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Happy New Year! May God Bless America.

Blogging is hard work! It has been so long since my last post that I’m now struggling to figure out how to make one! But good news! I’ve been diligent all the while and am happy to announce that I’ve created a new job for myself. (I lost my day job in late 2011 due to company downsizing.)

I’ve created a new Web site called www.excellentartist.com and I’m working with artists and designers to help them exceed their expectations in life and business. I hope to accomplish this by writing about my clients, promoting them via press releases, blogging about them through my new site (please go there and subscribe), and providing them with free mentoring and other professional services.  

Toward these goals, I have accepted writing assignments (all about artists) from Alabama Magazine see: www.Alabama-Magazine.com for whom I am now a contributing writer. My first artist feature should appear in the Jan-Feb 2012 issue which just came out. I’ll be seeking additional assignments from other publications.

Artists’ reactions to my new service have been awesome. I believe 2012 will be an exciting year as I meet with and sign new clients to this–my exclusive client group–of outstanding artisans. If you know artists who would like to start the new year with renewed hope and a new zeal for success and creativity, please have them contact me.

Meanwhile, join me in prayer for our nation during these difficult times! May His mercy and grace be with us. May He give us wisdom and courage for the journey ahead. May He bless and sustain our nation in freedom.  Happy New New!

My Friend Ricky

I have a friend, Ricky, who picks up cans along the road near where I live. That’s what he does for a living. He has little education but is a warm, intelligent man, about 40. He has no car, so has had little success with most jobs. He refuses welfare, preferring to work for his keep. Ricky lives in a run-down house with several cats. His Mom used to lived there, too. But he’s alone now. A while back, Ricky hurt his leg mowing someone’s yard. He can be seen now, even on the hottest day, working along down the road…with the help of a walker. Miles and miles a day. Always a big grin. Always a wave. I received a “Halloween card” from Ricky the other day. The world needs more like him.  

Our church has created a new ministry: Cans for Ricky.

From Russia With Art

A few days ago I was perusing a Web site devoted to art and artists, and ambled into a conversation among artists about how to best present themselves on their personal sites in order to attract interest from buyers.

There are so many great artists. But why do some do well while others languish? I believe artists must connect with their market. A personal connection sells art! Ultimately, buyers want to know about the artist from whom the creation emerged. It’s like contemplating a sunset. Who can watch the sun set and not yearn to know its creator?

When Julia Bright, a wonderful artist in Colorado, mentioned in a blog entry that she could use some help, I visited her site, edited her “Artist Statement” and emailed it to her for consideration. She immediately responded with gratitude, saying she would definitely use my re-write. It felt great to do something unexpected for someone I didn’t know for no reason other than to help out and make a new friend. These opportunities make life special. I plan to take advantage of them more often!

Here’s what I wrote to Julia in my email:  

Julia: Love your work. There’s more power in the first person. I want to hear YOU talking to me (concisely) about your experience and feelings. The text below reads more interesting and should help the reader connect with you…
 
The work of the “Old Masters” has always mesmerized me. I spent hours as a little girl at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and later at the Louvre in Paris studying the works of Rembrandt, Chardin and Ingres. Living and working in Western Europe allowed me to observe the beauty, movement of light, and the balance of composition that made these masterpieces so compelling. After moving to the U.S. in 1979, I adjusted to American life as a high school student, connecting with my newly adopted culture through drawing, painting, and attending museums and galleries in my new home, Denver, Colorado. Eventually, I pursued an MBA in marketing and a successful career in marketing management.  At 32, I decided to pursue my dream and become a full-time fine artist. Like the Masters, I believe oil paintings should evoke a feeling of beauty, elegance and the colorful pleasures of life; and my modern sensibility reveals this via color, light and subject matter.  
 
If you missed earlier posts, click here.

Give An Artist A Hug

I was on the road last week visiting with artists and admiring their works in progress. It’s one thing to walk around in a gallery – another thing altogether to sit down with the artist in the studio, see and hear him/her, surrounded by emerging creations.

If you think the economy is bad, visit an artist. Metal artist Lucas Stokes told me on Tuesday in Muscle Shoals, Alabama that art’s the first casualty of a downturn. I can relate. As co-owner of an interior design business, I know first hand how a real estate crash affects artists. All artists. 

But without artists, life’s empty. They feel what our minds can’t touch. They hear the plaintive cries of shapes and colors, and untangle elusive emotions our unsettled hearts can’t fathom without their aid. My mood can change in an instant just looking at one of Josh Moates’ incredible photographs, a Barbara Davis landscape, a Craig Carson sculpture, or one of Melissa Tubbs pen and inks that really “speaks” to my being.

Of course, God is the greatest artist of all. He reminds us with every sunset that hope reigns eternal. Pray for a better economy and give your favorite artist a hug today.

Apathy: This Country’s Worst Enemy

Apathy is this country’s worst enemy and, left unchecked, will eventually destroy us. We are not subjects of the United States Government. The U.S. Government is subject to us—the people! At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Apathy, however, is prepping us for tyranny. Apathy thinks we have tired of freedom. And apathy may be right. Just look how few people vote these days, but never miss an opportunity to whine about the way things are.

Likewise, apathy is also your personal nemesis whether you know it or not. Apathy will sap you of energy and confuse your direction about as fast as the worst disease you can name. The Center for Disease Control ought to add “apathy” as a major killer of Americans—a slow, silent and insidious killer. What is it with us? Has prosperity become our curse? Are we so fat and happy living off the fruited plain, that we’ve lost our verve for life, become the “whatever” generation?

I’ll not have it. I will not allow my body to coach my mind into a state of dull mediocrity and willing passivity! Interesting people who wish to attract freedom and prosperity must be alert and engaged. Here are some tips for defeating apathy in your life:  1. Remove all the mirrors from your home. Instead of looking into mirrors, look out of windows and see what needs are there.  2. Get rid of the TV and read great books—about anything. (We haven’t had TV for two years. It’s wonderful.)  3. Walk a mile every day. It is amazing how a walk opens the eyes, feeds the brain and airs the soul.  4. Find someone to help, if only in some small way.

Illustrations Of Uninteresting People, Con’t: Don’t Be Like Them

Second illustration: Several years after penning The Slash Brokers, I considered returning to school and earning a degree in creative writing. The idea of settling down in some scenic little college town and teaching writing was something that appealed to me then and still does. (The dream is fading fast.) Anyway, I called and obtained a meeting with an English professor at a major Alabama university so I might evaluate their Master of Arts program and make a decision—maybe. She seemed so nice and encouraging on the phone and via e-mail, and I was beginning to get really excited. Finally, the appointed day arrived.

I walked around campus for an hour or so—beautiful campus—and all of my fun university years flooded back to mind, fueling my desire to be student again. I met the professor at her office. She was dressed in all-black skin-tight attire. A number of bracelets adorned her wrists, and she wore what appeared to be fishing lures as earrings, massive goggle-like glasses, and her jet-black hair was sticking straight up as if moments before my debut she had stuck her finger in a 220 volt wall socket. Okay, I thought, I’m here to talk about writing. This is not about dress. Besides, these people are creative geniuses. They can teach me to write like the best! Everything’s cool!  So, I smiled, albeit, somewhat nervously, and took a seat across from her.

Actually, I was quite nervous and I think she instantly sensed that I was completely out of my box. Her first question was, “Well, Jeff, why are you here?” This really threw me a loop. I thought she knew already. My brain went into hyper-freeze as I sat there watching those lures dangling about—I kept seeing a wide-mouth bass leaping from her side of the desk, snapping at the colorful contraptions; and I was sure that any moment she was going to hook an eight-pounder and slump over under its weight. “Wa, wa, well…” I stuttered. But she cut me off. “The first thing we’re going to do is deconstruct your bigoted views about what writing is!” she said, almost angrily. From that statement forward the conversation seemed to stall like one of those stunt planes whose pilot cuts the engine and lets it free fall for a while.

Once out of the clouds, she had me sit in on one of her class discussions where students were asked to critique one of the most bizarre pieces of literary trash I have ever parted the pages of. I do not remember the name of this masterpiece but, suffice to say, it might best be described as plotless and meaningless literary anarchy—rubbish. One or two of the students said as much. I guess things had changed a lot since I had attended college because neither the professor nor any of her students so much as blinked while a certain co-ed dropped the “f-word” repeatedly, one time, I think, directed at me for some remark I had made. Long story short: none of this was about education, learning to write creatively or anything even closely related to literature. It was, in my opinion, a cruel scam, in-your-face hostility toward the common decency that used to exude from every pore of our once beautiful American culture. The English Department, perhaps with the blessings of this renowned university, was, in my opinion, engaging in corruption of young, impressionable minds and defrauding the poor parents who were back home struggling to pay their tuition.

My last e-mail to the professor informed her that I didn’t think there was much to learn from her program. I guess that was my way of engaging her culture. Interesting people do not tolerate fakes of whatever stripe. There is nothing heroic about collaborating with a collapsing culture. It is honorable to engage the culture, but we should not, meanwhile, participate and aid in its demise. Interesting people bring beauty and truth to the world. They don’t play in garbage.

If you missed earlier posts, click here. And if you need a mentor, contact me!

How To Make Yourself More Interesting: Engage The Culture

First illustration of uninteresting people: In 1998, I published a novel entitled The Slash Brokers. It’s about the illegal international trade in human organs, a serious work of fiction based on the modern-day dark-side of human activities—that is, it exposes real and present evil. But it is also a story of love, adventure and survival written from a Christian world viewpoint. Unfortunately, the publisher designed a hellish looking cover with the book’s title dripping down like blood—certainly eye-catching.

I once conducted a book signing outside a bookstore in a large U.S mall. The Friday evening shoppers were quite numerous, dozens strolling by my display every few seconds. I couldn’t help but notice that the people who seemed least interested in my novel, if not repelled by it, were those who had the shiny little crosses hanging from their necks—Christians! They would take one look at the cover, turn their noses up in the air and pass by refusing to make eye contact with me. They literally judged my book by its cover, for which, I could not blame them. However, I do find fault with them for refusing to engage the culture, to engage me!

Their faces spoke of disgust for not only my book but for me—how dare you write another of those slasher novels! You sinful heathen! And all the while, I was thinking: Wait, stop. Let me tell you about my book. You’ll become educated about an evil the Church should be aware of and oppose. But they walked right by. What they should have done was stop, ask questions; and if they thought I was a lost reprobate writer, they should have told me about His saving grace and helped me find the Savior. I guess they were happy to pass me by and let me stay lost! They were either judging me, accusing me; or they were afraid to engage me which, in my view, makes them cowards and fakes. Either way, they should not wear the cross. Jesus engaged even the most wicked people. And by so doing, He turned the world system on its head. Many of His modern-day followers have forgotten this.

If you missed earlier posts, click here. And if you need a mentor, contact me.

Making Yourself More Interesting

People who refuse to engage the culture are boring. They get stuck in the muck of their own importance; and, truth be known, they’re not important at all. They just think they are. They merely simulate prominence by refusing to really get to know others and engage them. Such people are not really interested in a perspective beyond their own. They preach “tolerance” and all the other buzz-words of our PC (politically correct) world; but, meanwhile, they lack the heart and wisdom to truly examine the claims of others and engage them on their own turf. These people are accusers, demagogues, bigots and cowards; and they come in all sizes, shapes and colors. And, oh yeah, they spring from a myriad of political and religious perspectives and from no perspective at all. They are closed-minded, uninteresting, intellectual frauds. Following are three illustrations of these types. Don’t be un-engaging and un-interesting like them. For people to find you interesting you must be willing to reconnoiter (explore) their thinking and expose them to your own. It’s all a matter of listening and learning before judging. If you’re unable to do this, other people will never truly connect with you. I’m certainly not suggesting you compromise your principles. I’m suggesting that, if you wish to share your principles with others, you must engage them. In order to engage them you must be interesting. Part of making yourself interesting to others is communicating with them. Examples to follow.

If you missed earlier posts, just click here.

How To Make Yourself More Interesting…With Aplomb Tip 17

Sometimes, attracting attention may be as simple as being yourself. I have a friend from Sand Mountain, Alabama. People from this region of the state speak with a very distinct accent. Even other Alabamians find their accent a tad bit foreign. It’s neither the drawl of Central Alabama nor the Mobile-region’s characteristic habit of dropping R’s as in “my Muhtha”; but has a bit of mountain “twang” to it. My friend, Jamie, is a beautiful, tall dancer with flowing red curly hair. She’s 100% Sand Mountain! Now, being an aspiring actress, she moved to New York City years ago to pursue her dream. She did not, however, leave her roots. She walked the streets of Manhattan wearing her signature blue-denim overalls, hair glistening in the sun, greeting all lucky enough to catch her eye with a good ole’ typical Sand Mountain, Alabama: “Hi! Y’all have a blessed day.”

Jamie never walked the streets of Manhattan alone. She always had her dog, Bear, with her. Bear’s name was somewhat of a misnomer, however, as he only weighed four pounds and fitted neatly into Jamie’s top front overall pocket. Needless to say, Bear and Jamie, both cute as buttons, attracted attention pleasantly and with aplomb. Bear had quite a personality of his own. He would spontaneously break out in song (dogs can sing, y’all know) at problematic times. Jamie would dance around her apartment with him and sing and he would throw his tiny head back and howl (sing) along. His favorite of all songs was “Jesus Loves Me”; and until Jamie sang that particular song, Bear wouldn’t go to sleep. Once Jamie and Bear were enjoying a meal at a local establishment (remember: it’s New York—dogs are allowed everywhere) when Bear decided he wanted Mama to sing to him. No amount of shushing would deter Bear from howling at the top of his lungs. Finally, an exasperated Jamie just sang out Jesus Loves Me right there in the middle of the restaurant. Only then did Bear settle down and go happily off to sleep.

To know Jamie is to love her. To love her is to remember her. And, because she is uniquely Jamie, she has always attracted people like flies to honey. AND she successfully wrote, directed and starred in a motion picture opposite Peter DeLuise (Dom’s son); and performed off Broadway with Dixie Carter, best known for her role in “Designing Women and Desperate Housewives.” So, don’t be afraid to be yourself.

I might point out, in case it hasn’t already occurred to you: Jamie’s celebrity would have been different merely walking the streets of Sand Mountain. She would have been less interesting to folks who shared her accent, style and outlook. Her success in New York was helped by her novelty there. Can you think of others who have taken the world by storm by just being themselves, using their gifts, and by having desire, faith and effort?

You might say that, in her own delightful way, Jamie engaged the culture. By being her lovely, innocent self, she attracted people and prosperity likes flies to honey. She was unassuming, unpretentious and honest with herself and those she encountered—all
of this by simply being herself. She defied the old maxim: when in Rome do as Romans do. (17) To make yourself more interesting you need to be willing to engage the culture–like Jamie…and, uh, Bear, of course!

If you missed earlier posts, just click here.

Even an obituary is a source of positive feedback but once you’re gone what good does it do you?

Remember earlier I talked about creating positive feedback? Well, it is not enough to merely become an enabler of positive feedback. Even an obituary is a source of positive feedback but once you’re gone what good does it do you? If you wish to attract people and prosperity like flies to honey, you need to be able to drive perceptions in ways that benefit you now! (14) You must harness and direct feedback in ways that further your goals and objectives or, if you really don’t know what your goals and objectives are, then you want to harness and direct feedback at least in ways that lead to bigger and better possibilities for you. (Along the way, goals and objectives will emerge as your experience grows.) But let’s say you know what you want, you’re making progress, and you’re becoming a person of interest. How do you harness and direct perceptions?

The most obvious example is to create and distribute a resume. And, if you’re lucky enough to have someone actually read it and you’re a perfect fit for their organization then, presto, dream fulfilled. Unfortunately, as you may have already figured out the hard way, there are a lot of resumes floating around! How will your great resume be different from the other great resumes? (15) Before you can harness and direct feedback in ways that further your goals and objectives, you must attract attention to yourself. Now, by “attract attention” I do not mean that you go to an interview in some absurd costume or dangle yourself from the top of a skyscraper in front of a CEO’s office. (16) You must attract attention pleasantly and with aplomb. (Aplomb means with ease, composure—be cool about it.) My next post will give a stunning example of tip 16.

If you missed earlier posts, click here.

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