You know, everybody wants a clear, focused, no drama kind of life, but very few people know how to actually get that done. In this article, I’m going to share with you a “lost art” that has supercharged the focus in my life, something I like to call the Art of Subtraction.
Having been an artist and a business owner for over 25 years, I have participated in and learned from one of the biggest misconceptions that keeps creatives from genuinely thriving in every area of life. That misconception, or lie, is the idea that if a few great things in life are beneficial, then adding a whole bunch more to your plate must be the way to grow and succeed in life and art. If this mindset sounds way too familiar, then let me dismantle this falsehood and give you some insights on how to move forward.
As I was starting this thriving journey, I really wanted to have a clear, focused life. I wanted to avoid the drama-filled life and live a life that was pleasing to the Lord. Not knowing how to do this on my own, I dug in and started to read good books, take good classes, and seek out good ideas to help me grow in business and in life. And it WAS all good, and I was learning and growing, but before you know it, all this stuff started to pile up in my life. You see, my life became full of what I would say was GOOD stuff, but it really wasn’t full of the BEST stuff.
I find that this happens a lot in the lives of people who are experiencing success in their life. Maybe you have been on the road to thriving for a while now. Perhaps you are starting to experience some success in your life as an artist, and you just think, “WOW! That works.” So you head off, and you do more of that. That course works, so you add three more. That show works, so you do one every month. You keep adding and adding and adding. Before long, though, what happens is you end up with a bunch of GOOD stuff, but not the BEST stuff in life.
Know What You Are Called to Do in This Season of Life
For me, it began back in Atlanta on the floor, crying out to God after I felt like I hit bottom in my professional life. It was from that time of being real and honest with God that He pointed me towards my life’s calling. If you know a bit of my story from then until now, the Lord has had me on a wild journey. From pulling up our roots in Georgia and settling in Asheville, to launching a world-wide Artist Mentoring Program.
But several times during this journey, I’ve had to pull over in order to take stock of where I am in the journey towards fulfilling God’s plan for my life, my family, my art, and my business. I had to go back to that place of being real with God and ask Him to show me where I was on the “map” at that time. His answers always provided me with the context I needed to do what had to be done next.
Evaluate and Eliminate
I’ve actually been in this process for the last few years in my life and in my business. It’s a process of determining what the BEST things God has for me are, and what are just simply GOOD things. I’ve learned to evaluate each opportunity and open door by how it will potentially impede or expedite the things I’m called to do in this current season of life.
The really crazy thing is that yesterday’s best often ends up being today’s good. Things that were life-giving and fruit-bearing in previous seasons of life are now just GOOD things keeping me from the BEST that God has for me today.
Recently for me, yesterday’s best was teaching basketry classes. I did this for years, and it was a great source of income for me when I was starting my art business in Asheville. But as the Lord began to move me more towards mentoring other artists, this formerly great thing, teaching classes, morphed into something that ultimately needed to be eliminated.
Say No to the Good and Yes to the Best
This concept is the heart of the Art of Subtraction. Begin by taking a look at all the things you are currently doing in your life, business, and art. Then ask yourself the following questions about each of these things:
So listen, I don’t know where you are right now in life, or if this is even resonating with you at all, but if it is, I want to encourage you to go for it. Take some time with the Lord. Take a hard look at everything that you are doing in your life, in your business, and your art. Ask yourself the hard question, “Is this producing the fruit that I want, or is it not?” If it is not, then ask yourself, “What is producing fruit?” Then take the bold step to double-down on the things in your life that are actually producing the fruit and momentum in your life, your art, and your business.
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you. If this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend.
Thanks for reading.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.