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The Waiting Game
Big things don't happen overnight– how I stopped obsessing while waiting.
A nine-hour timezone shift seems to be the magic amount to completely throw my body out of whack. I was in Pasadena for five days for the Lightbox conference and a week later, I’m still badly jet lagged. But let me tell you: it was a beautiful thing to be surrounded by people who want nothing more than to draw all day, every day.
Planning an event like Lightbox that supports hundreds of exhibiting artists, panel speakers, presenters, and over 15,000 attendees requires months (years, really) of hard work, organization, perseverance, and perhaps most importantly, patience.
Waiting is hard. Waiting for something that could change your life forever in a majorly positive way? This is not just hard, but stressful. In my case, this ‘something’ was the sale of KyleBrush to Adobe in 2017. As soon as the acquisition changed from a remote possibility to an actual negotiation, I experienced an entirely new cocktail of emotions ranging from elation (“I might actually do this!”) to confusion (“How exactly does this work?!”) to dread (“This is too good to be true; it will fall apart at the last minute!”).
I bounced between extreme positive and negative thoughts and feelings every hour for the first few days after receiving an email confirming that we were moving forward with negotiations for a sale. As I wrote before, I didn’t even contact my business manager about any of this initially because I was so stuck.
But I had to get unstuck to move forward. I will now share 5 THINGS I did to keep things moving AND stay sane during the biggest adventure of my professional life. I hope it helps some of you with your own ‘waiting games.’
🌟First, I had to accept that this new experience was not just a business opportunity but a path for growth. To abandon ship at this point was to deprive myself of a real world education about something that would be practically impossible to simulate. Even if the sale did not pan out, I would learn so much about the negotiation process. Growth is positive, even if painful. Growth is GOOD. I took this to heart and it helped me stay patient and push onwards.
🌟Second, I asked for more help. Before this moment had arrived, I had mostly relied on the assistance of my business manager and agent, David Goldman to put together a “first-pass” proposal for Adobe. Now, it was time to get as much support as possible. David and I reached out to anyone we thought could help. Between the two of us, we had friends who were lawyers, successful entrepreneurs, and people who were just really darn smart, and every little bit of advice and information we collected from them helped us to build a rock-solid proposal.
🌟Third, I learned not to panic about email response times. When you are working on an editorial illustration job, you can usually expect creative direction to come back from art directors within 24 hours because the deadlines are short. This was my normal, but now I was dealing with an enormous corporation; I had to remind myself constantly that every communication I sent was going to be reviewed by multiple parties (each of whom was already dealing with too many emails in their inboxes) and responses from them were going to be carefully crafted. Therefore, I marked the dates for my emails sent to Adobe re: the acquisition on my Mac calendar and could look at them in my ‘monthly’ window, rather than daily or weekly, to take a longer view of things. A response of some kind from Adobe within two to four weeks became the new normal.
I even used a psychological trick to calm myself down: if it took a long time for a reply, I told myself this was because Adobe was taking the acquisition very seriously. I imagined them having internal meetings and discussing it at length. “This Kyle guy and his brushes are a big deal!” I imagined them saying. This helped me stay confident and made the waiting easier.
Additionally, I decided that no response at all was better than a message calling the whole thing off!
🌟Fourth, I kept my business going stronger than ever. I continued to create some of my best new brush sets, market the heck out of them, make lots of new sales, and acquire lots of new customers. This was good for two reasons: 1) I could use the business growth as evidence that my brand was stronger than ever and worthy of acquisition and 2) focusing on growing the business required a lot of time and attention and therefore allowed me to focus on what I COULD control (creating and selling), rather than what I could not (the pace of the acquisition negotiation).
🌟And finally, I took some real time to imagine how my life would be if the sale fell through. This exercise was important and helpful because it allowed me to see my situation for what it was: almost perfect. Without a successful acquisition, I would still have a successful business I had built from scratch– so successful that a multinational corporation (the biggest name in creative software, no less!) nearly bought it. I would still have a growing base of happy customers, tons of ideas for new products I hadn’t even created yet, and a world of yet-to-be-discovered opportunities for my brand. And of course, I would still have my family, my friends, financial security, and a safe, happy home.
In summary: if the acquisition didn’t happen, I would still be one of the luckiest guys on earth.
Perspective is no small thing.
When you have to play the waiting game to get to a new plateau, remember: look for the growth opportunity, use your network, accept the timeline, stay busy, and don’t lose sight of the big picture. You’ll come through just fine.
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Take care of yourselves and each other, remember to be kind, and I’ll say, Ciao for now. Please share this with someone, if you liked it. Sharing links to this newsletter is the best way to help me grow - thank you!
Resources are below👇
New to the design or illustration business? You need good contracts. The AIGA has your back right here with a great free resource. It’s long and full of details, but it’s important– let’s all look out for one another and ensure we keep standards high and payment fair! (Hey, professionals - you may want to take a look at this, as well, to make sure you’re not forgetting anything!)
My Fresco drawing and animation course is marked down an insane 87% at the moment.
Here is a nice walkthrough I did on Adobe Live for the Fall 2023 Photoshop brush set, in case you missed it!
Speaking of brushes, do you like the work of Eric Carle? Me, too. Here is a video demo I made a while ago showing you how to use brushes to make illustrations that pay tribute to his unique style.