Have a clear reference point to harness in dark moments

January 23, 2021
by Susan J Mumford

From time to time, I visit San Angelo in West Texas to visit relatives.  This is the place that one great-grandfather, known as “Grandaddy  Johnson” – for that’s what my father called him, settled after leaving  the family farm in Tennessee. The Amercian Civil War of the 1860s had  resulted in the family property and more being decimated. In my own  years out in the world forging my own path, I’ve found it immensely  helpful and grounding to recall the story of this 19th Century American who is a quintessential  example of the Go West, Young Man movement.

In April 2006, I’d taken the lease to a rooftop  gallery in Soho, London, surrounded by the backs of buildings on the  four surrounding blocks that had my building in the middle. I found  myself exhausted, on my hands and knees one evening, varnishing the  floor, brush stroke by brush stroke. I broke down into tears on that old  dirty wooden floor that had been worn down over the decades. I asked myself, What had I got myself into by committing to premises in Central London?

Then I remembered  Grandaddy Johnson. Back in the late 1870s, he took the train out to what  might have seemed like the middle of nowhere in West Texas and  ultimately established himself, alongside his big brother who he’d  followed, as one of the foremost businessman at the then-frontier edge.  After leaving Tennessee, he reportedly stated that he would,  never slap the back side of a mule again. Today, one can visit the restored site (now on the Register of Historic Places) of one of his many achievements, the fancy grocers Johnson & Taylor. (This is not to mention the livery stable, a stage line, mercantile business, banking business, real estate and, at one time, the  role of Deputy Sheriff.)

In comparison with the  challenges he’d confronted, I reminded myself, on what grounds could I  justifiably be overcome by the trials and tribulations that I faced in  21st Century Britain?

After that early spring evening varnishing the floor, I learned to  consciously take hold of difficult moments. I trained myself to take  stock, think about the positives, and put the situation into perspective  – always in context of the inspirational Grandaddy Johnson  who had started with nothing and achieved so much.

I suggest that you, too, work out a clear reference point from your  own life to harness in dark moments. Have a think about the  inspirational stories of your family and friends, and store those in  your mind so that you can reflect on them in moments of need. Reference  points will help you maintain control over state of mind which will be  fundamental in picking up yourself and thus continuing to take steps  forward in your career and projects. 

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Susan J Mumford

SUSAN J MUMFORD is a serial entrepreneur in the art market. She ran a gallery in Soho, London, from 2006-11, which was followed by the creation of the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD) in 2009, an international network with multiple chapters. In 2012 she launched Be Smart About Art, an online-accessible professional development platform. Then in 2018, she embarked upon her latest enterprise, ArtAML, which unites technology and art market know-how to help dealers keep dealing and buyers keep buying in the face of anti-money laundering legislation that hit the art market in 2020.

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