist works like this: you’re born with talent and it secretly waits to pop its head one day when, quite through accident, you find yourself performing or creating art and there’s a talent scout watching who rushes to meet you backstage, whips out a million dollar contract and sweeps you away to Hollywood and you wake up to your picture on the front page of every major newspaper in the world. That’s pretty much the idea of overnight success, right? Wrong. It’s time to reveal the actual secret to overnight success by looking at a couple of artists that actually had the world’s attention, seemingly overnight.
Man can fly, but that wasn’t always the case. At the start of the 20th century there were plenty of ambitious minds tackling the problem of flight, but the general public thought man would be limited to traveling by land or sea and laughed at the funny looking contraptions they saw being tested on the tops of hills. The Wright Brothers came along and changed the whole game. What did they do differently than everybody else? They not only took the road less traveled, they ditched roads all together. Like Doc Brown said in “Back to the Future II,” “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” Their story is truly inspiring.
Wilbur and Orville Wright’s father gave them a toy helicopter when they were younger. It was made from paper, bamboo, cork and a rubber band and the boys played with it until it broke but they figured out how to build their own, sparking an early interest in aviation. Wilbur Wright was an athletic guy with plans to go to Yale University when a hockey stick knocked out his front teeth, causing him to withdraw from people. Instead of college, he stayed indoors caring for his terminally ill mother, and considered himself lacking in ambition. However, while at home caring for his mother, he began studying aviation. Orville Wright had dropped out of high school to open up a printing business, using a printing press designed and built with Wilbur’s help. When bicycles became a national craze, the brothers decided to open up a bicycle shop, designing and building their own bicycles.
Up until this time there had been many attempts to build a flying machine but no one in the world had solved all of the pieces to the puzzle. The Wright Brothers decided to tackle the problem and used money from their bicycle business to fund their experiments. They used some of what they’d learned building bicycles and applied it to flying. While everyone else was focused on stability, the Wright Brothers knew the real problem was steering. They understood an airplane in the sky wouldn’t handle like a boat in the water. Their grasp of bicycle design helped them find a steering solution. And another breakthrough came when they abandoned using the aeronautical data of one of their biggest inspirations, the German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal. Realizing his data was incorrect, the Wright brothers decided to start from scratch to discover the correct formulas behind wing design. After more than a decade of experiments, filled with failures, injuries and plenty of self-doubt, on December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers flew the world’s first, truly working airplane. Were there swarms of reporters watching the historical moment? No, there was only one other person there, a guy Wilbur found to take photographs of the flights and the film wasn’t even developed until the brothers returned home to Ohio. The world eventually found out but it was an overnight success that had taken well over a decade to create; longer if you count the toy helicopter.
The airplane was the result of years of study, experimentation, hard work and thinking outside the box. For a couple of guys without college degrees or even high school diplomas, all they needed was to keep pushing through the barriers, ignore the limitations and focus on their dream, so fragile that the whole world didn’t think it possible. The next time you’re watching a famous artist or creator on TV and thinking of yourself as a failure for not being there yet, remember the story of two brothers who spent years of getting it wrong until they finally got it right. Imagine them pushing their flying machine made of canvas and wood into the wind until it was conquered, seeing their masterpiece soaring above the world. Overnight success is great, but not as great as the everyday success of chasing your dreams. The pleasure is in the doing, not the having, so get out there and do whatever you gotta do because that’s the secret to flying.
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I recently decided to ask the following question to all of my artist friends: “What's the one thing that stops you the most from being a successful artist?” I got back more than a hundred responses and I was actually surprised to discover that one answer was overwhelmingly at the top: lack of confidence. It was so popular that it more than doubled the number two answer. I was surprised for two reasons, one, I consider myself confident when it comes to being an artist and two, I consider artists extremely talented and skilled individuals, which should make them automatically confident, right? Well I quickly realized having confidence is something lots of people struggle with and artists more than anybody, and here’s why:
Simply, artists have to communicate their ideas but other people not so much. Artists put themselves out there (with their heart and soul embodied in their work) and when you do that it’s like waving a big sign that says, “Hey everybody! Look at me! I’ve created something new!” We live in a world where too many people are comfortable and don’t want the boat rocked and here you come with your art, rocking it! Anytime they see an artist you’re reminding them of what they should be doing: creating! So what happens next? “Oh, that’s nice.” “I had a friend that tried doing that.” “Is that what you do for a living?” “What’s your real job?” “Well, that’s nice.” “Good luck with it.” There’s this inescapable tenseness that travels from them to you leaving the thought, “I should keep practicing because maybe I’m not good enough yet.” Let me tell you something. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH.
Why? Because no matter how bad you might think your art is, at least you’re making it. All of the people you’re worried about pleasing probably aren’t artists and if they are they’re probably not making much art. Here you come with your finished piece of art. There they are without one. Luckily, they don’t have to matter much because there are plenty of people that support artists. If that wasn’t true then you wouldn’t be able to watch a movie, listen to an album or read a book. There are millions if not billions of people on this planet right now that support artists and the art they make. You just have to weed out the ones that don’t by standing strong, flourishing and prospering in the face of opposition. You just have to keep lifting up, extending out and presenting your art to people. No matter what. Don’t let one hater prevent all that will love it later.
Finally, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t have to be Bob Dylan the moment you pick up a guitar. So you’re not Hemingway yet and they haven’t put a Nobel Prize around your neck, who cares? Know that you’re always going to make the best art you can, so why beat yourself up over it? The real reason any of those haters or critics can set you on fire is because you’ve got some small pile of firewood laid out somewhere inside you. Guess what? You don’t have to be society’s idea of what a successful artist is, you just have to be YOUR idea of what a successful artist is. As long as you can do that you won’t have any problem walking up to somebody and showing them what you made. Be confident knowing you’re doing something most people can’t and every time you do it you’re getting even better at it. Build confidence like you’d build a house, one brick at a time. And there’s no reason you can’t be a skyscraper.
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Please read this to the end my friend. I should have listened to you long ago. Remember when I first mentioned how much I loved art and you saw that sparkle in my eye but tried to set me straight? You were smart enough to know that life as an artist is only met with struggle and starvation and you wanted to protect me from all of that. You said I should get an office job, something safe and secure and then work on my art on the side. Oh, I should have listened to you! I was such a fool!
I spent years of my life making art. I put my heart and soul into everything I created just to be met with rejection after rejection. At first it wasn't so bad because I could say I was new to being an artist and I needed more experience at it before I was good and before people could value what I was doing. But then more years passed and I knew I was getting better but people still rejected my work. I showed it to friends like you. You smiled and nodded and told me it was good but I could always tell you were being nice and didn't really mean it. You never bought my art and in the beginning that was okay because we were friends anyway and I didn't care about the money so I'd offer to give it to you for free but I could tell you didn't really want it. I started to realize that I must not be good enough so I foolishly took more lessons, studied and worked even harder! I was such a fool! I spent thousands of hours getting better, not to mention thousands of dollars, in the hopes that I could somehow make it and prove you wrong. I really believed in what I was doing and I knew that being an artist was in my blood and I couldn't imagine life without it so I actually continued on, ha!
One day my hard work paid off and someone not only loved what I was doing but they paid me money for it! It wasn't a lot of money but it was something. Remember that day? You told me it was great but that the money I made compared to how much time it took to create my art still didn't make it profitable. You pointed out I'd have to make lots more art and that I needed way more fans than I'd probably be able to find. You told me most people didn't care about art. You said people were too busy working and trying to survive themselves and how could they possibly hand over their hard earned dollars for something they didn't really need. You pointed out that my art wasn't food, it wasn't clothing and it wasn't shelter. I had to admit that you had a point and it really put me in quite a state. I spent weeks thinking about what you told me and it really started sinking in: the idea that I'd just wasted most of my life pursuing a crazy dream that was never going to happen. I started to think about going back to college. I researched which jobs paid the most. I grabbed all of my art supplies and materials, every book I had and every scrap of anything that could possibly remind me of my life as an artist and I put them in large boxes and was ready to take a trip to the thrift shop. I sat there upset, angry and frustrated. I thought about how you tried to help me so many years ago when I first had this foolish notion of being an artist. I remembered that look you gave me and continued to give me. I decided to make a wish.
I wished for a time machine to take me back in time so I could have a conversation with myself back when I was younger; back when I first thought of being an artist. You know what I would tell the old me? I'd say this:
"Don't listen to anyone doubting you and what you want to do. Don't call someone a friend who doesn't support your goals in life and who doesn't want you to succeed as an artist. No matter how much it all seems to make good, solid "sense," never let anyone convince you that what you are doing is not important. You see, artists run this planet. Without people coming up with new ideas and creating new things, the world would never grow or get better. Without artists the world would be a boring, stagnant place that no one would want to live in. You are one of the most able and gifted people on this Earth right now. It's up to you to not only make art but to make as much of it as you possibly can. The world needs you.
It's hard for some people to have as much courage as you do. They wish they could do what you can do and what you will do. It's up to you to help bring about a world where they feel they can also face all of the obstacles standing in the way of artists. The biggest ones don't come like bulldozers or Godzilla stomping towards your house. They knock at your door very politely and smile every time they sit in your living room. They put one hand on your shoulder while the other one moves ever so covertly. No matter what they do, how they appear or when they come, you must know this: they are cowards.
Just keep doing your thing and do it with all your might. Oh, and one day, years from now you will write something that you can send to any of these "friends." You'll start by telling them you're giving up being an artist. You'll be using the words they most want to hear from you. Then, once you have them believing this you will do a complete 180 flip and send them falling down into apathy about trying to harm you. Why will you write this? Because 1) you don't need those kinds of "friends" and 2) it's fun to create isn't it? (Not to mention some of your artist friends may enjoy reading it too, or you for that matter if you ever need some motivation. You don't want the bad guys to win now do you? Good, now stop reading this and get back to making art. You've got worlds to build.)"
It happens to us all. You put yourself out there by showing the world something you made, something you believe in and just when you are at your highest, happiest, proudest moment, someone says something or maybe they don't say something, but the communication is clear: you suck, you're not that special, you're not that talented, it wasn't a very good idea, and so on. At this moment we flare up inside and then get that feeling of wanting to hide, to escape, to get the hell away and make the suffering end or quite possibly get mad and verbally attack back. However, I would challenge you to take another look at what is really happening. You should know something: You should be feeling on top of the world. Huh? Let me explain.
Not everyone puts themselves out there. In fact most people sit idly by wishing they had something they could put out and had the courage to actually show people. They don't but you do. Congratulations, you are indeed special. Yes, that's right, your mom wasn't lying to you and deep down you always knew too so take a moment and give yourself a proper acknowledgement. Okay, good. So you've got a few guys putting themselves out there so that must mean everyone else hates you, right? Wrong. Like I said, most people wish they had something to put out, something to believe in and go after passionately so they're not actually bad people, they're just trying to find something to believe in and be passionate about. That's where you come in with your idea, your painting, your novel, your song. So who is the guy hating on you? There's not many of them and it's probably your best friend. Huh? Let me explain.
You see, there are heroes in the world. That's guys like you and me. Artists, creators, doers, the guys that make stuff happen and help people. And you see, there's also bad guys. Sure, these are your Adolf Hitlers, rapists, murderers, serial killers, etc., but they are not always so obvious to spot. Why? Because they are COWARDS. What would a coward do if he didn't like someone and wanted them to sink? Would he come right out and tell you he hated you? No, that wouldn't be very smart. What would he do then? He'd cuddle up to you, get as close as he could and slowly stick the knife in as he smiled the most genuine smile he could muster, pretending loyalty but always looking for ways to make it hurt more. You've seen the movie lots of times right? Isn't it always the guy the hero never suspected? Of course we see it because we're the audience, but he usually doesn't.
A funny thing happened to me once. I'm big into comic books and love the hell out of them. I like to follow writers and artists that I like. I like their fan page, I might follow them on Twitter (I'm @David Carus by the way) and I like to keep up with the guys that are creating universes filled with heroes. I started a friendship with one writer that was kind of a big deal. He was a New York Times Bestseller, he wrote comics that I enjoyed and was working in the industry, a real professional. One day he posted something that was pretty scary, that went totally against stuff I knew to be true and I commented on his post. He came at me like a vengeful, hateful, slobbering, slimy bastard that wanted to shrink me down to nothing, and he did this in the name of helping me. He wanted me to know how wrong I was and when I didn't take the bait the real guy came out. Now remember, this is a guy I had admired up until this point and it was shocking to see him act like a hateful monster. He called me names, he belittled my core beliefs and I was supposed to be left feeling like an idiotic piece of crap. But I didn't. I quickly unfriended him, laughed it off and turned my attention elsewhere. But, it's not always so easy. You know what I mean, right? That feeling was still there. That feeling of being slimed. I didn't like it and something had to be done. So what did I do? I immortalized him in song. Huh? Let me explain.
I make music and it's hip hop music and the one thing you don't want to do is piss off a rapper. You see, rapping has one interesting element to it: the diss song. When someone upsets a rapper he just writes about him in his next song. Heck, even Taylor Swift has used this method, taking her bad ex-boyfriends' actions and turning them into million dollar hits. So what did I do? I wrote a song about him. I'd been working on this idea for a song called Copy Machine because I thought it was a cool metaphor for how people just like to spew out stuff they heard somewhere else without really coming up with anything original themselves. The best example of this is when people watch the talking heads on the news and then stand at the water cooler at work the next day giving the exact same opinions they got from their TV. But this happens a lot. So I decided I would take this critic, this hateful individual, this guy that had tried to make me small and I decided to make him big. I put him in a song that will survive longer than him. He'll forever be known as the Copy Machine guy. And the kicker? I never mention his name. He's not going to get one new fan from me. But I got and continue to get new fans because of him.
The next time you get someone being critical, ignoring you, telling you that what you have to say isn't important, look a little closer and really listen to what that person is saying. All of those things are not directed at you, they're really directed at themselves. Deep down they know what they're doing is wrong and if they can't be right they don't want anyone to be. You just have to know they are Copy Machines spewing out the hate of people that were their Copy Machines at some point. Then, you just smile because you must know this: they thought you were important enough to target because you are. You're the most important kind of people we got on this planet: an artist. And you know what? Artists Run This Planet. The Copy Machines don't but wish they did. Get happy, take it as a win and make art because ultimately that's what will help everyone, including these guys. Even they want to see you win, deep, deep down. Don't ever let them make you small because you're not. You're a giant and you leave big footprints. Just know that sometimes people will fall into them and get hurt. When they do, and climb out trying to murder you from every angle, just keep your head up in those clouds and make a beanstalk. When someone climbs it, that's your real friend.
Hope you enjoyed this blog. Make sure to join my mailing list if you haven't already and if you get a chance, check out the music video for Copy Machine below. It was a lot of fun and if you watch closely, that's me in the mask :-)
When I was younger I knew I should go to college. How did I know this? It was encouraged at every turn I took. My parents, my teachers, the television; seemingly everywhere I looked the message was clear: go to college! I did. I was well on my way to a promising career as a lawyer and then into politics where I would someday work up the ranks of elected office until one day I was President of the United States and then I could save the world. It seemed like a perfectly logical and reasonable plan that everyone I knew was totally backing me up on.
So what happened?
Well, I was interning on Capitol Hill, flying through all of my Government major at record speed and was confronted with the opportunity of throwing on a second major. I chose English. All of a sudden I was reading tons of novels again, discussing their importance and meaning. I realized I had way more fun and passion for books and poetry than I did for politics and then an idea struck me: who impacted the world more, a politician or an artist?
I knew government extremely well and I had to honestly say that the work of any one President could easily be wiped out by the next guy and very few politicians made lasting legacies and how valuable were any of them really? I looked at famous writers and thought to myself, wow, someone like Shakespeare has been influencing the world like crazy and he's been dead for centuries. Hmmmmm.....the answer was clear. Ideas were the thing. Whoever created them and could have them spread won. And when it came to expressing ideas there wasn't a better person to do it than an artist.
I started writing poetry which turned into spoken word poetry and by the time I graduated from college I was determined to be a novelist. I returned home with my degree (everyone was happy) and got a job as an English teacher at my old high school. I would write in my free time until I could make a full time living as a writer. It was a logical plan and once again all was right with the world.
So what happened?
Let's just say it wasn't an ideal place for a politically minded, self-determined individual such as myself to make into any kind of a permanent home. I did my best though. I was most proud of one thing I used to do with my students. I took a stack of blank white paper and gave each student a sheet. I then told them they had 15 minutes to come up with something, an idea, anything they wanted. At first they were like deers in headlights but I encouraged them with further explanation. I told them that the piece of paper was their only barrier to having whatever they wanted. I asked, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" and practically all their hands went up. I said, "Good, so here's your chance. Put a million dollar idea down on that paper. You can write a song, an idea for a movie, the start of a story, invent something that will change the world for the better." The lightbulbs shined brightly above all of their heads and I walked around the room for 15 minutes continuing to encourage them.
As time went on I left teaching in very dramatic fashion (I wrote a whole book on it called Hip Hop Will Save The World, look out for it) and found myself having to confront making a living as an artist. You see, I had started recording hip hop music just months before I decided to leave teaching. I was making about $100 a day as a teacher and I quickly realized that if I just walked around and talked to people I could easily sell 10 CDs at $10 each and make the same amount of money. Once again it sounded like a logical plan and it was!
I spent the next several years making a living as an artist selling my music one by one to the people I met. I set my own hours and I met tons of interesting people. And this was before the era of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube! Anytime I walked outside and communicated with people it was a successful action.
Fast forward a few years. I'm married now. I have a son. I live in New York where it snows. We have the internet on our smart phones so..... Yep, I stopped going outside like I used to. My music and my art was still reaching people but not enough that I could make a living off of anything. I scratched my head and wondered what I was doing wrong and then it hit me. There was a time when I was making a living being an artist and then I stopped. I realized that what I was doing back then held an answer to all this. It did. It could be boiled down to one word: Communicating.
What does an artist do? He communicates! But, what does that mean? Well, to communicate you have to have something to say, sure, everyone knows that and boy do people have a lot to say, but it's more than just talking and saying stuff. Communication is a two way thing. Someone on the other end has to listen, duplicate you, understand and then they get to say something back! This is basically how people become....wait for it....friends. Friends? You might say, "I have 2,000 friends on Facebook but they don't pay me to be an artist!" My response: Have you really been COMMUNICATING with your "friends" and are they really your friends?
We all have something we want to tell the world and in getting our message out we know it would enhance the world and make it a better one to live in but in order to be heard we all have to do a better job hearing other people. They have something to say too and when you listen to them they listen to you. I know you have friends, real friends that you'd support if they all of a sudden had a book they self-published or were performing in a local play. Who wouldn't support a friend? They're your friend after all. When you have lots of friends boy you can get stuff done. Selling a book, an album, a movie, anything, is super easy when you have lots of friends. Real ones that care. In order to get those you have to genuinely care too. (Think about all those big stars that thank their fans and seem to genuinely care about them.)
Now, not everybody is going to be a perfect match to be your friend so you have to go find your friends by communicating with lots of people. With the internet it's now incredibly easy. You can find people's entire profiles filled exactly with what they like, and if you like what they like, there's a good chance you'd be friends. Imagine if you made tons of friends, how easy would it be to make a living as an artist or at anything else for that matter? Real power comes in numbers. It doesn't come from staying locked indoors or not interacting with people.
My approach is now completely different. I don't just post my stuff and expect people will respond. I post other people's stuff, interact with them, become really interested in what other people are doing and somehow they become really interested in what I'm doing. This isn't a trick, it's not something faked. It's all about finding people you can connect with and communicate with. An artist communicates and when you look at any great artist, what did they do other than communicate with a lot of people? You have that opportunity every moment. When you go to the store, when you pump gas, when you go online, when you visit your kid's school. Make friends, communicate, build an army of support for yourself and not only will you make a living doing whatever you really want to do, you can topple any opposing force with ease because it's not just you at that point, it's a whole army fighting for you to win.
This isn't an easy solution. It takes hard work to be a good friend. But isn't that what makes it valuable?
I hope this blog has helped you. I know it's already helped me just writing down what I'd been thinking about the last few days. I hope you reach out and leave me a comment on this blog, send me an email (I'm firstname.lastname@example.org), follow me on Twitter @DavidCarus, etc. because like anyone else, I could use more friends. Also share this blog with anyone you think it might also help. I truly hope you get what you want and you help make the world a better one because there's no excuses anymore right?
P.S. If you enjoyed this, there's a good chance you'd enjoy my songs. They always carry a message of being at cause and making things better. You can download my music for free here: xraypoetz.com
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When I was 12 years old I was watching lots of movies but I never got the idea that I could be directing them. In 2006, then 12 year-old Emily Hagins of Austin, Texas completed her film which took her two years to write, produce, direct and edit herself. She took a strong interest in movies at an early age and when "The Lord of the Rings" hit theaters she had to watch it over and over and over again, dozens of times. The movie inspired her so much she decided she wanted to make movies and be a director. She knew absolutely no one in the film or entertainment business so she decided to ask the only person she knew for help: Peter Jackson, the director of "The Lord of the Rings!" Emily's letter to the director was responded to with a recommendation to talk to a friend of his that lived in Austin, where Emily was. That friend didn't know what to do other than invite the young girl to his annual film festival where the young girl watched a zombie movie she absolutely fell in love with and decided right then she wanted her first movie to be about zombies.
Within two months Emily had written a script for a full length film with lots of scenes and tons of roles. When she showed her parents they were encouraging and supportive but weren't too sure how likely it was she was going to be able to finish making her movie. Using a small handheld video camera, a microphone attached to an old painter's stick, a cast of actors recruited from her school and a very loving mom to apply zombie make up to dozens of people, Emily Hagins made her first film at the age of 12. Her film "Pathogen" was shown publicly to all of her friends and got her lots of media attention. A documentary film was made about her directing her film called "Zombie Girl" and Emily has gone on to make numerous short films and two more full length films, one about ghosts and the other about vampires. Her third film about vampires called "My Sucky Teen Romance" was filmed when Emily was 18 years-old and received a theatrical distribution deal.
Given Emily's lack of connections, lack of resources, lack of funding and her age, directing a full length movie should be impossible. Somehow this talented, driven and passionate young girl found a way to get a movie made and it led her to more movies and with each film, her experience and skills have increased. Her current projects look much more professional and polished. By the time Emily is in her twenties or thirties, she should be a real force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. While the rest of us were being spectators and watching worlds unfold on our television and movie screens, as a kid Emily Hagins was creating and shaping her own worlds for others to watch. Her story is truly inspiring because she never saw a barrier to her purpose, she just set out to learn and do the things that were needed to get the job done. If a 12 year-old girl can make a full length film, what can we as adults accomplish with tremendously more at our disposal? We don't have homework or curfews to deal with, but perhaps we have children of our own that need our time and attention. Well, why not take your children and put a camera in their hands and shoot something together? There are only the barriers we decide to place on ourselves and so many amazing freedoms we have if we only dare to look. Why not capture them?
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.