THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
Well, hello. This is your host, artist Miriam Schulman, and you’re listening to episode number 109 of The Inspiration Place podcast. I am so honored that you’re joining me here today.
How is it almost October? The truth is sometime in April or maybe it was early May, it got too warm for my pink, puffy jacket, and I just draped it on a chair in my dining room and it sat there for the last five months. And now it’s time to put it back on. My girlfriend, Jen, actually had a very similar experience. This year was the first year she forgot to take off her snow tires. It’s been a long pandemic, right? I feel like it should be March 180th or something like that.
Now, as I was preparing my notes for this episode, I learned about the passing of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She spent much of her legal career as an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, winning many arguments before the Supreme Court. And she was the first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And many of the rights and privileges that I enjoy today, I have her to thank for.
Since lifting up the voices of other women is such an important core value to me, I would be remiss not to mention her during this episode. She was a pioneer by both being an example of what’s possible. She was one of the first women to be admitted to Harvard Law School, yet she was rejected for a clerkship because she was a woman. That was legal back then to reject people if there were women. She was also given less pay as a law professor at Rutgers because they told her her husband had a good job. And she fought that fight against the Supreme Court for pay equity and won. These civil rights are ones that I hold precious, and I don’t take them for granted. I recognize the fragility of these rights that I hold dear that are subject to the whims of those who hold power.
Last week, in my episode about the one thing every artist needs to make their art business real, I told you that you need to get a separate business checking account and a business credit card. Now, if you’re a woman, the right for you in this country and in the United States, I know there’s listeners all over the world, but the right for women to have credit cards in the United States only came about because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She argued for our right in the Reed versus Reed case in the 1970s. In 1971, many banks still would not issue women credit cards. Her work has helped usher in a feminist revolution that has changed the face of American families and expanded the possibilities for American woman lives.
In the last few years, she seemed to be holding onto her life with sheer force of will determined to remain alive to vote in favor of civil rights and not allow Donald Trump to fill her seat. And progressive women like me have been praying for her to hold on as well. But here we go are, in a year that has times resembled more like a science fiction movie or a Twilight Zone episode from the pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement, and here in the United States we’re right now crossing over a staggering number, 200,000 deaths because of the virus. The United States has fires in the west, hurricanes in the south, and the virus did not disappear with the warm weather, and now the cold weather has returned. And in podcast about art, I want to share with you why everything I’m talking about matters and why it matters so much to me.
Now, Justice Ginsburg died on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. This is the Jewish holiday that commemorates our new year. We have a Jewish calendar that follows the moon cycle, and it begins and ends usually in September. But because it’s a different calendar that varies, Jews like me believe that in Rosh Hashanah, the book of life is opened and God or your concept of God determines who shall live and who shall die. And during this 10-day period, which ends on Yom Kippur, we believe that the book of life is sealed for another year.
Make no mistake. This is not a fatalistic religion. During this 10-day period, even the most secular among us pause and reflect. We look forward and we look backward. We ask people for forgiveness. We ask God for forgiveness for things that we have done and things that we don’t remember that we’ve done. It’s a very important period.
By the way, for me, I like to think of my concept as God not as an anthropomorphic bearded man on high. My concept of God is more spiritual, a concept of a greater power or the universe, if you will, where all of us are part of that larger force. So for me, I don’t imagine like a Santa Claus version of God determining the book of life, but I do feel the force of the universe at play.
Now, today, we’re talking all about my top core values. I have many. I’m only going to talk, actually, about three during this episode. But, we’re going to talk today about how these are reflected at The Inspiration Place as part of my brand and the way I run my art business. I’m inviting you into this process so you can see how my personal values have guided my decisions over the past year. This is with regards to the podcast and The Inspiration Place.
The reason I shared a little bit about my faith, about Judaism, is because this is the time that us Jews do this. It’s kind of like our new … Well, it is our new year. We look backwards and we look forwards, and that’s what I’m doing today. I am both looking backwards, and I’m also looking forward.
So, here’s what you’re going to learn today. You’re going to learn why I believe the point of life is not to be happy. You’re going to understand how three of my top values are innovation, evolution, and revolution. And I’m going to share with you why I’m bringing myself to this vulnerable place and invite you along on the same journey.
Bringing myself to this vulnerable place has not been an easy journey for me. I am a highly sensitive person. I have compassion for people who think differently than me, people who don’t vote the same as me. I understand they’re coming from different places, have different backgrounds, listen to different narratives. So where they come to is from that background. I have compassion for you even if you hold views that contradict my own. But, I’ve reached a place where I have decided that I’m not going to hide my own because you might be offended if my views contradict yours. That means that some people are going to get offended, and I am going to be okay with that. You can hear my voice shaking. It’s hard. It’s hard.
In my personal life, I’m very outspoken about my strong convictions. It’s time to bring those views out of the closet and make them a part of what I show you as well. If you look throughout art history, the artists that get remembered and celebrated are the ones whose personal views are reflected either in their art or what they talked about. They did not separate their art from their personal views. They did not separate their art careers from their personal views. Art is personal. It’s very personal.
Now, to help me out with this process, I actually attended a masterclass led by Erica Courdae and India Jackson. Erica was a prior guest on this show when we explored the concept of imperfect allyship and moving towards in anti-racist ideology. Next week on the show, my guest is India Jackson, and we’ll be diving into how artists and business owners can bring their own blend of specialness to the forefront of their brands. So next week is going to be more about you and how you can do it, but today I’m going to talk more about my own journey.
Now, your brand is not just a combination of colors and fonts that you choose for your website. It is your value system and being clear and plain about who you want to serve, how you want to serve, and why. When I attended this masterclass to begin this process, Erica and India asked us to do basically a thought download, a brain dump, if you will, of our values, those that may have a place in our business and those that may not. And we made a list of what we stood for and what we stood against.
For me, I raged against sexism, antisemitism, Trump, Mitch McConnell, 1950s thinking, the patriarchy, the absence of women in art history books, scarcity thinking, mansplaining, and child abuse. My list of what I fight for, what I stood for, amplifying women’s voices, gay rights, science, and a woman’s right to control her own body and her finances. In this past year, I realized my fight for women must consciously include all women, not just women who look like me, but extend to women of color, gay women, and those who choose to identify themselves as women. And that is not to say I was excluding them before, but I wasn’t consciously seeking them out. And that is something that I will consciously continue now to do in the future, now and in the future. Now, you can, of course, do this exercise yourself. Make a list of what you stand for, what you stand against. It’s real important to do that.
Next, we were asked to take a closer look at our team. I know many of you who listen to this may not have a team. I know I didn’t when I first was selling my art. For many years, I didn’t. I was a solo one-man show. But, you do pay for things. If you want to play along with this exercise and you don’t have a team, think about the people you pay for services, whether we’re talking about art classes, like art teachers, maybe yoga instructors. Who in your life are you paying for services, are you paying for things? What brands do you follow, clothing stores, anything? For me, this question actually was the easiest I had the whole day. I already know what I’ve value in my team and my employees, and that brings us to the very first core value.
Innovation. I am always looking for the best ways to do things, the fastest way, the most efficient way. And the people who I hire, the ones who are on the journey with me for the long haul, they love innovating, too. Now, whether we’re experimenting with a new graphic software, new way to advertise on Facebook, my team innovates. I even chose my overseas VA … I hired an overseas VA about six months ago. The reason she got the job, the way she stood out to me out of all the other candidates, she was the only one who sought out a shortcut to get the test job done, and that matter to me.
And innovation is something that I value in my clients as well. Whether they’re looking to try a new art technique, such as watercolor to display their art without glass, or they are coming to me because they want to learn new strategies for selling their art because they know what they’ve been doing isn’t working, and so they’re willing to embrace change.
Innovation also cross-sects with my personal beliefs. I value innovative thinking, forward thinkers who reject outdated societal norms, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg who refused to accept a lower salary as a professor and fought for the rights of other women to do the same. And I’m not afraid of technology. I will get the best camera, software, podcasting equipment, or whatever it takes to deliver the best experience for my art students and for you, my listeners.
When I first started my business as an entrepreneur, I got this piece of advice that I still treasure. And I’m going to say it slowly because it’s really important. Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. I didn’t know until just now when I Googled it, but this quote is attributed to Jim Rohn. Again, let me just say it again. Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. So, don’t get overwhelmed by technology. You can do this. You are willing to try and do hard things. Because you want to be successful, you’re willing to do it.
Core value number two, evolution. Every year, I choose a word for the year. I’ve been doing this, I want to say, about seven years now. Maybe it’s longer. And for 2020, my word was evolve. This word has served me very well this year. Evolution definitely has a lot of overlap with my other core values of innovation and the third one that I will be sharing later, revolution.
Now, here’s a good time for me to start to add some definition. So, let’s talk about innovate, the definition of innovate. Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products, so innovative thinking as well as innovation. It’s not just limited to the software I use. It’s also valuing forward-thinking. And evolve, the definition, develop gradually, especially from simple to a more complex form.
Now, I want to share a quick parenting story. I honestly can’t think of a specific example what was happening. It was something. And this situation’s happened more than once anyway, which is probably why I don’t remember the specific example. But, one of my child is in crisis. They can’t decide what to do, whether to quit something, something’s gone wrong. It’s one of those situations.
When that happens, my husband loves to inject the platitude we just want you to be happy, or his other favorite cliché, the point of life is to be happy. And it’s in these moments where I have to step in and remind him that I don’t agree with that, at all. I don’t believe the point of life is to be happy. Happy is pretty easy. If the point of life is to be happy, we’d all be sitting around in a corner stuffing ourselves with chocolate or playing with ourselves or never getting out of bed because that might make us happy or maybe smoking pot. I don’t know. Doing something just to put yourself in happy state.
Here’s the thing, I don’t believe the point of life is to be happy, at least not 100% of the time. The point of life is to evolve. And the process of evolving into the next best version of yourself is going to take a degree of discomfort. Do you understand that? You have to get unhappy to evolve. You can’t be 100% happy and evolve. You need to get uncomfortable first.
Now, before I move into the last value that I’m going to share with you … And just know that the 3 I’m sharing is not a complete list. I just wanted to dive deeper into these three today. I want to share with you how I’ve evolved the business over the past year, as well as over my time as a professional artist.
When I first started selling art, it was locally, just a regular art show. Look at my art, like my art, maybe buy my art. But, my career as a professional artist didn’t really take off until I introduced portraits into the mix. So, phase one of my professional artists career was purely doing that, painting, offering art for sale, no teaching, no podcast, selling art, art on commission, and art for sale. My advertising was word of mouth, and I quickly built a reputation that way. These time-tested strategies I used then still stand, and they’re what I teach now to my clients. And the truth is out of all the pivots I’ve made in my art business, portrait painting actually had the highest profit margin, meaning that more of what I made from my business ended up in my pockets. There was so much less expenses that way.
2006, I discovered the ease of selling on line. And in particular, back then, this was eBay. I quickly cracked the code and learn the rhythm of selling art this way. And for a while, selling an art led to very predictable profits. I loved not being beholden to my commission clients. This enabled me to experiment creatively. Notice the innovation. And I was constantly testing the market to see what art collectors responded to. That was a beautiful time, and it did work very well then. But, this was pre-Facebook, pre-Instagram, and YouTube was in its infancy. I think YouTube was established in 2005. So, a lot of this was possible because there was not much to do online. If you wanted to go online, pretty much the only thing you could do was shop. eBay had the market on that because not every place had its own website.
Now, at the time, if you were an artist and you were willing to find your way around a computer, you could turn it into a cash machine. So, this worked really well until it didn’t. But, the experimentation was a wonderful training ground for me. And although I no longer sell on eBay, there are still some selling principles I learned through that experience that I still embrace.
When I left eBay, basically, I transitioned from eBay. When the sales were no longer easy, I embraced the next trend. I wasn’t stuck on eBay forcing it to work. I was willing to innovate and move on. The next trend was Etsy. Again, back then, if you understood SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, that means knowing which keywords to use, how to title your art, how to write about your art in the way you can stand out when people were searching for you, and you had beautiful art, you could do really well in Etsy. And I did do really well, until I didn’t.
But, some time in between those amazing sales and the so-so Etsy sales, a random Etsy user reached out to me to see if I taught my art techniques online. At that time, I had never heard of online classes. Never. But, I was willing to investigate and to learn. And that’s what led to The Inspiration Place. I still teach online art classes, and this does represent a very large part of my overall strategy. But, my evolution is never complete.
In 2018, I decided to launch a membership site. I was willing to experiment and see how that would go. The Inspired Insider’s Club was born, and it actually was really successful with about 150 active members. And in 2018, I also added a podcast. And in 2019, I added a group coaching program to help artists learn how to sell their art, the Artist Incubator.
But this year, I found myself, 2020, stretched too thin. I was still selling my art. I was still taking commissions. I was still teaching online art classes, and I was running a membership site, and a podcast, and a coaching program. It was too much. So this year, I had to make some tough choices, and the Inspired Insider Club had to go, even though it was making money for me.
I was uninspired by the art I was teaching as part of the club. I love teaching my portrait techniques because I know how easy it is to monetize a career as an artist when you offer portraits, so that was a really congruent offer with also offering coaching. I also love creating a legacy, so I knew that there were many people who were coming to me who don’t want to make painting careers but just want to learn how to paint their loved ones or their fur babies, and the portrait classes help them to do that. So, I felt like that was something I did not want to let go of. It was very important to me as an artist.
And I also am lit up by my work as a coach for my Artist Incubator program, and here’s why. I’ve seen a tremendous transformation, a tremendous evolution, if you will, in the artists I’ve worked with. Not only are they learning how to sell art, but they’re developing a more confident mindset and evolving into their next best version of themselves. People who come to the Artist Incubator program do not leave the same person they were when they came into the program.
And how do I do that? Well, of course, confidence-building is baked into every aspect of my program, and I’m constantly pushing them into new places where they’re uncomfortable. Remember what I said? You can’t be happy 100% of the time and evolve. It’s just not possible. You have to be uncomfortable. They also get access to a certified life coach who helps them manage their mindset through focused training. Again, since I started the program over a year ago, the program itself has evolved as I continue to innovate and learn the best ways to help my clients and learn the success strategies that they need. There’s absolutely no other artists program that compares to this.
Now, in the spirit of innovation, I’ve actually developed two levels that clients can come to work with me inside the Artist Incubator family. We have the elite mastermind level where clients get the most access to work with me. That’s the level you have to apply for, by the way. The exact name is in flux. It’s the Artist Incubator. I thought about renaming it Artist Incubator Elite or Artist Incubator Inner Circle, but it seems like it’s a mouthful.
Then, I have the other version of the Artist Incubator where clients get the access to the same curriculum. I was calling it Self-Study. I’m not sure if that name is going to change. And in that program, they do get limited access to me through a monthly call in addition to the complete curriculum, so I guess I can’t really call it Self-Study anymore since you’re not really completely on your own.
Now, if you’re listening to this when it goes live, I’m actually sharing the exact framework that I teach my clients in the Artist Incubator in a new masterclass called The Artist Profit Plan. To learn more, go to schulmanart.com/masterclass. Now, if you missed out on that, I do take applications to the incubator, the elite level, as space permits. To learn more and to see if this is something you want to do, if you’re a good fit, go to schulmanart.com/biz, as in B-I-Z.
Now, if you’re wondering if you’re a fit, this actually brings me to the next question that India and Erica asked during our time together, which was, what values do you share with your clients? And here’s what I want to offer. I’m looking for bold, brave men and women that know they could be doing more with their lives. By the way, that doesn’t mean that you have the same courage that I have now, but this is something you aspire to. You aspire to be bold and brave. You want to live your life purpose. And you recognize that in order to fulfill your life purpose, you must evolve into the next version that you want to be.
This doesn’t mean that you’re broken or bad the way you are right now. You are fine just as you are. But like a lobster in the ocean who’s outgrown their shell, you need to shed that shell and grow a new one. You are willing to innovate and let go of old thinking patterns that no longer serve you. And you’re willing to try things that unsuccessful people may not be willing to try. So, does that sound like the person you want to be?
Okay. So now we are bringing it home to the third value I’m sharing today, revolution. So far, I’ve offered two of my core values as, number one, innovation, number two, evolution, and the third value I offer up I feel is more of an aspirational value for myself, and that is revolution. So, let’s start first with a definition. Revolution, a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it. That’s something I’m striving for every week with this podcast. With my art, I change the way people see. But with this podcast and my coaching, I want to change the way you think. That’s why I admire women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s so much. She not only changed lives, my lives with her ideas, but she fought for those rights. And in doing so, she changed the laws that protected those lives and allowed society to shed its outgrown shell and evolve into a place that made what I’m doing here today even possible. So, here’s where I’m going to end today’s podcast.
I also wanted to share something else from my faith. In Judaism, when somebody passes, there’s an expression we say to comfort people, and it translates into may her memory be a blessing. That’s why you may be seeing a meme on Instagram. I’ve seen it going around a lot for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. May her memory be a revolution. Have a great week, everyone.
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