Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
(All Rights Reserved)
“First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare.”
~ Walt Disney
Joe Robinson in his 2014 article, “The 7 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs” in Entrepreneur Magazine stated, “Self-confidence is a key entrepreneurial trait. You have to be crazy-sure your product is something the world needs and that you can deliver it to overcome the naysayers, who will always deride what the majority has yet to validate.” I would take it a step further. I believe that entrepreneurs have to understand that they themselves are the product. I realized a long time ago that I am the commodity. Nothing is possible unless we believe that ultimately we are the prize.
“Someone else’s vision will never be as good as your own vision of yourself. Live and die with it ’cause in the end it’s all you have. Lose it and you lose yourself and everything else. I should have listened to myself.”
I have been planning to visit Georgia O’Keeffe’s homes since Modern Art History when I was working on my B.A in Fine Art. Recently I rode my Harley (Ruby) to Taos, New Mexico. While riding through the landscape that O’Keeffe painted, I had a lot of time on my bike in silence to think about this idea of Self Belief.
Georgia O’Keeffe is one of my heroines because she was truly unconventionally brave and unapologetically broke the rules, especially for her generation. Consequently, O’Keeffe was the first woman to have a solo show at MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art). She became the highest selling woman artist of all time in 2014, when her painting Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 (1932) sold for 44.4 million at auction.
At the Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Sante Fe, I was amazed to see the small watercolor painting Train in the Desert (1916). The painting amused me because the idea of trains in relation to self-belief had been on my mind for days as I rode. I had no idea at all that O’Keeffe had painted trains. As I reflected on the piece, it made sense to me right away why she painted trains in the way she did. I smiled when I saw the work because it was like she was giving me a sign from the grave that train images for this topic was a good idea. I have driven across country on extended trips four times in a car and on my bike five times. When you travel like that you can’t help but be awed by the expansiveness of the rail system, especially through the big flat states where you can see the entire train that appears to go on for miles. There is something oddly defiant, nostalgic and practical about these crazy trains. On a cross-country trip they become companions that encourage you to keep driving forward to your future.
I also spent a lot of time on the train tracks behind my entrepreneurial parent’s Bicycle Shop in Rutland, VT. I have very vivid memories of walking the tracks like a tight rope to get to my gymnastics gym every day. I can feel the wind on my face as they whooshed past my brother and I while we stood only feet away watching them crush pennies that we had placed on the tracks. For me, the oily smell of train tracks is familiar and it represents home, commerce, hard work, and a simpler time. My past and present merged and the decision was made standing in front of O’Keefe’s water color – the paintings for Self Belief would be of related to trains.
“I think I can. I THINK I can. I KNOW I CAN!”
~The Little Engine That Could
As I rode my bike, I had not been able to get the children’s story, The Little Engine That Could, out of my mind. I recalled seeing the Little Engine in the movie Dumbo. I became familiar with several other renditions of the story in film and children’s books over the years. I have quoted the Little Engine many times out loud to encourage and to remind myself that I could do it; whatever task I was looking to accomplish.
My research for this blog only further supported my choice. I came to find that this little story is itself an excellent example of relentless entrepreneurism. It is uncertain where the over 100-year-old story originated. The version that made the story one of the best selling children’s stories of all time was written by Walter Monk and was illustrated by Lois Lenski; Monk was the owner of Pratt & Monk Publishing. He also wrote, published and sold more than sixty children’s stories under the pen name Watty Piper. He was what we now call a “self published” author long before technology made it possible for anyone to write and sell their book through Amazon online.
Given the fact that the 1930’s were definitively a man’s era, it is very interesting that Monk/Piper made the Little Engine character female. Elizabeth Blair on NPR’s program, “All Things Considered,” claims that the book exemplifies early feminism. This is also interesting because illustrator Lois Lenski‘s husband, muralist Arthur Covey, was not as supportive of her efforts as one would hope. Covey was a New Deal Art Project WPA (Works Progress Administrator) muralist during the Roosevelt and Great Depression years, and a fellow educator. “Covey, who was sixteen years older than Lenski, expected his wife to take full responsibility for the household and children even if doing so meant that she would have no time for creative work. Lenski, however, refused to give up, later writing that Covey’s attitude helped her to realize how important her work was to her. She hired household help when she could and carved out time to work in her studio.” (Wikipedia). In 1930 this little book was a light of hope!
In 2012 another version of the story, was animated by Universal Studios and Crest Animation with an impressive cast including Whoopie Goldberg. Richard Rich founded Crest Animation, which had a good twenty-seven year run before it closed in 2013. Rich worked his way up from the mail room at Disney to eventually direct many films for the studio before he went out on his own.
Monk, Lenski, Covey, and Rich were creative entrepreneurs and this amazing little story was one of their mutual projects. All four believed in themselves and made business happen in their own way! After researching this history, I am in love with the Little Engine even more than ever!
“I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle.”
~ Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
As the miles rolled on, I also thought of the book Atlas Shurgged (1943) by Ayn Rand, which has sold more than seven million copies. The novel opens with a focus on the Transcontinental, a railroad company. I can’t say that I agree with Rand’s philosophy completely but her belief system does in part resonate with me. Rand’s stated goal for writing the novel was “to show how desperately the world needs prime movers and how viciously it treats them” and to portray “what happens to a world without them” (Wikipedia). I agree one hundred percent that our world needs strong individuals who believe in themselves, because without them all progress and art would cease. Confidence is necessary to withstand the heat of being bullied by the economy, doubters, and all the evidence to the contrary that your business or your art is worth your time at all!
If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.
~ Henry Ford
Self-belief is what puts our feet on the floor every day. If you are an entrepreneur you will encounter skepticism and rationale each day that will try and convince you that you made a mistake and must be insane to have even tried. Self-belief is that audacious gut feeling that makes you say to yourself, “Keep going! You got this!” when the world wants you to step back and settle for less!
The Illustrations Story:
The Blog really tells the story of the paintings. The only thing I would add is that in the Universal film done in 2012 – they added a fantasy feeling to the story. The train tracks were dream tracks that could go anywhere your dreams desired. The train tacks are placed in landscapes that represent New Mexico. They are dream tracks for me!
Entrepreneurs and inspiring stories of all kinds are Michelle Micalizzi muse and focus.
Micalizzi uses her ability as a visual journalist and social practice artist as a vehicle to inspire, educate, collaborate and strategically build relationships and brand. Art Projects are collaborative social practice art engagements that connect ART + BUSINESS + COMMUNITY.
Micalizzi Enterprises collaborates way out of the box by investing time, treasure and/or talent into inspired business concepts that are ready to explode and dynamic charitable organizations on a mission to do more good.
Tune into Relentless Talk Radio on Tuesday’s at 8PM on Central City where Michelle Micalizzi & Christina Wagner discuss Entrepreneurism, Health, Fitness, Art, Fashion & Philanthropy. RelentlessTalkRadio.com