"I practiced guitar in my bedroom for four hours a day, every single day, from the time I was seven to the time I was thirteen, and every single day I sucked. Then, one day when I was fourteen...I got great." —Mike Bloomfield
If we waste our precious energy waiting, wondering, speculating, doubting and trying to figure out what to do next, we will most likely fall off the path that matters—the path that will actually take us there.
Important because the only way to get back on the path is to lock ourselves in our creative space and do the work. The deliberate work, the committed work, the focused work, the repetitious boring work, the work that we resist doing, the work that scares the hell out of us, the work that allows us to maintain the awesome lifestyle of a crazy, independent, artist, entrepreneur. Because each day we hunker down and do the work that matters most to us, is another day closer to achieving the personal greatness we so desire.
In his 2013 bestselling book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates the fact that we already know the answers to the most challenging questions we have, the instant they arrive on the scene. Doesn't matter if it's what agent to sign with, which web expert to hire, which drum set to buy, what videos to upload or when to finally pitch our script. The instant the challenge is presented, the solution is standing at attention right next to it.
However, at that moment, what happens to most of us crazy genius treps is the fog rolls in and doubt and uncertainly cloud things up. Followed shortly thereafter with either procrastination, a white flag, or “this must turn out exactly the way I want.”
Important because I’ve seen it so many times in the smartest CEO’s and the most talented artists who ultimately get stuck in a thinking called “my way or the highway.” Not like holding out for what they believe, more like refusing to budge because they can’t fathom any other way. And I think to the degree that we can let go of “the way it has to be” and patiently and intelligently remain open to the field of unlimited possibilities, to that degree the best choice will bubble up and reveal itself. Not like magic, more like trust. Because in my experience, what’s usually buried behind “this must turn out a certain way,” is the best way it ought to turn out.
I have a sense that during these “interesting” times we live in, we are all searching, actually aching for integrity in our leaders, factual information from our media, dependability from our entrepreneurs, and truth from our artists.
That said, I was compelled to search the inner library of my soul for a good definition of integrity—so that I can recognize it if I ever see it walking up the street some day. So I reached back into my archives and found a story I wrote back in 2011 that is more relevant today than ever before. And what I learned was that integrity alone is a very funny thing. It’s as elusive as luck, as valuable as money and as important as your social security number. However, you won’t get hired simply because you’ve got it, and it could cost you your entire career if you lose it. Sometimes we value it, sometimes we don’t. However, in my 40 years of grappling with impossible projects and cantankerous people in show business, I have seen that integrity is very easy to fake. Therefore, if we are truly searching for a resolve to sooth our deepest ache and desire for truth, then we’re going to need something much bigger than integrity. We’re going to have to move up to PROBITY!
What I’ve noticed is that Probity is far beyond Integrity. It’s the other side of Integrity—like the far side of the moon. If Integrity is being the best you can possibly be, then Probity moves in and improves on it.
If Integrity’s a winner, Probity’s a champion.
While Integrity commits to an exciting new project, Probity relentlessly commits to manifesting a mission...Mission Impossible!
If an act of Integrity is worthy and righteous, than an act of Probity is noble and selfless.
When Integrity takes the high road, Probity takes a jet.
If Integrity means showing up for the job on time, Probity means seeing to it that the work you do represents the very best of what you have to offer, and contributes to everyone involved, with no one left out.
If Integrity means being committed, then Probity means being committed to your commitments.
Important because in an attempt to sooth my deepest ache, my quest for truth, I am no longer looking for integrity anymore—in people, events, situations or politicians. Like I said, it’s too easy to fake. I am now watching out for random and spontaneous glimpses of Probity in who ever I meet and what ever I do. That’s why in 2010 I named my consulting business “The Probity Network.”
Inspired by a story I wrote in 2011, titled Barenaked Probity.
You’re still playing too small. Don’t ask you ask those around you. If you’ve really got the goods they’ll tell you that you’re very capable of playing a much bigger game. Indecision & hesitancy keep us pent up in a small box—where there are limited results. Determination & decisiveness lift us out of the box, where unlimited possibilities exist. No less scary, just more opportunity.
Important because we’re already in the 2nd quarter of 2017! It’s time to be determined and up the ante.
This is what the voice of time pesters me with every day:
- You’re wasting me!
- You’ll never have enough of me!
- Don't be late!
- The clock is ticking!
- You’re not getting any younger!
- Quit trying to save me!
- After all these years, you still haven’t learned how to manage me!
Important because there are so many important things to do;
so many great ideas waiting to be born,
so many things to fix,
so many worthwhile projects to start,
so many great songs to compose,
so many inspiring scripts to pitch,
so many jaw-dropping start-ups to launch,
so many ways to contribute,
so many ways to make a difference,
so many people to help,
and so many opportunities to create art that inspires, entertainment that encourages and ideas that matter. It’s a shame that we hastily kill off our precious time, hour by hour, pretending that our aimless clicking and petty distractions are somehow making a difference.
Clear thinking is logical, it’s predictable, it’s unsurprising and it’s rational. It can also stall your train of thought, stifle your creativity and dam up your constant free-flowing stream of crazy genius ideas.
When we’re in the throes of solving a problem, working on a scene, composing music, redesigning a website or editing a video, the outcome is NEVER clear. In fact, it’s usually foggy, and filled with indecision, hesitation and frustration.
Important because the very last thing we want when we’re in the zone of creating, solving, inventing or attempting, is to be clear thinking. On the contrary, the very first thing we want is to be open-minded.
I’ve been working with a talented client who has hit a critical setback in her career, and she’s considering abandoning her big project. It’s an extraordinary, worthwhile project too, that has the potential to upgrade her career to a much more lucrative and respectable place! I keep pointing out the fact that a setback or crossroads may have all the markings of a logical stopping point, however it can also be a self-imposed halt in the action; depending on how committed you really are, your tolerance level for uncertainty, your ability to hunker down, take risks and push through, and where YOU ultimately plant the stop sign.
After much discussion at the deep end of the pool, I related a story to her that seems to have completely turned her around and reignited her commitment. It’s actually a blog I wrote back in 2012 called “Fade To Black.” I’ve posted it here, and I hope this is helpful to you too:
Fade to Black:
I worked with Francis Ford Coppola in post-production on the Godfather. Paramount insisted on using the world-class film processing company, Technicolor, and I was lucky enough to be asked to join the team. I was working in a department called “answer print” at the time, and I was charged with keeping track of each and every scene of the movie, while at the same time Francis and a “color timer” corrected the “sepia tone” color of each scene. It was a 4-month gig, on what would turn out to be the greatest film of all time.
At one point Francis told us the story of while they were in the throws of shooting, he was constantly being threatened and challenged by the producers; why are you so far over budget? Why do the dailies look so dark and faded? Why can’t you keep the production on schedule? He said directing the film was a huge technical challenge itself, however dealing with the suits made his job almost impossible. In fact he shared that he was once in a bathroom stall when he over heard two guys talking about how terrible a director they thought he was. He says that he lifted his feet because he was afraid they would recognize his shoes.
Yet even at the risk of terrible humiliation, fear of being fired, personal embarrassment, intense criticism and financial disaster, he didn’t stop, or quit. He kept going. Even in the face of big doubts he said (very loud) “nothing would stop me from making this movie!”
Important because it leads me to the question, where do you stop?
Do You Stop when others criticize your work?
Do You Stop when personal “doubts” begin to surface?
Do You Stop when there’s too much work involved?
Do You Stop when the money runs out?
Do You Stop when it’s too time consuming?
Do You Stop when there’s too much stress?
Do you stop because you just don’t know what to do next?
Does your resistance to today’s technology stop you?
Does “not being good at marketing” stop you?
Does doubting your own talent stop you?
"Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos and doubt. You have to really be courageous about your instincts and your ideas. Otherwise you'll just knuckle under, and things that might have been memorable and worthwhile will be lost.”—Francis Ford Coppola
“The truth of the matter is, you always know the right thing to do, the hard part is doing it.” —Former U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf.
Important because you're an exception, and rules don't apply to you. That's because artists and entrepreneurs NEVER know the “right” thing to do! We work in a perpetual state of doubt and uncertainty. Why? Because it’s our job to manifest an extraordinary experience out of nothing, so that our fans, clients and customers can enjoy and benefit from our own brand of creative genius. And while it’s true that a commander leads his troop according to the guidelines and protocol found in an official rulebook, it is also nevertheless true that a creative, courageous artist/trep runs her world without one.
Acquiring new fans, clients and customers is far more challenging than keeping your current fans, clients and customers.
That said, investing time, money, perks and freebies, to reward and acknowledge your true faithful devotees, along with frequent direct interaction via regular newsletter or blog is the most intelligent way to maintain your relationship and solidify your credibility. It also provides a foundation from which to continuously grow your base from there.
Important because if you’re not stomping all over the old worn out antique methods of marketing your products and promoting your art, then you’re going to always be scratching your head and struggling just to keep up.
All you have to do is walk into your creative space, whether it’s a studio, a set, a stage or an office, stand directly in front of your most important project, the one that’s most near and dear to you, and simply begin to do the work.
Important because at that moment everything changes. Your attitude shifts, your edginess softens, your confidence rises and the grip of resistance is released. At that moment, even in the shadow of uncertainty, so long as you stand face-to-face and toe-to-toe with the work you love, it’s as if the gates of inspiration and possibility open wide, and the entire universe begins to blush with joy.
Boredom is good. Without it our minds could not wander and our imagination could not run free. Without it there would be no empty space for new ideas to reveal themselves. Without it our fantasies would be fleeting, our daydreams would be dampened, and the light bulb over our head would be forever dim.
Important because without boredom we would not ask the question “What should I do next?”
Stealing away into your private space to do some deep soul searching about the value of your work and the direction you’re headed is not only important, it’s absolutely imperative for a crazy, genius artist/trep. And obviously, the more often you do it, the more insight and wisdom you’ll gain. However, when you’re faced with a specific career challenge, problem or crossroads that has left you stressed and perplexed, the last person you should consult is yourself. The last person you should ask for advice is yourself. The very last person you should have a conversation with is yourself, because you’re the one inside the belly of the beast!
Important because while YOU will ultimately make the final decisions, a profound, pragmatic conversation at the deep end of the pool, with someone whose opinion you trust, always provides a unique, alternative POV, which can provoke a welcome shift from belly to breakthrough.
So many of my clients are at wit’s end with how to market and promote their work. Doesn’t matter if it’s music, art, screenplays, a major acting career, a giant corp, or a small business.
I know it’s hard to get peoples attention these days. It’s also frustrating and challenging to figure out ways to promote your art & commerce—especially with so many social marketing choices—and especially when you rarely get the results you expect. Makes you want to toss in the towel! I get it!
However, often when we're faced with a challenging problem, we inadvertently add more anxiety to the mix by searching for the one solution that will make the problem go away. Therein lies the rub. This is no longer a “one-solution” industry. It’s a multi-solution one.
Important because the truth is, more than ever before in the history of show business, these are the freewheeling days of unlimited possibilities. These are the days of trial & error. These are the days of hit & miss. These are the days of experimentation and exploration. And these are the days of dreaming it, producing it, packaging it, and tossing it overboard to see if it floats! If it floats, whaoo! Keep doing more of that. If it doesn’t, head back to your creative space and keep working on more ideas. Honestly, for all of us artists and entrepreneurs, heading back to our creative space to improve our work, over and over, even though it’s frustrating, is the ONLY option we have...other than the towel toss.
No one remembers who was king when Beethoven was alive.
No one remembers who published The Lord Of The Rings.
No one remembers what company produced and distributed the original Star Wars film.
No one remembers who invented the “mouse.”
No one can forget the definition of “Carpe Diem.”
Important because art outshines uniformity, culture eclipses commerce, inspiration dwarfs policy and innovation trumps protocol. And even though we have entered into a time of political ambiguity, and even though the industries of certainty are continuously being disrupted all around us, what matters most is the art you create, the songs you compose, the books you write, the movies you direct, the products you invent and the worthy ideas you produce. Those manifestations will outlast and outlive adversity and mediocrity, and they will be recalled over and over again for generations to come.
Some interruptions are necessary, some pauses are helpful, and an unexpected break in our routine can be valuable. However, some other disruptions really suck; career failures, money loss, project flops, personal heartbreaks, etc. And getting the motor running again, at top performance, after a dramatic, drawn-out delay can be an effort. Why? Because the brute called “Resistance” will stop at nothing to keep you stuck in the drama of your circumstances.
Important because When you finally reconnect with your desire to succeed, and your resolve to push through “resistance” becomes ruthless, then getting back in the groove can be exhilarating. Not to mention that reinventing yourself can be empowering, and starting over can actually be a blessing in disguise. And if you're really smart, the choices and decisions you make after your big upheaval should actually put you further down the road than you were before. Why? Because you’re starting from HERE. And as a result of your disruption you should be stronger, wiser, more experienced, and a lot clearer on where you want to go, and how your going to get there. That said, experiencing an “upheaval” is never a back step, it’s actually progress in disguise.
Your new career scheme, business plan, or marketing strategy doesn’t have to be set in stone, it just has to be set in place. Not budging from your tired old method of producing results, just because it’s easier (or you can’t think of anything else to do) is a crummy strategy.
Important because everything in our wonderful industry is changing—especially the means to success. And if you continue to replicate the same tactics and schemes over and over, convincing yourself that you’re doing something different, your fans and customers will move on to something new, your numbers will start to drop, your results will continue to decline, and that dream you have of making it will eventually begin to dwindle...just when you were expecting it to peak.
In my experience, pro artists and entrepreneurs are always stronger than they seem, braver than they believe and smarter than they think. Those who see the future first are never convinced that their big idea is unique, or their unproven strategy will work, or their precarious project will ever get off the ground.
That said, every pro artist & trep has been granted the gift of seeing the future, then reporting back to the rest of us by manifesting what they see; awesome music, extraordinary designs, jaw-dropping performances, amazing business solutions, must-have products, inspiring blogs and thought-provoking, gut-wrenching, soul-searching screenplays, videos and movies.
Important because seeing the future is nothing like a Nostradamus prediction. It’s more like a light bulb over the head that you simply MUST turn on.
You deserve a week where the phone doesn’t ring as much and emails slow to a crawl.
You deserve a week where to-do lists are replaced with greeting cards and worries are replaced with a shoulder shrug.
You deserve a week where you can take in a big, deep, gasp of fresh air, and let out a long, slow sigh of relief.
Important because after a full year of daily successes and failures, you deserve these slower, quieter days between Christmas and New Years where the choices and decisions you make are more about food and friends and less about goals and objectives. Revel in this well deserved respite from the madness:)
You may be burnt out on it but I’m a sap for this movie. I wrote about it in 2012 and after watching it again I was compelled to write about it now. I’m talking about the original “Miracle On 34th St.” released in 1947 with Oscar winner Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. The film was written and directed by George Seaton, who won an Academy Award for best screenplay, and was also nominated for best director (and best film).
There are far too many sub plots in this movie to dissect them all, including the Macy’s head of personnel who goes beyond his scope, trying to pass as a psychologist—risky stuff in those days. But the most well written, persuasive character in this ensemble cast is not Santa, it’s John Payne’s character Fred Gaily. He’s the attorney who risks his law career by putting his reputation on the line, all because he’s really in love with Doris, and he has such compassion for o’l Kris Kringle. By taking on the “impossible” task of proving Kringle is the real Santa Claus, he definitely places in jeopardy his reputation as a respected attorney, and also puts at risk his relationship with Doris. Here’s a poignant excerpt from the original script:
Doris (Maureen O’Hara): You're not really serious about this?
Gaily: (John Payne) Of course I am.
Doris: But it’s IMPOSSIBLE to prove he's Santa Claus.
Gaily: Why? You saw Macy and Gimbal shaking hands. That wasn't possible either, but it happened.
Doris: It’s completely idiotic. What do your bosses say?
Gaily: That either I drop this IMPOSSIBLE case or they will drop me.
Doris: I can’t believe you would risk everything to prove the IMPOSSIBLE...that there IS a Santa Claus!
Gaily: But no one else has the courage to stand up for Kris, and what he stands for!
Important because doing what’s obvious and ordinary provokes obvious and ordinary results. However, courageously stepping out on to the skinny branches and taking on the “impossible,” lifts us out of the box, where ALL possibilities exist. No less scary, just more opportunity. The wisdom of Fred Gaily (and studio chief Darryl Zanuck) tells us to be courageous, do what’s right, go for the impossible, and prove to us that you are who you say you are.
—This film itself was considered to be a long shot. However, Darryl Zanuck (head of 20th Century Fox) took a big risk and changed the release date from December to May, taking advantage of the summer season, rather than the cold winter when no one went to movies.
—The house shown at the end of the film is a 1703 square foot single family home built in 1943. It’s located at 24 Derby Road, Port Washington, New York. The home looks practically the same as it did in 1947, except that the roof line has been altered by the addition of a window.
This is an excerpt from an email exchange between me and one of my clients—a film director who I admire very much. Not so much for his film credits, but for his commitment to continue to better himself and his art.
“Paul: Whatever it is that causes you to pause, flinch or hesitate from dreaming any bigger or working toward a bigger vision, it’s that same hesitancy that causes you to slow, stall or even stop the process (actually the effort) of producing extraordinary results in your work—instead, choosing to settle for mediocrity just to make a buck. Can you see that? And really, that’s what we should be going for; extra-ordinary results…right? Especially a guy in your position! Because today, “ordinary” does not hold the attention of the audience, nor the interest of potential producers/investors. And your best “ordinary” work will rarely get shared, forwarded, advanced or even “pitched.”
Important because while we may think we are getting closer, just think how close we could get if we could “reject the flinch” and nip-in-the-bud whatever it is that causes us to hesitate from stepping up our vision, and playing a bigger game. A game that demands a more committed, professional, intelligent approach to our life’s work. Not like a surge of temporary confidence, more like a lifelong (daily) commitment to see beyond even our own expectations.