Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thoughts Are Things

     Remember that “Old School” talk we had last week?  Now I’m going to really out myself.  Today’s post is about a book I feel people who are pursuing a passion must read.  First published in 1937 by Napoleon Hill, the book definitely qualifies for “Old School” thinking.  Many of my friends accuse me of being a pessimist.  Actually, they mistake my direct opinion and forward nature for a “doom and gloom” attitude.   I consider myself a realist.  I’m a firm believer in “good stuff in”—“good stuff out”.  That’s where Think and Grow Rich comes in.
     For a person who is pursuing their passion, Think and Grow Rich is the Alla Prima (by Richard Schmid) of “positive thought” books.  It gives you the tools to follow your passion and persist in the face of overwhelming odds.
     A close friend of my father first gave me this book.  His name was Brue Alford, and he was a successful man by any measure or standard.  Brue would accept you where you were, but he had a way of moving the expectation bar higher, and wanting you to achieve that mark.  However, he did it with the kindest and most sincere motivation I have ever seen.
     You know how much I lean on The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield.  With these two books, an artist has the essential information needed to trudge on when things get tough.  Being a full-time artist demands not only your time (and lots of it, at that), but it makes demands on your soul.  If you fail to put your soul into your painting, the collector will see right through you, not to mention your art peers.
     Think and Grow Rich has chapters that start with Desire, Faith, Imagination… just to name a few.  This book was made for dreamers.  It was made for us!
     I won’t give you a blow-by-blow critique, but I do want to give you one of my favorite stories from the book.  It’s in the chapter, “Thoughts are Things”, with the subhead “Three Feet From Gold”.  This section has but a few paragraphs and is a small story to illustrate one of the most common causes of failure, which is QUITTING when we are overtaken by temporary defeat.
     To summarize, a man named Darby got caught up in the Gold Rush in Colorado.  He struck a large vein, bought a drilling machine and went to work.  After one mining cart was filled with gold, the vein ran out.  Darby drilled on and wasn’t able to locate the vein.  HE QUIT and sold his drilling machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars.  The junk man, not satisfied with the end of the story, called in a mining engineer.  The engineer quickly determined that Darby wasn’t aware of a fault line that moved the vein.  The vein was located 3 feet from where Darby had stopped drilling.  The junk man retired a millionaire.
     I think this analogy applies to many young artists.  How many quit or toss in the towel after a tough show or failed painting?  How many say, “I can’t draw” or “I’m just not a natural with color”?  You only fail if you quit.
     Sure, Think and Grow Rich is old and outdated, and I bet Oprah has some young new talent who would have us Zen our way to success, but I’m “Old School”, so I’ll be just fine with Andrew Carnegie and Napoleon Hill, if you don’t mind.  Give them a try!

In celebration of my 100th post today, I would like to offer a free coffee table book of my work to the person who posts the most inspiring comment.  I appreciate all of you who come to this blog to read whatever ramblings, masked as pearls of wisdom, that I decide to share each day.  I appreciate you all!

All content © Mark Kohler Studio.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation Mark, I will take a look at this book.
    I am often in need of some inspiration...

    I am starting into the art arena later in life, already having a life as a small animal veterinarian, and as a full time stay at home mom.

    I have taken inspiration lately from my fifteen year old daughter who has the dream of riding a horse at the AQHA World Show next year.
    This summer she sold her 13 year old reliable and capable quarter horse to purchase a younger horse with "more potential".

    Handy, the new horse, was pulled from a field in northern Texas, skinny, long haired and less than well behaved, she was determined that he was the one.

    She faced many skeptics including Mom and Dad. Dad ( a horse veterinarian) saw zero potential, suggesting frequently that this new horse be put in the next available sale.

    She has stuck with him and argued for him, and progressed in less than a years time from being excused from the show arena (for less than stellar behavior) to placing in the top ten at the All American Quarter Horse Congress with a group of 97 horses and kids.

    She has 13 points out of 22 needed to compete at the world show, with 6 months left to qualify.

    Gosh, if a fifteen year old can stay true to her goals despite the doubts of her support team, surely I can master that palette of watercolors in the basement !!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. It's nice to have kids that can inspire us and keep their eye on the goal! I hope she takes it all the way!!

  3. In this day and age when that which is known becomes unknown, things which were stable are suddenly and sometime violently made unstable, it is reassuring that there are still people who care and will mentor to others without expectations for gain or reward.
    We log in daily to glean what we can from you to be used somehow in our own journeys with the hope that we will benefit from the hard won knowledge you give. To this end many of us could never repay you for your time, effort and knowledge. That is the true heart of a mentor and friend worthy of our praise.
    All of us will have a favorite teacher from our school days that really left an impression on our developing lives. It was more than a job to those individuals, and I believe this is the case with you and your life and career. If this blog is helping to improve you career Bravo and well deserved at that.
    I don't offer these words for a book, but rather to let you know that what you do matters to more people than just your collectors. What you do and say here in these pages may go without a response but don't believe for a minute that the messages are falling on a dark screen.
    You are helping to sow seeds that will continue to grow and flower in others long after this blog is old history.

    Keep up the great work!
    David McMullen

  4. Thanks for your kind comments, David. You make me want to try harder to impart something everyday that will help others follow their passion, and enjoy it as much as I do. And you give me hope that someone out there IS actually reading my meandering thoughts. There are days I wonder if I'm talking to myself, but your response tells me that if even one person can get inspiration from what I say, it is worth it. Thanks!

  5. I used to listen to this book on tape, parts were actually narrated by Napoleon Hill if I am not mistaken, back when I had an "old school" car with a cassette tape player. I loved this book.

  6. Possibly, our own artistic techniques can apply to how we handle the tough situations experienced in pursuit of the artistic dream. The technique of stepping away from your artwork and later coming back to it with fresh eyes and renewed focus could apply. When things become discouraging walk away and let the situation breathe. With a fresh perspective and clear thoughts, revisit things, reach out to others for advice and give it your best shot, again (and again, and again.)

    “A pessimist is an optimist with experience” (source unknown).

    Thank you for sharing with us all, the highs, the lows and challenges faced by working artists, along with all of the wonderful instructional tips and techniques.

    Would like to pass on the book offer, already have a much enjoyed copy.