How to Be More Successful and Lucky

Our first grade classroom photo was taken on St. Patrick’s Day. I was the only one who wasn’t decked out in green that day. Mom had recently made me a beautiful red and white dress with a red velvet bow, and I guess that seemed like a better choice for such a formal photo.

Guess who got pinched that day? Pretty sure I did, though I have no lasting physical or emotional scars.

Guess who stands out in the photo? That'd be me again. Like. A. Sore. Thumb.

colored pencil green large trees on hillside artist Michaela Laurie | on Art Biz Success
©Michaela Laurie, Let’s Climb Those Trees and See the View. Colored pencil on paper, 70 centimeters diameter.

Maybe this was an early hint of rebellion.

Or maybe my undeveloped brain reasoned that I would really have bad luck if I didn’t wear green. After all, I had been pretty darned lucky to that point.

Making Your Luck

I've been lucky. I was lucky to have been born into a healthy, loving family that always had plenty of food on the table, even if I questioned some of the choices in front of me.

I was lucky to live in a country without a war in the homeland.

I was lucky to be in a safe school where parents cared about a decent education for their children—an education that eludes so much of the world’s population.

Later, I would be lucky to receive a higher education and the continued support of my parents along the way. Yes, even though it involved two degrees in art history.

What I did with that luck was up to me.

Luck has had little to do with the success of my business, and it has little to do with the success of your art career regardless of whether you feel lucky, were born into luck, or are convinced you are unlucky.

oil painting woman in peacock feather face mask wearing purple gold free beaded necklaces | on Art Biz Success
©Christine O’Brien, Beaded. Oil on linen, 24 x 30 inches.

I’m fond of quoting what our third president had to say about luck.

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
― Thomas Jefferson

When you work hard and take action toward your goals, you put yourself in a better position for luck to find you.

Why Some Artists Seem Luckier Than You

Have you ever observed that many artists whose work is on par with your own seem to have luck on their side?

Chances are good that they worked for that luck. They only seem lucky and here's why.

Above all, they know what they want and why they want it.

Get clear on the vision you have for what the poet Mary Oliver called your one precious life. Don’t let anyone else decide your path or tell your story.

Be able to answer this question: What do you want from your art? Or … What are you asking of your art?

They work hard.

Many pursue an art career because of their passion for art. Few understand what is required to turn that passion into a successful career and profitable business.

Make sure you are prepared for this, and then roll up your sleeves and get to work. Every. Single. Day. Just like Mr. Jefferson.

spiritual painting of green sinuous trees under a cotton-ball blue sky protecting spirit-figures by Michelle Hinebrook forest spirit landscape | on Art Biz Success
©Michelle Hinebrook, Forest Spirit. Oil on canvas, 42 x 48 x 2.5 inches.

They take their work seriously, but not necessarily themselves.

No one will treat you as a professional artist until you treat yourself as one.

Be serious about making art and be serious about sharing that art with the rest of the world.

They challenge themselves.

They know that doing the same, safe thing that everyone else is doing will lead to mediocre results. They confront challenges leads to growth.

Challenge yourself in your artmaking, in your marketing, and in your business evolution. If it’s too easy, it probably isn’t worth pursuing.

This brings me to …

They embrace rejections and failures.

Rejections and failures are a valuable part of a creative life worth living, and successful artists know that they are part of the journey they signed up for.

The more rejections you have under your belt, the better your chances of finding the right fit. Likewise, the more you fail, the closer you will get to your goals. Of course, this also means …

They’re persistent.

They fall down, dust themselves off, and get back to work. The only other option is to give up on your dreams.

Know that the universe wants you to succeed. I do, too.

acrylic painting green and blue organic shapes artist Norma Jean Moore | on Art Biz Success
©Norma Jean Moore, Springtide Harmonics. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36 inches.

They accept 100% responsibility for their success.

They don’t waste energy on whining and complaining about the tough breaks. They take action to improve future results.

As noted above, you will have many rejections along the way. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond.

They exercise gratitude.

They might keep a formal gratitude journal or seek out recipients for special thank-yous and gifts.

Learn to be grateful for all you have—especially when you’re frustrated or rejected. You won’t get more of the good stuff until you appreciate your current abundance.

If you practice all of the above on a regular basis, I’m certain that good luck will find you.

This post was first published on March 16, 2017 and has been updated with original comments intact.

Share this post

Your mailing list is your #1 marketing asset.

Your Artist Mailing List report

A transcript with the 3 lists every artist should have + a 3-page assessment for understanding the health of your list. FREE with opt-in.

47 thoughts on “How to Be More Successful and Lucky”

  1. Michele J Emerson-Roberts

    Once again you hit the nail on the head! Thanks for the reminder that it take WORK to get where you want to go. Love and light, Michele

  2. I was so excited to finally be in the Open Studios event in Santa Cruz. Then, I moved out of the state before I could participate. I tried to cheer myself up with the thought that I would simply apply for the Open Studios in my new town. Turns out, the event didn’t exist there. Faced with that, I decided to make the leap that I would start it there. Didn’t matter that I didn’t know anyone. I simply made the commitment to myself. Through the process of starting that event I met so many wonderful artists, and art appreciators. I ended up with a part-time position at the local art museum. I worked really hard, and loved it all. But I hear a lot that “I was so lucky.”

  3. Sometimes the hardest work of being an artist isn’t the application of paint to canvas, but rather the self-talk that keeps one going in spite of, not negative critiques, but no response at all. It seems a monumental task to remain our own cheerleaders in such a void because one wonders if the merits of our art are only visible to ourselves and that maybe we’re delusional, and instead of painting, perhaps we should go do another load of laundry.

    1. Thank you P Bingham for saying what we have all thought from time to time. I hear you and have felt this as well.

      Get yourself some permanent “cheerleaders.” I have two people in my life who unfailingly give me honest critiques and ground me. I have told them countless times, “Maybe I should just stop?” They act insulted by the prospect and immediately tell me I must keep going. They make me laugh and give me a swift kick in the pants that gets me back to the easel.

      I also post my work to Instagram and Facebook. I guarantee you will get feedback and responses there. As those comments and views come back to you, you’ll be buoyed to keep going.

      We can’t do this work alone for so many reasons. We need that feedback, those patrons and collectors, loyal friends, and of course our muse. The laundry can wait. You have to paint!!!

    2. P: I love this reminder. And, you don’t have to be your own cheerleader. I believe “it takes a village.” Find your tribe.

      Jana: Excellent points. Maybe I will write a post about it. We need responses.

  4. Good points. Why is it that I always need to be reminded to work harder? Thanks Alyson for sharing your thoughts.

  5. I hold this thought to myself. Luck is a matter of realizing opportunities. If I don’t put myself out there in searching for the perfect house then I won’t get “lucky” when I find it. I’m doing a series for a home staging in England. Friend of a friend. She was going to use prints. It’s a large house. The hardest part to figure out was how to frame them. To ship them. I live on an island in western Canada. It was a thought bubble that went out, accepted, figured out, how to -and now I’m on painting 7/11. Painting which is the easy part, cause I did them in my head as I worked through the logistics. Luck is a matter of seizing the opportunity. I clean houses in between having fun painting.

  6. I find that when I get down on myself and feel that “lack of luck” (just noticed there is only one letter difference), I look at all the wonder, success, health and abundance in my art career and life.
    I Remind myself of all the past good, and go back to Work for luck and feel I’m lucky to work!!

  7. Well, it seems that whatever one takes on in life, you go through a number of phases. First,you think about doing something, then you act on that and you go into a long learning phase when you sharpen your skills. Then you become proficient and things start to happen. Suddenly, you become expert and people come to you with projects, plans and requests, and you strangely realize you’ve morphed from raw recruit to Field General, and then you go into the advice business and on beyond that. Its kind of strange, in a way……

  8. Alyson, thank you for this post. I can’t say I really believe in luck. I’m not afraid of hard work, big challenges, or failures along the way. But taking myself seriously as an artist is the hardest part for me. I’ve always been the artsy/craftsy type, and my twisty path has always lead me back to making art. I started doing a lot of playing with paint and collage in the last few years and am finally starting to accept that there are other people who really enjoy my work. I’ve experimented with local art walks, fairs, and a show. Everything went really well. What I thought I was just doing “for fun” has turned into something bigger and I’m starting to see new possibilities for myself. I have tons of ideas, of course! But creating a clear vision for what I want this all to become is really hard. Please know that all of your posts and your book are just what I need right now. I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe in magic! XO

  9. The Jefferson quote is a favorite of mine. I also like what John Milton said: “Luck is the residue of design.” I also believe that my expectations influence my “luck.” If I expect I’m going to have a wonderful day, if I expect good things, I am much more likely to encounter, notice and appreciate the good things. If I expect a crappy day, sure enough, that’s what I get!

  10. Luck is what we are unable to choose. Such as the circumstances of our birth or contracting a devestating illness as two examples.

    If choice is part of the equation, luck is just the paper the equation is written on. Life is all about choices. True some people have more or better choices than others, but within those limitations we are what we choose.

  11. I’m definitely persistent 😀 and I’ve been born with an ability to learn fast and a curiosity that means I like challenging myself and experimenting. I hope the persistence, business learning, and consistency starts paying off soon.

  12. Luck comes in all forms – whether it is making a sale, gaining a friend, finding that sweet spot for pricing, landing a hard worked client – it’s all HARD work, Persistence, Networking, and being Consistent! I’ve seen a BIG difference since this time last year!

    I have 2 mentors who have encouraged me along my art journey, best critics, patted my head when I was down, shared my art and even helped me with my 2017 Game Plan.

    Working in the studio every day isn’t always possible – hubby likes to “do stuff as a couple” and besides, a “day off” gives me fresh eyes and new ideas.

  13. I am probably the luckiest person I know. Working hard comes naturally to me so there I go again. Over the years I have secured a few staunch art collectors and luck has a lot to do with that as well for I see a great many artist with far superior talent than me. I am lucky to migrate here to USA and I am lucky to have a roof over my head, food on my table, warm water to take my showers, electricity to keep me cool or warm, a means of transportation to take me wherever I need to be, have my girls born here in the USA and most of all the luxury to be a thriving Artist. Things were not this way growing up in Pakistan over 40 years ago but then again I had a lovely childhood despite of the setbacks. The glass is ALWAYS half full here.

  14. I write in an art/life journal every (well almost every) day and always leave room at the bottom for a gratitude list. I keep it separate and give reasons why I’m grateful for the person or situation (after all, I will probably read it again when I don’t remember). It seems so benign when I’m doing it but I feel the cumulative results over time. It also makes me remember to do it in my head at random times, which keeps the intention going.
    I’m grateful for it! 🙂

  15. At first, when my corporate job was eliminated, I thought it was bad luck. Over 5 years later, now a full-time artist and writer, loving my work and creating my own luck, I realize I’ve been lucky all along. Thanks for the kick in the pants, Alyson!

    1. A dose of optimism goes along way to turn what looks like bad luck into an opportunity to follow new leads. Whether life’s opportunities look like bad or good luck it is how we handle the situation that makes the difference. Neuroscience is adding more to this topic each day.

  16. Richard Wiseman has done a lot of writing on the science of luck & a lot of it tracks with this blog entry! Here’s a short article. He’s got a full book as well. (link removed)

    1. Interesting, Brandy. I removed the link because I couldn’t find it on his site and didn’t know if he’d want it shared. Please LMK if it’s freely available as a link on his site.

  17. Thanks for this Alyson! Gratitude seems to create good vibes and brings more of the same. It’s hard sometimes, but accepting that’s there’s no other option than to keep working and trying to focus on doing our work without worrying too much about the results have brought me, at least, good an unexpected surprises. It’s weird! Thanks again!????????????

  18. Thank you Alyson for celebrating the Irish ☘️
    A proud day and one in which my culture focuses on the positive.
    Yes the Luck of the Irish .. I too was brought up in a happy supportive family and it was drilled into us that you make your own luck !
    Being supportive to our community of family friends and above all a good work ethic was admired.
    Alyson you might not be Irish but you have created a wonderful community of Artists in which you reinforce these attributes.
    Happy St Patrick’s Day xx ☘️

  19. As always Alyson…thank you for your pearls of wisdom. They reconfirm everything I believe in.
    There has been little luck in my career, but a lot of research, persistence, and practice!

  20. Thanks Alyson for this, I agree with you!
    Sometimes we are carried away looking others who do less and climb the hills, the vicious cycle in our contemporary art scene, and how trendy sometimes it can be… I can confess that there are artists who are hand picked by our very own art promoters that have nothing to do with hardworking, but probable their attitude…. Anyway I am a visionary artist, I stick to my vision rather than whats happening around.
    Thanks and thanks!

  21. Very concise and straightforward.

    I am still overcoming this to a 100% as I’m still dealing wounds from a broken home

    They accept 100% responsibility for their success. They don’t waste energy on whining and complaining about the tough breaks. They take action to improve future results.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms

You're invited!


  • More than 7 strategies for growing your list lists, and why 1 shines above all.
  • How to redirect your energy for better results.
  • How a gratitude practice can help you shift your mindset.

I’ll also give you a peek behind the scenes at our classes and community.

This event is coming up soon. Will you come?