Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Illusion of Security

In 1992 I was at a crossroads. Try to find a full time job illustrating /graphic designer or take the road of uncertainty and dive into a freelance illustration career. I gambled. To this day I don't really know how I did it. I was married with one kid and they were depending on me to earn a living. My wife had to have been scared but was supportive. My parents I'm sure thought I was nuts - but were also encouraging. My friends said little. I think everyone expected it to last a little while but that eventually I would have to suck it up and get a real job.

Why do we make decisions that go against our passions? Why did I feel like I was taking the risky road? Why do people think that doing what they're naturally good at is a risk? Maybe taking the road well traveled is the risky road...I would submit that we're often motivated by FEAR.

We all crave security. We think we want to know what will happen tomorrow. We hate not knowing where we're going.  We imagine horrible things that rarely come true. We want to know what we're going to be. What we're going to do. How and where we'll live. How we'll pay for things. etc. These aren't bad things to want but they do feed our often irrational fears. Personally I don't know anyone who is homeless. I know people who have had to live with relatives - I lived with both my parents and in-laws in the early part of my marriage. My point is that no matter how bad it gets it's still not as bad as what we imagine.

There is no such thing as security.

The person who has a nice house is worrying about their drug addicted child.
The person who has a nice job just found out that his spouse has cancer.
The person who just got a promotion hates her job.
The person who is fully prepared for retirement just learned that her husband has been cheating.
The person who has the nice car, house, vacations feels empty and perhaps suicidal.
The person who has done everything "right" just got layed off because of the economy.
The person who followed the advice of parents, teachers, and councelors owes more money in student loans than his/her job will ever afford.

I have a lot LESS fear than ever before. I don't chase security. I try to make decisions based on my ability to achieve the goal - not because it's what others think I should do or what I think will make the most money. This has lead to some AWESOME FAILURES! Like my Kickstarter a few months ago. I won't pretend that that one didn't sting. I felt like I got the Sh#% kicked out of me by kickstarter - but it was totally worth it because it armed me.

While those who did it the "right" way might worry about getting a pink slip I find it ironic that by doing it the "wrong" way I have a little less stress about that part of my life. My income comes from many places now and if one falls off - big deal. I earn income from:

freelance illustration
video tutorials
original sales
stock illustration
school visits
youtube partner

Some of these don't pay very much but it all adds up. Earning income from many different places was never written down as a goal or plotted out -it just sort of happened from working each day on that which I love - creating art. The piece above was one of those pieces that painted itself. I was watching the clock while working on it - wondering how hours were melting away as I tried to finish it before I had to run off to class.


  1. I just read this out loud to Will. Thanks for writing this post, it was just what we needed to hear. I feel like your wife. Scared but supportive. I am trying my hardest to be more supportive than scared.

  2. Wow, you said a mouthful in this blog article. Security, right on just an illusion we all live within. So once you realize that what does one do with there life. Good question. It's a short one so make the best of it because it could end at any moment. I don't want to sound bleak but it is what it is.
    My illusion is illustration because of the truth within this career choice.
    It has it's ups and downs but that is what the truth is and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am truer to myself and hopefully this is projected to the people that I meet.

  3. Nothing less than inspired Will. I am in the thralls of finding my own path and you have verbally illustrated the problem perfectly. You always were a good teacher.

  4. Helen Keller said it best: "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."

    Once we free ourselves from the illusion of the "safe" path, life is a lot more interesting. No one is absolutely safe from anything, ever. It's a total myth. Security is a lie we tell ourselves to calm our primal lizard brain--to keep us from doing something we think is stupid that might harm us.

    I've been a graphic designer for 18+ years and have worked for 11 companies. I've only left a job by choice 2 times. Two of the companies folded within 6 months, the rest were layoffs. I have never felt safe in a job.

    So I am always proactively taking measures so that the inevitable next shake up transitions more smoothly.

  5. Thanks Will for this inspiring post, I myself is a start up freelance graphic designer and I am currently feeling now what you just mentioned in your blog..some thought you are nuts going from a 9 to 5 job to an uncertain oblivion according them, this is so encouraging. Congratulations on your journey as a successful graphic designer/illustrator! Looking up to you.

  6. So... you don't get paid to teach?
    I'm just being snarky

  7. I can always count on your honest views of being a creative in the world today to make me feel better. Fear is certainly a motivator... and I think friends/family still have a certain perception of being a working artist - but it all comes down to drive and what makes you happy at the end of the day.
    But yes, I too where many hats and find that keeps me stimulated, creatively challenged and with a decent flow of work.
    Appreciate the motivation and LOVE your creation. The blue tongue is a great touch.

  8. I love your list of all your different streams of income. Mine looks much the same, but with a few differences. That is the great thing about diversifying, if one falls out, you have the others already in place.

  9. ooooooh, love him and the post He looks so "jelly-like"...

    ...awesome :D

  10. I appreciate all of your comments and kind words - I think when all of us are old enough to look back on our lives we'll be much more satisfied if we know we gave it our best...not just at our craft but in how we help each other along.

  11. Today's is Thanksgiving here in Canada, and among *many* things, I am also thankful for this post. I was always taught to take the safe road. It garnered me alot of knowlege, which I appreciate. Now I am ready for what I was truly meant to do. I am ready.

  12. Well said Will. I think if everyone did what they were driven or maybe even purposed to do, all the little nooks and cranies in the working world would be filled by happy people with purpose, passion and fulfilment!

  13. Thanks for this post Will. Just what the Dr. ordered today so had to share it on FB. You are so inspiring, not just your drawings and Folio academy but, your entire outlook. Thanks.

  14. I know this is an old post, but I bookmarked it and come back to read it when I feel like hanging it all up. I took the safe path years ago, right out of design school. It was a mistake. But I walked away from all that 2 1/2 years ago. Things aren't always easy, but I can't imagine doing it any other way. I went to art school to be an illustrator. So here I am, making a go of this thing.


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