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The ‘Secret’ of Success – and it’s not what you think…

1-megan art

{“She Meant the World to Him” – Image by Studio MME}

I’ve been working with Jess for about a year now and I was ecstatic when she launched this new site.  She emailed me to see if I would write a monthly post for you because the site was all about becoming a successful maker and I was ‘successful’.

That work instantly made me scoff.

“I may look successful but I assure you I’m nowhere near where you are,” I replied back.

“But you’re doing what you love and supporting yourself, right?” she retorted.

The simple answer to that is yes.  The longer answer means revealing what my friend, Tara Gentile, rightly calls The Dirty Little Secret.  All of us ‘successful makers’ have it.

All of those inspirational/crazy people you follow on Twitter or Facebook who rock their business niche, launch something amazing each month, have 10,00 followers, and that many sales, they have it too.

What’s the secret?

No one is ever as successful as you think.

There are always things going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about.  Yes, that famous writer may have written 2 best-selling books this year but you don’t know how large her mortgage is, or just how much she actually made from those books.  That coach who sells out all of their spots on the first day may have put all of that money toward childcare or college loans.

You also don’t know how many flops every ‘successful’ maker has. 

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve launched something and had it flop so horribly I wanted to crawl under my bed and hope the world wouldn’t notice how badly I’d done.

On my Facebook, website, and Twitter page, I portray myself as an artist who is constantly creating new works, getting new wholesale orders, and lining up gallery shows.  Lots of my customers ask if they can come visit my studio.  I do my best not to laugh because if they only knew what my studio looked like, they wouldn’t ask to visit.

You see, while I DO make a living doing what I love, my studio/office is the kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment.  (Of course, being only 3 years out of school and living in Silicon Valley with my boyfriend – who is pursuing a graduate degree – means I can’t do much better than my one-bedroom, which costs over $1,000 a month.)

So while some artists have other artists as their studio mates, mine are a fridge and plethora of printers, tables, pots, and pans.  This last year I pulled in enough money to cover my business expenses, living expenses, retirement savings, insurance, taxes, and THAT’S IT.  I squeaked out evenly.  And yet, I’m ‘successful’ when you see me on Twitter or Facebook.

So why did I just reveal my dirty little secret?

I think so many people quit their creative endeavors too soon because they compare themselves to the ‘successful’ people they follow.

But that’s silly because you’re comparing your reality with their scripted/public reality.

What you should be doing instead of comparing yourself to Jess Van Den or Megan Auman is comparing where you are now to where you were a year ago.  How have you grown?  How has your confidence changed?  How do you feel?

Despite having squeaked by last year in terms of finances, I absolutely feel like I am on my way to being a truly ‘successful maker’ because I have no intentions of giving up.  You’re only a failure when you give up so as long as you keep trying, you’re a success.

Just think of all those people who don’t have the courage to do what you’re doing.  I’d bet some big money (as big as my rent) that those people think you’re a success.

After reading this post, I hope you do too.

Megan Eckman

Megan Eckman has written 146 posts in this blog.

Megan Eckman is a quirky pen and ink illustrator who never outgrew her overactive imagination. Her work merges the style of old fairy tale illustrations with modern fantasies. When she’s not drawing (and giggling all the while), she can be found pacing her apartment writing more stories to go with her artwork.

Comments

Katia (Plushka)
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What can I say? All true, every word! Going your own way and setting your own “success” measurements is the best way. Great article!

Jess
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It really is, isn’t it? It’s so easy to get disheartened when you see the ‘success’ of other people – but the only person you should measure against is yourself. Sure, look to others for advice and inspiration, but the brilliant thing to realise is that your life and business is yours – and yours alone – to control and grow. What heady power that is!

Koosje Koene
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I’m cheering and applauding in my tiny office space slash wardrobe closet for Megan and her wise words! I love it.

Megan
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Thanks everyone! I’m so glad you liked it. 😀

Sharyn
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I have to tell myself every day to look within and not focus on the success I perceive in others. Some days I want to write it across my forehead so it might sink in. The reality is every maker has struggles and we are all at different stages. The term ‘starving artist’ came about because it happens, it’s not made up, is it? It’s tough quitting the comparison game, but it is so important to stop doing it so you can follow your dreams, not someone else’s!! Thanks for reminding us, Megan. I’ll put the Sharpie marker away now and get back to work ; P

Jess
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Sharpies can be dangerous! Though you might give the general population a laugh if you were to venture outside with a Sharpie-decorated-forehead 🙂

Harlequin's Emporium (@Harlequinsempor)
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Great Article!! I have just started my jewellery business and its so encouraging to read pieces like this, it will definately keep my motivated 🙂

Jess
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Awesome! 🙂

Megan
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Sharyn, the fact that you’re already telling yourself that is wonderful news! So many people don’t realize that just about everything on the web is edited. Why else do people only share cute photos of their kids and not the ones where they’re ready to sell them to the circus? Hehe.

Megan
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That was a great article! Thanks so much, it has made ‘peace in my mind’ and your words are a really good motivatior. I really like the bit about so many people quit their creative endeavors too soon because they compare themselves to the ‘successful’ people they follow.
I feel proud that i’m doing what I love and that i’m more ”successful” than I was this time last year!

Jess
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That’s the most important thing Megan! Here’s to 2013 being you’re best year yet 🙂

Tania
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Fab article! Just loved reading this, it’s always great to remind yourself that others started in their little home ‘studios’ too. I think it’s always important to remember that you have to start somewhere and as long as you keep at it no matter what, you’ll get there too one day! x

Jess
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I’m still in my home studio! 😉

Mignon
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Thanks Megan, this is great, we should all print this off & pin it up in our work area as a daily reminder that every time we venture into our work space & start creating what ever it is we create we are successful & will continue to grow – better – stronger & more successful each day 🙂

Sonia Lyne
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Absolutely loved reading every word of this … honest, inspirational and perfect! THANK YOU!!!

Natalie at Ozzi Cat
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Ah girls, you are awesome! Thanks both Jess and Megan for this article! :)) Love you both xx Natalie

belin
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Megan, thankyou for writting this article. It’s so easy to listen to your own internal struggles of self doubt, let alone compare yourself to the ‘image’ of anothers successes. I still work part time to suppliment my ‘dream job’ income. Oh well One foot in front of the other, it’s really the only way to move forward 🙂
Thanks Megan and Jess, it’s just the article I needed to read today!

Gaye Harris
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Great article and so, SO true! Now I’m super excited (bouncing even more than normal) because I’ve realized….I’M AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS!!!! I’m better than I was yesterday and as for three months ago….a stellar rise to the giddy heights!!!! 😉

Keep ’em coming….this sort of down-to-earth advice is absolute gold. *mwah*

Jess
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Haha, awesome, Gaye! So glad this struck a chord with you x

Sue Bertozzo
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Amazing! Yesterday I went to church to watch my grandson play Noah in a drama production ( he is 7 and it was hysterical) They had a guest preacher from the US who was talking about exactly this! You cannot keep you eyes on your own race if you are watching what the guy in the lane beside you is doing. You lose track of your successes and achievements if you are constantly comparing yourself to others. This must be meant for me! The same message two days in a row! The universe is trying to tell me something!!
I have listened. xxx

Thank you

Jess
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Awesome!!

Kylie
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This is soo true, I always look back at were I have came from to where I am today. Each year I am making more, this year I am over the moon as I can afford to buy my kids what they have been wanting for Christmas the past few years and this year I have enough to buy them just from my profits! I feel successful! It may not be thousands if dollars but it’s enough to make my boys happy which makes me happy!

Jess
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If you are happy, and you can do what you want to do because your business has provided the money you need… then you ARE successful! Awesome, Kylie 🙂

Joy
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I loved reading this because my whole reality is not projected in public spaces. It doesn’t mean that the public part of me is not real, just that it’s like an iceberg, you’re only seeing the small portion at the top. I think what keeps a lot of us going is the dream we are pursuing and if we can take pleasure and pride in small steps then we are enjoying the journey. I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s meant to be. In fact, I’m working on a blog post about that right now (to publish tomorrow) about how my little business means so much more to me than simply a way to sell tablecloths and pillowcases.I would be delighted if anyone commenting here would like to read my brand new in the very beginning stages blog! It can be found at http://www.joyfullinens.wordpress.com. Blessings to all <3

Chrissy Foreman Cranitch
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I am absolutely LOVING this post!
I can completely resonate.
Big love for sharing the imperfections so perfectly x

Megan
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I’m glad you loved it, Chrissy!

Jiah
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Thanks Megan. What a wonderfully honest article. I was moaning to my husband the other day about how un-glamorous this creative existence really is and he said the same thing about comparing where I am now to one year ago. I also like to think back to my teenage self and imagine what I would think if I met myself now. I would probably be pretty impressed actually. It’s easy to lose track of the little successes.

Stacey (maxandmedesigns)
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Thanks for another fab article Megan, I have to remind myself of this all the time (mainly whilst working in my “studio”/spare bedroom/junk room/the place where all the kids toys seem to end up…). It’s a timely reminder for those of us in Australia who have just started a new financial year. Personally I use this time of year to reflect on how much my little biz has grown and the things it has allowed me to do. While it’s not paying the mortgage just yet it’s given me the freedom to have an extended maternity leave and spend precious time with my 2 little kids, who could ask for anything more 🙂

kristina451
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I love this post! I am just starting out and the honesty of this article is very refreshing and encouraging! Thank you!

Jess
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Glad you enjoyed it, Kristina! 🙂 Good luck with your venture!

Anya
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This is an amaazing post, just what I needed right now! Thank you! So glad you mentioned that failure is an integral part of success 🙂
Tank you Jess and Megan xoxox

Irina
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Dear Jess, thank you for so great post – it’s just in time for me, because when you start something new you always have doubts and yes – compare youself with people who are already successfull. But I think is a question of courage and love what you do. Thanks again! Have a nice day 🙂 Irina

Marijana
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Thank you for these truly words. I was learned in my life that it is never as it seems at first sight. I just can not imagine what had to do the so- called successful people. Each of us is on his or hers own level.
Be all well.
Marijana and Bojan
2centsleathershop on etsy

debra
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Thanks. I’ve been following the Etsy shop picks every week and it makes it look like all crafters have this Spartan minimalist groovy studio where they sit there wearing all black and sketching designs. Just more pressure when it isn’t necessary….

LizZD
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It’s amazing! You’ve hit on the head, what I have been struggling with for what seems like EVER.Every word you said is so very true! Thank you for that. 😀

paul
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i have been at it for about 25 years now. I have had wonderful years, sometimes bringing in over $100.000 a year. Other years ,not so good BUT i have got to making my own decisions which to me is success.
Being freelance to building things and wondering how to sell them is addictive to me. (Well not the selling)
Some of my ideas there was a ready made market for like one off pieces of furniture.
See i love to make things but the last thing i want to do is to try and sell them, it’s just not me.
But i keep at it hoping to make the shift to having the confidence of telling people “you know this is a great product”
My answer now is i have a wonderful partner who is great at IT. Without her our business SoulTiles wouldn’t be here where it is now ,successful after only two months. We bounce ideas off each other and again that’s success to me.
Our issue now is online marketing.It’s that thorn in my side that will not go away. +)

saralpert
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First of all, where did you find an apt for 1K/mo? I live in Silicon Valley too and my rent is twice plus that a month! I’m also creatively squishing a massive amount of craft stuff into a small space, but it actually turned-out to be quite nice. As long as I want to go there and can focus, it’s a major victory.
Thank you for this article. It was so honest and it made me feel a whole lot better. I like how you tell it like it is. I’d much rather hear your real experience because regardless if it’s positive or negative, I still feel really encouraged

Kirsty Kelly
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What a fantastic post showing what the reality is of being a maker.

melinda blair
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This is a great read. Thank you. I’m finding that due to the ‘comparison disease’ I am limiting my time on IG and focussing more on where the joy comes from within…. so that I stay there! And trust the rest. I love what you have shared and will remember it as I take ever such small steps to creating my own home/online biz. With gratitude. Mx

stickersswissmade
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This just came up at the correct time. I just realized that I’m comparing too much with others and not focusing on my own work. So the next step: stop looking around so much and start creating your own things thanks Jess for all the inspiring and wonderful information. Andrea

Brandy Aubé
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This is everything! I browse Instagram and nearly drive myself crazy to the point that I have to shut it down and the thought of stopping before I even start creeps into my brain. Thanks for posting this article!

What say you?