Monday, December 3, 2007

A Lesson in Expectations


Sometimes the Universe serves up lessons on a silver platter, seemingly custom made for us. I got one of those this past weekend. I planned an open house for my new business in which I represent a collective of Montana artists on an etsy site. The etsy site has been slow getting going and I really wanted to get some work sold for the three artists I'm currently working with. For two weekends I worked on my house pretty much non-stop - mopping, scrubbing, sweeping, polishing, decorating. I sent e-mails, put flyers out and told everyone I could think of about the open house.

The event was planned for Sunday afternoon and as the time approached I felt so confident that it was going to be a success. I wouldn't even have called this "expectation" at the time because I entertained no thought of a less than stellar event. I did everything right - even the astrology looked good for it and it never occurred to me that the response wouldn't be excellent.

The open house began at 2:00. At 3:00 when only one person had shown up I began to get a little nervous. I ended up with only a dozen guests in three hours and a dismal amount of sales. Suddenly I was face to face with how much it hurts when expectations are not met and how it would have been good to have been prepared for a different outcome.

When I did my yoga Sunday morning, I offered the entire day to the service of my community, the artists I work with and to Spirit. But by the end of the day it was painfully apparent that I only wanted to offer it as a success. Yesterday I wrote the artists to let them know how it went. Ouch. I even rallied and decided that maybe I could salvage it by inviting all my friends and my Monday morning yoga class to lunch - I mean the house was still gorgeous, I still had food and everything was still out just waiting to be purchased. Three people came and no additional sales were made.
On a side note, it's very interesting to me who buys and who doesn't. It is the people who don't necessarily have a lot of disposable income that will usually come through. When I attend something like this, I always go prepared to spend money to support the event - even if it's only $10. It just seems like a good way to spread the wealth. If I don't want to spend money or don't have it, I usually don't go. So it was interesting to me that of the 12 people that came, the ones with the appearance of having the most money didn't spend a dime. Some of my dear friends, ones I know are struggling financially, bought a card or a candle or just some little something and I appreciate that so much. Some people don't even look at the stuff - I think they just come for the food!

This is an ongoing lesson for me. I've wanted to feel much more of a sense of community than I do from several groups I'm involved with. I like to get out and support people, to boost them up and in the process hopefully take us all to the next level with whatever we're doing - writing, yoga, business, art. But I expect it to be returned. And I keep getting slapped right in the face with that expectation over and over.
I'm also facing that this business, the way it's structured right now, won't work for me. I'm doing a tremendous amount of work and since none of the art is actually mine, I won't ever make enough to even cover my expenses. I am currently re-thinking the whole thing but am not prepared to give up on my commitment to the artists yet.
I'd like to know what ya'll think - how do you handle expectations, how do you make yourself vulnerable without fear? How do you decide that it doesn't matter who or what responds to your best efforts and trust that in the long run someone will notice? How do you truly offer yourself in service with no expectation of the results?
I'd also like to thank Claudia and Julie for coming over early and helping me out with some last minute details. If it weren't for some of my very good friends, I would be experiencing a lot more disappointment.

23 comments:

Sherri said...

Angela, I'm sorry things aren't going the way you want. I think you're doing pretty good, putting yourself out there and starting that business in the first place. I wouldn't have had the nerve.

I can't wait to see the responses you get to this post. I'm working on the same lesson, being open to other possibilities, putting aside expectations for how my life "should" work out.

Everything will be fine. :)

Diva Carla said...

This post demands a conversation, and I really have to start shoveling since my plow man just fired me (Maine blizzard).
Two quick thoughts: how much are your artists helping you, with their own publicity efforts, mailing lists, etc. Were they present, or close enough to be present.

And you started this in late summer right? Give it a season, and learn and adjust as you go. But do make sure you are collaborating with your artists. As Alyson Stanfield says to us artists: no one can promote your art better than you.

Having a partner like you, Angela, is a boon for us artists, but it is teamwork. Maybe you got that going on already. I wish I was in Montana.. if you ever go National, call me!

Diva Carla said...

I meant to say give it a year, a full round of seasons.

thailandchani said...

Wow.. I wish I had something to offer but all of this is so far outside my way of life that I can hardly grasp it.

The funny thing is that I just finished a post today on a peripheral topic.. that is knowing what kind of tools we have in our personal tool chest to fulfill our own destinies. Sometimes it surprises us because western culture has this framed in a rather narrow construct.. that it's all about being "successful" in the commercial sense.

Is it possible that this simply isn't what you are supposed to be doing? That there's something else waiting to be discovered?

Angela said...

Sherri,

Thanks, sweetheart. :)

Angela said...

Carla,

The truth is I really don't know what the artists are doing to help promote the etsy store or an event like the Open House. One of them is in Arizona for the winter. One lives in Missoula, but the weather wasn't great and I understood her not coming. For the other one, it's just a hobby anyway. I have solicited their help in other ways - helping me with the descriptions for the website, but the distances make it difficult to coordinate. And I had no idea the photos would be such a major challenge.

I'm thinking about putting some cool vintage things on the site. If I could sell some things like that at least it might offer me enough incentive to keep up with the artists for awhile.

As always, I so appreciate your comments.

Angela said...

Chani,

That is entirely possible. :)

Olivia said...

Angela,

You wrote: "How do you handle expectations, how do you make yourself vulnerable without fear?"

I think you might always have fear, but you just do it anyway if you enjoy it. I'm so not the type of person who would enjoy giving a party or presentation or opening of some type and having sparse attendance or poor sales. That would not be enjoyable for me. I don't like working a business that depends so much upon other people.

I used to be a life coach, and didn't like that aspect of it. I had to "attract" or find or solicit clients, and I absolutely hated it. I didn't like it that much when I did have clients either...it was definitely wrong for me, but I had to fail financially for me to let go of it since I'd invested so much of myself in my practice.

You wrote: "How do you decide that it doesn't matter who or what responds to your best efforts and trust that in the long run someone will notice?" Ditto, I think. You have to enjoy doing it over and over and over again.

You wrote: "How do you truly offer yourself in service with no expectation of the results?" I think that if you are in service it's one thing...a ministry to others or volunteer work or service is one thing. Even that you need to enjoy though.

But I don't think it's unreasonable to expect results from your efforts. I think that when you're on the right track you'll do it just for the joy but lack of results mean that something has to be tweaked unless you're living off of a trust fund or it's a hobby.

Thank you for starting this provocative conversation. It really made me think.

Love, O

bella said...

Expectations are a doozy. And like you wrote of, we even have them we don't think we do or are not aware we do.
Working hard, showing up and then releasing outcome is how I seek to live. Which does not mean I don't want things and I don't feel the sting of disappointment. But more and more I realize how little I control. This helps in its own way.
And I also want to say that it sounds really smart to listen to yourself, to learn from this experience and make choices for what you can and can't do. Knowing what we need and what are limits are and what we have to give, is important.
sounds like your are finding your own way.
As always, thanks for letting us learn with you.

jennifergg said...

Gosh Angela, I don't know. And I am so sorry that I missed it, both days. I agree with you about wanting to support the people/things I care about, and I wanted to be there for you.


As for expectations of actions, I think it's reasonable to expect help from the artists. And to think about what will work best for YOU. And too, to consider what your purpose is: that old clarity thing that I'm always struggling with.

I've been loving the yoga diaries posts, too, just haven't made time to comment yet. Maybe something will become clear to you through this practice.

You've been a terrific supporter of me, and I really appreciate it. I wanted you to know that I noticed! And I thank you.

Angela said...

Thanks, Olivia and Bella. And Jennifer, I know you guys were sick! I have always felt your support.

Angela said...

Olivia,

I try more and more to consider my entire life as being "in service" in one way or another. I guess by service I was employing the broadest definition of the word. Thanks for your thoughts.

Diva Carla said...

Angela, rereading your post I see you open question is about expectation, vulnerability, fear, disappointment: the energy and emotion around the event you held. I went straight to the nuts and bolts of the business, and I do see that as an important part of the energy. Are you also feeling defensive, like you are failing the artists? I remember how much excitement you had when you started this.
I have had studio open house once at my house, and the opening party last summer for a one woman retrospective at another location. Each time, the event was well attended, and the feedback was wonderful. The second event I was better known, and some friends bought pieces worth several hundred dollars all together, and a few sales followed up later.

The energy I put out is in escrow, waiting for my next event.

You have energy in escrow too now.

If you ever want to have a conversation on the phone, email me and we can make a time to talk. I don't know much, but I have been in the business as an artist for a few years.

Blessings,

DC

Kikipotamus said...

Angela, I have a feeling there might be two kinds of scenarios with regard to outcome. Yes, on the one hand to be totally present we release expectations re outcome. On the other hand, how things turn out can be a teacher, showing us when we need to steer in a different direction or take something away or add something.

My heart is with you as you do more searching within about this. Please keep us posted.

Angela said...

Carla,

I did feel that I failed the artists in some way, but am getting pretty clear about that not being the truth of the situation. I'm realizing that I've taken this way too personally, but then again, I poured A LOT of myself into it.

In the past year I've been putting myself in so many new situations, really stretching my limits and going for the gusto. I have literally felt propelled into a fuller and more fulfilling life, but it's been a shitload of work! And I'm kind of tired right now.

So I decided to do something today that I never do. Never. I'm taking the day off my regular job. I'm tired and kind of yucky feeling but not really sick enough to stay home - I just need to.

Thank you for your offer and I may take you up on it at some point. I really like that "energy in escrow" idea. Think I'll hold onto that one today.

Angela said...

Kelly,

I so agree. I also realize that due to all the internal and external work I've been doing, the lessons seem about 10 times bigger than they ever have in the past. I think that's because I'm reaching the point of really learning and moving beyond the limitations of the past.

Diva Carla said...

Angela, I think I know what you feel like! I had two or three years where it seemed everything I undertook was Something New I Do Not Know How to DO! I was living on the edge every moment with no respite. Exciting, I felt great about most of it. I grew. Then starting last spring, Spirit stopped me. Collapsed the sweat lodge, stopped my travel, kept me home on the land, gardening and sitting on rocks (you've read my blogs) taking pictures, making some art, showing some--a retrospective-- and now my mother's death changes things again. Still in a slow down, internal period, though new things are banging around to be born. Maybe I'll have my "lying in" and give birth.

You've got a handle on it. Slow down, rest. Good thing, a sick day from work! Almost as good as a snow day.

Ginny said...

angela, I happened on your "Lesson in Expectations" today. Some day you will look back on the day and laugh.

I congratulate you on the courage you have in going forward and trying new things. I don't know much about you. Just what I could see on your blog today.

I'm involved in art as the president of an art association. We do the best we can. We put it out there. Often excellent art does not sell. Logic doesn't always prevail. Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised. Selling art is difficult most of the time unless you have an artist whose work is so great that it sells itself.

Chances are that you did a great job. This is a field where you can do everything right and still people won't show up and art won't sell. If you are interested in being of service to artists, you might be a candidate for sainthood!

(Unfortunately, some artists aren't appreciative of their saints!)

Angela said...

Thanks, Ginny. While I'm attracted to being of service to the artists I work with, there's enough self-interest involved to keep me from sainthood! Thanks for visiting.

turtlegirl said...

Your place was beautiful and I love the photos. Hope you find your answers.

www.susangreene.typepad.com said...

Dear Angela,
I to am trying to go green but not always easy with 4 kids. I so admire you working with and building a community of artists!!!!!
Trying to understand peoples buying habits is an art that I after owning my own retail store for five years never mastered. Plus you can not expect people to spend money and you cannot take it personally when they do not open their wallets. I learned this lesson the hard way. Please if a can offer any advice just ask would love to help from a far. I live in Maryland.
Susan

Angela said...

Susan,

Thank you for your comments! I think I've now learned that same lesson you mention, the hard way. Maybe that's the only way to learn it?

susan greene said...

I guess if the way was not hard we would not learn?
But yoga has been helping to calm my stubborn ways.