Am I a Success or a Failure in This Complicated World

Am I a Success or a Failure in This Complicated World

Sometimes I feel like I'm pushing through concrete

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday who has worked in the surf industry for many years.  We were discussing business, the economy and life.

He was complimenting me on my great success.  This is a man I respect.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I feel like a failure.

The surf industry and the private club that it has become has not been very supportive of me.  To some I am just some kook who will not go away.

I make a living despite them because real people and real surfers can see me and they know who I am.  I guess in some ways I do feel successful, but not in the terms most people validate themselves.

My career has not brought me great wealth, but has allowed me to pursue  my goals and dreams.  My life is full of adventure, with great people, a wonderful family, and a freedom few enjoy.

I would love to have more financial stability but not at the cost of what I think is right or just.

Earlier in my career, I quit the two best gigs I ever had in the surf industry;  the first tried to tell me I could not create art after work, they held my job over my head trying to try to instill fear in me and the other employees, by using me as an example.  I quit on the spot because it was wrong.

I left the second company when it went in a direction I did not approve of, with new people I did not trust or want to work with.  That was difficult to quit; I had to leave everything I worked so hard for and start over.  My so called friends there  thought I was stupid wasting my opportunities and turning down a great pay check.

Many Companies do not want to employ people like me, they want robots, yes-men and paper pushers.  That’s just not me and I am not going to change for anyone.

I want to get things done and speak my mind.  They want to use me but they do not want me in their club to tell them they have become what all real surfers despise.

It seems I have always been here on the fringe, an outsider, independent. It is a very lonely place sometimes.

I know that I am lucky that enough people outside of the industry, like my art and can see me for who I am, to stand by me.

My wife and I could not have picked a more difficult way to make a living, but we have persevered beyond the surf industry and tried to lead the way for others like us.

We have had to invent new ways to do business as an artist and it has been a benefit to all artists.   I have been a professional artist now for over twenty years and we have survived the last few years where many have not.  I guess that is success.  It has been real people who have supported us over the years, and anyone who has met us in person knows what we are all about.

Our goal is to inspire people, and from reading many of your letters and feedback it has worked.  Thank you for allowing me to chase my dreams and feed my family, it is only with your support that we do so.

 I want to leave you with this request:  Support people and companies who are up to good things.  Abandon the false role models and leaders who occupy our world.
Somewhere out there beyond all the greed, advertising, propaganda, and spin is the truth.  The world has become so complicated and corrupt that it is broken, from politics to banking to the silly surf industry, and maybe even the business that you’re in.
We are all responsible for what we tolerate, what we buy and what we choose to support.
Wake up!  This is your only true power and voice.
I owe my simple career and what my friend calls success to the individuals who decided I was worthwhile and that I was up to good things.
There are many great role models, companies, and leaders out there, they need our support to succeed.
Life is Good,
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  • Gabriel Guedes
    Posted at 20:00h, 25 November

    Hi Drew, how’s things going? hope you’re doing well.
    I’m here to say you’re truly success, not only for your artwork but for being such a great person. I’m pretty sure that everyone who gets in touch with you and your art feels inspired.
    Since the very first moment I knew about your work I got addicted, and watching those videos from the paintshop made me a huge fan of you. As a beginner artist I think just like you do, it’s very hard to stand by our ideals and fight the rest of the world, but making people happy with art like you do is the most honest way to show them you’re true. Maybe one day we could met around the world, I would love to visit your studio someday, talk about art, lead home holding a piece of art made by a great man like you and some priceless knowledge. Really, Drew, thanks for sharing everything!

    Greetings from Brazil
    Keep rockin’

  • Kerby
    Posted at 23:18h, 16 July

    Hi Drew,

    This is the first time I heard about you, and your amazing talent. And this might be one of the few moments I’ve commented on a blog I’m reading over the net. I am an amateur illustrator, still trying to enter the huge creative world you are in and I never thought of giving up.

    This was the first time I saw your art and I got hooked up. Your exceptional talent, loving family, and doing all things you love will never be a failure. I am impressed how can a tough surfer and artist like you can be as emotional like this.

    Continue living up the life you are in today. Challenges will always come up…but use them as stepping stones towards attaining greater heights of success.

    God bless!


  • Keith Silcox
    Posted at 17:43h, 27 June

    I watched your “Paint Shop” series on-line last year and was very impressed by it.
    In my opinion, you are most definitely a success- doing what you love for a living, having a loving family, and basically enjoying life on your terms.
    I hope at some point that you might bring the “Paint Shop” show back with some new episodes.Just watching them is an inspiration.

  • Andrew
    Posted at 13:40h, 24 April

    Hi Drew,

    Just wanted to tell you that I printed off your letter about your success in this world placed it in an inexpensive frame and hung it on my wall right in front of me when I sit at my work table.

    2.5 years ago I lost my job of 15 years as a Technical Illustrator for one of the “Big 3” here in Michigan. Our group of 7 produced and maintained between 8-10,000 illustrations per year. After the lay-off, my health deteriorated and I eventually went on disability. I had also been told that our illustration work was jobed out to a group in China at a fraction of the cost . . . talk about feeling devalued in your work.

    So for the past 2 years I couldn’t even bring myself to even pick up a pencil . . . that is until I read your letter about being a success or failure in this world. Being a christian I keep an eternal perspective, but struggled quite a bit about not working and feeling like a complete failure . . . monetarily and physically.

    I have been married almost 28 years and still have 8 children at home to help feed and support, so I hope you see what we all have been through and continue to endure.

    I had ordered your “starter kit” of paint pens and broke them open and in the process of using my sons bicycle helmet as my 1st project. I will send you some pics when I’m done.

    I want to Thank You (and Maria too) for your encouragement and for sharing your thoughts and feelings in your work and through your lives. I am another person you have encouraged and I admire and respect you and your family.


    P.S. ; )

    1 Corinthians 1:27 New Living Translation Bible

    Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

  • Rusty Sherrill
    Posted at 11:30h, 19 April

    Drew, Great blog. I’ve been working in the surf industry for over 20 years now. It’s very frustrating artistically and the games never seem to end.
    Your words,” We are all responsible for what we tolerate” really hit home. I’m finally jumping off the cliff and leaving the industry. It’s scary, no steady paycheck, bills, but it’s way past due. My wife and I are heading up to Big Bear so I can paint and we can follow our dreams of living off our art and books. And I get to snowboard more.
    You and Maria are so inspiring. Thanks for the blogs, keep them coming.


  • Andrea Wood
    Posted at 05:54h, 19 April

    In this complicated world you need the bad guys so the good guys stand out so much more. If everyone was like you, no one would feel as inspired by you, your paintings, your life style and your ability to live your dream as they do today.

    Success is measured in so many ways, by so many people, and financial stability is a necessary evil to live, but you and your family are the richest people I know. You are rich in love, adventure, friendships, opportunity that you make for yourselves, and talent. The good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge. —- Bertrand Russell

    Being different doesn’t make you an outsider. You make yourself an outsider, being different makes you a leader. It makes you stand out, it gives you power that others wish they had. I bet some of your more financially sound friends, collegues, enemies wish they had a little of what God gave you. You are one unique individual, with a love for life that most people only aspire to have and live vicariously through you(I sure do).

    I think in this complicated world, no ones life is perfect, people with money have their issues, people who are what most call successful have their issues, we all have our issues in this world, and the grass is always greener on the other side.

    I think the bigger picture is you are healthy, you have a healthy child, you have a wife who loves you deeply, you have a family who would do anything for you, friends, collegues and strangers who aspire to be like you and live like you, a roof over your head, food on the table, and lastly the opportunity to go surfin’ at the best serve spot any day, any time you want. You live an unbelievable life, everyday, seeing things that most people will never see, doing things most people will never do, Success is being happy, grateful and comfortable in what you have today. If that isn’t success I don’t know what is and I don’t want you to ever forget it. Keep living the dream, keep reinventing yourself, I have full confidence in your success. Being one of these more traditional lpeople who lives in a world of 8-5 job, paid vacation, corporate world, I need people like you in my life so remind me dreams do come true. Thanks for the post Drew, I love having the opportunity to remind you how you inspire people, even your big sister! I’m so proud of you.

  • Jay Alders
    Posted at 04:56h, 19 April


    I started work in the studio early today and saw your newsletter in my inbox and read through it as I always do. I was very touched by this heart-felt expression.

    I totally relate to your feelings on this and often share similar feelings of insecurity and doubt. It is in our nature as artists to dissect situations and emotions and see both the good and bad. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

    I am very glad to have people like you and Maria in our lives. One of the down sides of having a job like we do is the lack of opportunity to sit around the watercooler and feel that sense of teamwork. It is very much a bro-club at times and usually we’re on the fringes of that. I consider you and Maria “colleagues” and on our ‘team’. I hope our closeness as friends will grow over the years.

    Again, thank you for sharing and being you.

  • Joy
    Posted at 19:07h, 18 April

    You are truly an inspiration. I have never tried to make a living from my art but have used it to enhance and beautify the lives of those around me. You are a success and so am I. I make my living teaching art and being a houseparent at a home for at-risk teens. People like us will never be rich by worldly standards but we are rich beyond our wildest dreams in that we are being true to ourselves and making a difference in this messed up world. Hang in there and stay true to what is really important! YOU ARE A HUGE SUCCESS!!!!

  • Lisa Langhirt
    Posted at 16:43h, 22 March

    “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” ~Bob Dylan~

  • Gary
    Posted at 02:56h, 21 March

    It’s not easy being truthful and speaking out as we start making our way in this world. Everybody has that fork in the road, and we don’t always take the correct path, being influenced by parents, teachers and fear. The bad bosses, the doomsayers, the people who try to influence you negatively. They are here for a purpose. They will either suck you into their world, or you can you them as an example of how not to be. Success is not easy. But it is possible. Love what you do and do what you love. Do it again and again. Then do it some more. You have to improve and your hard work will pay off! Drew, you are a living example that there is roadmap to happiness. One need only seek it. It will reveal itself to you!

  • Karina
    Posted at 03:19h, 20 March

    Hey Drew,
    Congrats on how much you have achieved in life 🙂 I, like so many others, can totally relate to your article “Am I a Success or Failure in this Complicated World”

    ‘The Outsider.. the independant..” the lone voice that speaks with feeling rather than what its ‘supposed to’ or ‘expected’ to say.. I am a firm believer in chasing your goals and dreams regardless of what everyone else thinks you ‘should’ be doing.

    I paint and draw would LOVE to make a living from it.. my boyfriend lives in Samoa, I live in Australia.. I am constantly hearing ‘long distance relationships dont work..’ and ‘you need a ‘REAL’ job.. art is a hobby..’ So I understand how sometimes its easy to feel defeated before you even begin! However, dreams do come true, true talent and down to earth people are appreciated.. by those who matter..

    My boyfriend is Samoa’s only local surf guide and has never even had his own ‘brand new’ board.. But you know what.. he appreciates every single wave he surfs, and has taught me to get back to the simple ways of life and appreciate the talents that we do have, and let them shine bright!!

    Life is good.. and its going to get better! 🙂

    Thankyou for such an inspiring article.. its exactly what i needed to read! Guess the old saying ‘the teacher appears when the student is ready’ is more true than I ever thought possible!! Cheers 🙂

  • Kat
    Posted at 08:27h, 17 March

    Drew, I think that you are a success in creating your OWN life and your own truth! Enjoy the day!

  • Lorenzo
    Posted at 18:19h, 16 March

    I get it Drew. I see things the same way and have also been the outsider of the “in” crowd. I like to philosophize and share personal truths. I have a lot of respect for your willingness to express your true thoughts.

    In the past I use to feel awkward about my differentness, but I’m getting better at being more bold. It’s been a pleasure being able to connect with Maria and you because I’ve always been drawn to the integrity you both have.

    It always nice to find kindred spirits 🙂

  • Mary Kay
    Posted at 11:24h, 16 March

    WoW! That was awesome Drew! You think like me… and that thinking always caused me to be labeled as flakey, ADHD, goofy… I am so honest and such an open book, trying to make it as the Artist I always wanted to be. Giving up money & career to live the right way, to be responsible, as a Mother that I always wanted to be, and now as the Mother and Artist that I also wanted to be!! It is excruciating to struggle, and stay true to yourself, giving up a lot to make it. I have always said, People will look at me as a fool if I pursue my Art and continue to be poor. BUT, as soon as I make it, have money to flaunt and look good to everyone, then the people will be proud of me. “Wow, you worked hard and you made it!” It definitely cements those that love you in your heart, not caring if you’re a success of failure, but loving you for who you are!

  • Lynne
    Posted at 11:23h, 16 March

    Thanks Drew. Here’s to your next painting, too 😉

  • Lynne
    Posted at 10:05h, 16 March

    I spent almost 30 years working at jobs because my parents told me in 1st grade that I would never make a living at art and that I had to feed myself. When I was forced to retire because of an injury I sustained while working on aircraft electronics in the military, I was 45 years old. I had gone on to be an IT engineer after my Air Force career because I loved computers and it was good money. It was absolutely the most miserable job you could imagine, where women with IT degrees and 20 years of experience were made to feel like idiots. My injury caught up to me, so I had to retire. At age 45 I remembered how my mother ridiculed my artwork and decided she was wrong. Through excruciating feelings of failure, I figured out something. I have only sold a couple of paintings, but you know what? Who cares what others think of my work? I started a 365 day challenge to draw one sketch on my IPhone, then continued on my IPad. It changed my life completely. I am now on day 317 and would never change anything. Everything we go through is meant to be. As Eckhart says “You exist so that the purpose of the Universe may unfold.”
    You wiil have days…we all do. You are so fortunate to be able to kiss your lovely wife each day and walk your son to school. That is all that matters. You change lives everyday, in ways you could never guess. 🙂 and thanks for changing a part of mine.

  • Maria Brophy
    Posted at 08:51h, 16 March

    Drew, I’m so glad to see you sharing your deepest thoughts. Though we live a great life, it’s not all roses and cupcakes! There are some real challenges we have had to overcome.

    You have always felt like an outsider to not only the Surf Industry, but other groups in your life, too.

    To me, you’ll always be part of my club!

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