Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Ja-Nae Duane on Vulnerability, Staying in Touch with Creativity, and the Power of Mindsets – Cracking Creativity Episode 81

Ja-Nae Duane has worn many creative hats in her career. She started off as an opera singer where she performed at places like The Met and the White House, but soon realized it wasn’t a sustainable career.

So she branched out and started working for a social networking company, which was the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey. While working there she realized the major difference between the way men and women approached entrepreneurship. This led her to start a group called Wild Women Entrepreneurs, which grew to 55 chapters in nine months.

After a stint running her own companies, Ja-Nae realized other people probably needed help with their own entrepreneurial journeys too, which is why she wrote The Startup Equation, a book that helps owners throughout their business journeys.

In this episode, Ja-Nae talks about how vulnerability leads to great work, why you need to stay in touch with your creativity, and why your mindset is so important.

Here are three things you can learn from Ja-Nae:

Vulnerability Often Leads to Our Best Work

When it comes to our art, many of us take the easy road. We work on things that come easily to us. We work within our comfort zone. We work on things we think will be popular.

But the truth is, our best work comes when we open ourselves up to vulnerability. Our best work comes when we dive deep and create something personal. Our best work comes out when we feel anxious about it, but put it out there anyways.

That’s exactly what Ja-nae discovered about her greatest work.

“Whenever I start to feel anxious about something that I’m putting out, particularly something that’s creative, because when we’re creating something it’s usually personal. And what I find the more personal that you can get in all of your work, and that can be professionally, that can be in stuff that you’re doing artistically, but the more that you can actually gear it into diving deep and really getting it close and under your skin, and then exposing it to the world, almost like ripping off a Band-aid and just exposing that sort of flesh to the world, that’s really where vulnerability and fear can be drivers, and that’s usually what our best work is.”

Ja-nae feels like our work concentrates too much on the surface level. She feels like a lot of people are creating just to put stuff out there. She believes we are creating too much fluff.

Ja-nae believes our best work gets to the heart of humanity. It explores boundaries. It helps us connect with other people. It transforms the way we live.

“I find that many people are just putting stuff out there to just put stuff out there, but if we’re not actually getting to the heart of humanity, what’s the point? If we’re not really exploring the boundaries of what life is, and what it could be, and how we can interact with one another, and how we can transform in the way that we live and breathe and create, that’s interesting. Everything else is just fluff and noise in my book.”

Stay in Touch with Your Creativity

Ja-nae began her career as an opera singer, but later transitioned into marketing after realizing how unsustainable being an opera singer was. She found a lot of success in marketing and even created her own marketing company. What she didn’t realize was that she was becoming depressed because she lost touch with her creativity.

“You know, I actually think there was a little bit of depression in there… You know, I knew something was wrong. I knew something was off for years and I didn’t necessarily know exactly what it was. And it wasn’t all of this, but it was a large part of this. And what I found was, I was the least happiest when I was known as a marketer, and I was doing that as my primary living and running that company… I liked the challenge and I love strategies, so those two things fueled at least my brain, but there was nothing that really intersected with my heart. And I think that emptiness was really something that stuck out more than I knew. And sometimes when you live in it so long, or with something for so long… you almost forget that it’s there or life could be without it.”

Ja-nae forgot what drove her. She was so concentrated on her business and being successful that she lost sight of something that made her happy. So she decided to bring creativity back into into her life.

“I realized how far I had gotten from my roots, we’ll say, and how much that had affected me, and so that’s actually one of the things that I have really started to bring back into my life.”

What she discovered was that sometimes we need other people to point out the obvious. With the help of her husband, Ja-nae was able to get back on track with her creativity.

“I find that that type of reaction is something that, unless we have people to call us out on it or unless we are super self-aware all the time, that we fall in to those patterns, and we sometimes forget our potential and the potential of what life could be.”

That’s why Ja-nae advocates surrounding yourself with the right types of people. We need people who will help push us. Sure, you could rest on your laurels, but when you have people pushing you, you tend to create your best work.

“I am truly a firm believer in surrounding myself with people who will push me. Who won’t just allow me to sit idly by rest on my laurels but will really say… ‘Are you good with this? Is this what you want or do you feel like there’s more that you can do here say in the project or in life? I noticed this pattern.’ To me you have to surround yourself with people that won’t just allow you to go idly through life but will really be your… companions to help you to thrive, so that you get the most out of it.”

Mindsets Make All the Difference

Often times the hardest thing we have to overcome to be successful is the way we think. We hear things all the time that sound right, but are actually a deterrence to our success: We need to be thrifty. We are not good enough. We are stuck in our current situation.

One of the things Ja-nae had to overcome was growing up poor. She started off believing she had to horde her resources, but what she realized was that giving lead to great success.

“When a person grows up poor or has a lack of resources it becomes very easy to horde those resources and keep things close to you because you’re afraid that they’re going to go away if you don’t. And the thing is, it’s the exact opposite. If you’re looking for things and for more resources, being that connector and opening yourself up, and whether or not you’re volunteering time or you’re connecting people with one another or even if you’re offering up a bit of expertise to people… Being in a state of giving is one of the first things that I would say to people.”

But the most important thing Ja-nae did, was changing her negative self-talk. Instead of looking at things in a defeatist way, she looked at ways she could solve her problems.

“The other thing I would say… and this was huge for me. This would actually be number one is change your self-talk. So instead of I can’t or the world’s against me or I don’t have enough. Just switch that slightly to I will find a way. I have what I need for today. What are the ways that we can push this forward? Just change it to… it doesn’t have to be fluffy… but if you do change it to this almost problem solving verbiage instead of this defeatist verbiage, then it allows your brain to start to compare and contrast different ways, and find a solution.”

Another thing Ja-nae found helpful was surrounding herself with the right type of people. The people around you can have an immense impact on the way you think. So if you often find yourself in a negative mood, see if the people around you are affecting the way you think.

“If you’re looking for a change… you’re just not happy with where you are, then I would take a close look at who you’re surrounding yourself with and listen to how they talk to you, how they talk to one another. What is their work ethic? How do they contribute to the world? Are they in a constant state of giving? You know, we are the average of the five people we surround ourselves with the most.”

One of the biggest positive changes we can make in our lives is surrounding ourselves with people who push us to do our best.

“If you are unhappy with where you are, change your environment. Change the game, and surround yourself with people that you don’t feel deserve to be around or you feel like an impostor. Because again, that fear… will force you to be a little more vulnerable but will also open up more doors.”

Shownotes

  • about Ja-Nae
    • award winning public speaker, opera singer, best-selling author, former radio host, creativity researcher
    • our lives are not linear
    • first career was as an opera singer, sang at MET and White House
      • wasn’t a sustainable career, had to have a day job too
    • Rise.com social networking company
      • ran networking events
      • men and women approached them differently
      • women wanted to build trust before doing business
        • missed a lot of opportunities
        • approached women about finding resources
    • started Wild Women Entrepreneurs
      • grew to 55 chapters in nine months
      • became an entrepreneur over night
      • had no idea what she was doing
    • recession hit, and companies that hired her were gone
    • had no artistic outlet
  • childhood dreams
    • always loved performing
      • gathered people for performances
    • exploring things and pulling things apart
    • started professionally singing at 13 for church
      • did weddings/funerals

12:33 “If you have something that you love to do, it usually starts pretty early on.”

  • being a public speaker at 13
    • mom is alcoholic/drug addict
    • she raised her siblings when she was younger
    • found it was easy to share her story
    • used it as an outlet and way to connect with people her age
  • fears when she was younger
    • always had fear, but used it to her advantage

14:54 “I always have fear Kevin, but to me, you use the fear. To me, when I look at fear it can either be a motivator, or something you can use to your benefit, or could be something that hinders you and something that consumes you. And I learned very early on because of what was happening at home and my background, that you had to use that fear and that anxiety as fuel. Otherwise you weren’t going to survive, and so that’s what I’ve done, and almost like a defense mechanism if you will, but it’s worked and it continues to work. And the… older that I get and the more removed from my history and that situation, the more I realize that fear is healthy and will always be a part of us, but we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to almost live, and work, and be with it, and use it as something that fuels us and drives us.”

  • opening up to vulnerability
    • people putting stuff out there just to put it out there

16:36 “Whenever I start to feel anxious about something that I’m putting out, particularly something that’s creative,  because when we’re creating something it’s usually personal. And what I find the more personal that you can get in all of your work, and that can be professionally, that can be in stuff that you’re doing artistically, but the more that you can actually gear it into diving deep and really getting it close and under your skin, and then exposing it to the world, almost like ripping off a Band-aid and just exposing that sort of flesh to the world, that’s really where vulnerability and fear can be drivers, and that’s usually what our best work is.”

18:08 “I find that many people are just putting stuff out there to just put stuff out there, but if we’re not actually getting to the heart of humanity, what’s the point? If we’re not really exploring the boundaries of what life is, and what it could be, and how we can interact with one another, and how we can transform in the way that we live and breathe and create, that’s interesting. Everything else is just fluff and noise in my book.”

  • Brené Brown
    • friends at Culture Pilot were helping produce her talk
    • tapping into vulnerability to reach connect with other people
    • don’t do it for connection, do it to show your true self

20:20 “Just cut through the crap, and really really, anything that makes you uncomfortable is usually the path to go and don’t hold yourself back. If you feel hesitant that means that there’s something that’s really true there and that’s going to connect or resonate with people.”

  • connection between connecting with people when she was younger and connecting with women entrepreneurs
    • when she was younger
      • had persona of being rough around the edges
      • was part of her story
    • story didn’t connect when transitioning to entrepreneurial women
      • understand struggles and understand their plight
      • had cultural challenges that she couldn’t change
      • women in different countries had different goals
      • finding ways to connect with each person and have them connect with each other
    • couldn’t solve problems for them
    • at the time she couldn’t find the right solution
      • ended company because of it

24:40 “If we’re not able to help you succeed, then what are we doing? And that just felt dirty to me. I was working 90 hour weeks and I really just think knowing that there are things that I can not change and just accepting that was one of the reasons why I had moved on from that company.”

  • working with startups
    • Wild Women Entrepreneurs led her to start working with startups
      •  wanted to know how she growth hacked it
    • taught corporations how to market to women and build trust

26:33 “At the end of the day, if you need to grow something with nothing, it’s all about leverage. If you don’t have money and you don’t have time.”

  • research before working with companies
    • makes sure the companies she works with do their own research
    • they need to know what they are solving and who they are solving it for
    • do research around target market first
    • see if target market needs to solve it
    • 10-20 solutions for problems and which one should you choose and test

28:24 “With every startup that I work with, just getting them to dig in and create something new that’s not out there is my goal. But you need to find out who you’re building for before you can actually really start building because we don’t need another app that does the same thing. You want to create something and either create a part of the market that doesn’t necessarily exist yet, or even if it is say an app, approach the problem in a completely different way that no one else is doing and then test it.”

  • parallels between startups and artists
    • figuring out your audience
    • encourages artists to create before figuring out audience

30:00 “When an artist is creating, it’s really an output of their imagination. It’s one of the ways they’re expressing themselves. It’s not necessarily something that, one, needs to be monetized, or two, should be for max consumption. And so I find that for artists, if they are producing a body of work, whatever that might be… as long as they’re being very true to themselves, their target audience is going to immediately start to bubble up if they’re putting themselves out there and their work out there.”

31:08 “It really comes down to scale. If you’re building a business that’s not a lifestyle brand or you’re not an artist, then really building something that is scale-able or that can run without you is key, and as an artist, you are the art. It’s an extension of yourself and so your true believers and your target audience is going to come out of the wood works. You just have to find other creative ways to expose people to your art. And I really think that’s where artists can use more help.”

  • knowing where to position yourself
    • marketing a book – finding multiple targets for a book
    • three targets – two natural, one that developed
      • independent entrepreneur and teacher were existing audiences
      • large agencies came to her and asked her to run curriculum

34:34 “Know that your work is yours and then just know who’s usually on these different outlets or channels and publish accordingly.”

35;20 “You just have to figure out what works for you and also what makes sense for you time wise and budget wise as well. Your time is worth money, and so you can spend all this time marketing your stuff or you can be selective about where and how you market your stuff so you have more time to create. So it’s really thinking very strategically through all of that.”

  • why she wrote The Startup Equation
    • would talk with husband about their companies and how they have changed over time
    • she had three different companies doing different things
    • no one resource you could go to as an entrepreneur
    • asked themselves: What if there was one place you could go to to bring together all the great work to help entrepreneurs
      • create flexible framework that changes depending on where you are as an entrepreneur
      • plug and play flexible framework for entrepreneurs
      • figuring out strategies depending on who you are and what you need at the time
  • catering to different audiences – entrepreneurs and teachers
    • beginning of the book – beginning entrepreneurs
    • later – growth strategies
      • looking to scale businesses
    • visual guide to starting/growing your business
    • over 140 infographics
    • students need bite sized actionable things to move forward
      • build in next steps to help people along
  • creative pursuits
    • there were many years where her creativity didn’t have an outlet
    • tested a one woman show and performance ensemble
    • writing as a creative outlet as well
    • pushing herself into new genres

42:33 “I realized how far I had gotten from my roots, we’ll say, and how much that had affected me, and so that’s actually one of the things that I have really started to bring back into my life.”

43:32 “Why do they want to coast? It’s because they are paralyzed by fear, whether that be fear of the unknown or fear of their own potential, and that’s really when… fear can really break you, and it’s really your decision on whether you choose to accept it and love it and harness it and can use it as momentum or to have it overcome you. And all I can do, all you can do, is really live by example and help share, for us each to help share stories to help people get up and over that hump and allow them to be exposed to those who are allowing themselves to be out there a little bit more, and show them that nothing bad happens when you do so. If not, more serendipity happens. That’s where the magic lies in my book.”

  • noticing a lack of creative outlet
    • had some depression
    • her husband pointed it out to her
    • her mom being in an abusive relationship
      • asking mom to leave him
      • mom said “This is what life is like”

45:00 “You know, I actually think there was a little bit of depression in there… You know, I knew something was wrong. I knew something was off for years and I didn’t necessarily know exactly what it was. And it wasn’t all of this, but it was a large part of this. And what I found was, I was the least happiest when I was known as a marketer, and I was doing that as my primary living and running that company… I liked the challenge and I love strategies, so those two things fueled at least my brain, but there was nothing that really intersected with my heart. And I think that emptiness was really something that stuck out more than I knew. And sometimes when you live in it so long, or with something for so long… you almost forget that it’s there or life could be without it.”

47:15 “I find that that type of reaction is something that, unless we have people to call us out on it or unless we are super self-aware all the time, that we fall in to those patterns, and we sometimes forget our potential and the potential of what life could be.”

48:05 “I am truly a firm believer in surrounding myself with people who will push me. Who won’t just allow me to sit idly by rest on my laurels but will really say… ‘Are you good with this? Is this what you want or do you feel like there’s more that you can do here say in the project or in life? I noticed this pattern.’ To me you have to surround yourself with people that won’t just allow you to go idly through life but will really be your… companions to help you to thrive, so that you get the most out of it.”

  • another example of getting out of a rut
    • left agency and gained a lot of weight
    • was miserable and constantly crying
    • noticed she was going in the wrong direction

50:09 “What I found was almost this relief and it was that breaking point of ‘I’m going in the wrong direction and I took this job because I thought it was what I needed to do.’ When really what I needed to do is connect back to what empowers me and what fuels me. And those are my creative outlets… It doesn’t necessarily need to be big. It can be small things, but you have to incorporate creativity into your daily life, and I wasn’t doing that at that time. And I can tell that I don’t know how long I would have lasted if I didn’t leave.”

  • one woman show
    • thrives under deadlines
    • hadn’t created anything creative in a while
    • was going to California for holiday
    • thought about performing with a friend
    • friend got venue and she agreed to perform even though she didn’t know what to do
    • storyboarded, created arc, and decided on what types of things to do
    • didn’t rehearse at all
    • called DJ to help
    • tested material for a new book, tested rhythm of poetry
    • likes to put feet to fire to help her perform
  • my experimentation with improv forms
    • she likes improv because it puts you into the moment
    • you have no choice to be present
  • upcoming projects
    • ensemble performance
    • research writing on creativity/happiness, poverty and entrepreneurship
    • seeing how people think and scarcity mindset
      • changing your mindset to get out of the environment you are in
  • most important mindsets for starting your business
    • get in to the habit of giving

59:51 “When a person grows up poor or has a lack of resources it becomes very easy to horde those resources and keep things close to you because you’re afraid that they’re going to go away if you don’t. And the thing is, it’s the exact opposite. If you’re looking for things and for more resources, being that connector and opening yourself up, and whether or not you’re volunteering time or you’re connecting people with one another or even if you’re offering up a bit of expertise to people… Being in a state of giving is one of the first things that I would say to people.”

1:00:47 “The other thing I would say… and this was huge for me. This would actually be number one is change your self-talk. So instead of I can’t or the world’s against me or I don’t have enough. Just switch that slightly to I will find a way. I have what I need for today. What are the ways that we can push this forward? Just change it to… it doesn’t have to be fluffy… but if you do change it to this almost problem solving verbiage instead of this defeatist verbiage, then it allows your brain to start to compare and contrast different ways, and find a solution.”

1:02:00 “If you’re looking for a change… you’re just not happy with where you are, then I would take a close look at who you’re surrounding yourself with and listen to how they talk to you, how they talk to one another. What is their work ethic? How do they contribute to the world? Are they in a constant state of giving? You know, we are the average of the five people we surround ourselves with the most.”

1:02:57 “If you are unhappy with where you are, change your environment. Change the game, and surround yourself with people that you don’t feel deserve to be around or you feel like an impostor. Because again, that fear… will force you to be a little more vulnerable but will also open up more doors.”

  • try not to be the smartest person in the room
    • vampire relationships – people who suck you dry
    • you should feel a reciprocity with the people you hang out with
  • stop thinking I can’t, think why can’t I
    • change the frame in which you look at situations
    • stoic philosophy – look at problems from an outsider’s lens
  • favorite quote
    • “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” ― John Anster, The First Part of Goethe’s Faust
  • morning routine
    • has more night routines than morning routines
    • listen to podcast that will teach or allow her to think more strategically
    • night routine
      • research, writing, and creative time
      • bounces between things
      • likes to play games like Lumosity or Duolingo
  • recommendations
  • creative people
    • creativity is not necessarily thinking outside of the box
    • figuring out where our creative intelligences are
    • people who don’t think they are creative just aren’t looking in the right places
    • conductor friend who has harnessed his craft
    • friend who switched between opera and law
  • definition of creativity

1:14:58 “My definition is around the use of your own imagination but in a way that allows you to find the connective tissue between things. And so the more you can do that, the more that you will find you’re doing things that are creative and you’re creating more output or creating more creative output.”

1:15:47 “Most people… say that they’re being creative once a day, and that’s usually about 5-15 minutes, which I know seems like a big stretch, but the point is that in order to get into flow and really have a creative output where you’re just lost in time, you need to spend at least twenty minutes because it’s going to take you about 7-9 minutes to really fall into flow in the first place. So I say just allow a little bit longer in whatever it is that you’re doing so that you’re able to really enjoy it a little bit more and to feel more contentment an happiness around those creative actions.”

  • challenge
    • figure out what your dominant creative intelligence is
    • spend 20 minutes a day for the next five days doing something within that category
    • share with her on Twitter @TheSunQueen
    • the more you do it, the more you will find contentment
    • incorporate it into everything you do

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