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  • Writer's pictureLindsey Nickel

Risky Passion and the Making of an Artistpreneur

I have a question…how often do you consider your risk threshold or the pull of your passion? Do you even consider these factors? Do you weigh and balance how long you could dive headlong into that fire that keeps you up at night seeking a better way? I sure don’t. I wish I would, but I have belatedly come to the realization that I am a PASSION-filled, loving, giving artistpreneur. I won’t apologize for it. It’s caused me some pain and encouraged me to take more risk than most.

The funny thing about the risk is that it doesn’t all appear at once. It’s not like I saw this enormous summit and decided, “Yup! That’s the mountain for me!” If I saw the sum total of all the risks I would take in business over the last nine years, I would have found a cushy situation with a nice benefits package and rode off into the sunset. I would tell you that I am certain of it…and then a pure, strident, loud voice emanating from my soul screams, “No you wouldn’t!!!!”

What that soul voice knows that my logical self continues to try to deny, is that my passion is the fire that ignites my purpose-driven life. At my best my creative, authentic and contributory idea generator is on full display. Picture this. I’m in a room/on a conference call/or part of an email thread and some version of, “Yes, and what if we did…,” out comes a big, bold, sometimes crazy idea!” There is generally some version of silence, unease, concern, or on a rare occasion when there is a kindred spirit in the space, an opportunity to expand on what the heck I’m talking about.

My soul knew that pitching to take a volunteer production team out to LA in support of Debbie Allen’s family theater program, Brothers of the Knight, made perfect sense. There was a need, an opening and I felt in my soul that we could contribute powerfully to a program helmed by one of my creative sheroes. What I didn’t know was that it would lead to producing a live event for artists and entrepreneurs in Philadelphia called Entrepreneur Works Presents Debbie Allen. Even that program started with one of these inspired sparks.

At the time I was working as a Program Associate for a terrific Philadelphia based non profit called Entrepreneur Works. My boss at the time was considering new programming and asked for my input. I thought about what type of program I wished existed when I had started producing original content. Each thought brought me back to the idea that I had wished I had someone in a position of power in the industry to review my work and to let me know where I was going wrong. I wasn’t looking for a pay to play situation where the goal was for someone to generate revenue, but an honest opportunity for someone to really look at the work I had been investing in and give me feedback that could help me improve it in a way that allowed me to take it to the next level. It seemed so simple…but it was so out there.

The opportunity I craved for myself is the opportunity I was able to create for others and it worked! People were moved, enlightened, inspired and they got the information they needed to take that work to the next level. They got to listen to Debbie Allen talk about artistry, empowerment, life and they got to take a look inside the inner workings of her operation. It all started with a spark, with a moment filled with passion for understanding, excellence and contribution. I didn’t think about the risk. When I knew we were able to secure Debbie Allen as the featured expert for the program I was both terrified I’d screw it all up and exhilarated to think about how this program could change people’s lives – if it was done right.

My passion outmaneuvered my risk threshold, fear and all insecurities. One of the wise women in my life encouraged me to take a moment to look back on what I had manifested and to take it in. Really, really take it in. On the days when I am fighting to get something “simple” accomplished, or facing my 15th no of the day, or pondering how much longer it’s going to take to have one of my sparks take hold and be in a position to be monetized, it is imperative I don’t look at that risk threshold countdown. I’m in it. I’m in this journey up to my eyeballs. I don’t work if I’m not immersed in some grand idea that can change the world! My soul hurts. That voice inside starts rumbling around, making noise and distracts me from the practical work of finding a safe lane of operation.

Thankfully an entrepreneur has emerged from this artist. I no longer jump headlong into my passion. Sure, from time to time I get caught up in a project that is bigger than me – stay tuned for some work involving the Tuskegee Airmen! Why? Because my soul says so! Without looking for how this new project will be monetized and contribute to my bottom line, I am embroiled with the passion of the project and so here I go! I am risk adverse, but passion-led, and those two things are constantly at odds. Some days risk aversion wins out and I pass on an opportunity. Those are pretty good days. Some days passion wins and those days are truly GREAT!

A look at the final product – (Preview of Entrepreneur Works Presents Debbie Allen via Entrepreneur Works Youtube page.)

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