Attached to Misery: Some People are Beyond Help, Others are Before Help

If you look around, you’ll find all kinds of people who could do with a little help.

Or, people who really need help.

But quite a few of them – rather sadly – can’t be helped.

Some folk, they’re beyond help.

No matter how hard you’d try, they wouldn’t see the light, wouldn’t embrace chance, and wouldn’t step up to the plate, and take ownership and responsibility.

That’s not to say that there’s no hope or future for them – I am definitely not a pessimist.

But, it’s a fact that in some cases you’d waste your energy on trying to help someone.

You wouldn’t be able to, not until they come to be ‘before help’.

Meaning, getting themselves ready, bit by bit.

Ready to the point where yes, the time has come to make changes, to improve things, and to discard old and dysfunctional beliefs.

For some, getting there requires suffering through whatever misery they’re in, until they’ve had enough.

Others, they just need to sit through it all, in the least painful way possible – bit of an ostrich-approach, but workable if nothing better is at hand.

The worst thing that can happen though, is when people get attached to their misery.

Because no matter how terrible the situation, once the certainty of knowing how crap things are becomes part of us, the misery itself becomes a comfort

A hideously uncomfortable one, to be sure – but just as compelling and restrictive as more positive comfort zones.

Attached to misery – it’s a terrible state and nobody should live in it.

The good news?

Choice, and you’ve got it.

There’s always something you can choose, no matter how far out of control certain aspects of your life are.

So if you’re not happy with the way things are, you could make a list of all the positive things that you have, and another for all the negative ones.

That second column, it might be long.

But if you look closely at it, you’ll find that there are things you can change or remove.

And that choice is yours.

IF you want it.

And if you’re not attache to misery, and if you really want change?

Then maybe I can help…

Send me an email, tell me what you’d like to change in your life.

Let’s see if it’s within reach.

(Hint: it just might be, and possibly closer than you think).



7 Quick Tips to Help You Get More Sales Out of Social Media

A reader writes in with a question about social media – not sure how to make it work for him, and whether or not it’s the way to go.

So here’s what I replied:


Social media is very useful, but there’s a few things to know:

1: ‘Social’ really does mean social.

You can get sales there, but it’s far more common to build relationships first, which then later turn into sales.

A rule of thumb of ‘10% pitch, 90% being a human being’ is a good place to start.

2: Content curation is a grand way to grow your following.

Share the content others create, by selecting the videos/photos/podcast/books/blogposts that are most likely to appeal to your ideal buyer.

3: is a very useful service for ‘other people’s audience’ coming over to follow you.

Pick a person whose audience is likely to be interested in you and your art, enter their name, set the correct filters (read up a bit before starting, you
don’t want duds or spammers), and start following those followers.

If you do it right, you can get as much as 90% of the people you follow, follow you back.

That’s what happened to me.

Paula Mould, a client of mine, saw her Twitter following double, and her intstagram following triple, in a matter of days.

Manageflitter has a service where they do the following for you (I think it’s $10 for 2000 actions, processed by humans so as not to violate Twitter’s T&C.

Worth the investment, given you can cancel your subscription any time, and it takes all the tedious clicking off your hands).

4: Further reading: Kim Garst at BoomSocial is a very good twitter teacher, might want to get stuck in on what she offers.

I bought a $10 course off her once, and it was worth it.

5: Amy Porterfield is known as the queen of Facebook, so if that’s your poison, do check her out. Good gal.

6: General learning: They have podcast too, very useful because they bring on very interesting guests.

7: ArtMarketingAction podcast by Alyson Stanfield – Full of very useful tips.


The short of it?

Yes, you can definitely make social media work for you, but think people first.

You build an audience and you build a reputation with them, you get liked.

That will get you trusted, and that gives you the KLT sandwich that gets you sales:

People need to Know you, Like you, and Trust you – before they’ll give you money.

I’ll assume that liking you and trusting you aren’t the biggest problem if sales are short.

But knowing you – as in, knowing you’re there and knowing what you do, that’s something you can fix with social media.

How’s it working for you?





Shy… Me???


Could have been my photography-playmate… IF I’d have had the nerve to talk to her

I sighed, and told my coach:

“Watch me eat my own medicine”.

He laughed and said: “Do! I’m having a great time!”

Because, if I tell you the tips and tricks to make your life and business better, I should put them to use for myself too, right?

That girl in the photo…

I saw her on one of my morning walks, and she intrigued me.

Why did she take the time to make a photo of a parked bicycle?

Why did she have such a huge lens, and why did she make the picture from less than 2 meters away?

Was she an artist?

An art student?

All reasonable questions, right?

Especially for someone who is a) on the lookout to meet fun and interesting people and b) a photography enthusiast.

But I walked straight past her.

And then I stopped: “Talk to her Martin, why not?”

So I turned back and headed towards her.

Heart pounding in my chest.

And in the end, I stopped short and turned away.

Chickened out, I did.

No idea why, but when I related the story to my coach, I remembered that a while ago I told you that if you have trouble striking up a conversation, one good way to make it easier is to start asking people very simple, innocent questions.

Just as a way of practice, to get better at it.

But I myself, I couldn’t even bring myself to talking to the woman.

“Hi. Want to show me the photo?”

Or: “Are you a student, or a pro?”

Simple. Innocent. Breaks the ice.

But nope, Martin ran with his tail between his legs.

Well, no more of that.

In fact, the next day I saw Wim and his bike workshop, and I walked up and asked if I could make a few photos.

And, we ended up having a really great conversation, and that’s what business needs.

That being shy thing helps nobody.

Not me, not you, and not the people I end up not having conversations with.

Must say, the medicine tastes good, even if I’ll probably find it more difficult when it’s a woman instead of a man.

Still: I’m all for change, and so I’m working on making change happen for myself.

You could do the same thing.

When someone is looking at your work, ask: “What do you see?”

You never know what happens, once you get into a conversation.

But I can guarantee what happens when you don’t: nothing is what happens.

And I must say: change feels good.

You might want to try some for yourself…



Why Do People Pay High Prices for Quality…?

This ‘meeting inspiring people’ thing is turning out to beWimKolb_Handmade Bikes_Zurich_MartinStellarPhoto a lot of fun.

Two encounters this morning, two people doing something special.

Take Wim Kolb, for instance.

Builds bicycles, by hand – starting with hand-soldered frames (not welded – that would weaken the steel too much).

And my goodness, they are gorgeous!

I don’t need a bike, but after seeing these, I really really want one.

I might even join him for a week-long workshop, and build one myself.

But here’s the thing:

Just like so many artists, I believe Wim sells himself short.

Something so special, built by hand and fully customised, should earn him at least twice as much.

And that’s not greed – it’s common sense.

Bikes like that, they’re like the handmade suits I used to make.

They’re made to measure, fully adjusted to your own physique, and designed with all the bells and whistles on it that you want.

And that’s a high-end, high quality, luxury product.

Clearly not for people who shop for suits in bargain stores, or for people who buy cheap Asia-made throwaway bikes.

People who spend thousands on a suit, or a bike, or a kayak, or a work of art…

Those are affluent people.

They are the people who want the best there is, and price is not an issue.

That kind of buyer, they turn – no, they run – away when something isn’t priced high.

Because affluent buyers – the best kind there is – don’t look for a good deal.

Instead, they look for the best possible quality they can get – and they’re happy to pay for it.

Insist on high prices, in fact.

As the famous marketer-turned-artist Hugh MacLeod once told me over a beer in a London pub:

“Why do some people pay millions for a Ferrari? Because they can”.

So if you create high-end things, then you shouldn’t offer people a good deal.

Instead, you should offer them the best you can make, at a high price, with a (true, of course) story that belongs with the thing that you make.

Now obviously, you do need to find those people.

And don’t believe for a moment that ‘these days, people don’t pay high prices any longer’.

They do, affluent people are more abundant these days than ever before.

Your job as a business owner is to learn who they are, where you can find them, and do whatever you can to show up before them.

And when you do?

Then you too get to sell for prices that your work is worth.

Meaning: high prices.

Because if your quality is high and your heart is in it, it’s what you deserve.




On Being and Artist…

“What I really want, is to be a writer”.

My abbot didn’t look up from his book, and dismissively said:

“Then write. It’s what writers do”.

Frustrated, I left the room.

Silly, to feel that way: After all, the year before, I had written a play for children.

And the year before that, a children’s musical about bullying.

And a bunch of short stories, and poetry…

By all accounts, I had written enough to call myself a budding, or future, writer.

But for some reason, 20 years ago, I didn’t think of myself as a writer.

So if a writer writes, and a painter paints and a cook cooks…

Then what is the point where you get to call yourself an artist?

When someone puts your work in a gallery?

When you sell you first or 50th work of art?

When someone gives you permission?

See, it’s not about the money of it.

Van Gogh was an artist and he never earned a buck for his work.

Me, I like to make photos and I do it a lot – if you’ve seen my Instagram account, you’ll see I’m documenting my trip.

And so yes, I’m an amateur photographer – photography is my hobby.

But I wouldn’t dream of calling myself a pro.

I know I’m not at that level, and I don’t know if I ever will be.

And it doesn’t matter, because it’s simply something I do for fun.

But I do identify as an amateur photographer.

And this, your identity, is something you get to choose.

And you’d better, because if you don’t get clear on how you identify yourself, it’s going to be very difficult to turn your work into a thriving business.

If you consider yourself as just someone who puts paint on canvas, your choices and actions aren’t going to compound into building a business.

If you think you’re someone who just dabbles in putting words in order, you’re not likely to become a professional writer.

So the question is:

What are you?

What’s your identity?

Are you a professional artist?

Remember, earning money for your work isn’t what makes you a pro.

Even if you don’t sell yet, or not enough, you can still be a professional, in terms of how you think, act, and choose.

And as for that permission thing?

You’ve got my permission, in case you need it.

But the real permission to call yourself a pro, or an artist or a writer or a cook…

…is the permission you give yourself.

Now would be a good time.

Btw, if you want to stay updated as I travel Northern Europe, follow me on Instagram:


Change of Plans, and ‘Coach on a Couch’

So this last week, I’ve been slowing down a bit.

As a good son does, my first stop was my mum’s house, and once here I discovered that I was in bad need of some downtime.

Funny, that sometimes you don’t realise it until the pressure is off.

But it makes sense, because the last few months have been busy busy busy.

Driving out to meet people, days with four, six or even eight hours of skype sessions… it’s been a lot.

Today, I was meant to go to Amsterdam, and gear up for meeting Fun&Inspiring people.

But, last night my friend in Zurich told me I can have his house for two weeks, and he’s leaving tomorrow, this coming Saturday.

Which means I need to get a move on, quick smart, so he can show me around the place and give me the key.

So, no Amsterdam for now, but Switzerland instead.

No big deal, because I doubt Amsterdam will go away any time soon.

And you can find inspiring people everywhere you look.

The house I’m in now, for example:

You don’t know this, but my mother is an amazing and inspiring woman – something I’ll be telling you more about when I’m back in a few weeks.

In Zurich, another friend is also doing something amazing:

Building woodn kayaks, by hand, along traditional Greenlandic designs.

And they are beautiful!

So if I get to have a say, we’ll be selling a few of those over the next few weeks.

Or maybe not – he’s possibly even more stubborn than I am, but we’ll see what happens.

So, I’ve reserved a bed on a sleeper train, and at 8AM tomorrow morning, I’ll be smelling sweet Swiss air.

Yes, there will be pics.

And for the next two or three weeks, I’ll be there, and I’ll be the ‘coach on a couch’.

So what’s the lesson today?

I don’t know.

Maybe something about developing the ability to be agile when things change.

Old me would have protested: Already made plans, got things to do, it’ll have to be later.

New me says: Sure, cool, and thank you. See you on Saturday.

Maybe you think this conflicts with my recent statement that without a plan, just following whichever way the wind blows, you can’t predict what will happen.

But that’s the entire purpose of this trip:

To have no plan (other than ‘meet inspiring people’), and allow myself to be guided.

It’s hardly a plan of course, but I think that in this phase of my life, a little of ye olde unpredictability is just what the doctor prescribes.

Meanwhile, if you live in or near Zurich, and you want to meet up, drop me a line.

Especially if you’re up to big and/or beautiful things…



A Lesson, An Exhibition, and a Little Favour (for Artists, not for Me…)

You might think that you don’t have a very large network, or that you’re not connected to the kind of people who can help you get some serious visibility.

But while that may true on a surface level, the belief itself will hold you back.

See, it’s not about who you know.

What matters far more, is who the people YOU know, know.

Maybe there’s ten folk in your circles who like you and your work, and would be happy to support you.

That’s not a huge amount – but each of those ten people will know others, and if visibility matters to you (which it should, if you want to sell your art and
live from it), then you would do well to ask those ten people if they’re willing to lend you a hand.

Like so, for instance:

Some of you might know that I’m a volunteer for the annual SaloArte Exhibition, in my quaint little coastal town.

And as with any event, it really matters that we get as many ‘bums in seats’ as possible.

Which is exactly why the organiser, Helen McCormack, has asked me to help out – what with my experience in marketing and so on.

It’s a great show, and actually it’s a pity that I can’t be there myself this year, but I have people to see, places to go.

Not that it matters – I can still (just the way you can) help get some traction, by using the internet, and the people in my circles.

Which would be, if you’re willing, you.

Would you help out, and spread the word?

The more views we get, the bigger the turnout is likely to be, and that’s good for the town and the artists exhibiting.

All it takes is a few clicks:

Simply click the link, and Like (or, if you really want to help: share) the page.

Helen, myself, and all the artists will be ever so grateful.

This link, a few clicks, and boom: you’ve just helped your fellow artists.

And you bet that feels good.




Behold the Massive Power of Mindset+Action

Some days, everything’s right with my world.

Days when, for example, a reader writes in to tell me they took my ideas, allowed change to happen, and proceeded to take massive and bold action.

And, are getting the results to match.

Jonathan Ziegler, for instance, of WeeGonza:



I wanted to drop you a line to tell you how we are doing with your words and advice: We’re doing great!

Just finished up one of our best shows ever with sales topping all our expectations.

It occurs to me, after talking to many of the artists at our last show, Phoenix Comicon, that many artists simply don’t realize they are running a business.

I know “business” can be a bad word to many artists, but, whether we want to admit it or not, we are running businesses.

A business is defined as, “…the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce.”

That means you make your living by selling something.

If you sell art (whether directly to a collector or indirectly as licensing or royalties), you are in business.

As such, businesses need planning, money, advertising, some sort of product and a means to facilitate sales (ie: cash, credit card, etc.), among many other things.

My wife and I reluctantly agreed we were in business a few years ago.

Our real success came when we realized it and committed to it.

Now we gather up email addresses, following, liking, favoriting, and posting to our blog on a mostly-regular basis with barely a second-thought.

Rather than saying, “I don’t think we should tell people that,” we are saying, “let’s tell them as much as we possibly can.”

The more we chat, the more our loving customers buy from us.

My point in writing this now-lengthy email was this:

We are doing some promotions that serve multiple purposes.

Our latest is one that gathers up email addresses and gives the customer something almost immediately: a contest. It’s easy: we offer a simple giveaway.

Give us your email address, name, and zip/postal code, and be entered into a contest for a $25 gift certificate to our online Etsy store.

No purchase required, don’t have to be present to win, and nearly everyone likes a chance at getting something for nothing.

We really benefit: we get at least 50 signups every time now (last was over 100).

Our physical costs are much lower, though and the winner gets some great art.

Best of all: every time we add to our mailing list, we make more and more sales.

MailChimp really makes it easy, too, and you don’t have to pay until you have over 2000 subscribers and if you have that many subscribers, you should be making at least enough to pay for the small monthly cost.

Lesson Learned: People will gladly subscribe to your list if you give them a small incentive.

You definitely don’t have to give it all away to make money as an artist, but be SMART.

Check with your location to be sure contests and those types of promos are allowed (sometimes, they are not allowed).

There may also be some legal things to keep in mind, but that’s going a bit beyond the scope of this email.

I keep referring other artists to you, by the way.

Many are suffering just like I used to. I tell them you are in the business of eradicating the idea of the “starving artist.” I give them your web address. I hope they are signing up.

Either way: keep fighting the good fight and keep doing what you are doing. Your work is paying off and I hope it makes you happy and wealthy.




Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to print this off, frame it, and hang it in my office.

Not because I’m so proud of having had an influence in all this, but because practically every line in there speaks a very important truth.

And, because it’s a beautiful example of doing everything right, from allowing a new mindset to take hold, all the way to taking action and building a list.

And, yes, selling more art.

And, do note that everything started with the mindset aspect of it all.

Reluctantly at first, Jonathan and his wife accepted that if your plan is to sell art, you’re in business.

A lesson, therefore, we can all take something away from.

So what about you, and your art, and selling it:

Are YOU in business?

Are you taking the action, and walking the talk, that goes with it?



Alright FINE. I’ll Become an Artist, If That’s What it Takes

Speaking with my coach the other day, something became clear.

Said he: “People come to my not just because I’m a coach.

“It’s also because I’m a poet.

“It shows them that they, the creatives of the world, and I have something in common”.

Made me think.

Because while I do consider myself an artist of sorts, I don’t actually make art.

Sure, I like to make photos and post them, but it’s a hobby.

I’m hardly serious about it, it’s just a bit of fun.

And this writing schtick, well that’s creative stuff, but it’s not art, because it’s functional creativity.

And yes, I’ve written poetry, and stories, and a musical and I sing – but none of it is something I actually put any consistent effort into.

So I’ve decided to get serious about art.

And no, I’m not your next mid-life crisis painter.

I know my place.

But I do have one thing I’ve always wanted to get really really good at:

Longhand writing.

There’s something so very beautiful about well-crafted letters.

Absolutely no comparison between a printed letter and a handwritten one.

And my handwriting, well that’s just not very refined.


Because I’m going to learn calligraphy. Osmiroid_Calligraphy__MartinStellarPhoto

Good and proper, like.

Once I’m back in Spain in a few weeks or months, I’ll look up a Japanese calligraphy teacher.

But I’m going to wait for that, which is why yesterday I went and bought some paper, ink, and a calligraphy fountain pen.

It’s probably the only form of visual art I’ll ever develop, because I don’t really have a drawing hand.

But something about the structure, neatness and methodical process of calligraphy really appeals to me.

Gave it a shot in my teens, and I remember liking it.

Might take months before I’ll show stuff to anyone, or years.

But that doesn’t matter because it’s the process that interests me most, not the result.

Pretty exciting actually.

So, artist, if ever you wondered:


I’m one of you.



In Which I Get Into a Fight With John Cleese (Beware the Hot Potato)

To be fair, we didn’t get into an actual fight, but…

Geez Martin, at 43 years old, have you not learned anything?

Isn’t your policy in business ‘no politics, no religion’?

I saw Basil/Cleese/MrSillyWalks tweet something about the Brexit – the referendum that will determine whether or not Britain will stay in the European Union.

And for some reason I felt called (read: dumb enough) to pipe up with a comment.

The venerable comedian replied, and within hours, my inbox was flooded with comments from all kinds of people, chiming in on the discussion.

People in favour, people against, people being petty and people being jerks.

Luckily, I had a few wits laying around, and I quickly withdrew from the discussion, before things escalated.

Could have been worse.

Last year for examle, there was a big do about feminism and gender inequality in science, and boy did that turn into a predicament, once I took a stance and joined the conversation with what I considered a level-headed and peace-making point of view.

Problem is, people who are extremely upset tend to have a very different definition of peace and level-headedness.

So yeah, I could have done without that one, though everything settled in the end.

Cost me a bunch of time and energy though.

Here’s why this matters to you:

There are things that matter to you, things that may or may not be relevant to your business.

That might mean you take a public stance and speak out for things you consider important.

If you do, my respect to you.

Because some stuff needs to be brought into public view.

Some things won’t do and need to change.

But, that doesn’t mean every topic you feel strongly about is a topic you ought to or need to get involved in.

Especially if you run a business, and especially online, where you can find all kinds of crazies and nasties, who somehow feel that relative anonymity is a voucher to say horribly hurtful (or racist, or mysogenic, or violent) things.

If your business, your art and your public persona are about righting wrongs, then by all means go out and speak up.

But, be aware there will be fallout and backlash, that’s just the nature of the internet.

And you’ll end up having to pay the bill.

If however the things that matter to you are of a more personal nature, then it might be better to keep your opinion to yourself and to your personal offline networks.

After all, it takes years to build a reputation and a business.

And it can take minutes – or one single tweet – to bring it all down into a pile of rubble.

Point in case: some high-falluting executive had to fly to Africa on some job thingy, last year.

Just before boarding, she tweeted something to the effect of ‘I hope I don’t get aids’. (A bad joke if ever there was one, and not even remotely funny).

One flight and nine hours later, the whole internet was outraged, and said executive was fired and publicly humiliated.

And to be fair, she could have known better.

In an online world where news travels at the speed of light and any loony with an internet connection can wreak havoc, it behoves you to have some discretion as to what you do and don’t opine about publicly.

For me, it will always be religion and politics: Far too many hot potatoes, better not touch.

For you, it’ll be other things.

But be deliberate, and don’t tweet or Facebook the equivalent of drink driving.

The carnage could end up horrible, and your business really doesn’t need that.

(And no, I hadn’t had a drink when I tweeted at Cleese).

There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion and taking a stance.

But unless it’s your job – your business – to be on the barricades, ask yourself if it’s going to serve your other, higher purpose behind being in business to climb on top of one.

I know what I stand for, and what my barricades are.

I’m your effing Joan of Arc, always ready to break a lance for your right and prerogative to earn a good living at an artist.

For the rest, I’d better keep my opinions to myself when it comes to online.

Which does beg the question:

What is your higher purpose?

Why do you do what you do?

What, in other words…

… Are you for?

Answer that for yourself, and your work and sales will suddenly become a whole lot easier.



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