Creating art that yields 100X eternal returns
Jordan Raynor sits down with Noah Elias, to talk about how to make space to hear the “screaming whisper” of God, the most common disciplines of highly successful creatives, and how Christ-followers can work for a “100X” eternal reward.
[0:00:05.3] JR: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others. Each week, I host a conversation with somebody who’s following Jesus Christ, and also pursuing world-class mastery of their craft. We talk about their path to mastery and their vocation. We talk about their daily habits and how their faith influences their work.
Today, you guys are going to hear from my friend, Noah Elias. He is a masterful artist who went from selling art door-to-door on a bike at the age of 16, to creating art for clients such as Disney and Lucasfilm and Universal Pictures. He’s phenomenally talented and totally sold out for Jesus Christ.
By the way, if you recognize his name, you’ve probably seen his artwork at a Disney store or a theme park somewhere around the world. Noah and I recently sat down. We talked about how to make space to hear the screaming whisper of God. We talked about the most common disciplines of highly successful creatives and how Christ followers, especially creatives can work for a 100X eternal reward.
I think you guys are really going to get a lot out of this conversation. Please enjoy my conversation with Noah Elias.
[0:01:33.1] JR: Noah, it’s good to hang out with you again, man. Thanks for doing this.
[0:01:36.1] NE: You’re welcome. My pleasure.
[0:01:38.2] JR: Take two of our interview. So we had the chance to hang out when you were in Tampa a couple weeks before this coronavirus thing went down. Something got screwed up with the audio. Totally my fault, so we're doing it again. But hey, I'm not complaining. It was a terrific conversation and I'm thrilled to do it again, man.
Let's start with your story. You've been selling art since you were what? 16, 15-years-old, something like that?
[0:01:59.6] NE: Yup. Parents split up at 9-years-old like the most important time of my life as the divorce happened. It was a disruption in my life, but also at the same time that's when I came to faith. Right around 9, especially around 12, even though I was doing some art as a kid, it was a big passion, I had that crisis of understanding of, “Holy mackerel, mom and dad are each taking care of themselves. I'm on my own. I got to figure this stuff out and creativity is my best option.”
I saw what my dad did in the sign painting industry and graphic design and my mom and in interior design, so I knew what it was like to see when you can take a vision out of somebody's life, or somebody's head and bring it to reality in their life. That was really attractive to me and I thought, “Man, I really like people. What if I could learn that at a very young age and continue to do that through school?” That's what I really focused on.
I started my business yes, at 16, going door-to-door on a bike, business card was in the yearbook in my high school. Back then, there was no social media. There was no get it to market immediately through the press of a button. It was analog. It was go hand out flyers. It was come to my gallery, see a show. It was, “Hey, I would love for you to buy this art.” I took art to the people and that's always what I did, was I can't wait for them to come to me, I have to go to them.
[0:03:09.8] JR: When did you graduate high school?
[0:03:11.8] NE: In 1989.
[0:03:13.2] JR: All right. You graduate in ’89. A few years before that, let's call it ’86, when I was born, you're going door-to-door in where? In Southern California?
[0:03:21.9] NE: Southern California right here in Newport Beach. Corona del Mar's where I grew up, pretty much all of Orange County, Disneyland, that whole area, Fullerton, Anaheim was my territory for my business. The moment I had wheels and could drive, it was literally beyond freedom.
I was playing in a Christian alternative band, Turn of the Nation, at the time. I was doing art full-time. I had also thought just before graduating high school that I was actually going to go to play pro football. I'm like, “Man, I've got these three things,” but this art thing started paying early on. I was already making $150 per job as a high school student.
I'm like, “Man, if I could just really focus on this,” even though I saw the dangled carrot of culture of go to ArtCenter in Pasadena and you'll be famous. If you get that paper, you can do posters for movies and illustrate it and all that.” That was the grid back then. It was literally had to take it to the streets and had to get the word out. I couldn't just advertise in the blink of an eye the way we can now. It truly was a hustle, if I could say it.
[0:04:16.7] JR: Do you remember your first client? How did you score your first paying customer for your design business?
[0:04:23.2] NE: There was a bagel shop locally that had this ratty sign that was like, “Extra toppings, 50 cents.” When I walked in I'm like, “Dude, that thing is shoddy.” I just told the owner. I said, “Hey, I can make you a really great brand-new sign. It's 40 bucks. I'll come back. Give me a deposit of 20 now, I'll come back and the balance upon delivery.”
I did. I literally went, went to the art store, grabbed markers, some show card material and legit lettered ‘Extra toppings, 50 cents.’ Western Bagel in Tustin, California was my first client and where it all launched.
[0:04:49.0] JR: I love it. That's a great first client, bagel toppings. Tell us the rest of the story. Things start to really pick up for you in your career. Take us 16, first customer to present-day.
[0:05:00.7] NE: What essentially happened was I kept on working in my backyard. That's my advice to anybody and everybody. Everybody wants to go conquer the world, but they can't first manage the business underneath their home with the ministry of their family. Second of all, they can't even manage their business as their career, yet they want to change the world and do these ambitious things. For me, I literally had to work my inside out.
The way that I did that was the moment that I graduated high school, I moved in with my best friend who's the guitarist of our band. Shortly thereafter, I just went in and moved into a warehouse in Newport Beach. Pretty much was homeless. I didn't realize that then, but realized that now. I went and built a loft in there.
I put up a drop cloth as a divider to make a makeshift room, put a sleeping bag on the ground, but I was overly joyed. I knew I wasn't alone. I knew I had the Lord. Our church had gone sideways at the time. I was sitting there just going, “Dude, here I am in this warehouse. I'm going to put all my money back into my business and I want to make this the greatest business ever to help people and to do really awesome stuff.”
What shortly thereafter happened, I met Craig T. Nelson from the TV show Coach through a divine connect and had the opportunity to paint his racecar trailer, which was a massive deal back then. Shortly after, I'm painting in downtown Westwood, where they're doing the movie premieres for the Batman premiere and Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. I'm able to meet them. They got some art pictures with them and my portfolio starts getting littered with these celebrities and starting to work with MTV and then Motorola.
Then I hit a midlife crisis though at 28, because I'd been working for 14 years. I hit the ceiling of complexity. I reached the top of the ladder of success, only to realize it was leaning up against the wrong building. It was the building of self. It was that whole mentality that I bought into, which is self-made dues paid. Here I was a believer. I knew I had God in my life, but I made him a silent partner.
As I was sitting there on a cliff top in Newport Beach where I grew up, I'm going, “Man, where's that child-like youth and my creativity? Why is creativity become a curse, rather than a blessing? Why am I sitting here with the greatest clients and roster in the world, but I'm empty?”
At 28, I remember him giving me a divine download, sitting there and he just said, “I want you to take everything that's in your journal, the underbelly of your life and I want you to put that story out on canvas.” I said, “Who the heck is going to want to buy the worst parts of me? I doubt that that's going to be an asset that somebody's going to say, “Yeah, great. Let me spend a grip of money and put that on my wall.””
I'm like, “That's my story. Why would they buy my story?” Literally, I just obeyed. I went home. I went to the studio. I was really depressed, super pissed off. I was mad at myself. I was like, “Why am I at 28 this miserable?” I just started purging. I was building a brand and a business built off of creativity, based on somebody else's measuring stick and not what God had for me and what I had for myself.
I literally just threw all the canvases on the ground, started painting and going off, cranked the music, started playing in the sandbox with the Lord and just literally took those pages of my journal. Those paintings still live today and they're selling online, one’s exhale, one’s breakthrough, one’s the imitation, one’s fear-driven. All of these themes of the worst parts of me and I put them up on the wall, I made my gallery as show-ready as possible, made it to where just a turn of the key of opening the door, I could be show-ready, candles lit, music going, dimly lit lights in world-class.
If these were going to be what God and I had done together, was this going to tell the story of what was really possible in people's lives. I basically dropped the fig leaf on those canvases. Guy comes pulling up four days later through a referral in yellow Lamborghini, and he walks in. At that time, I was selling my work for a couple grand to about 4,000 per piece. The Lord was just like, “No, dude. I need to be like it, 12 to 15.” Talk about pucker factor.
I just sat there and said, “Okay, fine. 12, 5.” This guy walks in and he's like, “Yeah, these are great. These will fit. I'll take those four.” I'm like, “Well, 48K? And you just bought the worst part of me?” It destroyed me in a beautiful way of realizing son/daughter, if you just listen to my screaming whisper and obey the things that are going to make you step out and risk in danger in faith that requires me to fill in the blanks, we can do a life together and assemble this life together through your creative process.
[0:09:08.6] JR: I love that mountain top experience recognizing that while creativity felt like a burden. You've been doing this for 14 years. You knew that that's not it was – what it was designed to be. Creativity as a gift. Work is a gift. Even in burnout, being able to recognize that and rediscover the joy and work.
If people know Elias's name, they probably know it from your work with Disney. Your art is sold in Disney stores all around the world right now. I love the story of how you got into Disney. Can you tell that story?
[0:09:38.4] NE: It literally picks up right where that last story left off, because here's what's crazy: Had I not created what the Lord asked me to create, what Disney saw on those pieces is what started the conversation, through another divine connect, where somebody said, “Oh, you do art? I'd love to see your stuff.” I showed it to them and they said, “Hey, we'd love to see some of your stuff done with our characters.” I took that. I presented it.
The woman said, “No, this is great. We can get this anywhere. But what we want is what you did in those angel pieces. I want the tattoos. I want the drips. I want the aging. I want the vibe. I want you, the edge, the DNA of who you are through the work to see us through that.” I'm like, “Really?” I’m cleaning my ear out, like baking powder? Like, “what?” I was in that motor bike, “You're kidding me.”
Once I presented it, then it was like, “Okay, this is it. Let's put it in.” A wonderful dear friend of mine who I still work with her to this day, 15 years later, she heralded this new initiative in Disney's California Adventure, where they were launching this brand-new initiative about a California-based artists in our backyard of Orange County type of vibe. We put in all these originals, almost all of them sold within a 10-day period. It was this wildfire that had just sparked and all, God, dude. I'm sitting at home just getting text from cast members going, “Another one sold.” Then that afternoon, “Another one sold.”
I'm like, that doesn't happen normally. That it's just crazy, not even in the Disney world to have that many originals happening in a succession was crazy. Then we had an opportunity to heighten our relationship and partnership and engagement.
There was another tipping point where it gave me the opportunity to I'm not just going to hand assets over. We're able to do a partnership together, where I create the art, I make the art, we print the art, we frame the art, we fulfill the art, everything that you see on shopdisney.com under the Noah brand, all of that is dropship fulfilled by our company and our team.
It's a beautiful relationship. Aulani, cruise ships, theme parks and then specialized initiatives. I've had some of the most unbelievable memories working with that relationship. Had I not listened that night on the cliff of painting the underbelly, the Disney Deal probably wouldn't exist.
[0:11:41.4] JR: When you mentioned that mountaintop experience, the screaming whisper of God, I think it's impossible for us to hear the Lord moving sometimes when our world is so noisy. How do you make space to hear the screaming whisper of the Lord today practically, day-to-day?
[0:11:57.0] NE: So funny. I think you and I are both the same where a lot of times, people think that we're just writing strategies, disciplines, initiatives, or things that you can use in your own life. I'm basically doing that to keep myself accountable. I'm like, “Hey, it's worked for me. Hope it works for you, because it works for me.” 31 Disciplines, the new book is literally a collection of all those disciplines. One of them being as you and I have talked about before, Cal Newport such as focused work, but how I applied that and the results that I got from that. Focused work, hacking social media and e-mail.
When I say hacking, I take a machete to my calendar. What the culture says is time management. I don't like time management. I like time mastery. It really goes into intentional disciplines of your life. A majority of it is time. A majority, it has to do with what I'm eating, what am I looking at on social media, what am I listening to in terms of news? What kind of music am I listening to? How am I going to put myself in a frequency? If God is a radio station, how am I getting to the point where I can put my ear up to the speaker and move the tuning dial where I'm – there it is. That takes some intentional focus and time.
For me, guarding literally, booking myself as a client on projects, booking myself for my writing in the morning, keeping everybody out of that picture and guarding that safe time, because as you know, when your reserve tank is full and you don't have to ward off everybody and keep them out of your life all day and you just have that sacred quiet time, I literally then once I'm in that quiet time of writing, of journaling, of writing a new blog, a new chapter, strategies and vision, the way that I get that is I literally just sit down and I invite the Holy Spirit in that space and I say, “Bud, you're my muse. I've partnered with heaven. I'm a child of God.” That creativity has been downloaded to me from the ultimate creator.
If he's got enough creativity to go around to inspire all these creative entrepreneurs on earth, I want to tap into that and I know that he will give me ideas that are supernatural, he'll give me billion-dollar ideas, he will give me incredible ideas that tug at people's hearts. I'm along for the ride, but how do I do that? I got to be intentional and disciplined with carving out that sacred intentional time. It's got to be focused.
[0:14:08.2] JR: Let's put it all together in the tick-tock of your typical day, from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to bed, take us through an hour-by-hour sequence of events for the ideal day in Noah Elias’s world?
[0:14:22.6] NE: Being that I'm a creative entrepreneur, it's not just one thing. That's one thing that we have to keeping in terms of the context here. When it comes to being a creative entrepreneur, you're dealing with a portfolio life. I don't have one day that is exactly the same. However, my structure around that day is the same. In terms of what I'm working on for that day changes and I'm sure it does for you too.
Here's what it looks like. Early morning, super early, if I can do a 5 to 6 a.m., or a 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. swing, somewhere in there depending on the season of life, if I'm traveling in different time zones, things can get a little wiggly and sideways there. If the kids are out of school and it's summer, I shift and I slide the needle around. Typically, way early to rise before anybody else.
Do not do social media and do not do e-mail until noon and at 4:00 p.m. That's a baseline. That's the biggest time band that you'll ever have in your life. In that sacred time, I’ll go journal. I'll do time with the Lord. Time with that isn't like, “Yes, I do have time in the word for sure.” I want to become a professional listener.
If I could sit down with my heavenly father and go, “Lord, what's on your heart today? How can I see things through your lens today? Help align my heart. Verses come to mind. Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit and within me. Help me to see things through your perspective, seeking first your king and righteousness and everything else will be added unto you.”
“That means the bills, that means the clients, that means all that. That's the inbox of life is always going to be full. I don't need to worry about that today. That's your job, Lord. What's on your heart today?” I'm going through that routine in the morning. I go then into working out. When I go into working out, I'm making sure that I'm double downing on my time. I am going to listen to – probably listen to the most, Tim Keller.
Tim Keller's on my YouTube. I'm running, I'm doing sprints. I sprint for a minute. I walk for a minute. I do that for about 24 minutes. Come in train. Go through that training routine. I'm doing really super heavy weights. I've lost about 60 pounds in this process and just like, dude, if I want to bear fruit on this earth, I got to be alive to do it. That was – As you approach 50, you're like, “Dude, listen. 40s blew by really, really quick.”
As soon as you want to start bearing fruit and a lot of it and you want to plan a lot of initiatives, you go into a Tiger Woods realm. Your training, your physical training, your spiritual training and your rest of sleep is equal to the performance and output that you will have. If your sleep sucks, it's going to have a big impact on your training, physically. It has a domino effect.
For me after I've done that, now I start going into focused work. Still haven't checked e-mail, still haven’t checked social media. I'm focused still. I'm not threatened. I'm not distracted. I go into my morning of deep, focused work. Part of that is with the team. Example, today is filming the ads for a brand-new webinar that we've got going out. Another webinar that we've already filmed, another accelerator that we've already filmed and now we're deploying all these assets.
It's taking it to market. We're in a season of taking it to market. I'll have lunch with my family. The cool thing is working from home, I’m able to have kids come in, give me a hug. We're doing life together. Going to use the restroom, give them a kiss on the head, “How you doing? Love you,” all that, have a cup of coffee, take a break, have a protein bar. Go into flipping lunch and I'm having a quick lunch, or eat the same exact thing every single day. It removes the variables, also keeps the weight off.
That again, removes a lot out of my head in my thinking. As soon as I go in my second half, typically my day by the way, once I start to go into my focus work, my day is pretty much done. By the way, that morning time from 4 a.m. to 9:00, 10:00, I might as well been on a retreat. I don't need to go to Cabo or Bali to really get in tune with God and a have a really amazing refilling of my cup and a refilling of the wind of my sail.
That can happen in a bathtub. That can happen in my closet. That can happen in my garage. I don't need to go – First of all, I don't have a life that I want to escape from. We need to be able to have the ability to enter into Shalom at the drop of a hat, in a split second anywhere we are. I wanted to have that ability to do that. So, once I finish lunch, I want to spend the rest of the afternoon in fun. What does fun look like?
Fun looks like, example, today I'm painting for the sake of painting without it having to sell. This is literally just purging my soul again, playing in the sandbox. I could give a rip if it sells or not. What's really interesting when you're in an environment of creativity like that where you're like, “Dude, I'm living the retired life. I've got all these assets and seeds that I've planted that the Lord is able to deploy out to the world. We're doing it reaching the world. It all ends up helping go to the gospel.” I have this opportunity to sit and use creativity with zero rules and zero criticism and just let my heart purge.
Go into dinner time with the family. I really try to stay off of anything that has to do with screens, or anything of watching films until Saturday night, or Sunday. Yesterday, we had a smash ball tournament with the family out on the front lawn. I had to start realizing that I was spending the most of the days busy for a big majority of my life, but I didn't have any fruit, I didn't have anything that was lasting eternally and the outcomes of all of that was super busy. I had a gold-plated hamster wheel and I was really fried. Had to start converting that over.
[0:19:22.4] JR: How much sleep do you get?
[0:19:23.6] NE: If I don't have any wine the night before, if I've stayed extremely clean, I can do five to six and a half really, really well. It's really amazing, because I'm actually measuring it through my WHOOP band. When I look on my WHOOP, they're like, 0.01 of our users actually get this great a quality of sleep in that amount of time. I'm like, “Whoa. Cool.” I'm even measuring my sleep, because I'm like, I got to know how I’m recovering. I got to know how I'm doing, so that I can have the right amount of output.
[0:19:47.7] JR: Yeah, absolutely. I measure everything. I measure sleep. I measure where I'm spending every hour of my day. Two things resonate with me in your routine. Number one, eating the same thing. I eat exactly the same thing from the moment I wake up at 4:45 a.m., until basically dinnertime. It's the same thing every single day. Just removes decisions and ensures I'm making healthy decisions. The other thing is e-mail twice a day. I'm in a season where I'm doing e-mail once a day. End of the day, 2:30, 3:30-ish p.m. That's a game changer.
All right, let's go back to craft for a second, right? You are an exceptional artist. Beyond the technical skills, what do world-class artists do that their less masterful counterparts don't do? What's the delta between good and great?
[0:20:38.5] NE: We just filmed the webinar that you'll probably be seeing ads for is the amateur versus pro approach. Then it's really answering that question, what divides those that are professional and those that are world-class, versus those that aren't? A lot of folks don't even have that like, “Hey, am I a professional hobbyist?” It's like when Chevy Chase was asked like, “Well, we're in a gray area.” “Well, what kind of gray?” He's like, “Charcoal.” We're in that mode of creativity where a lot of creatives are asking like, “Dude, where do I fall in that? Am I a pro, or am I just a hobbyist?”
For me, here's a list. I know it so well from the training that's on the tip of my tongue, so thanks for asking. Here's what it really boils down to. One, hobbyists totally wait for inspiration before they create. The pros, creativity shows up, inspiration shows up, divine downloads the moment you sit down to write, the moment you start painting.
Second, you don't find gold by sitting there with a shovel on a bench looking at a mountain. You find gold when digging. “Well, where am I supposed to dig?” I don't care. Start digging. “Well, I want to make sure that –” Start digging. “Yeah, but what if I –” Start digging. That's what I do with when I'm coaching with people. Less talk, less dreaming, duct tape over your mouth, start digging.
Veins of gold, more veins of gold start to appear. When I'm working on a piece that starts to reveal the next piece in the series, but that doesn't happen unless I'm actually working on that piece. How often, Jordan, have you found when you're writing your book you're like, “Oh, dude. I just got an idea for the next book.” One thing leads into the next.
[0:22:10.0] JR: Every idea I've had for a book has come while I was writing another book. They always come in the middle. I'm starting work on the next one right now. I'm confident that the idea for the next one's going to come as I'm writing this thing.
[0:22:22.3] NE: 100%. When it comes to pro versus amateur, hobbyist versus professional, you don't wait for inspiration. You only find gold when you're digging. The third one is they stop doing creativity and a one-off. What do I mean by that? For a tattoo artist to be able to make money, it requires somebody being in their chair. For a custom painter, that might be an airbrush artist that paints cars, you need a car to paint. That would be the equivalent of an author writing a book, full-form, and handing to a person, selling it to them for 25 bucks and then going and writing another one, literally by hand.
The smart ones scale through reproductions, publishing, creating assets that go to work for you. That's the big differentiator. I don't care if you're a tattoo artist. Take the beautiful art you're spending 18 hours on somebody's arm, do that same exact art 18 hours on a canvas and then multiply it for the rest of your life as an asset, that's your own IP that can go to work for you forever. That's a game-changer.
For me when it comes to craft, you can't be waiting for the inspiration of when you're actually going to show up. You can't just be thinking about painting a new canvas. Your intentions of who you are doesn't define that you're an actual great artist, or a great creative, because we judge ourselves on our intentions. That's another part of it. We're walking around saying, “Oh, dude, I got a book in me.” Really? Great. Where's your first draft? Put your money where your flipping mouth is.
This is how I teach creatives all the time. I'm like, “You guys are all great. You want to be in the camp of the Harley-Davidson, you go out and buy a jacket and you think you're a Harley owner. Well, you got to own a bike to be in that scene. Then you think if you just go out to the local barbeque that you're in that lifestyle and culture. Not really.” The same goes for creatives. They think, it’s like a gym membership, “Oh, I'm a creative.” Really? Yeah, you have a membership, but you don't go and lift, you don't go and go to the gym and actually do the work. Even if you did the work, you actually don't know what work to do to get the results that you want.
You want to live your dream as a creative making money while you sleep. I got to tell them this. We got to stop measuring and judging ourselves on our intentions. The pros measure it on tangible, measurable results. “How many sales did I have on my store? How many items are actually loaded onto my store this week? How many assets have I created on the easel or in the book? How many words did I write today?”
The art of doing and discipline – listen we don't suffer from a lack of ideas. We don't suffer from a lack of capital. We don't suffer from any of those things. We have an abundance of ideas, an abundance of wealth to back them and get them to market. What we don't have, people that are actually disciplined enough to actually take it to market.
[0:24:55.5] JR: I loved your book, 31 Disciplines of Highly Successful Creatives. Part of the reason why I loved it is I think the title, what's missing in great creative work in aspiring creatives often time, is just the basic blocking and tackling of being disciplined about your time, about being disciplined about taking big vision and breaking it down into really concrete, physical next actions, right? You can't do a project. You can only do actions associated with a project and you can only do one action at a time, right? Wherever you want to go, just do the next right thing today to chip away towards that vision.
Obviously, David Allen, Getting Things Done being channeled right now. Your art is not overtly “Christian art.” You are a Christian who just makes really, really good art. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s, that we don't need more people writing Christian books, what we need is more Christians writing good books. You chose to focus on just making great art. Why is that?
[0:25:56.4] NE: When I sat down with the Lord and I said, “Here's the strategy of how I arrived at what art I do create and what I want to spend my lifetime creating.” I would really hope that this filter helps a lot of people. First, Stephen Covey always says, begin with the end in mind. If I want to begin with the end in mind, I'm going to give you a drink off the firehose real quick here.
Here's my filter for running every decision I do with my time, my talent and my money. Here's what I do through it. How do I want to end my life? I want to end my life high-fiving my heavenly father that said, “Hey, I gave you the gift of salvation. Now what did you do with your time, talent and treasure to bring people to me through your creativity?”
Well, how big and how much we're high-fiving has to do with what his currency and how he's going to measure my life, which is how many people are standing in eternity as a result of my career and my time on this earth and what I did with my family? Did I waste this life, spend this life, or invest this life?
At the end of my life, at the judgment seat of Christ as talks in God's word that everything will be consumed and the quality of each person's work will be revealed for what it is. Some of us will have the Willy Wonka ticket of, “I'm in heaven. Salvation is great and I coasted my way to death, but everything burned because I hoarded down here on earth.” Others are going to say, “I partnered with my heavenly father through my creativity, amassed wealth in kingdom stock, which is people, and I leveraged it to bring as many souls to Christ as possible through my creative influence.”
Now what the Lord says is your purpose is my purpose. If you want to know your purpose, here it is today, love God, love people, make disciples. How you do that is completely up to you. Our purpose is exactly that of which was Christ. I'm going to love my father. I'm going to love people. I'm going to make disciples through my unique influence. I just have to go, “Well, if that's how it's going and it's all going to end the same for us, some of us will be rich,” through The Law of Rewards, Randy Alcorn, great book. Read it if you haven't read it.
I'm going to begin everything that I do today. What am I supposed to create today? I got to think of how I want this all to end. That takes you from small to big thinking. When you partner with heaven as a child of God and realize you were underwritten by heaven billions and resources and everything that you possibly need connections, the next divine download you don't need to do any business development. God will bring it all to you. That then changes what art that I'm going to create. What did I do?
I said, “Well, that's how I'm going to end? I need to treat myself like a record label. If I'm going to be a guy that paints wine bottles for the rest of my life, do I want to do great photorealism and all that? Sure.” If I did that for the rest of my life, I get burnout. I think I get pretty tired. One of the things I had to realize, I'm an artist that likes many genres of different types of people and lifestyles, but I am going to try to go into lifestyle art that has enthusiasts behind it, tribes behind it and diehards at it.
Example, I created a fantasy line. Mermaids, fairies, angels, that's going to be all driven towards our Comic Con market. That whole demographic, the Marvel, the Star Wars, that whole vibe. Then I'm going to create the kid in me, which is this Calvin and Hobbes meets Norman Rockwell, because that's a part of who I am, the child within and I want to show you your story, what you wanted to be when you grow up. Could there be anything more awesome that tugs at the heart than that of who we want to be when we grow up? That was a genre.
Then I created this abstract stuff that was if I'm looking at myself as a record label, I'm like, I've got some art that's 21 pilots. I've got some art that's classical and Bach. I've got some art that's going to be you too. That could be the Disney. That could be the stuff that so many people love that's just – I'm going to have some stuff that's just good old rock and roll.
I am a diverse creative that loves to have something for everybody. What's the advantage of that? That means that if I look at my creativity as a net, that means that my net isn't just fishing for a certain type of fish with a certain bait. That means that I get to cast my net wide to different genres of work. When we're in Las Vegas with Arturo Fuente Cigars, helping them with their charity and working with that family for the last 15 years, when those events come in and out of our life, we get to reach a whole new demographic, a type of customer and buyer and collector.
Then when I'm over with Disney and I'm working with Disney, January through February one of the largest art festivals in Florida, that's its own genre. When we're in Comic Con, I mean, I'm telling you, we switch hats. When you go to my website, my goal in life when I made this decision thinking about the end of mine was, “How can we make it that if somebody walked into our gallery, they would think that there are 10 artists in there?” That means we will have something for everybody. That's where I made that decision. Here's what I can tell you I don't want my tombstone to say, “Loving father, great friend, amazing creative.” Literally, that makes me want to vomit.
[0:30:38.8] JR: What do you want it to say?
[0:30:40.0] NE: All-in for the sake of Christ. All-in. I've never been asked about my eulogy, but if you went all in on me, I want to go all in with everything that he's entrusted to me and I want to show other people how to do that too.
Jordan, you and I have rung the bell of the right thing to do right now if our fruit is growing on other people's trees. That's what our father did. I don't want to help people become successful. I want to help them become significant, where they need it most, which is in the kingdom and that starts here and now.
[0:31:05.5] JR: Amen. Speaking of which, you talked a lot about 100X living. Can you unpack what you mean by that?
[0:31:12.6] NE: The gospel of the Kingdom. The gospel the Kingdom is this: That what you do the moment that you've become saved, what you do with your time and your talent and your money will be measured and you will be rewarded for it. Most people have never heard that message as a believer. All they hear is, “I'm saved. I'll hear that message again on Sunday and I'm going to rinse and repeat. I'm just going to stay out of trouble, be a good person, amass as much as I possibly can, maybe carve out a little bit 10% and then I'll coast my way to death.”
We just missed out on the great adventure of what our heavenly father did. I find it really hard to believe that he put his treasure where his heart was. Where was God's heart? He had everything, but he didn't have you and me. He wrote his checkbook with the blood of his son and say, “I'm going to put my treasure where my heart is and I'm going to purchase you.” I really find it hard to believe that he sent his son, so that we could just be saved from sin and death and be comfortable. He wanted us to partner with him, to help build his kingdom with our influence, our uniqueness and our genius while here helping build his kingdom.
I don't want to be a spectator. I want to be in the game. We don't get the reward. We don't get the trophy, as Paul says, unless we've run the race according to the rules and be worthy of the calling that we have received. 100X is all about in that parable saying, for those of you that are saved, that's the gospel of salvation. The gospel of the kingdom says, what you do between now and death matters. By the way, for those of you that partner with me going to the family business, I'm going to reward you 30, 60, a 100X what you defer to the kingdom.
What does that mean on practical level for us? Chantel and I looked at each other and took a machete to our finances and how we're living our lifestyle and just said, “We want to be as rich as we can, where we need it most, which is in the eternity,” which is a very long time. What we do here on earth dictates the condition of our eternal state. Based on that, I want to invest in kingdom stock. Forget right now that I can get Apple at a discount, or Disney out of discount, or any other stock and hopefully get a 6%, 12% return.
The Lord is offering us 30, 60, a 100X, where we need it most. By the way, when you store it for yourself, treasures in heaven, moth can't come in, thieves can't break in and steal, you're not subjected to the market, you're on a kingdom currency and a kingdom stock market and your heavenly father says, “Don't worry. I'll keep it for you and I'll multiply it for you. When you get here, you can't outspend it.” Hey, what economy do you want to live on today? For me, that just made me just go, “100X.”
I want to teach people the economy of heaven, how to live in it, operate in it, use your creativity to be the greatest kingdom investor that you can possibly become through your influence. Could there be anything more exciting as to why you really want to get aggressive on your business, why you want to launch landing pages and hold webinars? I mean, if this is all to build your kingdom, you're going to get worn out, dude. When you’ve partnered with your heavenly father, unbelievable transformation, supernatural results, supernatural opportunity, because you're operating in grace, you're not operating in the grind of your own worth and own drive. For me, that's a 100X living. How big do you want to go? The Lord says, “Take all you want.”
[0:34:25.5] JR: I love the practical application of this to finances. I think that is one application of us being generous with our wealth today. Also, if there are other ways that we can live for that 100X return. In our work, listen, making money so that we can give it away outside of our businesses is great, but so is reinvesting in our businesses to serve our customers better, to serve our employees better, to do ministry within the four walls of our business. It's a bigger vision of the kingdom of recognizing that yes, the kingdom is about saving souls. Yes, it is about donating to ministries outside of the minister of our business, but it's also internal investments. Not hoarding wealth, but to spend it I think generously with our employees, with our customers to serve people better and at a greater scale with the ministry of excellence.
[0:35:23.9] NE: I think all that matters is those where as you and I both know, we can see in the industry and even our self, the fine line of whose empire are we building? The why behind it. I want to go big. I want to have a rad company. I want to serve as many customers as possible, not to be a baller and have it based out of ego and just say that I'm doing it in the word of excellence, but truly the why behind it is to bring as many people into an encounter with God as possible with vendors, with buyers, with customers, with the handshake when you sold something, with the call over the phone. All of that comes together for an opportunity to partner with the kingdom.
Now if we're just doing that out of, “Hey, I want to build a rad company,” anybody can do that. If when you're running it through the foundation of I want to do it in excellence, a kingdom-based business that's going to radically disrupt people with God's love in every transaction, financial, but also in the approach in our marketing, you name it. Can we do that in excellence? That is 100X living in all forms. You're right. You nailed it.
My caution to most leaders though is yeah, I'm just going to go big, because I can't give, unless I get. True, but just make sure that why you want to go so big isn't out of just building your own empire.
[0:36:33.1] JR: Amen. I want to hear you talk about how art itself, the product itself can reveal God to people, even when the art is not necessarily of angels, or Christ. How can art make us yearn for the one true master narrative that God has written for the world?
[0:36:54.8] NE: People are looking at art more than they actually realize. You could look at the iMac in 1997 and go, “That's a beautiful piece of art.” Some people see a computer, some people see a work of art. Some people look at interior design and go, “This is a house.” Other people look at it as this is a work of art that I get to live in.
Other people can look at a painting on a wall and just go, “Oh, that's a perfect color that matches my pillows, and so I'm going to put that up on my wall.” Other people look at it and goes, “It reminds me of my childhood, where I had the most important relationship with my grandfather sitting on that dock and it guts me every single time, because that was the first time I learned about who God was.”
Art is a powerful thing. Here's one thing that I want to say if you're a creative that's listening to this: Wise up and I hope this scares you straight in a good way. Once I realized that the power of creativity was given to me as like a weapon, I can use that weapon for fast food, flash-in-the-pen, eye candy stuff that is disruptive, controversial and look cool and hip and trendy for the time. You will spend your life making fast food art.
Or you can take the hard road of being original, which is almost impossible, but being you, authentic. Being authentic is the number one thing to overcome and dropping the fig leaf and being true. Just like when I painted those canvases of just showing the underbelly of who I was.
Art though, the reason why I'm being really serious about this, you have the influence over people. When that influence is abused, whether it be filmmaking, writing a song, taking a picture, you're going to be held accountable for that. Once I realized that that I can use my weapon for good, or I can use my weapon for bad. How am I going to leverage art in excellence to bring people to show what's possible in excellence and in the process?
Because here's what I do realize: A painting on a wall is a portal to another world. I'm being real serious when I say that. You don't think so? I can just show you an image in 0.05 seconds on a flash of a screen and it's something you can't unsee. We've had those images before, whether it be films, photography, seeing people in distress, seeing people being abused. Images are important. The eyes are the portal to the soul. Art is an opportunity to bring people into an experience and you possess that power as a creative. You have to steward that wisely.
When I look at – I can create fast food, or I can create stuff that is meaningful that has everlasting implications and ripple effects. A painting is one way to do that. Music is one of those other ways that why does it give you goosebumps? You have the influence over a human soul with your creativity. How are you using that today? Photography images.
When it comes to visual arts, if you take unbelievable imagery with unbelievable sound and the art of music alongside of that as a backdrop, holy mackerel, you're playing with incredible impact. I just take that really seriously as to what am I going to sit down and do today? What's the ripple effect of what I'm going to do today? Because you have a responsibility as a creative. You have an obligation to leverage that back as an act of worship. You are work in and of itself is an act of worship back, because it's been entrusted to you. I wouldn't squander that.
[0:40:09.8] JR: Three questions I'd love to wrap up every conversation with. Number one, which books do you gift the most to others, or recommend most frequently?
[0:40:18.4] NE: Wild at Heart is wonderful for men. Wild at Heart, False Identity, Poser, Healing the Wound, The Beauty to Rescue, like the DNA of the way a man's heart is wired through. John Eldredge's book, Wild at Heart is phenomenal. As a creative, The War of Art was Pressfield, absolute game changer. Everybody should listen to that if you're a creative, of overcoming self in order to step into your true creative process.
The Word of God, obviously is a no brainer. Between The Law of Rewards with Randy Alcorn and Heaven, well it's probably those two. Those two are really going to be a game-changer for what you do today with your time, because if it shows you how things are going to end and where you're going to be, that really is going to have a massive impact on what you're going to do now.
[0:41:00.0] JR: Heaven by Alcorn is one of those ones that I've read, I don't know, three or four times.
[0:41:04.4] NE: I need to listen to that as kingdom assignment expands. What a great encouragement, a shot in the arm to remind you of what's to come as a result of everything that you're doing, as you partner with the Lord on all this and you just go, “Man, this is insane.” You don't find a whole lot of other people that are living on that economy.
[0:41:21.5] JR: Who would you really like to hear talk about how their faith influences their work?
[0:41:26.9] NE: I could talk about probably more musicians that I could think of, like filmmakers. I don't think of painters actually, which is interesting. I would have loved to have heard of Norman Rockwell, because I'm like, dude, the DNA that you got in your work, something there's, I know there's something on it.
[0:41:40.7] JR: All right. You've given a lot of good advice. What one piece of advice do you want to leave this audience of entrepreneurs, creatives, but also people not working in creative fields, just wanting to do great work for the glory of God and the good of others? What do you want to leave them with?
[0:41:54.5] NE: I want to leave them with if I was on my last breath sitting on a bed, I want to say go all-in. You're not here for yourself. You're here for Him. The sooner that you can realize his purpose is your purpose and to live that out through your unique and genius and influence and to not buy into your fear and shame and hold you back from being authentic so that you can impact, every day you play small, every day you stand on that cliff and wonder if you should bungee jump, every day you don't step into risk and danger, you're not living a life of faith, you're just trying to stay safe and as predictable as possible.
Every day, you try to just stay conservative is another day your underbelly and your story, which is your greatest asset, could have really helped somebody, could have really brought somebody to the hope of what is in Christ, that saved you, but now we need you to wave the lantern to help people get out of that pipeline. The sooner you can take your greatest asset of your story and your influence and bring that to the world, the sooner that you can be a solution for somebody’s greatest problem. As soon as I learned that, my whole world changed.
Hitting the floor every morning when you get up out of bed, you're not just trying to amass wealth. You’re a professional giver. You want to increase God's kingdom and this life isn't about you, it's about others, period.
[0:43:13.1] JR: That's really good. Noah, I want to commend you for the beautiful, important and redemptive work that you do. Thank you for revealing the master narrative for the world through your art and reflecting God's creative, excellent character to the world.
Hey, if you want more from Noah, you can find him at noahelias.net. Noah, thanks for hanging out with me.
[0:43:34.8] NE: Oh, thanks for having me. I appreciate you, buddy.
[END OF EPISODE]
[0:43:37.5] JR: What a story, right? So grateful for Noah coming on the podcast and sharing that wisdom with us. Hey, thank you so much guys for tuning in each and every week. Your notes, your e-mails to me are what keep me going and keep you doing this and keep this show up on the air and also reading your reviews. I read every review that's posted here on the Call to Mastery. You got something nice to say, or even something critical, go ahead and say it right there and I'll be sure to read every single one.
Thank you, guys, so much for tuning in this week. I'll see you next time.