When Life Gives You Lemons Advice on How To Turn It Into Lemonade

December 2023, by Scott Obernberger

Scott Obernberger and his father, Dave, work together at an art show. Photo courtesy of Scott Obernberger 

What do you do when life throws you a curveball? It is bound to happen sometimes. After all, that’s life. 

Do you get down and out about it, or do you look for the lessons and use it as an opportunity? As I write this article this morning (it is always best to write early in the morning before the distractions of the day hit — and the coffee is freshly brewed), I have just learned American Handcrafted, the last major trade show for artists who wholesale that is dedicated to handmade products, has been canceled permanently. 

For many of us, wholesale is a major component of our business plan, and this cancellation could mean the end of a career in the arts. What do you do when the unexpected happens and it uproots your best laid plans? 

Hold On

So, now what? It is easy to just puddle. It is reflexive. You are dealt a blow, and you let physics and gravity do their thing. 

The problem with puddling is it does not solve the problem in front of you and usually just exacerbates it. Wallowing in the bad news only gives it power. Accept the lemons or make lemonade is the decision all of us must make when bad things happen. 

For me, the first thing I do is give myself permission to be a bit overwhelmed, sad, angry, whatever emotion is justified given the situation. But I only give myself permission to focus on the emotion for a limited time — usually a day. 

Then it is time to take back your power. Use that energy to figure out a way around the problem. Who knows, the way around might even bring you a better result than you would have had if the problem had not arisen. It usually does.

You Learn

Assess the situation. Whenever you must analyze a problem and make a decision, the first step is to look at what you have. 

What resources do you have or have access to? What opportunities are out there you might be able to take advantage of? What are you presently doing that could be magnified and expanded to offset the setback? Until you do a thorough assessment of where you stand, you cannot begin to truly solve the problem at hand. 

So, if you have lost one of your best shows (a problem we need to be ready for as markets change and customers shift their buying habits), are there other shows you can pick up? What about other ways to sell? 

Open your studio up to the public. Obtain a storefront that also serves as your studio space. Create artist groups and work together collaboratively on smaller local shows or annual studio tours. Consider internet sales opportunities. All of these could be potential alternatives. 

Reach out to other artists and see how they are dealing with the situation. One of the best resources all of us have access to is our fellow artist friends. Reach out and talk about whether there is a way through the problem together. 

Do not underestimate the human connection. This is one of the most valuable resources each of us has. Artists, like most people, like to help others. Ideas, information, emotional support — all these can be obtained by interacting with others. So, do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. 

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