Question # 1 (What do I fear?)

Moving forward I will be changing my writing format a bit. I will be fielding questions from people and structuring my entire posts around those. With that being said, this is question number one. 

Q – What is the scariest thing about your work?

-Robert

 Robert thanks for the question.

Everyday has it’s own endless little terrors/demons that have to be conquered at this point in the form of problems and tough decisions that constantly must be made with consistent humility and efficiency.

What I have learned about these little terrors and things that eat at everyone in the form of those things is that rarely do they exist outside of our own minds. My previous job of playing football taught me what danger is opposed to what fear is.

I played running back from the time I began playing football in the 7th grade. When I started playing I loved it only because I was good at it, but not because I understood the game at all.

When I started I was good at it because I was afraid to get hit, so I ran the ball to not get touched. I ran from danger, and because of that I ran fearfully. This worked for a while but not for long, I quickly learned that by running fearfully I only ran in two directions that did not matter at all over the course of the game.

I ran east to west, sideline-to-sideline forgetting the very objective of the game I was in by getting lost in a cloud of my selfish fear. I just so happened to be faster than everyone else in 7th grade so it worked, and I was praised for doing the wrong thing.

As time went on everyone got faster and the dangers caught up to me. My linemen and those who selflessly did their job for me began to turn on me because I didn’t obey the way the play was designed because I ran only for myself, while coaches cared less and less about how fast I was.

By the end of my senior year in high school I had learned to be the one who delivered the hit instead of taking it, I had a great coach that taught me that. But I still didn’t enjoy getting hit that much; I had just learned to swing back.

As I continued to play the sport I took on the mentality that it was always better to be the one who hit first, because the one who hit first is always in control of the response and mentality of the one who takes it, and when I began playing that way I still played a dangerous sport and had a dangerous job, but I did so fearlessly.

For example, I learned to stop trying to juke a corner because they are taught to throw themselves at your legs. Because of that I learned it was much better to be physical early and punish them so every time after that they only did their job how I wanted them to because most corners don’t like contact.

By the time I left college at Texas Tech I was known around the conference as the running back that was good because he would knock the shit out of you, and I liked that about myself, because it was being known for being the player who was good because he chose to be.

Those types of football players are always the best ones.

Those types of people are always the best ones.

We are not supposed to run from danger or run to it, we are supposed to analyze it and then use the wisdom attained through observation to be strategically brave in our decisions.

It is the goal of fear to make a human stand.

It is the goal of danger to make a human evolve though the emotion of fear, and it has always been my goal to become more fearless, as I understand the game more.

Locked within the fear of love I believe all meaningful wisdom is attained, because with the comprehension of what we fear to love, we gain better understanding not only of ourselves but the world around us, and with better understanding comes better love.

Fear is not always bad, but a necessary thing. Love is not always good but a necessary thing. Fear can be good, just like love can be bad. But balanced they are one. Together in pure form, they are always good, allowing everything to be positive or negative because of them.

You always know what you are afraid of by what makes you stand still longest, and you always know what you love most by what makes you move past that which you are afraid.

I am not scared of being in love, but I am cautious because I have experienced the dangers that loving the wrong things can bring, because the moment a human begins to love anything that they can lose, they also lose themselves to that thing. It is the beauty and danger of the emotion that we have named love.

To truly love is to truly fear, and because of that a pure love for an endless thing is what makes a man most brave.

Fear brings caution, and caution is wise. I recognize the things I should fear, but I never want to stay afraid of them because that is standing still.

However, danger is always real and requires a certain type of survival instinct that usually we respond to involuntarily. It is the fight or flight complex that has demanded humanity to continue.

One thing I am certain of is that as humans we have not evolved to be still, but to become more than what we are; sometimes being still can be the key.

But only for a moment.

Only to unlock ourselves, and then we must move or the prison is rebuilt.

Fear is always more convoluted than danger because for someone to be fearful, they have to weigh two things on a scale that can never be balanced.

And that is what can be lost and what can be gained.

What is less and what is more.

We attempt to control this scale we can never balance instead of knowing what has no weight at all because it transcends the idea of permanence and ownership that as humans we cling to.

There is no scale that can weigh love, because by love the scale was first created. Love was here first, and I believe is the only thing that is worth the energy of fearing because it dictates all direction in all realities of every single person to an extent.

I fear love because the things that I love are not only who and what I am, they are the paths that I walk and the consistent directions that I will always be inclined to follow.

I fear love because when I damage the things that I love, I know that I am only damaging myself, and that is something that I love highly.

As an artist I have learned there is a difference between loving and giving your love.

For me loving is giving attention, and giving my love is giving part of my direction. There is a difference.

The scariest thing about my job is that everyday I have endless opportunity and freedom.

I use that fear beneficially to remind myself that there is a possibility that I can fall in love with the wrong things, because I know everything around me is not beneficial, even though as a human I am inclined the desire to make it all mine.

I have to remind myself that ownership is something people created. And that we have only been here briefly and before us, nothing was owned.

I don’t want to own anything else that another mans hands have touched. I want to create what is desired to known, and then give that freely. I find that to be a sense of lasting, and to me that’s a large part of what it means to be an artist.

To give yourself openly and freely to the world, and have that be desired.

I find a paradox in everything I see from my perspective, because everything was made to be discovered, and nothing owned. And in time we have evolved to discovering less while desiring to own more, and that process is what slows and eventually destroys any civilization because it is the death of creativity.

But within that paradox of all things that I see daily, I gain the most inspiration because I find comfort in knowing that things were not made to be as terrible as we have made them.

I have to remind myself as an artist that the only things that I can call my own are the things that I create because I can name them, and even in that way all of the things that I create are still not mine, but for the eyes and minds of others to discover their own truths about.

The truth is that to get it all you have to give it all away.

The truth is we can own nothing but the decisions we make with the time we are given, and in that we are the judge, the jury, the defendant, the prosecution, while we take our own stand by handing the gavel to ourselves with every word we choose to speak.

So choose to speak kind words, and strive to make good things, and give them away freely like they will last forever and then they will.

As for me, my time is the only thing that I am in competition with at this point. And that means that I only compete within myself, for myself, to understand myself a little more.

I know three things for certain.

  • I am here now.
  • I matter to myself.
  • My time is ticking away.

To love efficiently we must stay humble and this is how I live.

Recognize the absence of humility.

I know that the absence of humility is not only a disproportionate use of my time, but it is an ineffective use of my love.

To avoid this from happening I keep my anchor in my art, because that is what I am and choose to be, so I know that is where my love lives.

Prior to being an artist I wasn’t sure if I was capable of love because I had never really chosen to become myself, but know I know I am, because I chose to lose myself enough to give myself to myself.

And because I truly love myself as long as I am humble it makes it easy to love others.

But humility is key. And I humbly and deeply am in love with what I get to do.

Because I love something that both teaches me and challenges me, I am able to use the more powerful half of love, which we know as fear, to be the wisest guide to caution me of the things I give my time to in the form of my love.

Love is the power source, while fear is the caution sign.

I know the moment I fail myself is the moment that fear wins a war that is not occurring to anyone other than me and myself inside my own mind, because my ego didn’t allow me to see obvious danger.

Anyone who says they are without fear is a fool, anyone who fears what they love should move cautiously, while anyone who loves their fear can live fearlessly and last, because this person loves themself, therefore they know themselves.

Once you know yourself you are willing to step aside from yourself.

I’ve learned that the worst place to be is in front of yourself and not behind, because when you stay behind you have the option to strike when you are prepared while deciding how to react based on your own actions.

But the pompous soul has a blind side that it does not know, because in that moment the ego forgets that it truly is its own worst enemy.

Fear also serves as our constant cautious reminder of the self we do not know, have not tamed, or do not yet understand, while love is accepting, knowing, and understanding of the self that we are in the moment.

Both are necessary, and both are powerful.

Anyone who feels like they have won has lost, if the goal of winning is to own the victory.

We own nothing, when we see ourselves as nothing.

And when we recognize we are nothing but a lens that can view everything, we can see everything, and do not desire to own a thing, but simply know what it is that lasts.

My desire is to be lasting, and I’m learning humility is my constant key.

I will not lose, but I do not desire to win, because that implies a locked direction, and any one direction is fleeting unless it is expansive positive growth for the betterment of those around you.

I desire to learn the process for victory and then simply say that I am in the process of winning, while only briefly fearing the things I choose to give my lovely time to while I walk a golden path.

Fear is the caution of love. And the caution of giving love is sound direction, while we are all called to love by love.

We are made to love fearlessly because we are made to love endlessly.

The scariest thing about my work is that I naturally desire to call it mine. I would rather refer to what I do as my purpose as I simply work hard.

I know the dangers of seeing myself as my own master. That is why I am a slave to Art, because that is where I have learned everything that has helped me become.

I’ve made the mistake before to live within my ego, and I have learned that is how I lose my key, because the door to the cell is locked from the inside, while the prisoner is the only key.

I feel as though I have unlocked myself and now my desire lies in what more can I become.

I desire to know myself and become more, while I have no self. This is my constant battle. I don’t keep many mirrors around for that reason. I never want to look in the mirror and be vain about what I see.

I just wanna be.

I just wanna enjoy where I am at.

I just wanna make good decisions.

I just wanna love.

I just wanna last.

I work on this every single day.

And every day I work this way, in every way I’m free.

 

-The Artist

The journey to the starting line

What most people don’t understand about my art career is that it started the instant I got to Pittsburgh. I remember driving through the tunnels for the first time and seeing the city materialize instantly in front of my eyes, and in that moment I remember thinking to myself, “this is what opportunity looks like, I wonder what my legacy will be in this place.”

In that moment I fell in love with this city deeply, because for the first time in my life I was able to see what a blank canvas actually looked like.

It was a place that my name had not yet touched, but a city that was waiting for my arrival, and I remember that being the strangest feeling.

It gave me an enormous sense of gratitude, as well as a lofty responsibility to earn my name in a place where those of lofty stature are adorned forever.

I was chosen by an organization that epitomizes what it means to be great, and I took that very seriously. I remember feeling honored at the time that I was seen as someone with those attributes. And now that I understand what Pittsburgh is as a city, I clearly see why my destiny has been here waiting all along.

I believe destiny occurs in brief flashes of changing circumstance when a person is forced to make a tough decision that will change who they are, because when that happens we are given the freedom to choose our fates by our own decisions in which we are bound to that in time, create our reality around us.

The hardest, but most powerful lesson I have ever learned is that I am always what I choose to be. I am always the cumulative response of the attitude I take with me each day, because by my attitude I make my decisions positive or negative. And by the positive or negative we are forced to confront ourselves.

I believe destiny knocks when circumstance calls someone to make a leap of faith, but I believe destiny is found when that leap of faith is done with purposeful reason.

My destiny knocked in Latrobe PA during a humid day at training camp when the reality I was living was abruptly confronted with the reality that had been prepared, and within my decisions that day of how I chose I would move forward, my inheritance was earned.

I see inheritance as the unlocked potential of a child’s dreams, or at least that is what mine is.

I believe that in every new and difficult circumstance there is a treasury beyond measure that is to be earned, because within unfortunate circumstance we are given the fortunate choice to become stronger than we have ever been required previously, forcing either positive or negative transformation.

Within every difficult situation transformation occurs.

My positive transformation came from a one negative at the time. I’ve learned that most people see positive things as the easy things, and the negative things as the hard. In this way most people progress their realities backwards, because that is not the truth of how it is.

The negatives strengthen the positive, and the positive responsibly create. One of my greatest negatives has become my greatest positive.

On the last play, of the last practice, before my first preseason game I tore my ACL, my foot awkwardly got caught in the turf and I remember feeling my knee dislocate, and I knew instantly that my path had changed, and within that flash of an uncontrollable moment my history changed, but so did a city’s.

I began to paint during my rehab process for my ACL. Art is what allowed me to keep my sanity through that process. It was what gave me peace at a time, and also allowed me to compete in a way that I had never known to be possible.

The first thing that I ever wanted to be as a child was a famous artist; the second thing I wanted to be was a football player. When I voiced those dreams, I was told to pick something realistic, but to me that was unrealistic. In this way I have always been disobedient to the norm because I have accomplished both. Within my disobedience to what was deemed realistic, I was born to be an artist, and in that the second thing that I wanted to become is what has brought me to my first.

My business partner John and I started this company almost a year ago, and there is no way I could have done it without him. We were teammates when we played football and nothing has changed except we now make our own rules and we both are coaches to everyone else involved as they are for us.

Prior to having the actual studio space in Homestead, we both worked from my house in the Southside of Pittsburgh that served as both of our workspaces at the time. During this time both of us worked around the clock simply for the sake of working. We worked for ourselves, therefore we worked for free.

John built things, while I painted. We critiqued and admired each other’s work, all the while progressing.

John is now known as The Builder. To most people that know him that title means that he builds furniture and other awesome things, but to me it means so much more.

He followed me blindly in the beginning when all I was following was a vision. He has helped build that vision that we now have made real, and each day we are required to challenge ourselves more to become better in order to grow the individuals around us.

At the time when we started we simply knew that we were developing skills that both of us were passionate about, and now neither of us can truly comprehend the magnitude of what we have built will eventually become. A year ago I was painting in my attic and no one really knew me, and John was building in my garage.

Now John is designing entire businesses and has his own workshop, and he is becoming the premier craftsman in this region. It has been an honor to get to watch. Each day we give everything we have to grow the dream that we have built, as well as the people around us, and in that way, each day we still work for free.

As for me, now I am The Artist.

I am an art teacher, and I am an art student.  I am the documentation of this time period. I am a time capsule that is here now, created from what came before me, and a window for those who will come after I am gone to view this place I love.

I am an arbitrator of the culture, and I am what your children will study and I am what I always wanted to be, and that is disobediently unrealistic.

Studio A.M. is an ideology rooted in creativity, with a business structured around it.

For me it is the manifested idea that we can live a life of freedom through the quality of the things that we choose to create, and that everyone should be given the opportunity to earn that same right.

The first things that were ever brought into the studio space were three paintings of three eagles, and I named them Heart, Mind, and Soul, and around those three eagles the rest of the space was designed. The days that were hard and stressful they watched me, and reminded me of why I chose to chase this crazy dream. They reminded me of what freedom means to me, while I work to gain my own.

I create art that mirrors my ambition, and because of that, my art inspires me. It is simply my challenge to myself, and that is why it inspires you.

I believe that the life of an artist is to be shared. It is the responsibility of the artist to share their perspective with the world, about the world in which they exist. I am honored to be in Pittsburgh during this time of renaissance and revival.

I have spent time in other cities, and in the end there is no place like Pittsburgh.

 

 

Pittsburgh my dearest,

I see you as the crown jewel of America. From my perspective you have allowed me the opportunity to become all of the things that I have ever dreamed, and because of that I stay up late and wake up early, not only to maintain my dream that is now my reality, but also to allow others to experience the same thing.

Because all of you have allowed me to become the best me that I have ever been, I want to do my best to make sure you all become the best in you.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Pittsburgh because it is old, and it has survived. And now, together we are rising and it is our turn to thrive amongst the stars.

You will not find another city in America where every area that was once run down by the circumstance of history, now is beginning to bloom.

It is our responsibility to the generations that came before that endured those hard times, and the generations who have yet to come, to capitalize on the best Pittsburgh that has ever existed that is happening right this very moment.

We do not compare here.

We are not New York, we are not LA, and we are not Chicago.

That is not because we are inadequate; it is because we are exceptional in a way that cannot be matched.

I am not afraid to voice the way I see my city, because the way I see this city is the way I see myself.

Pittsburgh has made me who I am.

And no place hustles like Pittsburgh.

It is a place that is not only filled with story, but the fabric of history itself. Right here in this city, the world was changed by the visionaries of the past, and right now within every industry in the city the visionaries of the future are leading it.

It has been a pleasure to work with you all.

I see this as a place of endless possibility because at the base of its foundation are principles and ideals that are universal truths, like hard work always pays off, and it pays to be a good neighbor. These are things that have been engrained in the culture of the people here.

It is rare in the fact that it is a city that supports itself internally, and collaboration is the lifeline of the creative community here and that is rare to find.

At its core, this is a place that is built on the principals of success, but simply experienced a colossal failure of an entire industry. But those days have been done.

Now is new.

We are the new ages.

We are tomorrow’s overnight delivery and we are happening right now. Take pride in that.

Over the past year I have had the honor and the privilege to work with just about everyone in the community in some way shape or form, and I have never seen so many hard working and honest people striving towards the same goal.

I have never known a place that has let me show who I really am, and the more I look around I notice that this city is full of people just like me, people who simply are doing what they love and being who they were created to be.

And any place like that is glory.

We are exceptional in the fact that the leaders of all the various communities all have the goal of seeing this city blossom, and I assure you that by supporting the leaders in Pittsburgh now, we will build a kingdom together for generations to come.

Pittsburgh is changing.

To the leaders and visionaries of today, to my friends, and fellow business owners, I want to challenge all of you as I challenge myself, and those I work with.

Make no mistake, we are setting precedent here.

We are teaching those who will come, what it means to be a part of this community. Be kind to each other and continue to work hard and collaborate. We are not competing with each other; we are competing with ourselves as we help each other.

We are all Pittsburgh; we are all mighty, beautiful and free.

We are all made in PGH.

Recently I sold my house and moved to the studio fulltime because my soul needed to create more for its own well being.

In a large way I have had to put my own art career/ life on hold as I focused on being a community builder here in Homestead, and a better business leader for the Pittsburgh community, and by doing that all of you have embraced me as The Artist.

Thank you.

The Studio AM team has worked so hard over this past year, and I couldn’t be more proud to rep this team that I am on. I am honored to work beside all of you each day, and I can’t express my gratitude in words, but I will show you by how hard I will always work for you, like I know you all do for me.

Thank you for being patient with me when you saw how heavy things have been at times, and thank you for helping me carry this dream. This is what all of us have built, and this is the first time in my life I have ever felt at home.

Over the past year both John and I have been slowly getting new art ready to finally be able to open the doors to the public as the gallery/ café concept that he and I envisioned. We have been working hard to make sure that there is something available for all ranges of art buyer and collectors.

I would say that I wish we could have done it sooner, but things have happened, as they should.

So with that being said, Pittsburgh my dearest I’m home now. My doors are open, and you are all welcome here.

This is a place where ideas are invited, and where all ideas are challenged.

This is where art is not dead, and where conversation lives.

I am honored to be part of this community.

Now come and buy some art.

 

-The Artist

 

 

we are puzzles made of pieces

We are puzzles made of pieces, and with each experience that passes by we are found a little more.

The irony of humanity is the same thing that makes us the strongest is the same thing that makes us the weakest.

Emotions.

They are the invisible forces that make up our perceived realities of the world around us. They are what we cannot see but what also allows us to.

Make no mistake; what we feel is more true to what is beautiful than what we can see. True vision is felt emotionally and the road to happiness is always an invisible one to the human eye, and only can be felt.

The face of Happiness varies for each and every person according to how they feel at that current moment in time. I imagine Happiness as the ghost that must be chased to become real. Effort is what manifests it, and emotions are the lens in which we can see it.

In this way our eyes can be deceiving. But emotional effort always tells the truth to what we desire.

We can make what we see, but we only can ever create what we feel.

What we feel is who we are, and who we are is what we create.

Emotions are a beautiful gift. I believe they are the unbiased face of God, and the invisible DNA that links us all as one, casting the face of a creator onto everyone who ever feels them.

Emotions can break barriers of language, race, and even species. Fear is fear, and love is love, to the elephant and to the man.

At any moment in time you are feeling the same way as someone or something else that you may or may not know.

The reality can be perceived in different ways, but feelings are all the same, and in that way we are always bound to something greater that is out of our control. I find comfort in that thought.

It reminds me that we are puzzles made of pieces.

I feel like the reason we have emotions is so that we can understand how to work them to benefit our realities in the most positive way.

Emotions allow us to change and evolve as the world around us does the same. Because of this we are not a fixed point in time, but part of the river itself.

I imagine myself inside a bottle where the inside is my own, but being washed uncontrollably by the river that is full of other bottles. Even if I decide to not change the inside of my bottle I cannot stop myself from moving, and I cannot stop my bottle from colliding with the others. Even though I can live in the bottle, the river ultimately has control. Until I realize that the bottle is not my world but just a piece of something greater, I am unable to be unaware of the river. And until I am aware of the river as well as the other bottles, my bottle can only be a prison when the reality is that the river is my home.

We are creatures designed to evolve by the world around us. Because of this it is important that we allow our beliefs and emotions to evolve as well. This is the only way we grow.

I desire to live as the river does, constant and ever changing.

Don’t focus on what you don’t have, because what you do have will always be what leads you to what you don’t. Because of this it is important to focus on what we currently have because that is what dictates what we need next.

We are puzzles made of pieces.

Be aware who is in your life at all times, and how they affect you. Know who builds you, and know who can break you. Know your worth, and own your price.

Your bottle is what contains you, but the river is your home.

What we desire to create is what makes us happy. And what we desire to make is what we see as valuable. Know the difference, because both matter.

We are puzzles made of pieces.

And we are the pieces to the puzzle.

 

– The Artist

 

What business has taught me

I have wanted to write about what I have learned from starting and running a company for a while now, and recently I got a Facebook message and this is what it said.

“Hey. I know this is random but I’m thinking about starting my own company. You’re probably extremely busy, but if you have any advice at all, or any blog posts on the subject, please let me know. I’m still in the initial stages of contemplating if I can make this a reality. So I need any and all advice / suggestions. I’ve got some vague ideas, but now I’ve just decided I need to consult with everyone I can that are involved in business and creating their own out of nothing. Thanks. Hope you are well! Your work is incredible and you are truly inspiring and admirable.”

-Sara

 

Sara,

First of all thank you for considering me someone you would want to get advice from. I will do my best to give you the best advice I can and share the things that I believe in, and am learning.

I believe that business is one of the greatest forms of art. I believe that art imitates life therefore business imitates life as well.

First off I believe it’s important to find your mission statement. This is the belief system that you honor when making decisions that affect your company and the people involved. It is the code that you do business that you honor, and rules that you don’t break. It’s the only way that you can ever teach another person to head in the same direction that you see yourself and your company going. Take time to do this because this is a very important step. Get to know yourself so well that you feel comfortable leading yourself all alone, and then you can be fit to have people follow you.

Building a company is the equivalent to setting out on a mission in the form of a fantastic adventure. It is a journey that has its ups and downs, its wins and losses, and its good and evil characters. Your mission statement and what you build your company on serves as its foundation for not only you, but everyone that will work for the entity in the future.

I believe that a company can only be as good as the individuals that run it. If the compass is broken, the ship will get lost no matter how great it is built. Because of this I believe that it is crucial to evaluate all of your strengths and weaknesses honestly within yourself before you decide to embark on the journey. This is crucial to your success because any good business minded person needs the ability to be strategic. Business is like chess. You have to be able to think at least three steps ahead at all times, and to do this with any effectiveness you have to know yourself well, in order to accommodate for your own actions and responses to others actions.

If you can’t think ahead you will only be jostled around in a direction not your own by the external forces that life will present. Consistency of self will allow you to stay your course and only be strengthened and learn by the adversity that your journey will present. You have to be consistent to see through problems as they arise, consistency will allow you to know how it is that you respond to things.

There will be adversity. And it is hard. But don’t be afraid of that, this is how evolution occurs, and any successful person or company must evolve.

When attempting to build anything that doesn’t exist in your current reality adversity is exactly what you are going against, you will have to be ok with rowing against the current of adversity, and knowing that it is always a route that leads upstream because starting a company is not the norm. Always keep in mind that most people go to the things that they can see already exist, and to start a business you have to be a pioneer in the sense that you are chasing something that never has.

To go against the grain, is to face adversity head on. Understand this concept and appreciate it.

Building a company is not so much about your product, or your business model as much as it is about you, and how you know and handle yourself. Yes, product and business model matter, but a poor leader with a good product and a good model will still fail, whereas a great leader with a mediocre product and model, will simply be able to evolve their model and product to stay the course. Success is never about the external things, because the external things lack the ability to make decisions.

Be ok with not taking money from your company for a while and plan for this. As of now my company has made money but I still haven’t really taken any money from it. To grow what you are doing to have to be diligent and have the ability to reinvest. You have to be selfless in this, and understand that your company matters more than you do, if you think you matter more than your company you will always make poor decisions because you have replaced your entity’s foundation with yourself, and when you fall, so will it. Do not be financially driven, there are so many poor decisions that stem from this. One of the biggest I have learned is working with people that go against your mission statement in order to make profit. Money is simply a means of exchange. Do not make it your end goal, and never make it your motivation. For me my motivation is providing for the people that I work with in the best way possible and to see them grow, and I have learned that by approaching business this way, I have seen the company grow because at the end of the day a good business is built on good relationships.

Know your assets and map them out. The greatest assets always will come in the form of people for the reason that things lack the ability to make decisions. Real assets are relationships that you can count on. You are only as valuable as your network. Know whom your network consists of and know who is reliable and fits within your mission statement.

Always respect other people’s time and the fact that other people have their own paths as well. Never derail someone else’s course for a selfish reason, this will always come back to get you, usually in the form of that person from your perspective becoming unreliable when from their perspective they are simply following their own course. When this happens recognize that you are simply not on the same page and cut ties and waste no more time, but always try and leave the relationship in a positive manner. One of the worst things that you can have in business is enemies.

In the case that you do have enemies, always know who and where they are, because ignoring them does not make them disappear.

Build quality relationships and always know why they exist. Never do anything without reason and make sure you never have a business relationship that doesn’t serve a purpose.

Always know how others perceive you and always know your worth. If how others perceive you don’t match up with how you see your own worth, you can either work harder, or self evaluate and see yourself as more valuable.

Find people that compliment you and strengthen your deficiencies. To do this you have to know what you are good at and what you aren’t. Be honest with this, because if you aren’t you will adjust your compass and never even know it. You must be honest with yourself, and the majority of the time this comes from adversity. If you ever have a team that you are leading, make sure you don’t assume a role of power simply because you own the company. You should be trusted to lead people because they know that you are who is most fit to do so, not because they are afraid. Faith is the only thing that is stronger than fear. Running a business has taught me that in a large way.

As your company grows be sure to have someone who is second in command that you actually trust more than yourself, and who will challenge decisions that you make in a beneficial way. It is important to always know yourself, but even if you know yourself greatly you cannot always trust yourself, because your own perspective can only ever be one sided. Be sure to have a trusted second perspective that can challenge you, it is crucial.

You must see yourself as a leader and operate as one.

If you don’t do this you will fail because you will be unable to progress yourself, and in turn never be able to progress others, and a company is always the people not the things.

Build your company around what you are passionate about. This will give you strength on the days that are hard, and help you make sound decisions because people tend to honor their passions the most if they are presented within reach.

Never forget the basic economic principle of supply and demand. That is the base of business that is universally true. If you don’t have a demand for your product don’t be a crazy person and think that it is worth anything. Value is found in the demand for something.

Build a business model that makes sense to you and honor that while being ok with changing it to progress what you are doing as long as the evolution doesn’t adjust your moral compass.

Take calculated risks, and only and ever risk what you are ok with losing. Do this and you can avoid a large amount of disappointment.

Learn and practice daily the ability to stay patient in your approach while always progressing. Don’t think of patience as just waiting around on something to happen. To truly be patient you need to know why you are being patient. Patience is strategic restraint.

Never assume that others think like you do or see things the way you do, because they probably don’t, and because of this it is important to be able to explain yourself as well as your actions. By doing this you always have the ability to show your intelligence as well as have it criticized which is a good thing.

Learn from other people’s failures and triumphs. Study business history and the decisions that other great business minded people made, and where they messed up.

Never promise something that you can’t deliver on. That’s stupid. Don’t do this.

Always introduce yourself as you want to be remembered, and be sure to have a solid but concise pitch ready at all times because you never know where opportunity may be. Most of all mind your business, focus on the things that you control while planning ahead for the things that you may not be able to. If you find yourself in a state of worry, seek solution. But never just worry while staying in the same place.

I hope that this helps, these are the things that I have learned and am learning each and every day. Good luck with your endeavor!

-The Artist

 

 

 

Now is New

I am making a point to write more frequently.

A friend of mine recently said to me, “I hope you are writing everything down that is happening in your life right now, you are a living part of Pittsburgh’s history, and you should be sure to document it. You have started a movement here.”

Honestly, that was a pretty crazy thing to hear from another person.

It felt good though, because in a way it made me feel a little less crazy.

The truth is that when everything you have dreamed of and worked for begins to come true, the hardest part is believing that what is happening is real.

For four years I worked on my art simply dreaming about what it would be like to have the ability to truly be able to do it fulltime, and have my work recognized.

And then it hit me that becoming full time at anything is simply a choice to fully commit your life to it. And over the past year and a half that is what I have done.

For the first time in my life I have given myself daily to something not just through belief but also through consistent and persistent action.

At this point Sean and I are teaching art classes to the next generation of artists weekly, and speaking in school after school.

We are helping shape the future, and in that I find a purpose that I have never felt before.

The projects we are doing, and clients we are acquiring are getting bigger by the day, and it seems like each day a career milestone is being hit. I’m learning that at this point all that matters is working hard, progressing at my craft, and learning from the life that is being given to me.

I am asked more questions now, but I also have more answers, and I have discovered that I learn the most through teaching others.

I have decided to give away most of the things that I own at this point. I have donated most of my clothes, downsized my relationships, and am selling my house to move to the studio fulltime. It has been such a good change for me.

More and more I am realizing that having a large quantity of stuff is like having an anchor, and I refuse to allow stuff to limit me experiencing life to the fullest. Simplicity is beautiful, and I desire to live simply.

I want to make art, I want to inspire, I want to challenge, I want to experience life, and I’ve decided that in a large way, having unnecessary stuff takes away from the energy I can put towards doing those things.

I think that mastering the art of letting go largely is what life is about. As humans we desire to hold on, therefore in a way we hold back.

I think largely we see invested time as potential time lost, but I feel like true time lost is time that is never spent. So at this point I am downsizing and letting go.

I want to spend my time better and in a way, get some of it back by letting go of the unnecessary.

I want only the necessary in my life and all for a reason.

I think that my perspective is becoming more rare in that regard. Not many people get to do this, and simply knowing that makes me feel responsibly blessed. I feel power in having my words validated by actually having people desire to learn from what I have to say, and not just hearing the noise from my lips. I want to speak words now. Not just make noise.

I dress the same each day now, and work my best to honor the vibe or the character that I have chosen to live. I have learned that there is tremendous power in controlling the way that the world perceives you instead of being dictated by it.

Consistency is a consistent key.

As humans we are capable of being consistent, but also staying consistent while progressively changing.

As humans we can decide what we want to be, we can decide what we say, and we can even decide what we feel, and I find that miraculous.

The reality of what is happening right now is that I chased a crazy dream with a group of my best friends, and together we have started a movement that is helping change the city in which we live. Each day now, I am learning what previously took me months or even years to learn. I think this is because my dreams are what is at stake. And as of now, I am my dream awakened.

Right now everything seems heightened, from the way I see the world, to the way I make decisions, and the way I think and learn daily.

Maybe this is what being an artist is supposed to be like? Having a rare perspective on the world, and time period in which you reside, and to document and share that with others.

Everyday is terrifying, because each day truly is unknown for me, and the stakes are very high. But that is the cost of chasing a dream. I never know where my next job or idea is coming from, and because of that I am forced to be brave in my pursuit daily at this point.

Because each day I am afraid, each day I make the choice to be brave.

It feels good knowing that I am brave at my core, because my life is built on the ability to walk with fear while not being directed by it.

Because of this the thing that is most necessary to continue progressing is constantly being self aware and self-evaluating, at this point I am my own captain, therefore I know I am also potentially my own worst enemy.

In this there is tremendous freedom, but also tremendous responsibility in directing my ship, especially because I am not the only one on board.

But I have a great crew.

The people I work with each day inspire me to be a better person, leader, and friend. And knowing that they trust me to steer gives me confidence in what I am doing but also an accountability that I have never experienced in life.

Everything I do, I do with them in mind.

I love my team.

Each day that I am afforded another to chase my dreams I feel free.

At this point there is no turning back. For me I have put myself in the position where I have to perform, and I’m learning that it is a beautiful place to be.

Each day I learn, so each day I change. I feel like a dry sponge in a river.

To get where I am now I had to risk everything that I had, and because of that I know deep down that what I am doing is more important than what my life was prior.

Each day requires me to sacrifice everything, because now I am truly who I chose to be, not who I was told.

Because of this I have no regrets.

I think that is what recreating yourself is; the ability to sacrifice the old, in exchange for something new that you see as worth it that you get to choose.

At this point I know myself well, but am so different that I don’t recognize I see in the mirror. My mind is completely different, but my face looks the same.

I am something completely different than what I was when I came to this city. I remember the first time when I drove through the tunnel and Pittsburgh exploded in front of my eyes. I distinctly remember wondering what my legacy here would be.

At this point I’m still unsure of that in a way, but in a way I am not. What I do know is that I am in the position where what I do daily will leave a mark on history. This has changed my perspective quite a bit on the concept of time. I have realized that the ‘now’ is a beautiful place to live.

I desire to learn from my past, hope for my future, and conquer my now.

I am the captain of my ship, and I must move forward.

I believe destiny is real, and that a man aligns with it once he finds his purpose for himself only, and then selflessly gives his gifts to the world.

Your past is what made you, but the ‘now’ is what shapes you. With each second that passes you get a second chance.

You are always more than what you were.

Now is new.

 

-The Artist

 

A reason

When I was a child I distinctly remember noticing my different mentality to life. While the other children were being raised by their parents, I knew what it was like to survive.

While others were sheltered from the harsh realities of the world around them, my harsh realities were what raised me. I learned from the people I saw as mentors, and I learned from the blows of life.

They are what taught me the life lessons that I know, and they are what directed me on the path I have always been on.

Because of this I see fucking up very differently than being dealt an unfortunate circumstance.

I grew up seeing my friends mess up and say, “I guess, everything happens for a reason.”

I always found it interesting that people guessed at that.

By observing their mistakes I learned at a young age that not only did they create their own reasons, but also they were the problem.

I remember this being one of the things that interested me most as a child. Why people did what they did. Observation has always been how I learned best. I have always been a visual artist in that way.

Through observation of the world around me, the loving wolves of circumstance raised me.

I have always been wild. And I want to stay that way.

Domestication insinuates there is a flaw.

In this way I am primal, and in this way I am free.

From a young age I have seen the world very differently in that way.

I believe that we are meant to be primal in that regard.

I feel like the goal in life is not to change who you are, as much as it is to become who you are.

I believe the human is designed to become more beautiful no matter the severity of the circumstance, and because of this I see us as a destined species.

The better we are, the better we know to become.  The same is true for the lesser.

We are at our best through adversity, and at our worst when comfortable. Because of that slight tweak we are separated from simply being animals and we are allowed to know faith.

We are designed to evolve by the world around us.  And by the world around us we evolve.

Does everything happen for reason?

Well I guess that always depends on if you understand the purpose. So sometimes maybe it’s a yes, and sometimes maybe it is a no.

Maybe we are given Faith when we believe the answer to be no, and given free will if the answer happens to be yes. And maybe we are given the ‘now’ to allow us to evolve by the quality and intent of the yeses and the nos.

Maybe I’m not making any sense, but maybe I am?

I like to think that there is always a reasonable answer to everything. I like to believe that is a gift that was given to us as a species. I think as humans we always desire that anyway.

“Does everything happen for a reason?”

I think that question is the ultimate paradox of human logic, and always requires equal faith to make a decision on whether it is a yes or a no.

And by that, what you have faith in, you become. That is how I understand myself to work.

We are beings of Faith, even if we choose not to believe in it. There is no exception to that rule.  Faith can make a peasant a king, and can reduce a king to a peasant.

Faith is the weaver of the thread, but we are always the hands that make ourselves.

The paradox of Faith is the canoe that we fatefully row through time with, being blessed or cursed by our own decisions and with the miraculous ability to become better even if it is through something worse.

I have always considered the ability to ponder that question remarkable in its own regard. And I believe that understanding the purpose of having the ability to contemplate such a question is where all good things are found.

I have always seen that as the fact of the matter.

Self-belief is the key that allows a man to see all situations as favorable or unfavorable.

We are designed to evolve to become better, so the better we know the better we can become.

“Does everything happen for a reason?”

This is one of the few questions that I have stopped desiring to know; because I have realized that the answer is the question.

Because within that question I am forced to always have Faith in my current state, and through my current state I become.

Be encouraged in the now. Where you are is always where you have been. You cannot separate that fact.  But who you are is who you choose to be.

So have a reason.

 

-The Artist

All I know is work.

All I know is work therefore I work for all I know

My head is filled with light and with my heart there beats a soul

My feet they walk the path ahead, constructed from my mind

In decisions lurks the indecision that block most from divine

Time is on the cutting board, and with our tongues we split

Apart the life we want to have, from the life in which we live

Time allows decisions made, to multiply our best

So in decisions made  we learn ourselves, and just how well we test

When I was young I learned from hunger, and what it means to win

So better is a garden planted, than a garden gave to tend

 

  • The Artist

A Storm is Coming

If I laid my life out as a detailed book of the unfortunate events that have happened to me, most people would see me as cursed.

But from every unfortunate thing that has ever happened to me I have been more fortunate on the path ahead. Life is fair in this way if you allow it to be.

You become cursed when you believe you can be, and you become blessed when you believe that you are.

For example, because of an injury that at the time altered my present in a way most saw negatively at the time, I instantly gained my entire future by seeing it differently.

The instant I tore my ACL, In a way I became an artist. Because that injury is why I began to paint.

Perspective.

For me adversity has always been my greatest blessing, because adversity is what gives a man perspective.

Adversity is what has created me, but that is the way it is for everyone.

Adversity always makes us who we are, because adversity forces recreation of self. It forces everyone to either become better or worse because of it. And no one can ever be the same person they were before an adverse situation. It is impossible to do so. Adversity is the judge that is never wrong.

Because of this, adversity can be a blessing or a curse depending on ones perspective.

We are the ones who ultimately must save ourselves. We create our own triumph and we create our own misery.

With every difficult situation you begin to live another life. And I have lived many now.

On August 8th 2011, during the last play of the last practice before my first NFL game I tore my ACL.

It was a non-contact injury meaning that the odds simply were not in my favor that day, as most would see it as another stroke of bad luck for me.

My foot got caught in the perfect position in the turf, moving exactly in a certain direction causing what most would see as a freak injury.

It all happened so perfectly.

I sat in my tiny dorm room that night alone with my thoughts, fighting to not let the doubt and self pity set in.

During a situation of adversity the minute you let doubt win you immediately lose a certain future that is always better, replacing it with another certain one that is always not. If negativity wins during adversity you change your future outcome becoming cursed by being blinded to the other reality that is always present, that is always locked within your own decision to choose which perspective you proceed in life with.

In this way I see life as fair.

I drifted off to sleep in my tiny dorm room at training camp with my leg propped up with ice.

I began to dream vividly.

It was a dream that gave me perspective, so it was a dream that changed everything for me.

Upon waking up I felt at peace with what had occurred the day prior. Upon waking up I felt in control of my thoughts for the first time, and quickly learned that is all that matters.

And this is what I wrote.

 

 

 

August 9th 2011

On a deserted island my thoughts and I sit, with a small coffee table in the middle of a forked trail with two paths. There is a kettle of coffee in the middle of the rickety warped wooden table where 3 coffee mugs sit in front of 3 old wooden chairs.

Above the skies are filled with dark clouds. The smell of rain fills my nostrils and I can taste the saltiness of the air. A beach is near. I can hear the distant crashing of the waves and the wind is beginning to whip across my face. I can see the brilliant flashes of lightning jumping from earth to sky, dancing across the clouds while speaking in a thunderous voice that I cannot understand. But I know what it says.

From the skies the lightning speaks with thunder distantly proclaiming. 
“A storm is coming”

My thoughts and I sit at the rickety coffee table, just the three of us with only a kettle of coffee for separation. Across from me sit two beautiful women; actually the word beautiful doesn’t suffice, beautiful is an understatement. These women are mesmerizing, they are radiant, and they are hypnotic. They begin to introduce themselves to me. As the first begins to speak and extend her hand for an introduction she is interrupted by the second woman who shows a gleaming perfect smile and says, “ Hi Baron, my name is Doubt.”

Doubt is stunning. She has long red hair, and wears heavy makeup. Her eyes draw me in immediately almost as if she can peer into my soul and see my thoughts and fears. My heart begins to race as I can feel all of my anxieties and fears being drawn from my deepest depths to my surface. I begin to panic but can’t look away. She is too enticing.

I feel a gentle touch on my forearm and immediately my fears, worries and anxieties subside. I break away from Doubts gaze and look to my right to see an outstretched hand. I grab hold and another woman introduces herself to me. “Hello Baron, I’m Faith.”

Faith looks much different than Doubt but is just as gorgeous. Faith has long dark hair that flows over her shoulders. She wears a white dress and cowboy boots. She has glasses and doesn’t wear makeup because she has nothing to hide; her skin is flawless. Her eyes are calming but her touch is what is indescribable. There is nothing like touching Faith.

As I sit with Doubt, and Faith at the tiny wooden, rickety, and warped table with only a coffee kettle in between us I ask, “Why am I here?” 


Doubt sits down her coffee mug with her thick red lipstick stuck to it and swallows before speaking.


“Look around you. Can’t you see that a storm is coming?” She says.

“Yes I can see that”

“Well you have to choose who you are going to set sail with.” Doubt hastily replied.

“Set sail?” I ask?

“Yes set sail! The storm is coming and we have to hurry. If we set sail quick enough we can maneuver around the storm and escape this island, the path behind me leads to a safe place to depart and we can avoid the storm, but we have to hurry. You must decide quickly.”

Doubt says with panic in her voice.

I begin to get nervous as I can see the colossal storm clouds moving closer to shore. I hear the increasing thunder and my heart begins to race.

I turn to Faith and ask, “Where does your path lead? Is it safe? Can we avoid the storm?”

Faith calmly replies “I cant tell you that, all I can assure you is that I can get you through the storm and to the beach on the other side”

As I sit at the rickety coffee table just my thoughts and I, the storm clouds begin to surround me. I can feel the rain starting to fall gently on my skin. I can hear the thunderclouds billowing their warning.

“A storm is coming.”

I know I must make a decision and make one quickly if I want to survive this storm. I look across the table at Doubt and Faith and both of them reach out their hands. I close my eyes and grab onto Faiths hand. She holds mine tight as we get up from the tiny wooden table and walk down the path that was behind her chair.

As Faith calmly leads me down her path that leads to the ocean the rain begins to pour, and the thunder begins to roar crying out,

“A storm is coming, a storm is coming!”

While Faith and I walk hand in hand to the beach I ask, “Where did Doubts path lead?” 


“You’ll see.” She replied


Soon we emerge at the end of the path and I can see the ocean. I can also see the enormity of the storm. The storm stretches as far as I can see and I am terrified.

In fear I turn back and run to Doubt.

“She said that knew how to avoid the storm. She said she knew a safe way of crossing.” I thought with panic.

As I turn to go back I see the exit to another path that was not the one I came out of. On the exit of that path I see Doubt standing. Her makeup has washed off and she looked nothing like she did before. I call out to her over the roaring winds “You said you had a safer way! You said that we could avoid this storm.”

Doubt says nothing. She only glares while standing at the exit.

I turn back to Faith and cry out with tears in my eyes,

“What do I do? I can’t face this storm.”

Faith says nothing.

She only extends her hand.

I run towards the ocean where she is standing by a small canoe. I look down with fear at the small canoe thinking, “there is no way this will make it through this storm.”

The waves crash at our feet as Faith calmly says, “Get in and row, don’t stop.”

I’m terrified but I crawl into the tiny canoe with Faith. We begin to row. The waves toss us from left to right, and up and down but we keep rowing.

The rain and wind slaps our bodies but we keep rowing.

The thunder proclaims from the clouds, “the storm is here!” as we keep rowing.

My arms begin to tire, but we keep rowing.

We row for what seems like eternity and finally the rain slows, the waves calm and the thunder echoes behind us whispering, “The storm has passed.” 
I turn to Faith exhausted from the journey and ask, “Why did Doubts path lead to the same place on the beach? I thought she said she could avoid the storm”

Faith simply shook her head and said “Storms aren’t sent so that we can avoid them or run from them.”

“Then why was that storm sent for me?” I asked.

“You’ll see.” Faith said.

As we keep rowing the storm calms more and more and we begin to approach another beach. On this beach I can see thousands of tiny dots. At first I can’t make out what they are but as we row closer I can see that they are people; thousands and thousands of people standing at the waters edge.

As we get closer to shore I can see the seemingly endless amount of people standing in amazement watching us row out of the storm in the tiny canoe, just Faith and I.

I look at Faith and she smiles and says, “That’s why the storm was sent.”

“I don’t get it.” I tell her.

She says, “Do you see all those people? That storm was sent for them, but you are the one who had to sail through it.

You are an overcomer.

Because you are an overcomer your waters will rarely be calm. Because you are an overcomer your life will not be easy. Because you are an overcomer you will have to sail through storms simply so people can see that it’s possible. Because you are an overcomer you have no choice but to overcome. Your storms are not for you. Your storms are not your own.”

My storms are not for me. My storms are not my own.

I am an overcomer.

– Baron

 

Adversity is the judge that is never wrong. By our own choices we are blessed or cursed by the adversity that life gives to us.

Fast-forward four years, and I am who adversity made me to be.

Fast-forward four years, and I am who I choose to be.

I have made it to shore now and more than thousands have watched me do it, and because of this each person that sees my art sees my adversity.

And each person that enjoys my art, is thankful for my adversity just as I am.

The odds that I am where I currently am are very improbable, but then again life as a whole is very improbable.

However, I find beauty in the improbable. My improbabilities make me feel special, and to ever want something great for yourself you must first see yourself as special. Self-love is a romance that lasts a lifetime.

I am an anomaly. I am an outlier. I am different. I am destined. I am blessed.

But so are you, if you bring yourself to believe that to be so.

I am the mathematical inconsistency of what studies say I should be, and where I should be.

But right now, I am who I am and I am here.

 

-The Artist

Build: By John Malecki

John is The Builder because that is what John is good at.

He is good at building things, so his business cards say The Builder. 

Prior to opening Studio AM both of us were teammates on the same football team where he actually blocked for me, and in a large way that is what he still does. He was one of the few people that didn’t think I was crazy when I told him my vision for Studio AM; he simply got on board, and began to do what he does best. From the beginning he helped me build a dream, and he still is.

I have the privilege of working with my best friends everyday, and the thing that is special about the way we work is how we are constantly challenging each other to get better, not only at our respective craft but as individuals. It has been amazing to watch John work tirelessly at his craft and become one of the premier woodworkers in the city of Pittsburgh. 

I encourage everyone who I work with to write because I have come to learn that it is a great tool for an individual to learn retrospectively. As things progress you will get familiar with the Studio AM team through their own words. And these are the words of John.

-The Artist

 

 

Build: By John Malecki

 

The foundation of life for me, is an individuals desire to build. Build anything. Build a family, a legacy, or a story. Build memories and build up the people around you. These skills exist in every one of us. In every father, mother, daughter, and son. We all build every day. You may not realize what you’re building, but when you do…. That’s when you become extremely powerful.

As a young Pittsburgh Suburbanite, I became caught up in the easily swayed lifestyle associated with so many people in this wonderful town. Live and breathe sports, and do right by one another.

In a town built on steel and sweat, all I knew was work.

I applied this ethos of “dig your well before you drink from it” to what little skill I was blessed to have, and went screaming for the hills chasing a “dream”. I dreamed of being a champion, making a career and building a life based around the hard work and determination I put into it. I wore a helmet like I was a Spartan warrior, and I approached each day as if tomorrows opportunity could be ripped from my hands at any point.

 

Instead of building a career and financial stability, I built so much more. I built a reputation and a mindset. I learned to use these as tools to further myself as not only an athlete but as a man. The world is a grimy and hard place. It will hand you nothing and can take from you everything.

…But only if you let it.

I lead myself to believe that in losing football, I had lost everything.

As I stopped putting on my Spartan Helmet, I learned to pick up my ball cap, and simply go back to work. After almost a year of reflection, I realized I was more than just another name on a roster. I had become something greater. Something stronger. Something more resilient than any cubicle could have taught me. I had built myself into something more valuable than any number on the back of a jersey could ever give me. I had become a true teammate.

It was difficult to believe that I would be able to get away from being an ex-athlete. But one perk of being a lineman, is no one knew me anyway.

As I grew into The Builder I learned that physically building a table or piece of furniture is a skill that can be grown by working at it and studying the craft. The skills of what I learned through two decades of putting my hand in the dirt for the betterment of a team, those were completely organic, and I almost didn’t even realize I had them.

I met Baron when I became a Steeler. In our first few months together we probably spoke only a handful of times. Considering I was singularly focused on doing anything I could to make the team, I didn’t have time to pay attention to the new people around me, and neither did he.

I was on the field when Baron blew out his knee his rookie year during training camp, and looking back on it I would never have guessed how much that moment would change both of our lives.

Over the next few years we developed a relationship over bantering about TV shows in the lunchroom and playing ping-pong. But there was constant work being involved.

I respected how the kid showed up every day and literally took no shit from absolutely anyone. From the head coach all the way down to some undrafted free agent. He walked his own walk.

We became friends and a light went off. I knew this kid would be someone the world would never forget.

So as we grew older, barons hair grew a little longer, my waistline grew a bit larger. Life started catching up with us both. Baron’s body couldn’t keep up with injuries and I knew football would end some day. He had been hustling art and salsa and himself for years by growing and developing a business to skyrocket him into his life after football.

I was building something different, and I wasn’t even aware of it.

I was building the foundation to my legacy.

In life you must be able to evaluate yourself and be completely honest.

Am I a shitty person?

Am I a good son?

Am I a good teammate?

I always asked myself these types of questions while growing up, and always held myself to a higher standard.

The skills I constantly worked on became the foundation to what I would desire to be and mold myself into as I built my future. Yes I got a degree, and yes I networked while I was playing. And yes I am very aware of the unique circumstance professional sports provides once playing is done. But none of that means anything was handed to me.

After thirteen transactions on five different teams, football was over. I had to make a move; the real world was catching up fast.

It was time for the next chapter in my legacy

In this time, Baron and myself had started building furniture and making salsa together. I dabbled in a little painting as well, why the hell not. If he could do it why couldn’t I? As I strolled down the path life provides after sports I saw Baron and his “hustle” and thought, “Damn that dude is just punching life right in the face.”

We talked about it and he decided to bring me on board with Angryman Salsa.

I started handling all the purchasing and the production and we moved ahead as teammates on a different type of team now. As I was working on my role on the salsa team, Baron was conspiring for much bigger things.

In this time I was still building furniture. Simple tables and some shelving. After a few months and some good growth in the salsa business, we knew we had to get somewhere bigger to manufacture.

Baron knew the owners of the restaurant our business is located in today, and as fate may have it. They were moving.

So Baron mapped out our game plan for Studio AM and we ran ahead screaming for the hills. After grabbing some brushes and putting in a few weeks work, we had a brainchild that we sit in today. An idea that came to fruition through sweat and hard work.

As we continue to build this company I look at the people around me now, and could not be more pleased with the team we have created. I could not be more proud of the atmosphere we have constructed. I am blessed to be building something that benefits everyone around me.

Life has handed me a pile of blocks, and it has been tasked on me to take these blocks and build my legacy.

I am blessed to be able to share what I create with the world, and do it right here in my hometown.

I am The Builder, go build your legacy.

 

-The Builder

 

 Keep up with the things John is building at Studio AM follow him on twitter @John_Malecki   and be sure to check out his portfolio HERE

27 Gems

Today I turned 27. Here are 27 things that I have learned since being on this planet that I live by.

  • Work is a beautiful thing. It is what progresses us through our realities and balances the universe making all things opportunity. Through work, all things can be made good, and through work a man can be aligned with his destiny.
  • Create more than you consume.
  • Difficult circumstance is the greatest blessing and greatest teacher one can ever have. Adore the difficult and embrace the challenges that life presents to you.
  • Hold onto the people that love you. Love the people that need you. But always be able to stand-alone and move forward.
  • Believe in heroes.
  • Never challenge anyone unless you have first challenged yourself.
  • Inspiration is useless without being followed by action.
  • Actions are useless unless followed by belief. Believe that you are meant for something, because you are.
  • Happiness takes work, but if it didn’t it could not exist. Don’t compare happiness, it is the one perspective that is always unique.
  • Honor your words, but always respectfully question words of others until you have decided for yourself that they are true.
  • Work to be the most competitive person you know, and then keep working.
  • Nothing great can be accomplished alone.
  • Never expect to be repaid for something that you gave for free. Do not enslave others to favors. Do good things, not favors.
  • Never pretend to know something simply to fit in, strive to know the things that allow you to stand apart.
  • If someone uses a word you have never heard simply ask what it means. It shows people you are humble enough to learn from them.
  • Go into conversations with no ego and willing to learn something and usually you will.
  • Study history, it is always what you are, but live in the present, it is always what you can be.
  • Time is irrelevant when weighed against the power of consistently good decisions.
  • Life is a game of chess being played with boards that vary in sizes. You begin to live once you realize that you have the ability to not only make moves, but  ultimately win. The game will be played regardless of if you join in.
  • The heart of a woman is precious.
  • Teach what you know, because it allows you to test what you know while learning the secrets of communication.
  • Life is best lived uncomfortably. Money is a tool, and all tools are made for work.
  • Self analyze each and every day. Never be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions that only you can answer, and always answer truthfully. Life is a constant reinvention.
  • The greatest perspective on life someone can ever have is an honest one.
  • The life of an artist should be shared.
  • Self-awareness is the first step to self-control.
  • I am work. I am happy. I am aware.  I am free.

I encourage all of you to go and find your own gems this coming year and take any others that Life gifts you with along the way. My wish is that all of you get exactly what you choose to put your work and energy towards. Thank you for all of the support and allowing me to work while I become who I am. I am grateful for all of you.  Work hard, be happy, and live free.

-The Artist

“Be encouraged that only you are you, don’t fear the things only you can do. Ideas you have are made for you, and they will blossom when you choose.”  -THE ARTIST

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” – Theodor Seuss Geisel

Art is not dead

It always seemed like an awesome life to get paid to be myself. I remember constantly wondering if that was possible when I was a child. From the moment that question entered my mind as a child, it was one that would constantly reoccur.

Can I live a life simply being me, and get paid for it?

I remember coming to the conclusion, “that’s what Artists get to do.”

So I decided that’s what I wanted to become as a child.

I wanted to be a famous artist.

Today I reside in Pittsburgh where I work for Studio AM which is a creative agency. The motto is “Up late, Up early,” and there are no unimportant positions.

I am a visual artist and serve as creative director. I get to work with four of my best friends each day, and they are quite the cast of characters. Because of that no day is ever the same.

It has been an awesome adventure so far.

Everyone is different but we all share the same mindset, and right now we are all living our dream jobs. Everyone was allowed to pick their own titles and then work to become them. And all of us have done that at this point.

We all are who we set out to be. We all introduce ourselves as who we want to be.

As for me, I am The Artist. That is what my business cards say, and that is how I would introduce myself if we met.

I wear my paint splattered work jeans everywhere I go, and for the past year and a half everyone who has seen me has seen me the same.

I believe the most powerful thing that someone can do to find happiness is find consistency within themselves.

And I am consistently The Artist.

It is a powerful feeling to be seen and accepted, and Pittsburgh has seen and accepted me as The Artist. Because of that I love this city deeply.

For the first time in my life I can say that I really like myself, and am proud of the man I am becoming. My life as an artist began here, so in a way my life began here because I cannot imagine living any other way.

Pittsburgh gave me the opportunity to completely start over. Everyday I feel thankful knowing that I am doing what I first chose to do when I was a child.

I have come full circle and have wound up at my beginning. I have gotten to start over as something else.

Finding my purpose was like finding my freedom, and that is why my art is signed with “free.”

My art has freed me by allowing me to be myself, and live a life that way.

Life brought me to this point, everything good and bad that I have ever experienced has brought me here.

Life drafted me to Pittsburgh so that I would pick up a paintbrush, but I had to work relentlessly to become an artist after playing football here.

Many people said that it would be impossible to be taken seriously as an artist here, and that I should try in another city. So for a year and a half, all I did was work. I learned to fall in love with working and what work can do for a man.

Work gives a man his purpose.

I slept an average of three hours a night for an entire year. I spent seven days a week working on my craft. I stayed up late working and I got up early to work. I set my goal on becoming a successful entrepreneur and artist, and worked to become that.

A year and a half ago all anyone would see me as was the ex-Pittsburgh Steeler.

“Oh hey yeah Baron Batch I remember you! Number twenty, running back from Texas for the Steelers! Yinz had that block back in training camp against James Harrison.”

Simply the ex-Steeler.

In the paper they refused to call me a local artist and entrepreneur even though I asked for only that. Even when the article was about me being a local artist and entrepreneur.

That got old really fast. But that was what gave me motivation.

I worked as hard as I did so that I could earn my name back.

Some people would be content simply being the ex-Steeler that blocked James Harrison that one time back in training camp.

But fuck that. That’s not me.

After almost two years I have finally earned my title. I had to prove myself as an artist to the city of Pittsburgh, and I’m glad it wasn’t any other way. I never would have imagined that earning my own name back would be such a task. But in typical Pittsburgh fashion, this city made me work for it. And for that I am grateful, because Pittsburgh made me a working artist.

And I dig this Artist guy.

That is what I am called, it is how I look everywhere I go, and it is how I introduce myself to everyone I meet.

This is who I am.

And I like me.

Pittsburgh has allowed me the liberty to live out both of my childhood dreams all before the age of thirty. It is where I became both of the things that I was told I couldn’t become as a child.

People frequently ask me why I chose to stay in Pittsburgh, and I simply explain that it is where I am supposed to be.

West Texas is where my life was prepared, and Pittsburgh is where my life began.

Where I came from is the door to where I am going, and I want to live this new life famously.

Most people shy away from saying that they want to be famous, and that is why they never become that.

But not me. That always was my first goal. My hearts desire was always to become a famous artist.

I want to be valuable for a skill that only I possess. I want to be remembered for being me. I want a consistent reputation that introduces me before I arrive. I want a name that is echoed before me in the things that helped make me, and a name that is echoed after me in the things I make that will stay behind when I am gone.

I want to leave my opinion in the heart of existence through my art. I want to be competitively ambitious with every idea my mind thinks.

I want to only grow and excel.

I want to have people perceive me as valuable and know that I have earned that. I want to live free. I want to know that I have value. I want to discover as much truth as possible while I am here, and share it through the things that I make. I want to know that my time mattered and that is why I make art.

And because I make art, I want fame.

I want to be seen.

I want to be heard.

I want to be collected.

I want to be remembered.

Pittsburgh my dearest, I love you because you have allowed me to bloom into what I was created to be. And because of that I am obligated to return that blessing.

Pittsburgh is changing, and art is not dead.

 

 

-THE ARTIST

A Few Good Men

DIARY 71

The goal of a good man should be to unlock himself. The admiration of a man should be found in the quality of his mind, and true competitiveness is not chasing money, it is chasing ideas.

I played in the NFL for a few years and am not ashamed to admit that I was a mediocre player the entire time. That wasn’t because I was lazy or didn’t work hard, but at the end of the day other players were simply more talented. Looking back I’m actually glad that was the case. It allowed me to escape with my soul intact.

Please understand that this post is not being written out of a jaded spirit but a fulfilled one. I am writing this because I feel like it is my responsibility to do so before another child looks at an athlete in a helmet blindly thinking, “There is my hero. I want to be like him.”

To the child looking to the NFL athlete as a hero please let me assure you that you can be so much more. To my former teammates, current friends, and other athletes, you can be so much more as well.

This is my NFL experience. These are my honest words.

“Money is meant to be wasted.”

“It’s not technically cheating because I never kissed her on the mouth. We just had sex.”

“They can’t cut me, they pay me too much.”

“I’ll show up when I want.”

“It’s not my job to be a role model, it’s my job to play well.”

Real men don’t say things like that, nor do heroes. But those are a few of the things I heard daily while not only playing in college but in the NFL as well.

At times all the madness began to sound normal to me and often even appealing, and that began to scare me. To be honest it was terrifying to see my soul changing into something that I knew was not correct, and soon I began to hate myself. I became disgusted at what I was becoming. I became condescending and arrogant, and didn’t give a shit about anyone other than myself and me keeping my job.

Deep down I knew I was a good person, but it quickly became quite obvious to me that being a good person doesn’t matter in a den of wolves, so I became a good wolf, but a wolf nonetheless.

Art helped me keep my soul intact during all of this, so it became my escape. Art became my freedom, and that is why all of my art is signed with “free”.

It saved me.

This is not me bashing the NFL either. I’m thankful for what the league taught me, and I’m thankful for the opportunity that it provided. This is me telling the truth about what many people worship on Sundays, and what many athletes strive to become. The purpose of a man is to become a good man, not an NFL player, and sadly most NFL players are not good men, or men at all.

With that being said, there are players I do admire and stay in contact with to this day and probably will the rest of my life.

They are the family men, and good husbands. They are the real heroes, but very rarely are they the superstars. Typically they are the ones who lose their jobs over a missed block or dropped pass, while players who should be on jail blocks get a free pass.

Since walking away from football I have seen first hand how hard it is to break away from the three letters “N”, “F” and, ”L”. Not because I couldn’t walk away but because it’s been hard for people who worship it to understand why someone actually would.

Simply put, I was never cut out to be an NFL player and that should have never been my goal to begin with because honestly it never was.

When I was young a teacher asked me what I wanted to be and I said that I wanted to be an artist. She looked me in the eyes and told me to pick something more realistic, so I said I wanted to be a football player.

She told me to pick something else because both were unrealistic. So I made both my goals, and I have done both.

What I have learned is that most people worship things that they shouldn’t simply because they are not chasing something that they should.

Don’t worship unless you are in the process of chasing. And once you begin to tirelessly chase, your life becomes worship.

I want to chase. I want to worship. I want to be unlocked.

In my eyes that is what heroes do, and in my eyes that is what good men do.

Take the NFL off the pedestal.

Stop worshipping it.

It is just three letters filled with a den of wolves chasing a dollar, and a few good men.

Baron

I Live For You

DIARY 70

I am an artist that once played football, but I was an artist first.

We all were.

Art cannot be art unless it demands remembrance. Unless a thing can create a memory it is not art, but a thing. Even in the instance that a thing is remembered, the painting, the food, the song, the words, whatever it is someone makes is still not the art, but the fact that it was remembered. Without you, art is not real, and without others your art can never be born. Your art is you, but not for you.

Leave beautiful memories and you have left glorious art, and of this we are all capable, but only when we make art for others. The things made only for the artist’s pleasure will be forgotten and die when they do, and once the last memory of that person fades, then they never even existed. But immortality is being remembered, and in remembrance you can still work to inspire beyond the veil of death.

That is art. That is legacy. And that is what we all are capable of. To work so hard that even when we are gone our work still works.

People make things, but artists make art. People are able to call the things they make true, but artists have the ability to make things that are true. We all are artists, wrapped in suits of flesh that vary in size, shape, gender and color. Even the way we are assorted as a species is how a painting is created. A painting is simply various shapes, sizes, colors, and materials that together create something worthy of remembrance. A painting that only consists of one shape, size, color, and material it simply a thing, and Art is the difference.

“Human” is our species, and what we are but that is not who we are, we are more than that. We are art, and we are artists. Simply being human makes you no better than a rock. Rocks exist and so do you. But strive to be an artist that leaves art, and you are a diamond. It is not what you do, or who you are that is valuable, it is if those things are remembered.

It’s approaching a year since I’ve been away from the game of football, and I have grown more in this year than I have my entire life. I think that’s because I stopped focusing on growing my own life, and simply to grow life.

An ego is a dangerous thing when left untamed.

Football created my ego, and Art has tamed it. Football made me competitive so now I competitively work to tame my ego while learning how to do so from my art. Tame your ego and whatever you touch becomes art, because it is done for others to remember you by. The quickest way to sabotage your destiny is to pack your ego along for the journey.

Right now I’m on a jet headed to Dallas to have an art show and wouldn’t want to be any other place in the universe. But 5 years ago I would have wanted to be a pro bowl NFL player, and if you would have put both on a scale and asked me to choose one my ego would have not picked Art.

As I was flying out of Latrobe PA where I took part in three NFL training camps with the Steelers I couldn’t help but smile. It was fitting because the most glorious thing that has ever happened to me was my plan being altered in the form of an injury when I tore my ACL. It was the last play of the last practice before my first NFL game. As I was being carted off the field I made a decision instead of a plan, because there is a big difference between decisions and plans. You can make decisions to formulate a plan, but it’s a dangerous thing to start with the plan and negate decisions. My decision was to force a metamorphosis of my adversity, and allow it to become something beautiful even if I didn’t know what it would transform into at the time. Decisions make time irrelevant while plans are bound by time. Time is not meant to enslave people to their plans, but motivate and push people to make correct decisions so they don’t have to plan life out and can live it. You do not have to be bound by time if your decisions are pure. Egos make plans, but art is a decision.

As I flew over Saint Vincent I looked down over my past, present, and future. Because in one perfect magical moment when I shredded my ACL, everything I would become, became and because of that injury Art found me. When I was a kid all I wanted to be was an artist. I’m thankful art chased me down in Latrobe and tore my ACL.

So don’t praise my paintings or my words or anything else I make for that matter. Praise what adversity can do for a man. My life has been full of it, and through it I am able to leave an existence that matters. Be encouraged if your life is not normal, it means that you are equipped to never have to live a normal one. People who live normal lives typically wish for an unusual one, but if your life is already unusual do not wish for a normal life, simply strive to make pure decisions.

Love adversity, and make good decisions because that is what the staircase to forever consists of.

I look at things a lot differently now. I’ve realized that my goals were never goals but Gods. They were the pinnacles of achievement that motivated me with the idea of being able to say I ‘made’ it. Ironically now I would rather help someone else reach their destiny, because if I can do that their destiny is also mine.

Art has showed me there is no pinnacle to anything, only improvement. Competition is not the ability to become a certain thing with a title. Competition is the skill of becoming simply to become more.

Set a pinnacle and you are a slave to it. Walk the steps and you are boundless.

I want to be boundless.

So my goal is not to reach anything, my goal is to walk the steps that lead up, and that go on forever. There is no pinnacle for me. Where you die on the steps, is where you die on the steps, and it is your final say in how you lived life. Setting goals without the ability to make pure decisions is like worshipping a God that is as lazy as you are, because that’s exactly what you’ve created.

We are not meant to worship a pinnacle, we are meant to walk steps. Art taught me this.

I think the greatest responsibility an artist has is to use their time in silence to sit, think, learn and then share what they learn. Because that is art.

My paintings need me to make them, but my art needs you to remember them. Because of this I’ve learned the greatest power is serving those that will remember you. I am the product of other people’s art, and my art is you. Everything I learn I want you to know, everything I make I want you to see, and everything I become I want you to remember. My name is Baron Batch and I used to play football for your enjoyment, but I was an artist first.

Now I am boundless and my life is yours to enjoy.

I live for you.

Baron