There are eight million artist stories in the city. This one is mine. This one is called “Take A Leap”.
Back sometime around 1991 I was living in Medford, Massachusetts and hanging out with a guy named Joe, from Woburn, the next town over. I knew Joe from mutual acquaintences, we ran in similar circles, and it wasn’t a suprise that we would drink coffee and talk about stuff. One of the things we talked about was multi-level marketing, and how Joe was getting into it big time, and that I too should cash in on an almost sure thing. Well I signed up and joined up and went to education and training sessions and conferences, and I bought some products, and talked with some people, and at the end of the day I did not make it big time, medium time, or even teeny time. And financially I came out on the wrong end of things. Not too bad, but not too good. Oh well.
But have you ever heard the saying, “Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit”? I hope so, it’s a good saying. For me in 1991 – failing to sell even one person on the beauty of multi-level marketing, and losing money in the process, never mind getting to meet a whole bunch of people I would never hang out with again – the greater benefit came in the encouragement to purchase and repeatedly listen to sets of cassette tapes with positive messages from motivational speakers. (By the way kids, cassette tapes are these small square things with two holes that go onto spindles and…well, anyway.) And the motivational speaker who really got me was Les Brown.
You can find him on Facebook. Go ahead, take a minute and type him in the search space and there his smiling face will be. Mrs. Mamie Brown’s son Lester, who always finds it a plum pleasing pleasure to talk to me and you. I still have that box of eight cassette tapes, it is, in fact, in my car. And one of the things that Les Brown would always, does always, say is that you have got to take a leap. You gotta go for it. You have to leave your predictable, same old same old, safe world if you are not happy or satisfied and take a leap into the unknown to chase your dream. Whatever it may be. Just take the leap, says Les. As one example Les talks about the movie “Joe Versus the Volcano”. You can rent it on Netflix, buy it on Ebay, heck you can even find it at your public library. I just put my copy on hold.
Anyway, Les explains that Joe – played by Tom Hanks – is this guy in an absolutely dead end, depressing job that is slowly but surely grinding the life out of him. In fact he always feels sick because of it. But on one of his endless visits to his doctor the doctor tricks Joe and tells him he has a “brain cloud” and won’t live more than six more months, and because the doctor is a compassionate man he gives Joe all his credit cards to live those six months up. The hitch is that at the end of six months Joe has to go to this island in the South Pacific and as a sacrifice to the Gods to save the local natives, Joe has to throw himself into the active volcano. He’s got to take a leap. And Joe agrees – why not – and goes back to his job and quits and goes over to the desk of a woman he has always loved (Meg Ryan) and asks her out and she says yes, and they live life up, live it to the fullest, and in six months they go to the island and throw themselves (Meg in it for the long haul) into the volcano.
You’ll have to watch the movie to see what happens, but the point Les Brown makes over and over again is that you have to be ready to go for it, to chase your dream, to take a leap. So, since these blogs are allegedly “artist stories”, I’ll give a personal example of taking an artist leap. I had quit my last job, ended my long career, getting by on social security alone, was volunteering as a janitor at a local art studio/workshop to get free drawing lessons, and was vacuuming the floor when my phone rang. It was a woman in Seattle calling to ask me if I wanted to particpate in a Portland RAW artist show coming up in a couple of months, that there would be all kinds of goodies in it for me, and all I had to do was sell 20 tickets to friends at $10 a piece, I had to give them $200 before the show. So I have very little money, barely no income, a history of being unable to sell things, even ideas, to people (see multi-level marketing) and could potentially be out more money (see multi-level marketing), but I decided to go for it, to take a leap. Way too many times in my life I had not taken a leap and had to live with what ifs, so I said yes. I ran home, put a notice on Facebook that I had this cool opportunity to grow my rookie artist life, and did anyone want to support me by buying a ticket.
You know what? Seventeen people did, a number of you in fact reading this right now. I am forever grateful. So it cost me $30, and at the show I sold a painting to my friends Mike and Emily for $45, and I got a YouTube video out of it – go ahead, find Buddy Cushman on YouTube – and some new Facebook friends and new artist friends, and got to speak on stage about my art and my doo wop album project, and got some more confidence in my art to approach local businesses where I was able to hang my art, and more and more. Because I took that leap, small as it was. And, the discerning reader may have noticed that I took a much bigger leap when I quit my job and career to run after music and art dreams following a phone call with Keith from Provincetown, who literally implored me to pray for abundance and believe in abundance, and I believed him, he was like Les Brown, so enthusiastic about living life. And the truly witty reader may have infered that I took even a greater leap when I got in my car in Massachusetts two and a half years earlier and drove across the country to Portland knowing no one, having no plan, and subsequently meeting my artist wife Susan and musician friend and fellow Gray Jay Grant, and how many other people, places, and things I cannot even begin to list right now. In fact, I have taken so many leaps the last five years I feel kind of like Kermit. And it is easy being green. Especially in Portland.
Les Brown. Joe and the volcano. Kermit the Frog. Who knows what wonders and incredible adventures await you just on the other side of that door. For me it is a long, strange journey from not being able to sell one damn person on multi-level marketing to sitting at this computer in Portland typing a blog for my art page. My art page. The equivalent or greater benefit of that 1991 failure led me to Les Brown, who helped me with just a gentle shove of encouragement to follow any dream I could dream.