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No Pain, No Gain

If you want to succeed, don’t look back.

Tattoos become addictive if your first one was done right. Several years
ago, I got a piece done by a most amazing NYC-based artist who does
fire art, oil paintings, sculptures, and other media beyond skin. So
when I stumbled upon an interview with Henry Lewis, a San
Francisco-based artist who also tattoos as a way to refine his technical
skills in drawing and painting, I took notice.

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The most important similarity between iconoclastic and game-changing
artists and entrepreneurs, or anyone seeking to be at the top of their
game, is the utter lack of compromise to the vision they are pursuing.
They stick to it, and they don’t allow themselves to be distracted by
anything. Perhaps this drive comes from obsession, passion, a reason for
being, or perhaps they’re simply not good at doing anything else. Of
course this lack of compromise could be disastrous if you’re headed down
the wrong path tactically speaking, but successful artists keep their
eyes pinned to the end goal and stick with their strategic direction.

The second most important quality is hard work. The first thing I learned from my Shaolin Kung Fu teacher, Sifu Lee,
is that “kung fu” in Chinese means “work”. There are no short cuts. If
you want to knock someone out with a backfist-underpunch you’ve got to
do it 1,000 times on each side. Every day. That’s tiring. Your legs
start to shake, your arms begin to feel like rubber, and slipping and
sliding on your own pool of sweat.

The vast majority of entrepreneurs I’ve met and read about toiled their
way up from the bottom. While many in their modesty may attribute their
success to luck, there’s no denying that hard work and sacrifice were
prerequisites. Period.

I felt Henry Lewis encapsulated this nicely in his interview:

“A lot of people are in love wiht the idea of being an
artist or a painter and nobody wants to do the footwork. You know, the
lifestyle is really glamorous for most people but it’s fucking
bullshit. You don’t get better at anything you do just fucking your life
off. You have to put in the work and the time. A lot of people I know and a lot of people in the scene don’t really challenge themselves, if you ask me.”

You
got to be honest with yourself. Are you putting it all out there? Or
are you just going through the motions? Are you going to do this
half-ass? Or are you going to hit it hard? Are you going to show up in
your cubicle with coffee in hand, and sit through meetings in an
apathetic haze? Or are you going to get out there and be a lion, living
out your dream, killing your prey?

Do you think that you chose art or that art chose you?

“To tell you the truth, I think that I chose art for the simple fact that my last real corporate job was at Kinko’s.
After I got laid off I had to scrape the bottom of the barrel and I got
a job at Kinko’s. Fuck that place. I remember when I got the job as a
shop assistant – I remember burning my Kinko’s uniform and never looking
back. I think at that point I chose art even though it sucked and I
didn’t make money for a long time. For a long fucking time – I just kept
at it. Then after a certain point I think art chose me. It’s another love/hate relationship.

Say “No” to your friends after work tonight. Go home and build
something. Paint something. Write something. Change your
oh-so-comfortable life. Do it now.

About the author

Jeff is a Certified Trained Lean Six Sigma Black Belt with a focus on finding new ways to apply technologies related to process improvement – situations which demand entrepreneurial thinking, a deep understanding of the financial impact of technology decisions, and collaboration with strategic partners. At IBM's Retail Emerging Business Opportunity Group, a corporate "startup", Jeff launched an SMB-focused business which later grew to account for 20% of EBO revenues worldwide.

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