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Art, Rules, and Business

When I started my own business, I swore off reporting to someone else for the rest of my life. I revel in not having a Human Resources department. No forms to file or complaints to manage. Workplace attire: exceedingly casual. Profanity? There's no one around to hear it. Rules? Who needs them? More like pesky limitations. 

After all, isn't the nature of creative work to break the rules? Sure, there are fundamentals: "the rule of thirds" for example, or the "rules of color theory", but even these can be turned upside down to create new and exciting works of art.


Yet, while I have a special disdain for rules and administration, I've come to realize some rules aren't limitations at all. In fact, exploiting rules can build powerful habits which propel you forward in art and in business. 

In past blogs, I've detailed several rules I live by: never toss a canvas, no sleeping until 10:00AM, live with your failures, stop fretting over perfection, etc. Today I'm deep-diving into yet another rule. Unlike some of these other rules (we'll call them "policy-based rules") this rule is a different sort of beast: it's a growth mindset. 

I solemnly promise: implemented correctly it will change your life, your outlook, and the trajectory of your business forever. Take it from my experience. Better yet, don't take it from me at all. Try it out for yourself and email me when you've noticed powerful positive changes in the way you work, live, and succeed.

Three summers ago I found myself in a precarious position.

Having successfully summited two mountain peaks in an afternoon, I was exhausted, in pain, and miles from my car. Additionally, it had started to snow (for my readers who have never visited the Colorado high country, it is very common to receive snow in the late summer and early autumn). 

Of course, I couldn't give up. How else would I get home? I needed something to believe in, something that would help me power through the next few hours and several miles before I could rest.

I thought to myself, "You can do anything for just ten minutes. Go."

I hobbled along for ten minutes. After 10 minutes and a 1/4 mile or so, I thought to myself, "Good. You can do anything for ten more minutes." Ten more minutes passed, then ten more. Rounding a corner, the parking lot and trailhead appeared. I couldn't believe it. Waves of relief flooded over me. I took off my boots, aired out my bloody, blistered feet, and turned on the car.

The Ten Minute Rule was born.

I have learned (and will continue learning) many things about myself in business. There is no successful entrepreneur on Earth who can build a thriving business without hard work and tenacity. This is a fact. 

It is also true that succeeding in business requires teamwork, even when your name is the one above the door. As quickly as I swore off reporting to anyone ever again, I promised to continue collaborating with (and answering to) my clients as long as they were willing to adventure with me.

Hard work, collaboration, and ambition often mean there are days in business that come up roses. More often than not, though, there are trying days, difficult months, unexpected failures, and surprising disappointments.

The ten-minute rule provides a nifty framework to confront challenges both personal and professional. It's a convenient way to manage the less-than-fun hurdles every business owner and artist will need to overcome on their road to success.

When my inbox is overflowing, the phone is ringing off the hook, or I can't bear to fill out one more spreadsheet, I think to myself, "You can do anything for just ten minutes." 


Are you tempted to type a strongly worded letter to a vendor who let you down? Remember emails are forever; all it takes is ten minutes to change the tone of that conversation and alter the outcome.

At the end of a long night of working in the studio, all I want is to take a shower and listen to a podcast but the brushes need cleaning, the trash is overflowing, and there's paint on the counter. Suck it up buttercup, you can do anything for just ten minutes.

When I can't possibly sit through one more conference call, I can stick it out for ten more minutes.

Often the difference between a snap decision and a wise decision is just ten minutes.

Before you make that snide remark--give it ten minutes before you open your mouth and revisit the conversation.


Even more importantly, all business is a relationship business. Do you have just ten little minutes to nurture a relationship with a client, friend, or vendor? It could mean the difference between a sale or none at all.

If you find yourself in endless meetings, take the lead and see if you can cut the gathering short by just ten minutes. Everyone will thank you for it later.

Are you running perpetually late? Try leaving just ten minutes earlier. It could mean the difference between impressing a new friend or leaving them with the impression you're tardy and inconsistent.

And yes, for those of you wondering: some mornings the alarm goes off and all I need is...ten more minutes.

The applications of the Ten Minute Rule are endless. I pride myself on being efficient, hardworking, and motivated. More often than not, the difference is just ten minutes. While my entrepreneurial adventures have only just begun, I know I am better off using the Ten Minute Rule to speed my progress. After all, there are many mountains to climb, much world to explore, artwork to create, and so many new friends to make. I'm doing it ten minutes at a time, then ten minutes more.

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