Want to know how finding your passion changes everything? Hear it straight from this 92-year old Guinness World Record holder, art-teacher who thinks age is just a three-letter word!
Before I met Conni Gordon, there was only one 90+ woman who had completely changed my mind about aging. My great-aunt Marietta Abeles. One of the most beautiful women I ever met, who at 94 continues to give me fashion advice. (And relationship advice too if you want to know the truth!) I’ll talk about Marietta in another post because once you see her picture you’ll want to know how finding your passion in life changes everything. Most noticeably, how you feel about yourself and about what life has to offer at every age.
But I digress. Today is all about Conni. Another vibrant 90 + woman who holds the Guinness World Record for the World’s Most Prolific Arts Teacher. She taught 17 million people how to paint. Read that again. It’s the equivalent to the entire population of Chile! Undoubtedly, Conni is the epitome of how finding your own passion leads to a happy, healthy, and long life. A veteran of World War II, Conni has taught President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter, Sammy Davis Jr., Roger Moore, Larry King and many, many others. She’s appeared on more talk shows than any other person alive and is getting ready for an appearance on Univision, as she tries to share her amazing methodology with the Hispanic market.
How Finding your passion really changes everything
Did you know you had a passion for painting when you were young?
Yes, for painting and music. My dad was a theatrical agent. He hired strippers and other entertainment acts and someone had to accompany these women while they were practicing on stage. So I played the piano, the accordion and the organ to help him out. I tell you, everyone should have a childhood like mine, so free of prejudice!
I also had a Kindergarten teacher who got me interested in painting. The decision to choose painting over music came to me quickly when I was in finishing school in France. They told me that if I wanted to be a pianist I had to practice 12-14 hours a day. That was it. I became the fastest artist in the world!
And then you got a Guinness World Record for helping millions of people learn to paint fast!
Yes, that’s true. I was interested in being on top, being head of this or that, the valedictorian. It was always a challenge to be up front. Not in the back.
Finding your true passion
So when did you realize that your passion was more for teaching others than being an artist yourself?
Most artists want to paint for themselves and that was never my aim. From very early on, when I saw the women that came through my dad’s business looking all the same, I decided I was going to do something nobody else in the world had done. That was a passion that developed when I was 12, 13, 14 years old. It was about giving back to others. To me it was always more important to do for others, to help them improve their self-esteem, and make them feel that they could do more than they thought they could do, than it was to become an artist myself.
You are constantly developing materials, techniques and concepts to help people create art. Tell us a bit about that…
My interest is to develop concepts that a person who knows nothing about art can create. It’s a technique. My passion is opening the world of art to millions of people around the world. I’m very good with materials. So I developed materials to teach people to paint even when they are blind. Their paintings had become a way for them to make a living.
And I also developed a creative thinking method called TILS, which is a simplified approach to Mind Mapping and it helps people find solutions to their problems.
Throughout my career, I’ve always balanced between taking a high paying gig in a Fortune 500 company and a free presentation to people who need help.
How to find your passion
Why do you think so many people have trouble finding their passion?
They don’t think for themselves. They accept what the family or friends tell them. People are afraid to look within themselves. If you have a hobby you enjoy why don’t you think about it as a business? Think about it. What could you do to turn it into a business?
What has been the biggest learning for you in teaching so many million people tap into their inner artist?
The fact that most teachers don’t give their students a feeling of immediate success! They talk about technical terms, they make it complicated. My thing is help people do something where they see the result right away. You can’t fool people. When they come out with a picture they can recognize they get interested in finding out more. (That’s why I stay in the realm of realistic art.)
What would you say to someone who’s trying to answer the question, “How to find your passion?”
To look into their heart and answer these questions: What do you really, really love to do? What keeps you happy? Being by yourself, or in a group? What makes you different? What talent do you have? Do you want to help others or do you want to live a selfish life? Those are the questions that lead to finding your true passion.
How has winning the Guinness World Record impacted your career?
It has been very important because it was the highest recognition at an official level you can get. Everyone knows if it’s in there it has been researched. It’s proof. It has made me proud and it helped in selling and convincing other people that may be my method has power. All that without paid advertising!
Have you felt at any point that your mission of teaching people to paint became a burden?
The only burden is that I’m growing older and I can’t go around the world as I used to! But I do it through books (they’ve sold 17 million copies!) online, and I franchised the method to someone in Russia, Lithuania, and San Diego. And I’m now training Cecilia Bertomeu, who I met while she was taking classes with me, to continue my work.
What would you say to women who think that their age is an impediment for starting something new, better aligned with their passion?
Age is a three-letter word that doesn’t mean a thing. It’s your attitude. If your attitude is that life has passed you by, then it has. If you look forward to opening up every day as a gift, then it will keep you going. You need to have something planned to look forward to everyday.