Dwelling In Your Zone of Genius

Zone of Genius

There comes a point in every artist’s (every entrepreneur’s) business where you can’t grow without hiring someone.

It might be a paid intern, your kid, a website helper, or a bookkeeper, but you need the extra hands if you want to expand.

Who do you hire?

What will they do?

Your primary focus as an artist is on making art. That’s when you are in what Gay Hendricks calls your “Zone of Genius.” In his book, The Big Leap, Hendricks writes:

In your Zone of Genius, though the time you spend there produces great financial abundance, you do not feel that you are expending effort to produce it. In your Zone of Genius, work doesn’t feel like work.

I’m certain you know what that feels like. Bliss.

Your goal is to take those tasks off your plate that aren’t in your Zone of Genius – the tasks that keep you from making your best work. It’s the art you produce in the studio that nobody else could do.

For example, you might be competent at updating your WordPress template, but it’s not your best work. It takes you away from your best work.

Consider how lovely life would be if you could dwell in your Zone of Genius most of the time. How would that feel?

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8 of the Biggest Mistakes Artists Make in their Art Careers

Are you making these mistakes in your art career?

You might be making mistakes in your art business that are holding you back from big growth.

Mistakes aren’t bad, and I don’t want you to feel like you have to be perfect in everything you do because seeking perfection is a sure way to be paralyzed by fear. We have to make mistakes in order to learn and to grow.

Mistakes are only detrimental if you keep repeating them without learning and correcting your ways.

Are you making any of these mistakes?

1. Not knowing where you want to go with your career.

I’m not talking about the need to have a specific plan, but I’ve noticed how few artists, especially when they’re just starting out, don’t “get” that running a business is serious stuff. You’re no longer making art for pure pleasure.

Everything changes when you start asking for money in return for your talents. For some artists, it changes for the better and you’re fired up to get your art out there. Other artists can’t stomach the pressure and lose all interest in making art. They can’t seem to get into the studio.

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Why Aren’t You Motivated?

©2014 Diane Gabriel, Young Girl With Icon, Nah Trang, Viet Nam. Pigment print. Used with permission.

I want to help you with your art business. Each blog post, class lesson, consultation, or live event is designed to help you get one step closer to your dream.

In these formats …

I can teach you what you should be doing to promote your art. I can teach you how to do things. I can teach you why it’s good to be doing these things. I can teach you about other artists getting good results.

But …

I cannot teach you how to get motivated to do the work.

©2014 Diane Gabriel, Young Girl With Icon, Nah Trang, Viet Nam. Pigment print. Used with permission.

I’d go so far as to say that I can’t teach you if you are not motivated. I could give you information, but that information is no good if it is merely

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Schedule Something Scary and Extraordinary

©Joey Feldman, Vicious. Pen and ink on paper, 28 x 20 inches. Used with permission

It’s scary to step up – to think bigger about what you’re capable of.

There’s very little motivation in the daily grind: update Facebook, schedule a few tweets, send a newsletter, write a blog post, work in studio. If you’re not careful, you’ll continue to go through the motions of life without doing something extraordinary for your art and for yourself.

©Joey Feldman, Vicious. Pen and ink on paper, 28 x 20 inches. Used with permission.

In honor of the witching season, I ask you to scare yourself a little. Give yourself a challenge that motivates you to get out of bed and into the studio every day. Take on a quest.

Anatomy of a Quest (with Examples)

According to Chris Guillebeau, author of The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, a

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Out of Practice: The Physics of Your Art Business

The wall of hearts that many artists with strong studio practices contributed to. Photo courtesy Carol A. McIntyre.

The reason you’re out of ideas is that you’re out of practice.

I was so proud of saying this to a client the other day that I asked her to hold while I wrote down the quote.

I knew to write it down because I’m in the practice of gathering ideas for my writing. I have a regular writing schedule. I can’t say the same for a studio schedule.

No Studio Practice

When Barbara Gilhooly and Ayn Hanna called for “heart art” for their commitment ceremony, I wanted to make a heart for them so badly. I stewed over it for three months before giving up. I had a twinkle of an idea, but no vision for making it happen.

Barbara and Ayn in front of the wall of hearts, a beautiful ceremony that I had wanted to contribute

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Taking Imperfect Action

Alyson Stanfield with students

You know that I’m all about action.

But I’m also about reading, researching, and learning, which is a good thing because my primary work is teaching. You have to learn before you can teach, although you’ll learn even more by teaching.

And there comes a time when you must stop the learning phase and start taking action – however imperfect it might be or however reticent you might feel.

Students at my workshop in Burlington, VT commit to taking action.

I think we stay in information-gathering mode rather than taking action for one of two reasons:

1. We’re afraid to make a mistake (failing). 2. We don’t have enough fire in the belly to get moving. We aren’t hungry enough.

Let’s look at these.

Go Ahead and Make Mistakes

You don’t learn simply by reading books and taking classes.

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Powerful Questions That Lead to Progress


Questions, when used in business planning, are more powerful than statements because they make us think and formulate our own answers. They encourage us to consider our situation, environment, abilities, and resources. See if any of these serve you at the moment.

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You Are Not Your Art

Julie Anderson artist

One of my coaching mentors used to say that she couldn’t separate business coaching from personal coaching. “It’s all personal,” she would say. If you read enough business motivation, you will come across attempts to help coach you through rejection and criticism with some form of the following. . . . “You are not your business.” . . .

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I Challenge You To Do The Work

Webinar replay

Yesterday I taught a complimentary webinar for artists titled Surefire Income-Boosting Strategy for 2014, in which I shared the 5-step process I use every year to increase my income. And although our businesses are different, I show how you can apply the same process to your art business – immediately. If you didn’t attend, you can access the replay through January 15 on this page.

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What Good Are Artist Awards?

artist trophy

Best in Show . . . First Place . . . Viewers’ Choice . . . Purchase Prize . . . Honorable Mention. Deep Thought for Artists >> What good are artist awards? Do they lead to a better career for the winners?

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