An Artist's Guide to Gratitude

I used to think gratitude was just some fluffy word that people used to momentarily escape reality - tacked onto to the names of cafes in LA where smoothies cost $17.

The word ‘gratitude’ for me was a privilege reserved only for those who already had it all. While the haves got 'gratitude,' the have-nots settled for a simple 'thanks.' It was different. Gratitude was a lifestyle you had to literally buy into, or so I thought.

Now that I'm a bit wiser, I've come to realize that gratitude is more a useful mindset than anything else, and much more than a flag-waving gesture of those whose material needs are met.

Yeah, I'm grateful to have woke up in a warm bed this morning and to not think twice about how much I'll be eating today. I'm thankful for family and friends who are close and caring. I never want to take it for granted.

But on a deeper level, I'm learning to use gratitude as an everyday motivation in the face of great resistance, to stay sane on the roller-coaster like pursuit of my vision.

Comparison is the thief of joy.
— Theodore Roosevelt

For artists and entrepreneurs, the comparison complex is more complicated than keeping up with the Joneses. We're not looking over at someone else's lawn, we're looking at their social media presence. We're looking at the Soundcloud plays. We're looking at press features and media sales.

Most of us have a problem accepting (let alone celebrating) our successes without some kind of self-shading detraction based on the public stats of others.

I came face to face with this over drinks with a friend last week. Bummed on the lackluster numbers of our last releases and deferred dreams of getting on the next level (whatever that means), I had to check-in with myself. Taking inventory of the last year,

  1. Did I grow personally and artistically? Yes.
  2. Did I act on my intentions? Did I do shit I've never done before? Yes.
  3. Did I do my best work? Am I proud of the work I put out? Very.
  4. Did any of it move the needle? I don't know. My ego says not much. It's probably too soon to tell.

But for 3 out of 4 of these questions, I made a difference. That's something to be thankful for. That's at least some kind of consolation I can take to the bank and tap into for a couple months so I can finish the next big thing. Even when it sucks, I have to remember all the people who even wish they had a chance.

That, in and of itself is enough to keep going. That's gratitude with a purpose.