(TLDR at the bottom)
For this post, I thought it might be a good idea to mix things up and do a quick storytime. This is a brief story of the time I got an opportunity that may have changed my life – and completely sabotaged it.
So first of all let's jump back six years to 2016. I’m doing my usual MCM Comic Con stand - selling my comics and artwork, building relationships with readers etc etc., and then I notice a familiar-looking man come up to my table and start flicking through my comics. He looks up and goes “These are good!” I immediately recognised him as a prominent musician (no I’m not going to identify him). We had a chat, he bought some books and he said that he was working on some projects and would be in contact soon. I am of course excited, but it’s not unusual for people to say they want to commission me and then never get in contact.
So then life continued.
I had also just fully qualified as a teacher and was starting my first full-time teaching job, so I was busy getting on with that until out of the blue I get a message from this musician saying that he would like to arrange a meeting to talk about a project. So, I visit him in his studio and I’m super excited; after all this could lead to more jobs in the industry and would be great for my credentials. And my excitement was warranted - when I arrived he did in fact need some artwork, and told me what he wanted.
He asked me if I would be able to do it – I said yes. He asked me how long it would take. I did some quick calculations in my head and said the timescale.
Immediately I knew that I had just destroyed the deal.
He smiled, thanked me, and said he would be in touch. I don’t think we spoke more than once after that, but I did see the artwork he had requested completed by someone else shortly after.
At first, I was shattered when I saw it – that could have been me and maybe I would have done it better! All I had to do was say I can get it done in a much shorter time period and it would have been mine – I had sabotaged myself!
And then I did some more calculations in my head.
The job had been completed in a fraction of the time it would have taken me. I was right to sabotage myself. You see in my original calculations I had taken into account the fact that I was in my first year as a teacher, and I was fully aware of how challenging the year was going to be. So, I had given a timescale that wouldn’t have negatively affected either the commission or my first teaching year. And of course, a timescale that wouldn’t have wrecked my health (we’ll talk about health and art another time).
And then I breathed easy.
Whenever I recount this story to people, they tend to shake their heads and say “You should have just said whatever he wanted to hear”. I always laugh at this response though. Although I do sometimes wonder what would have happened had I taken the job, I do not regret my choice and never will. In fact, I supported both the musician and the artist by buying the product afterwards.
This is entire experience was important and drove home an important lesson to me:
Knowing what you want and understanding the various and least risky ways to get there is incredibly important.
Taking on too much would put far too much at risk, so I gave the most sensible answer. Better to do one thing super well than fail at multiple and of course better to care for your mental and physical health so that your career has longevity.
And the outcome? Well, even though I lost out on the opportunity, I was able to flourish in my teaching and continue making artwork!
So let this be a reminder - especially to you young students – not every opportunity should be taken, and not every loss is a loss.
Watch the abbreviated version of this story below: