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Guts

During a typical job interview, you may have been asked the question, “How would your colleagues describe you?” This question is designed to get you to see yourself as others do, and to see if you bring qualities to the table that your employer needs.

In the past, my answer included words like “organized,” “problem-solver,” “collaborator” and “creative.” Adequate words and accurate ones, in as much as people have actually said these things about me to me.

One answer I’ve never given, nor have I heard said about me, is “risk taker.” There’s a good reason for that. Risk scares the daylights out of me.

When I started my art business just over five months ago, I had a 30 day plan. A 90 day plan. A 12 month plan. Two year and five year projections. A little nest egg. Inventory (in artist’s parlance, a portfolio). With my communications experience and a marketing foundation, it seemed nonsensical to launch with anything less (spoken like someone with chronic risk aversion).

I also had a sense of what I didn’t have: an art degree and established mentors and peers in the arts community (which are often developed during the process of earning said degree).

By naming the assets I have as well as those I don’t, I was able to complete a balance sheet of sorts: two lists containing everything I’ve got going for me and everything that might trip me up. In doing so, I was reminded of a fundamental tenet: every business carries liabilities and every successful business innovates to address them. By internalizing this for the first time in a really personal way, I realized that I can take risks while still retaining a certain amount of control. And control is the mantra of every organized, problem-solving collaborator like myself.

So after years of planning and fantasizing (which is sort of like practicing), I took the leap to become a workaholic for myself.

Once I started to work the plan, the plan hasn’t always worked. But the glorious part of naming your assets is that you can activate them when you need them in service to a new, better plan. In my previous life, I was mainly rewarded for being thorough. In this new life, I must also be abundantly creative. And by being creative in my business, I’m becoming more open to taking risks in my art.

Aha.

Shameless Promotion. And Sincere Thanks.

“Reflections,” my first solo show, is open during museum hours, now through February 21, 2016. Thank you to Chris Hightower and the Arlington Museum of Art who took a risk on me.

This story was originally published on November 30, 2015 in my now-defunct WordPress blog.