You’re not going to go any further than your dream. If your dream is too small, that’s going to limit you. You must have a dream. You must have a vision, which means you also must have a goal. Not having a goal is kind of like getting into your car and just driving around aimlessly, until you run out of gas. I’ve now learned to “set the goal beyond the goal.” That means I’m always shooting for the stars and casting a big vision to grow my company.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonald’s franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Miriam Schulman.
Miriam Schulman is an artist, author and founder of The Inspiration Place and The Artists Incubator Coaching Program where she helps artists (from amateurs to professionals) develop their skills, tap into their creativity, and grow thriving art businesses. Her podcast, The Inspiration Place, is on the top 1% of all podcasts globally and is listened to in over 40 countries.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Ever since the fourth grade I wanted to be an artist, but my Jewish mother feared I’d never make any money — and I believed her. Although I studied art history in college, I ended up taking the practical route and pursued a career in finance. However, my high-paying job was a false freedom, and over time I began to resent the golden handcuffs. Eventually, I had a wakeup call after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Life is too short not to live your passion. I abandoned my lucrative hedge fund job on Wall Street to work on my art full-time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Troy Dumnais said, “you don’t get old until you replace your dreams with regrets.” I’ve also seen a similar version of this quote from John Barrymore. I’ve always been passionate about this idea and part of the mission of my podcast, The Inspiration Place, is to inspire my listeners to stay true to their dreams and never give up. If you’re constantly working towards fulfilling that dream, you won’t have regrets later in life.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Obsessive. As an artist, do you know what I hear over and over again? “I wish I had your talent!” Although I’m grateful for the compliment, I truly believe anybody can be an artist. Everyone was born with creativity inside of them. From the very first finger painting, you were an artist. As a toddler, your artwork was never accompanied with mind chatter that you weren’t good enough. You painted because it brought you joy. I’ve created my business and my life by channeling my passion and creativity into a profitable business. The truth is that passion and perseverance trump talent every time. I often hear people say to follow your passion, but to succeed you need to take it to the next level. How obsessed are you so that you don’t give up no matter what?
- Focused. I don’t try to do everything. You can’t do it all, or at least not all at the same time. And the truth is that I don’t do it all, at least not at the same time and certainly not without a lot of help. I have seasons in my business and ebbs and flow in my creativity. I may be more immersed in different aspects of creating artwork, online classes, and content for podcasts. Currently, my creativity is focused on writing a book for HarperCollins. Now that my business is above the six-figure mark, I’m blessed with a team that can support all of my ideas. When I don’t have the time to “do it all,” I know I can outsource tasks to someone who can do it for me (and often can do it better).
- I’m strategic. If you have dreams of profiting from your passion, you need to know this first: while there’s a widespread belief that artists don’t make money, that’s actually not true. Now, you’d be surprised at how many people truly make a living as a full-time artist. Not only is it possible, but it’s actually common and much easier than you might imagine. While there are some artists who struggle and never really gain momentum to sell their art consistently, there are others who are generating consistent five and even six figure incomes from their work. I noticed that the difference between struggling and successful artists is that successful artists plan for profit. I created the Passion to Profit framework since I’ve made it my mission to develop their business skills.You can download my free ebook “The Artist Profit Plan”, schulmanArt.com/profit
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
Almost 20 years ago, I worked for a hedge fund in Greenwich, Connecticut. Each morning I pulled on uncomfortable pantyhose, something that very few women still do today. The pantyhose ripped easily, and got to be quite an expense. It’s a silly thing to remember, but I calculated how much money I would save if I quit my job and didn’t have to pay for pantyhose, dry cleaning or childcare. How much money was I really taking home after all that other nonsense?
On top of everything else, my daughter’s Nanny made snide remarks that “mothers belong with their children.” As soon as sexual harassment, abusive bosses and lack of supportive childcare became unbearable, I quit my job. I had set aside some money but didn’t have a long range plan for the next chapter. When 9/11 happened, I took that as a sign from the universe not to return to the world of panty hose, and my temporary break from finance became permanent. There’s something about crises that lifts a veil on whatever isn’t working in your life.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
Today, when I tell people that I worked in finance, they all say the same thing: “You must have hated that.” They can’t reconcile the hippy-dippy artist they see now with the image of a suited-up banker. However, before I became a full-time artist, I had a whole other life and understood how it feels to be tied to a job. Unfortunately, the more money I made, the harder it was to imagine leaving. I felt safe in the cave with my salaried job and feared the “tigers” outside the cave. However, inside the cave presents as much danger as what lurks outside.I thought avoiding change kept me safe, but I was just as vulnerable inside that cave as I was leaving it. Panty hose jokes aside, working in the chauvinistic world of Wall Street was ridden with sexual harassment and professional abuse.
When I quit the hedge fund, a small part of me thought I might return. This reluctance to leave the ordinary world for a more extraordinary life is a common motif in literature, known as “the hero’s journey.” In every story that follows this pattern, the hero feels a call for adventure and often doubts or resists that call. For example, Harry Potter doubts he is in fact a “real wizard.” This lack of belief in your own identity is better known as impostor syndrome. A variation of impostor syndrome is “Who am I to…” This fear usually goes hand in hand with another fear: “What will they think?” All these unhelpful thoughts are part of the starving artist mentality that can sabotage results. In order to reinvent myself as an artist, I had to develop an abundant mindset and listen to the voices of inspiration rather than the voices of fear.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
If you hope to turn your creativity into a profitable business, you must first develop a level or mastery through a deep understanding of the fundamentals and putting in hours of practice. Although I never went to art school, I’d never call myself a self-taught artist, nor did I skip over the hours required to develop the techniques I use today. You could say that my portrait career started in high school. I filled my notebooks with pen and ink sketches of teachers, caricatures of classmates and hand lettering. After I left college. I continued to incorporate art in my life by taking workshops with renowned watercolor artists Elise Morenon, Mel Stabin and Charles Reid. My earliest attempts at watercolor were awful, but to be good at anything you must be willing to initially fall down a few times.
In addition to mastering my art skills, I also had to learn how to sell and market. When I first started painting, I lacked many of the marketing skills I have now. Since I didn’t want to go back to a corporate job, I started teaching Pilates at a big chain of gyms in the New York metropolitan area. The business model of most gyms relies not only on memberships but also on upselling personal training packages to their clients. As a result, this gym chain spent a lot of time training new recruits in selling fundamentals. I hatched a plan to hook my next sale — but not for the gym. I figured traditional sales techniques could be used to sell anything, including art. I wanted my efforts to fuel my passion for art, not personal training packages.
I had recently painted a portrait of my four-year-old son, Seth, in his Batman costume. The watercolor painting captured his likeness and the bat-eared costume with the sculpted muscles added a bit of whimsy. The painting had even won a ribbon at a local juried show, but ribbons don’t sell art, people do. Seth loved the painting so much that he proudly showed it off to all his friends when they came over for playdates. My son “sold” the idea of getting your portrait painted to his friends. The kids were impressed by Seth’s celebrity status captured in a painting.
Strategically, I moved the framed painting into our foyer so his friends’ parents would see the portrait when they came to pick up their kids. With the portrait in full view of both the kids and the parents, his friends asked their parents if Seth’s mom could paint them. This sly bit of influencer marketing led to commissions painting my son’s friends, and then more people saw those portraits and asked me for commissions, which led to a full-time portrait painting business!
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
While my second chapter isn’t necessarily new (I’ve been in business close to 20 years), I’ve been very blessed. I’ve built Schulman Art into a multi-six figure business, and I run The Artists Incubator Coaching Program, where I help artists (from amateurs to professionals) develop their skills, tap into their creativity, and grow thriving art businesses. My podcast, The Inspiration Place, has been downloaded over 300,000 times, is on the top 1% of all podcasts globally and is listened to in over 40 countries.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I was selling my art online, other artists started reaching out to me to ask if I could teach my painting techniques to them online. Back in 2012, I had never heard of online learning, but I was intrigued and wanted to figure out how to do it.
In the beginning, I struggled to understand how to market online art classes but was determined to make it happen. I saw other artists selling classes and they made it look so easy. I naively thought all I had to do was make a few social media posts; however, all I got from those first attempts were crickets. That’s when I signed up for a course on how to market online with Amy Porterfield. Understanding the importance of building an email list to market changed everything. Not only was I able to fill my online classes, but email marketing became the lifeblood of selling everything that I do.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Set directors are always on the hunt for artwork to decorate their scenes. My artwork had been chosen for shows like NBC’s Parenthood with Lauren Graham and the Amazon series The Hunters with Al Pacino. It’s super fun to see your art on television.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
When I first started the podcasts, I looked around at what was popular and thought I had to imitate that. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and modeling others’ success is a good way to try things out and see how they feel. No one launches their first podcast, writes their first song, or makes their first painting with an immediate, original point of view. And sure, it’s a lot of fun to copy; that’s why those paint-and-sip parties are popular. However, if you want to develop a fresh perspective and marketable style, you need to focus on learning different techniques and strategies, mixing and matching them to create something uniquely yours. You may need to be a bit derivative for a while as you gain mastery.
When you’re experimenting, not everything you try will work which is why you’ll need to maintain a bit of vulnerability while you engage with this process. I want to be weird in my dress and with art and business. When I create, I want to go to a place that is weird, embrace the inner weirdo, and trust my intuition. Eccentricities make art better, more memorable, and ultimately, more marketable.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
When I started out, I realized I was going to need extra hands to build my business. I had young children at the time, so I hired a “business babysitter.” Instead of paying a babysitter to watch my kids, I paid a high school or college student the going rates of babysitters to attend to my business. This small investment can really give you a lot of freedom. Your time and energy are limited. You might be willing to put in more hours, but your energy is limited. If you want to grow, hire help. There are so many things in your business that don’t need to be done by you.
One of my “business babysitters” became a full time employee with health care and I can’t imagine running my business without her dedication, and work ethic.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I was standing outside at a New Mexico dude ranch as the sun started to sink towards the red and green landscape. My palms were sweaty and my heart was racing. (I was also feeling slightly nauseous.) I had arrived in New Mexico a few days earlier with a suitcase full of art supplies for a painting retreat and I also added on an optional tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home at Ghost Ranch via horseback.
Now you have to realize something. I’ve lived in New York for the last thirty years and the last time I rode a horse was at Girl Scout camp when the horse bit me and I discovered I was allergic to hay (sidenote, that was not a fun summer.) When the good-looking cowboy called my name and told me to climb the platform, no part of me felt ready. Don’t you need lessons for this sort of thing? And why the heck did we need to climb up to get to this horse… What happened to the smaller ponies? I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t feel ready. But here’s the truth: You’ll never ‘feel ready’ or ‘be ready’ if you listen to those voices of doubt. Since O’Keeffe’s ranch is only accessible via horseback, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When I finally mounted that horse, I took a deep breath and made a decision that I was going to go through with the ride anyway — even though absolutely no part of me felt ready. And as you might imagine, it was the best part of my whole week in New Mexico.
My decision to take this leap of faith meant that I got to see the hills and the juniper that O’Keeffe once painted (and feel the energy of her spirit along the way). As a result, I came home with new ideas, inspiration and, most importantly, confidence. This is a habit that has served me well on this road to becoming a full-time artist and entrepreneur — to start before I feel ready. If I had always waited until I felt ready, I never would have quit my Wall Street job, started a podcast, created online art classes, or even written this book. You’ll never feel ready or be ready if you listen to those voices of doubt.This isn’t about getting rid of the fear but about acting even when you feel afraid.
Every successful artist starts before they feel ready, too. They show up to their studio even when they feel uninspired. They send that marketing email even when they don’t feel motivated. The inspiration comes from creating the art. The motivation comes from doing the work. The confidence comes from riding the wild horse even when your brain tells you it’s a bad idea. The reason you don’t “feel ready” is because readiness isn’t a feeling. You’re feeling scared, unmotivated or uninspired, but your brain is presenting you with the story that you’re “just not ready yet.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- You’re not going to go any further than your dream. If your dream is too small, that’s going to limit you. You must have a dream. You must have a vision, which means you also must have a goal. Not having a goal is kind of like getting into your car and just driving around aimlessly, until you run out of gas. I’ve now learned to “set the goal beyond the goal.” That means I’m always shooting for the stars and casting a big vision to grow my company.
- If your dream doesn’t require other people, then your dream is too small. The more help I get, the further I go. When I first started it was all me all the time and that limited me. But even when I started to get help, I thought I needed to know how to do all the things. I thought I had to learn something in order to teach it to my assistant. But over time I’ve learned that isn’t even true. Instead of investing my time in learning the thing and then investing time teaching, I either hire out people who already know how to do the thing or I pay to have my team members trained directly.
- Relationships are your greatest currency. Getting help is super important, but just as important are connecting with other people and building a network. Connections are important not just for finding clients but also to increase your opportunities for more exposure for your business, and keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s relevant.
- There will never be a “right time.” Just like investing, it’s always better to get in on investment early and there’s no better investment than yourself. I’m glad I left the “safety” of the hedge fund paycheck to start my career as a portrait artist before it was a perfect time. I’m glad I started my podcast and launched my first online course before I felt ready. I also had HUGE imposter syndrome around my book. I hate to admit it now, but there were a few times I considered writing to my agent to let her know she made a mistake and I won’t be writing a book after all. I was wrong. We got a HUGE contact from a top tier publisher. Can you imagine if I had sent that email?
- Building a business takes courage. They believe it takes money to make money and although this is true, building a business is more about your courage than anything else. Everything I’ve mentioned takes courage whether that’s dreaming big, hiring help, reaching out to new people, or taking risks. Courage doesn’t mean that you aren’t afraid — in fact courage usually implies that there is fear — but you are doing it ANYWAY. Even though it makes you feel uncomfortable, talk about discomfort.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’d love to encourage people just starting out to think like an artist. I remember when I first started selling my art, feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by the band of “bro-marketers’” dishing out the hustle culture that didn’t speak to the realities of my world. I wish I had a guide at the time to hold my hand to show me what works and what doesn’t and most importantly teach me to chip away at prevalent and damaging stories affecting women artists: the myth of the starving artist, the cult of the male genius, and the lie that women must choose between success and motherhood. I want to inspire people to think like a successful artist, and dismantle the self-sabotaging beliefs that hinder profitable momentum.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
During Memorial Day weekend following Floyd’s murder, I came across an Instagram video by business coach and author Rachel Rodgers criticzing a well known influencer with the caption,“the good white liberal response.” Rodgers appears without makeup or pretense before her phone in an unscripted, raw emotional rant. Her heartfelt video made an impression on me in all the ways I wasn’t recognizing my own “white privilege.”
Art is about taking risks. True artists take risks in all areas of their lives. They live their art and embody it on all levels to remain true to their beliefs and core values without looking over their shoulder about what others think. Nor do they make statements to be performative. Rodgers’ video was more than a critique of any leader when she said, “If it doesn’t cost you anything, it’s not enough.”
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!