April 5, 2012
His name is Oskar. He's Rastafarian.
I met him when I first came to Costa Rica in 2004 and watched him trying to sell his paintings day after day on the beach, sweating, struggling to speak English to the tourists who passed by, working from dusk until the wee hours of the night to make ends meet, some days going without any food in his stomach because he needed the little money he did have to buy more paint.
“I don't paint to make money,” he would tell me, as I sat with him watching the sun set. “I paint because I believe in art, and I believe that people need art. Therefore, I have an obligation to the universe to make it.”
Talk about noble.
Fast forward eight years, to five minutes earlier than writing this. I've just run into Oskar on the street, around the corner from my new apartment.
“Hola amiga!” he enthusiastically yelled to me, his dreads up high in a twisted pony tail. “It's been so long!”
We exchanged joyous cheek kisses, and when I asked whether he was still painting, a big smile spread across his sun-kissed face. Without saying another word, he pointed across the street and said, “Venga.” Come.
I walked through the doorway to be suddenly greeted by big, bold, splashy abstract paintings of all shapes and sizes, on easels, on display walls, stacked next to one another…and instantly felt a rush of tears hit my eyes.
Oskar had his very own art gallery.
Not only did he have his very own art gallery–not a single piece had a price tag of less than $1500. And they were selling. In fact, as I was arriving, one woman from New York was leaving with an oversized abstract piece of art that she purchased for $6,000. That's six thousand U.S. dollars.
As it seemed, Oskar had come a long way from his days of selling $20 paintings on the beach.
I cannot begin to express the flood of happiness I've just experienced. I'm so utterly proud of him. I saw how he started. I watched him struggle daily. I saw the fear in his eyes. I saw the flash of disappointment as tourists would walk away empty-handed, day after day. But I also saw the quiet determination. The unwavering dedication. The pure passion. The understanding that this was what he was meant to be doing.
And guess what?
He motherfucking did it.–
So what I want to say is this.
If a young Rastafarian from Central America, with barely a high school education, with zero access to financial support (i.e. loans), who doesn't even speak the same language as his customers…can build a thriving business by doing what he loves?
What the hell is your excuse?
What's any of our excuses?
It seems to me that, in this day and age, we really can have anything we want. All the options are on the table. But on that same token, maybe having all the options in the world isn't as ideal as we like to believe.
Now, whenever things get too rough, or too complicated, we take the easy way out–we go with Plan B. Because there's always that option.
But what if you didn't have another option? What if success were the only way out? What if, like Oskar, you had complete faith that the world needed your talents? Would you make it work then? Might you be farther along the path to success if you had continually believed in yourself and your work, like Oskar always believed in his?
Might you be selling your paintings for $6,000?
And might you be proud knowing it was all worth it?