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 email@example.com), 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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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.