Small Bites

Is the reason you’re not achieving your goal that you’re trying to eat the whole pie at once? Cut the damn thing up. One bite at a time. Every large goal is comprised of many smaller goals. Pick the first one you feel most confident in yourself to accomplish and knock that damn thing out! The next bite will be waiting… take it. Repeat. Eventually, you’ve finished the whole thing and might just find yourself capable of taking on something bigger next time.

Work Ethic Thoughts #1

Why “#1”? Because I’ll probably go off about this again at some point. And again. And again. And again.  So, here goes the first time, officially….

Something which royally gets under my skin is how often, in the course of business, it seems that I am working while others are not. I”m not talking about people not pulling their weight per se, as most people I’ve ever known do, very much, what they are expected to do during their duly appointed hours. No,  I’m literally speaking of hours of the day when I’m going at it and would find it massively useful if others, business contacts, clients, partners, etc, were actually available.

I get it. Most of them don’t keep the kind of insane hours I do. Most clock in and clock out and when they’re done, they’re done until the next day. This is usually because most of them do not work for themselves, but rather have  an employer with set hours and set pay. They do their time and then it’s done. Voila. Off to whatever the rest of their time holds.

But the thing is, to me, if you want to achieve something great, then it takes great effort. It takes going not just above and beyond, but so far above and beyond as to leave your competition growing very tiny in the rear view mirror.

Folks in business for themselves, particularly my fellow artists, will likely understand exactly what I mean.

Let’s say you’re working on a story and you have a publisher and editor. A point comes where you’ve hammered away at it and really could use some input from that editor, yet it’s past their business hours. But you know that if you keep pushing on, you may well be wasting time with something that you really needed to bounce off them at that crucial moment. What to do? Take the chance while everything is flowing and hope for the best? Stop and wait, hoping that when you get that feedback the tide rolls in again? It seems to me that if you are in the business of working with us “creatives”, there ought to be at least an understanding there that for those of us truly serious about our craft, the work day never ends, and if you are our liaison, our editor, our manager, or whatever, then that probably means that yours shouldn’t end either, even though it likely does. Maybe that’s harsh, but every time I’ve managed to have those sorts of folks involved with me who understand that and work toward the maximum availability, the results are light years ahead of the alternative. If you work with artists, then it’s your job, by my reckoning, to take every advantage of the best ways in which they work to help pull the best product out of them, and if that means being “on call”, well… suck it up and be on call, because if you work with us, especially those of us who pour ourselves into it constantly, you will get great things. If you don’t, if you try to pack into a regular day everything we can throw at you in the dead of night, then by the time you catch up with us, we’ll be so far ahead of you that you’ll wonder what is even going on. You will be frustrated by it, and frankly, so will we.

What’s more, when the relationship between management and artist finds itself bottlenecking like this, frustrations build up on both ends. Management can’t keep up with the artistic flood. The artist feels stifled because management is probably somewhere days or projects back, with communications forcing you to shift gears from whatever your current project is back to something which, to you, was already over. As an artist, I’ve learned to try and keep this dynamic in mind and be as patient with it as possible, but that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly frustrating.

Some would call the crazed hours I keep erratic, obsessive or even this term I utterly detest, “workaholic”. But in my view, greatness and achievement are good things to be obsessed with, and pouring every available moment you have into those pursuits is what separates the nobodies from the likes of Jack Kirby, Frank Miller or Todd McFarlane in comics, or Frazetta, Ploog, Boris and Royo in painting. It’s what separates the virtuoso musicians from the garage noise wannabes. It’s what gives sports men like Michael Jordan and Hank Aaron. These are the guys who get up early, work like mad, stay late, and even in their “down time” are practicing, training, studying, expanding everything they can about what they do. These are the people who don’t just climb mountains; they go so far that they seek out entirely new mountains that no one else even knew existed, then climb them and break new ground for the rest of us to marvel at. In comics, I’ve heard it often said that, “we all live in the house Jack built”. There’s a reason for that. Work ethic. An insatiable desire to be the best, to create constantly, to never let up, to get the job done more than anyone else ever dared try.

Greatness doesn’t start and stop with the punching of a clock, and if it has a schedule, that’s only a tool for organizing itself to better work toward some goal. Greatness doesn’t give up. It doesn’t take a break. Greatness is always on, always working, studying, honing itself to be the best it possibly can be. The pursuit of greatness knows no hours, no limits. It never says “can’t”, but follows “can” with “how”, seeks out what it needs to know to formulate a plan, sets that plan in action and follows through. It is discipline, effort, drive and passion.

If you work with folks for whom this is their pursuit, be forewarned. We’re an abrasive lot, aggravating and demanding. But if you bare with us, together, amazing things will happen.

New Year’s Resolutions, Desk Jockeys, And Getting Your Butt In Gear

Something I changed going on two years ago was the decision to get back to a decent, healthy weight and make myself fit again. The holiday season is THE hardest time to keep with that promise to myself: gatherings, family functions, and all of them with tons and tons of great, tasty, insanely fattening food.  It’s tough. I get it. I really, really do.

Here’s the deal, though: if you’re like me, and you spend astronomical amounts of time sitting at a desk or drawing board, like most professional artists I know, and you are dedicated to that work, to that art, to that pursuit and live it round the clock, sometimes just getting yourself away from the damn thing can be like moving a mountain, double entendre intended.

Thing is, though, you need it. You need to move. I KNOW I need to move, to get my carcass up from the work and the desk for a while and actually go engage those lizard brain, physical functions, put the machine in motion and burn off some of that art-fat we can so easily put on. In my two years now of fighting against that, I’ve had a pretty good success, having dropped between 100 – 115lbs, putting myself back down in the mid 200’s for the first time in at least 10 years. What I want to share with you now is what I found about my work along the way…

See, in order to drop all that weight, I had to change things. Big time. I had to start watching my calories like a hawk, which I openly admit that I have slipped up on from time to time, especially around holidays. I also had to get honest with myself about my weight, and most importantly, had to absolutely, without fail, get disciplined about engaging in some form of exercise as close to every day as my schedule would allow. Getting serious about this meant that I purposefully set aside the time. My choice of exercise was going back into martial arts, something I have loved dearly for a very long time, and I’m sure you’ll see me write about from time to time as this goofy blog unfolds.

So, I set aside that time, at least an hour but allowing for as much as two, 4-5 days a week. It was not easy. But I stuck to it. After a while, I started to notice that I didn’t drift off at my desk. In fact, I don’t think I had realized how often I had been drifting off before. I found myself starting to feel more alert, could literally feel my brain ticking along faster and more on point with both artistic intuitions and ideas, as well as on business decisions and problem solving. It was as if my brain really did need the release that came from the exercise, that time each day to shut down thinking about all the work and go into this other state, where it’s engaging something wholly different. As I did this, I also started notice pain that I hadn’t even realized I had developed, leaving. It hadn’t dawned on me how awful my lower back and legs had come to feel until I started doing things that engaged them, worked them, put them to use and got the blood really pumping. Over time, I noticed my posture was improving at my desk. My lower back actually had been hurting for a long time but when these things creep in gradually, you just accept them and maybe don’t think about them, until something starts to roll it back. Sometimes you don’t realize how bad you felt until you start doing something that makes you feel good again.

Getting active did just that, and that is exactly my point, my message to others, who like me, have been “chained to a desk” for years on end.

If you resolve anything for yourself this year, make be to get up. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes of stretching a couple times a day. Do SOMETHING. Get up. Move. Go for a walk. Join a gym and ACTUALLY use it. Go into a martial art. Take up yoga. Who cares what it is, but get physical and put it on a schedule. Your brain will function better. Your art will improve. Your health will improve. Your state of mind will improve.

On top of all that, for me, the choice of going back into martial arts meant there would be a forced schedule because of class times. At first, honestly, I found this irritating. I thought being “free” with my time was a perk of being self employed. Now, a couple years back into training, I am so thankful for when class time comes. It’s a time when I can STOP WORKING. But with that, it also means I have to schedule to TO BE WORKING so that  it all can work out. Amazingly, this forced me to find an actual schedule for myself through the week, and even more to surprise, this single aspect of the change in my lifestyle from sedentary to active create a new kind of structure that actually enhanced and promoted my own productivity in ways I never imagined it would. It’s funny how sometimes when you do something you know you should, you can end up finding collateral benefits out of it as well. Good investments pay off in a multitude of ways, it would seem.

So why share this? Why tell you all this? Because I know a LOT of you personally. I know you sit still a LOT, just like I used to. I also know you feel like crap. But you can change it. You can make a massive difference for yourself.

As I write this, it has rolled over from Friday into the first Saturday of 2018. It’s a time when people everywhere make their resolutions. I will do this. I won’t do that. Better me this year, yadda, yadda, ad nauseum. I get it. We all want to change something.  Tomorrow, I have a martial arts training event that I’m excited about on many levels, but as I close out my day, what strikes me is that it is a culmination, or at least a mile marker, on a journey that started many years ago, was paused by “life” happening, but that I resolved to go back to, two years ago. That resolution has been one of the best decisions of my life. People cynically act as though your New Year’s Resolutions are always going to be broken, that they’re almost a joke, really. That’s easy. That’s a way to let yourself out of those commitments you make to yourself for things you know you should be doing but might be hard. Keeping those commitments IS hard. Succeeding at anything takes work. But resolve is a good thing. I encourage you, whoever you are reading this, to find yours. Resolve to fix something, even if it’s small. Even if it’s just to take a walk two or three times a week, just so maybe you’ll feel better or clear your head in some way. But make those resolutions. Do them. Keep them. Be good to yourself by being disciplined in the good things you know you should do. Make it a better year by making yourself better along the way.

You’ve got this.

-Les

3D Environment & Scene Artists

Fellow 3D content creators, specifically scene/environment makers: Sixus1 has a TON of wicked new creatures, outfits and characters lining up for 2018, and would like to feature YOUR environments in the promo images for them! If you would be interested in having your scene kits highlighted, get in touch with me via private message through our Facebook page HERE!
 
Benefits: Your work will be promoted and highlighted in conjunction with our ever growing catalog of consistently top selling products, with credit given in the spaces allowed in the various stores where we sell, as well as credit given (including product links) in our own social media promotion efforts, as well as being highlighted and mentioned on Sixus1.com when promo art is posted.

Who Dares, Wins

It takes a certain kind of person to be in business for yourself. If you are one of us, never apologize for it. Embrace it. It’s a good thing.
 
People think working for yourself is getting up whenever, stay up till whenever, wear pajamas all the time and chill without a boss telling you what to do.
 
The reality is getting up early, put your big boy pants on, get as much as possible done in every waking hour, ignore the fear of failure, focus, understand that things must be prioritized and that in place of a “boss, you have those priorities that must be met or, instead of getting fired, you simply fail and things fall apart. Oh, and do all that under your own steam. Your own motivation. Without someone else telling you to.

So the next time you look to that friend who works from home, or maybe owns a small business, thinking man, that rocks, or worse, maybe I can call on them for X,Y or Z anytime because, y’know, they’re free and stuff, well… think again. Odds are the anxiety they cope with is more than you realize. Odds are they often lay awake at night contemplating the next move of their business, the next set of goals that need to be knocked out to push the ball further down field, or even just the set of responsibilities they know they have waiting the next day that will absolutely not fall to anyone else. Odds are they do what they do because of a passion, but they understand that in order to make that passion real, they have to allow it to become actual, factual work.

For many, the transformation of a thing they enjoy into “work” sounds like hell. For us, that thing we enjoy means enough that we dedicate ourselves to building something which allows us to further that thing, to bring that thing to other people, to evolve it, perpetuate it, grow it like a child. That is why it has to become work. Anything short of that is just a hobby. Understanding the difference is a good thing. To make that thing you love into your vocation, your business, means to convert it from the realm of “play” into the realm of “work”. It’s a maturation of a passion into a lifestyle that turns a pass-time into a self-perpetuating, self-sustaining endeavor. The gulf between those things, between “play” and “work” is not to be ignored or taken lightly. It also, however, should not be feared, and when you see someone who has done or is attempting it, respect it. They are trying something.  They’re abandoning the easy road of short term, quick gratification for the long game, the hard game, and the satisfaction that comes from grinding longer and harder than most will ever dare.

So, to my fellow artists, animators, writers, entrepreneurs, inventors, code slingers and business owners, I offer my most genuine respect and admiration.

Even if you fail, you’ve won, because you dared.  

Why a blog, finally?

Why a blog? Simple. I have a tendency to get into some great conversations on social media, but more than just that, those have often spawned responses from me that are far longer and more in depth than a tweet or post really merits. But this is how my brain operates. I pick things apart, break them down and like to think. Writing helps coalesce that thinking into something tangible. Literally, I like how writing is the act of forming something ethereal, i.e. thoughts and feelings, into something tangibly observable that can be shared. Writing solidifies concepts. It makes them real and manageable.

After putting it off for literally years and years, I’ve decided to start collecting those longer thoughts and responses. This could get ugly, I won’t lie. Sometimes the things I think, say and yes, even believe can be pretty far from what it popular or even generally accepted in one place or another. I’m ok with that. Writing like this gives a voice to those things that require a “voice” rather than imagery or sound, and I’ve come to realize this is something that could be good for me. It might be good for someone else, too. If so, excellent! If not, well… it’s still good for me, and that’s enough.

This is what this section of Sixus1.com is about. Sixus1 has been my world for a very, very long time, so it seems only appropriate that it also be home to this other sort of “content” that I create so frequently, yet collect so rarely.

Buckle up, though. This is where the craziness of my thoughts may well end up on a regular basis, and that, dear friends, is a very bumpy ride.

-Les L. Garner
Thursday, January 4, 2018