“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.
The road to victory is besieged with so many distractions, so many ups and downs, and so many unpredictable twists and turns. And as crazy, genius artists & entrepreneurs we get irritated sooner, frustrated faster, distracted easier, and seduced off that road much quicker than others. Why? Because we’re a channel for a never-ending flow of exhausting creative thinking, and an outlet for an endless stream of big ideas and unlimited possibilities, constantly flowing through us 24/7. And while others frantically thumb through the rulebook of protocol, the pro artist & entrepreneur courageously defers to creativity, ingenuity and intuition to navigate the road of uncertainty. BUT IT ISN’T EASY! That’s exactly why artist & treps need more support than others. No kidding! We need people who we trust to remind us who we are and where we’re headed—so we can remain steadfast and inside the “zone.”
Important because our “circle of influence” is important...very important. We’re a unique tribe of independent, creative thinkers. And it’s empowering and motivating to have regular, deep conversations with other like-minded independent artists & entrepreneurs who are confronted with similar concerns, share similar goals, and experience similar angst. And if we can’t find any like-minded peers, then we need to manifest or create a regular, on-going conversation with a personal confident, mentor or experienced coach who understands the entrepreneurial angst we go thru, and has the audacity to consistently encourage us and point us in the right direction.
According to Greek mythology, as a punishment for his trickery, the god Zeus ordered King Sisyphus to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. Before he could reach the top, however, the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing Sisyphus to begin again and again, for eternity. However as the tale goes, Sisyphus was very content with his destiny because at every punishing push, at every sweaty shove, and at every steely step forward, the desire to succeed and the anticipation of victory made him stronger, and gave him hope to carry on.
Once the show is over, the product has shipped, the website launched, the record released or the book is published, the customer returns home to enjoy the rewards of her new purchase, and the fans leave the stadium with gratification and exhilaration. But the pro artist and the committed entrepreneur will return the next day to the studio, the workshop, the warehouse or the office and start the process all over again, pushing the giant stone up the mountain.
Important because this is the true joy for any artist or entrepreneur: to be given the opportunity to wake up the next day into a crazy, uncertain, creative lifestyle and shove that giant boulder up the hill; doing your best work, thrilling your fans, inspiring your clients and “wowing” your customers—day after day.
Best selling author Steven Pressfield said: “We don’t need to write the whole book. We just need the determination to work on it today.”
Important because we don’t need to fight with our projects, goals and big ideas...they are not the enemy! They’re on our side! And they’re always speaking to us and rooting for us to give them life! We just need the resolve to pursue them, advance them, and reveal them a little more, every single day.
They’re not very good at allowing assumptions to guide their decisions.
They’re not very good at discussing petty gossip, even worse at spreading it.
They’re not very good at allowing Internet distractions or media sensations to steal them away from their most worthwhile goals and projects.
They’re terrible at insisting their way is the only way, and they suck at needing to prove they're smarter.
Important because the more I hang out and interact with smarter people than me the more my awareness expands. The more I humble myself in the presence of smarter people than me, the more my level of consciousness rises. And the more I read smarter people than me, the more I realize how far I still need to go. Truth is, I just like jamming with better musicians than me...it makes me a better musician.
I have dreams and goals too! I have books in progress, clients to care for, groups to meet with, blogs to write, correspondence to answer and ideas to launch. However, I’m not sure about you, but for me there are so many time-sucking, thought-robbing, distractions that steal my attention and wreak havoc with my priorities. Then “resistance” grabs hold of me and pins me down like a sumo wrestler!
However, somewhere in between the urgent disruptions, the petty distractions and the continuous interruptions, there are openings where I can slip in and do my work. There are many days when the openings are so wide I can spend long hours working on my most prized projects. Other times the days are jammed with a heavy to-do list, or unexpected urgencies and there are no openings to be found anywhere.
Important because our time is so precious, and our goals are so important, and often the openings to get anything done are so small. However, what I’ve come to learn is that if our desire is true, and our commitment is ruthless, the openings will reveal themselves, and the opportunity to slip through the cracks and work on our dreams will be ours to seize.
You’re an artist, an entrepreneur and now is not the time to revel in your win, succumb to your loss or sit frozen in your fear. Today presents a profound opportunity to harness your emotions, whether they are excitement, sadness or anger, and use your unique talent to create art and commerce that will inspire us. That’s what artists and entrepreneurs do. We use our “gut feelings” as a lens to see what’s missing, to see what’s wanted & needed. Then we use our precious gift of creativity and our incredible talent to manifest it.
Important because looking back is a trap that leads to a vicious circle of apathy and procrastination. Your job is to look forward, into a “non-existent” future—a future filled with great songs, exceptional videos, inspiring stories, phenomenal performances, encouraging books, award winning screenplays, amazing art, breathtaking architecture, eye-popping websites and jaw dropping mobile apps. And we’re counting on you, the creative, genius artist and the courageous entrepreneur, to trust your gut-feelings, and entertain us with your extraordinary talent, and WOW us with your incredible, worthwhile products and services.
It would be great if all we had to do was rattle the cage to get peoples attention, but unfortunately that’s not possible. I know it’s frustrating and challenging to figure out ways to market and promote your art & commerce—especially with so many “social” marketing choices, and so many so-called “experts” telling you what to do.
However, like it or not, these are the days of trial & error. These are the days of hit & miss. These are the days of experimentation and exploration. These are the days of conceiving it, building it, packaging it, and tossing it out of the boat to see if it floats!
Important because while these may be tough times for the “prudent,” who busy themselves with the process of getting it right, these are golden times for the “audacious,” who busy themselves with the process of trying new methods, testing new ideas, taking creative risks, and literally inventing new ways to get their best work out there, any way they can.
— Because of a sudden burst of social media a music video goes viral. But that doesn’t mean it will make a dent...or a buck.
— Because of an unprecedented continuous blitzkrieg of media coverage, a politician’s numbers rise. But that doesn’t mean he will win the election.
— Just because many people applaud your work and acknowledge your talent, doesn’t mean they’ll fork over the greenbacks to buy your merch.
— Just because you get a thousand "likes" doesn’t mean you’re almost famous.
Important because the “wow factor” is just the first step in the ongoing process of attracting a loyal, devoted tribe of fans, clients and customers. What truly matters are the actions we take in the wake of that splash that will determine whether or not our music, art, product or service generates a profit, gains momentum, moves the dial, or propels us to the next level.
Continue to find ways to request “opt-in” emails, and relentlessly grow your following. I’ve said this so many times before: “Content may be king, but community holds the keys to the kingdom.” Facebook is not enough! In addition to social media, step-up your direct “email campaign” (blogs, newsletters, etc.) with a continuous, ongoing flow of communication with all of your past, present and future fans, clients and customers.
Important because today, the “talent-fan,” “direct-to-customer” relationship marks the end of the middleman.
One of my all time favorite experiences ever is visiting the Grand Canyon. Every time I see it my eyebrows go up, my jaw drops down and the sensation of divinity becomes clear and present.
If you stand on the southern edge of the Grand Canyon you can clearly see the dangerous, rocky, risky, steep and treacherous hike it would take to get to the other side. An ominous trek indeed.
That said, if someone pointed across the dangerous, rocky terrain to the other side and said, “Look...that’s where your goals are! That’s where you’re headed! And hiking from here to there is your only chance of achieving your big dream.” Your jaw would drop, your eyebrows would raise and you’d probably say, “No way! Are you kidding me! WTF! How do you expect me to get there? There must be an easier way!”
Important because the good news is there is no chasm between us and our big goals. It just looks that way from our doubting POV. And while many folks look across the imaginary chasm to the other side and say, “there must be an easier way,” others are excited by the challenge and committed to the adventure. They research all the possibilities, consult with experienced advisors, build the best support team, and muster up the confidence to stand on the very edge of the great (illusionary) divide that (appears) to separate them from where they are now to where they want to go, and proclaim “This I shall Do!”
The year we were born has plenty to do with what opportunities come our way during our lifetime. That said, it just so happens that we were born into an era when the entire entertainment industry is being disrupted, dismantled and rebuilt from top to bottom, including music, movies, television, theater, publishing, production, art, animation, design, radio, retail, big corps. and small business. And we find ourselves (and our careers) right in the middle of this extraordinary paradigm shift.
Important because if we continue to resist the transformation that is currently taking place in our industry, and if we fail to educate ourselves, and do the homework, and go through the necessary learning curve, then we will always be stuck in indecision and baffled as to which way to go. We will always be faking our conversations and pretending to have answers. We will always be juggling our priorities, changing our goals and redefining our commitments. And we will always be “almost” making it—forever chasing our dreams instead of catching them.
“...so you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone ’cause the times they are a-changin.” —Dylan
Videos have become so easy to produce that almost everyone is doing it. Truth is, there are so many possibilities and opportunities associated with this exploding medium; from outrageously creative music videos, to webcasts to simple business promos. However, I think the future belongs to anyone who can create and publish compelling visual content, which appeals to not “everyone” but rather to a specific audience for a specific outcome.
Important because according to marketing expert Seth Godin“A video or streaming show won't work because everyone watches it. It will work because the right people watch it for the right reason.”
• Playing piano or guitar over and over. • Twirling your drumsticks over and over. • Studying your lines over and over. • Rehearsing a dance routine over and over. • Juggling over and over • Learning a magic trick over and over. • Writing your blog over and over. • Training your staff over and over. • Teaching your kids over and over. • Wowing your fans, clients and customers over and over.
Just repeat the process over, and over, and over, ad infinitum, until the results are extraordinary—and they will be.
Important because you don’t get better on stage, you get better at rehearsal.
“Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” As much as I love the Godfather trilogy, that line is purely for the sake of “gotcha” entertainment. Who really wants to hang out with their enemies?
That said, in addition to our old friends, family friends and...well...loser friends, we should really spend the lion share of our time with three extraordinary friends:
1) A friend who is smarter, wiser and more grounded: to learn from.
2) A friend who’s at a similar place in life as we are: to kick around ideas with.
3) A friend who needs our mentoring and coaching: to remind us of the essential benefits of selflessness, empathy and generosity (especially with our time).
Important because nobody has ever made it in the entertainment business without the helping hand or support of someone else (stop and think about that). Therefore our degree of success is largely dependent on who we know, who we listen to, and who we hang out with.
We spend so much time and effort getting our ducks in a row, and for good reason; we want to get it right and have everything in place before we release the record, debut the video, publish the blog, audition for the part, pitch the project or launch our newest offering. It’s so important to pause at the start of the runway (like all pilots do) and make sure that our ducks are ready to fly before we take off.
Important because our fans & customers may not notice if our ducks are in a row, however they will notice (and remember) if just one of our ducks is out of line.
Truth is, the most accurate way to gauge if our best efforts are leading us in the right direction is to take an honest look at the stats, charts, hits, sales and most importantly the “rate of growth” (the numbers don’t lie). That said, it is also true that we artists & entrepreneurs often need the unbiased opinion and impartial input of a knowledgeable mentor to advise, suggest, point and coach us through those risky, confusing career choices and decisions that cause us the most angst and often slow the progress of our most crucial goals.
Important because pros never hesitate to ask for advice or coaching, while amateurs resist the idea.
What are you really hungry for? Money, recognition, acknowledgment, pizza?
- When we’re hungry for pizza we simply order one and the pang goes away. - When we’re hungry for money we offer something so valuable that people give us money. - When we’re hungry for recognition we tell our Facebook friends it’s our birthday. - When we’re hungry for acknowledgment we do something praiseworthy.
Important because while it’s easy to satisfy most of our petty little hunger pangs, the only pang that continues to go unsatisfied is our deep desire to “get it right.” And the only way to satisfy that is to stay hungry.
I often run into this situation with my clients: when they finally reach a certain “comfort zone” and their “winning formula” is just starting to work, instead of sticking with it, they slowly begin to sabotage their circumstances, alter their course, and convince themselves that “this isn’t it”—that there must be a better or different way to achieve their goals.
Important because most of us artists, entrepreneurs, and crazy geniuses are endlessly tempted and repeatedly drawn to veer off the main highway and take a bumpy ride on the road less traveled. Which can be a priceless experience for the short trip, but a costly detour for the long haul.
Our family sees us as they want us to be. Not the brilliant artist/entrepreneur our fans, clients and customers know us to be. They have an agenda sourced in the past: On the one hand they encourage our success. On the other hand, if we start to share our brilliance or show our creative genius they will, in they’re own way, poke holes in our best ideas and talk us down. They see us as an intricate, equal part of their life and cannot imagine us growing or gaining ground beyond that.
Important because our beloved family never wants us to change. And the last thing we want is to remain the same.
"A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family." —Jesus Christ of Nazareth
If we expect our devoted fans, clients and customers to respond with likes, hearts and happy faces, then we should continue to give them whatever we think will achieve that. However, if we expect them to respond with greenbacks and credit cards, or if we want them to share our videos, stream our music, read our stories, hire us, or purchase our hard work, then we need to give them what THEY want, give them what THEY need, give them something that’s missing in THEIR lives, give them something that doesn’t sound or look like everyone else, or taste like all the others. Give them something they need but don’t know it yet.
Important because we often get trapped in thinking that WE know what’s best—which is usually the same o’l cookie-cutter version of what we’ve been offering infinitum. How’s that working for you? The way to know if that’s working for you is to look at the results you’re producing; happy? The way out of the trap is to take a deep honest look at what’s truly wanted and needed and then simply provide it. Not like a guessing game, more like an intelligent assessment.
I get antsy when I’m content. I start looking for something to create or design or disrupt. It’s in my nature. And as artists & treps I assert that it’s in yours too.
While others are busy analyzing it, financing it, building it and selling it, we’re busy writing it, designing it, imagining it, and creating it. Then, most often, we disrupt it and recreate it again, over and over until we get it right. It’s who we are and how our creative “right brain” works. Not like an excuse, more like a “self realization.”
Important because the closer we get to understanding why we are the way we are, the freer we become to express who we are, as artists & entrepreneurs.
Everything I’m good at today I sucked at in the past.
Every problem I’ve ever had in the past eventually worked out, one way or the other.
Every time I screwed up...even when I screwed up big time, I eventually landed on my feet. Perhaps not in the place I’d hoped, but I landed, to soldier on another day.
Why should it be any different with the challenges I face today?
Important because Every doubt or fear or challenge you face today will eventually resolve and evaporate into a memory. Not like wishful positive thinking, more like a profound, intelligent awareness that this too shall pass.
My sister Julie Dolan is the voice of Princess Lea, in Disney’s Star Wars Rebels. Disney has a brilliant way of keeping their core fans trapped in anticipation, not knowing when or if a favorite character (like the Princess) will return in the next episode.
— Concerts and rock festivals promote far in advance to create anticipation. — A good novel will keep us anticipating what will happen in the next chapter. — Apple keeps us wishing & wondering in anticipation, with the clever use of rumors throughout the year. — Movie studios preview “teaser trailers” often 6-months in advance—to plant the seed and keep us thinking and talking about what could be. — Heck, even Santa Clause keeps us up all night with joyful anticipation of what the next morning will bring!
Important because while the tech revolution and social media have drastically changed everything we know about marketing our art and commerce, the one thing that has not changed is the intrinsic value of keeping us on the edge of our seats, biting our nails with anticipation of what’s to come. That said, I think brainstorming ways to build anticipation into your marketing plan is crucial to the ultimate success of your offering.
Why do you continuously put up with the pettiness and incompetence of others at such an emotional, physical and monetary cost to you, and your goals?
The truth is, the time we waste procrastinating and waiting for others to improve will continue to keep our projects and goals moving at a snails pace—until of course, we take some sort of intelligent action.
Important because the goal is to work with the most talented people we can find, who are aligned with our vision and committed to the task at hand, not to babysit.
3 Things Guaranteed to Make the 2nd ½ of 2016 Better.
Suddenly, without warning, the entire first half of 2016 is over! Yikes! I feel blindsided!
Whatever resolutions, promises or plans we made at the beginning of this year, they’re now staring us right in the face...and they’re not smiling!
That said, here are 3 things you can take action on right now that will help get you closer to the big victory dance at the end of the year:
1) Re-commit to that which YOU say “must” be completed by the end of this year. Not like a “note to self,” more like a ruthless commitment. In the deep silent privacy of your own soul, remind yourself what it is you really want. Remind yourself what truly matters. Remind yourself what your biggest most important dream is. Then ask yourself, “What am I committed to?”
2) Extend your reach: Continue to grow your following. I’ve said this so many times before: “Content may be king, but community holds the keys to the kingdom.” Step-up that constant flow of communication with all your past, present and future fans, clients and customers.
3) Keep Your Boots Muddy. Even though many artists & entrepreneurs are doing some “great” work these days, it’s the “extraordinary” work that’s getting the attention and making the big bucks. This should not be new news to you. Your fans, your followers and your customers are now demanding superior products, outrageous service and tear-jerking, sidesplitting, jaw-dropping entertainment. And if you don’t give it to them, they have the entire world in the palm of their hands where they can find it. If you expect your tribe to spend their (limited) time spreading the word about you, then go the extra mile, step up your game and give them outrageous & extraordinary work!
Important because The 2nd ½ of the game always taunts you with many more curve balls than the first—that’s a good insight to know. Now is not the time to hold back or take a break. Now is the time to get busy, get sweaty, jump in the mud and get filthy, grimy dirt under your fingernails. These are the days of the crazy artist and the fearless entrepreneur. And if what I’m saying is resonating with you then this is YOUR time! No kidding! This is YOUR time! Don’t waste it. Make something extraordinary happen this year, while there’s still time.
As an independent, crazy, creative genius, only you can motivate yourself to get up in the morning and create something that matters. Then, at the end of the day, it’s only you who truly knows what creative angst you’ve been through that day, what “inner” battles you’ve won or lost, who or what has challenged your efforts, and whether or not you surrendered to resistance and procrastination.
At the end of the day, you rarely get an “atta boy” or a “you go girl” because when your muse has given everything she’s got, it’s really only you who can acknowledge yourself for not giving up and yielding to the pettiness of others or the pressures of money (whether you have too much or too little).
Like it or not, if you’re living the life of an independent artist or entrepreneur, you stand alone at the helm, puffed-up with as much confidence as you can muster. Oh sure, you may have a staff of assistants, band mates, collaborators, partners, a slew of advisors, a career consultant and a great coach, however the truth is, you’re the architect of your enterprise, the CEO of your world, and the captain of your ship. And your personal support team could be terminated at the snap of your finger, because you alone make the big risky choices and uncertain (scary) decisions in your life and career. You think your agent or manager does this? Think again.
Important because this independent, entrepreneurial life you’ve chosen is truly all about self-motivation, self-dependence, self-discipline, self-confidence, and self-validation. And if you’re like me, you wouldn’t want it any other way.
When I was climbing the infamous “ladder of success” a five-year plan was important. It was drilled into my brain that smart entrepreneurs make long term plans.
Now that I’ve put the ladder in the garage, I find that unless you’re beholden to shareholders or investors, long-term plans are an illusion—at best a guess. And given the blinding speed at which our creative industry is changing, I place minimum value on future forecasting, and maximum attention on today’s forecast—what I’m rigorously committed to achieving today, or this week, or this month.
Important because planning too far in the future keeps us at a dangerous distance from our destination and supports the excuse that we still have plenty of time to reach our goal.
Some folks quit in quiet despair, believing that quitting is an easier way out of a challenging situation. Of course they’re right—it’s much easier. And often “getting out” is the most intelligent thing to do. However, others, when faced with similar challenging circumstances, choose to retreat, scale back, withdrawal, or start over, in order to reinvent, rewrite or re-adjust their course—until they find an alternate route to continue the pursuit of their goal.
Important because (unfortunately) it doesn’t matter that much to us if you stay or go—there are so many choices today. What matters is how many people will be affected by your decision to quit, or how many people will benefit because you choose to soldier on. It’s not always entirely about you.
I was fortunate enough to see both paperbacks I wrote become Amazon best sellers in their day. However, when I look back, I made some lousy decisions, because the closer I got to the end, the more “obsessed” I became with just getting the year-long process over with. So I ended up making foolish, costly mistakes.
I have a client who has become obsessed with his new software start-up. So much so, that sadly, everything else in his life takes a backseat to his obsession; health, friends, clients, etc.
Being obsessed is an illusion that makes us think we’re working harder. But we’re not. We’re actually working smaller. We develop “tunnel vision” which clouds the big picture and excludes all other possible outcomes, except the one we’re obsessed with.
Important because I’m all for commitment, and I think without it nothing gets done. However the difference between commitment and obsession is that a commitment is actually an agreement or pledge (to yourself or others) to accomplish something in the future. While an obsession, is a persistent, disturbing, preoccupation with “proving” something in the future.
Don’t underestimate me. I’m an artist, and although I don’t march to your drummer, and at times I may seem unfocused and even a bit frazzled, nevertheless I know where I’m headed. I’m on the road less traveled, and actually, you should follow me.
Don’t underestimate me. I’m an entrepreneur, and although I don’t play by your rules, and at times I may seem distant and uninterested in what you have to offer, nevertheless I know what I’m doing. I’m on the road less traveled, and actually, you need me to lead the way.
Don’t underestimate me. I’m a creative, independent thinker, and although I may not post my personal life, political opinions and funny pictures on Facebook, nevertheless I have opinions that I prefer to express through my work. And I do have a personal life, which I simply choose to keep that way.
Important because professional artist and entrepreneurs are much deeper and far more complex than others give them credit for. In fact, others should just stand back, give them space, and watch what happens.
Once the great Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi finally battled his way through poverty, resistance, fear and doubt, he planted his flag atop the highest peak of riches and fame and shouted his most profound victory cry so that all artists & entrepreneurs throughout eternity could learn the great secret of how to be victorious:
Create like a god! Command like a King! Work like a Slave!
Create like a god: Make something from nothing and create with abandon. Get out of the way and allow “IT” to come through you: songs, books, scripts, products, start-ups, designs, photography, acting, videos, art, etc. Be mindful of when doubt and fear sabotage the flow of great ideas, and learn to create a “clearing” for creative inspiration to flow through you, like the blood pumping in your veins!
Command like a King: With intelligence, confidence, and your own style of cockiness, forever ban pettiness and ego from your creative world and insist that all those who work at your side and participate in your projects demonstrate unwavering loyalty, honesty, commitment and integrity—or they’re out!
Work like a Slave: The biggest insult you can say about a successful artist or entrepreneur is “they were lucky.” There’s no such thing as “luck,” it’s an old worn out myth! The only reason professional artists & entrepreneurs achieve success is because they take big risks and work their ass off! They've learned that the only way to achieve their grand desires and impossible dreams is to remove their socks, walk across the hot coals, and DO THE WORK! And while the amateur pauses to admire his creation, the professional works to improve his...and never stops improving it!
For the past three decades, I’ve been fortunate enough to work directly with some of the best PR firms and the top publicists in the entertainment industry: Here’s what I know to be true:
There's a BIG difference between hiring a publicist and a PR Firm:
— A publicist is an expert in “media relations” and has established connections and relationships with writers, reporters, bloggers and content publishers.
— A PR firm is an expert in “public relations” which includes media relations, community relations, fan and customer relations, and complete internet and social media relations.
— The time to hire a publicist is when you have one or two BIG "spectacular" projects to promote, or, so many projects already in the queue, that you no longer can handle the job of promoting them all by yourself.
— The time to hire a PR firm is when you are ready for a long-term, strategic marketing partner, to help build your brand and keep your art and commerce in the public eye indefinitely.
— The time NOT to hire a PR expert is when you're frustrated that your career or project is not moving forward and you just want to hand the problem off to someone else, along with a hand full of cash, and say "here...you fix it."
— A publicist is only as good as the material she has to pitch. That said, it is critical to give her as much tangible data and information to use as possible. You need to keep her busy with stories, angles and ideas to work with throughout her time managing your campaign.
— You’ll get the most from your PR $$$ if you know exactly what you want before you hire someone to help you get it.
Important because there are definitely a few self-proclaimed publicists or managers out there today, who thrive on folks with money and love to see their face/story in print. They convince you that for X amount of dollars they can get you on all the social media sites and promise you thousands of likes and views. If not scrutinized properly, these so-called media experts can alter the course of your marketing objectives and drain the bank account very quickly.
It was a sub-zero, unknown location just outside Metropolis. It’s where he went to contemplate his challenges and calculate his next move. It was Superman’s “creative space.”
I have challenges too. I have books in progress, clients to care for, groups to meet with, blogs to write, correspondence to answer and ideas to launch. However today, more and more, there’s just so many time-sucking, thought-robbing distractions that steal my attention and reek-havoc with my priorities. Just like Lex Luthor, “resistance” grabs hold of me and slows my drive and weakens my will.
It’s times like these when I need to be ruthlessly committed and rigorously disciplined. This is when I remind myself of what’s most important to me. This is when I promise myself that none of my goals will ever be achieved without my focused attention. This is when I recall what Jimmy Olsen always said to Lois Lane: “This is a job for Superman!”
Then I barricade myself in my creative space—my private “Fortress of Solitude,” where I ass-kick resistance and hunker down with my work starring me right in the face. Then I fearlessly forge head-on, directly into the path of my goals and dreams!
Important because every artist and entrepreneur needs a “fortress of solitude” (whether it’s inside or out) where we contemplate our challenges, dream our dreams, and ass-kick resistance!
The trap is believing that you’re headed in the right direction. And while that may be true, it’s also nevertheless true that the road to manifesting something from nothing has no street signs to tell you where you’re going, not even a street lamp to light the way. The pro artist/entrepreneur is never really sure if he’s headed in the right direction because the road less traveled is always paved with uncertainty.
This matters because a film director always has an image in her head of where she wants the scene to go. However, as an artist, she also knows that she must remain flexible and willing to try new ideas and multiple takes—and remain constantly vigilant to the possibility that one of those ideas may lead her in a better direction than her original plan.
— You’ve stopped creating something from nothing, and returned to producing the same o’l, same o’l.
— Excitement & enthusiasm has been replaced with confusion & concern.
— You lost your compass.
— You question the future.
— You have doubts.
Truth is, frustration is a good thing because it shows you’re working hard at trying to figure out what to do.
However it’s also a trap, and left unchecked frustration eventually leads to procrastination, which leads to apathy. And once you don’t care anymore it means you have forgotten, or worse yet abandoned the most important thing of all: What you’re committed to!
This matters because once you do some real soul-searching, and reconnect with that big, crazy, genius idea or vision you’re committed to, you won’t be frustrated anymore...you’ll be determined again.
What matters is that we love the chase. The daily pursuit of personal victory. The tug-of-war, that keeps us guessing, keeps us edgy, keeps us sharp, keeps us searching—perpetually on the hunt for the next great idea, the next creative conquest, the next fleeting opportunity to show the world the best we’ve got.
What counts is what we ultimately produce. It’s what scales. It's what we finally release, publish, launch, ship or provide that will determine if our art, service or product really matters. If it does, then we acknowledge the victory. If it doesn’t, then it's back to the hunt, for what we think is the best we’ve got.
Every day the voice in our head prods us to reach farther, effort more and work harder. However the biggest successes in my life had less to do with “effort” and more to do with; a clear vision of where I wanted to go, a mountain of rigorous research to light the way, a ruthless commitment to shield me from distractions, a boatload of courage to bolster those scary, risky decisions, and as much cocky confidence as I could muster.
I know you can find those bumper-sticker buzz words in every successful A&E’s official biography. However for me, those worn out clichés have grounded me more and driven me farther then I ever imagined.
We set goals, make plans, and with great enthusiasm proclaim our boldest intentions to the universe: “this I shall do!” Then we allow something or someone to divert our focus and easily tempt us off course, leaving our “bold goal” stalled on the sidelines. Do this too often and we’ll never reach our destination.
That said, we are fools to forget what really matters, as distractions abound and time goes by...
I can only look at my own experience, and what provokes me to buy or share something. Truth is, while a media blitz may lead me to it, it certainly won’t provoke me to buy it, or share it. The hype or hypnosis of a media blitzkrieg has never swayed my vote.
That said, a barrage of publicity, or even a boatload of “likes” may certainly put a lot of eyes on your business, product or art. However, once the hoopla wears off and the true essence of your hard effort is reveled, the only thing that matters is: do your fans, clients and customers love it enough to share it, and need it enough to buy it? If not, then your strategic media blitz bombed.
Figure out a way to get your art to disseminate. Figure out a way to extend your projects reach (beyond FB). Figure out a way to get your clients and customers to refer your service. Figure out a way to get your idea to spread. Projects that spread, win.
This matters because you’re an artist, an entrepreneur, and figuring things out is what you do best.
Fact checking is in my DNA. Of all the books and magazines I’ve published in the past three decades, none have contained any gossip, rumor or hearsay. Facts and truth are always inherent in the work I do and the business I’ve chosen, and over the years I’ve learned that “facts” don’t kill the deal they just up the ante.
Back in the day, my editorial team and I would gather the info, expel the gossip, analyze the data, poke the evidence, and explore all the possibilities. Then, we would debate the downside, dispute the upside, argue our point, and consider all possible POV’s. Then, I would make a decision.
That said, once you’ve done the homework and you’ve finally gathered all the facts, in any situation, whether it’s a business opportunity or a health challenge, it becomes easier to make intelligent choices and wise decisions. When you’re faced with the facts, you may not like what you see, but you’re forced to work with it, and discover ways to keep moving forward.
That’s what you and I and other pro artists & entrepreneurs do every day. We constantly invent creative ways to use the facts we are challenged with to keep us moving forward, in our careers and our in our personal lives.
This matters because “requesting” factual information in any career choice or personal situation is imperative. If that doesn’t work, INSISTING may help.
The struggle for more time & money. The struggle for acknowledgment. The struggle to get it right. The struggle to get it over with. The struggle to breakthrough. The inner struggle to survive in an industry that has no clear path to relevance.
It’s the struggle that overwhelms us A&E’s with confusion and distrust. It's the struggle that freezes us in indecision. And it’s that relentless inner struggle that blocks the view of the road ahead and causes us to lose our way, lose our focus, and lose our minds!
It’s time to plant the flag: “The Struggle Ends Now!”
Not the challenging work, just the struggle. Not the daily pursuit, just the struggle. Not the dream, just the struggle.
Where do we find our audience, customers, fans, clients, representatives and investors? What do they read? How do they search? Where will they find us? How will they find us? How can we connect with them?
How will we provoke them to listen, watch, read, link to our site and sample our work?
How will we inspire them to join, subscribe, enroll, hire us, make a deal, or secure a purchase?
How will we motivate them to share our work with others?
Continuous trial & error, along with incessant inquiry into these questions will certainly produce far greater results than a frustrating quest for the right answers.
That said, in these days of unlimited possibilities, there are very few wrong answers...so why not try everything?
It’s never as easy as we think. We point to the mountain and proclaim: “I can climb that!” Then when we’re half way up, we meet Mr. Doubt.
At that point we have three choices: Turn around and run the other way. Freeze and do nothing. Or, continue climbing, one step at a time, until we reach the top.
I think those three choices; retreat, freeze or persist, are what keep us artists & treps edgy, anxious and sharp—day after day.
And while freezing will get us nowhere and persisting will get us somewhere, it’s really the challenging process of retreating, restarting and regrouping, that keeps us alert, keeps us creative, and provokes us to continue searching for a different solution or a new plan of action, that will inch us closer and closer to our goals and dreams.
1) Go to the mountaintop and bring your flag (whatever that means to you).
2) Make a profound, “ruthless” commitment (in your own words): “I am now committed to...”
3) Plant the flag: (whatever that means to you).
Three things will happen:
1) From this point forward, choices and decisions will be a little easier to make: simply ask yourself if the decision you’re about to make correlates with your commitment. If it does, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t.
2) Coincidences, great ideas, flights of inspiration and light bulbs over-the-head will immediately begin to happen. No kidding!
3) Resistance will be stronger than ever! However, after making a ruthless commitment, YOU will be stronger than ever too! So long as you honor your commitment you will have the clarity, strength, wisdom and courage to stand toe-to-toe with resistance.
None of this is hopeful “positive thinking.” All of this comes from a powerful stand you take.
None of this is new age nonsense. All of this is from a steadfast commitment you make, and an intelligent plan to back it up.
Artists & treps strive to be “relevant.” Why? Because we’re in this for life, and sustainability is imperative. And the one thing that breeds relevancy is consistency. And to the degree we consistently produce superior, “share-worthy” art and commerce, to that degree we’ll be relevant.
My short blogs never start out short. They begin with a page or two of everything I want to say about a subject. Then after cutting, editing, trimming and trashing what I most often think is good stuff, a tight paragraph begins to emerge that best represents the idea I want to share with you.
Writers know that writing is rewriting. Musicians know that composing is rethinking; directors know that they will probably cut 25% of their footage, and entrepreneurs know that continuous trial and error eventually produces the desired result.
We just have to be willing to go through the wrenching process of “killing the darlings,” and letting go of that which we really like, for that which we think is best for the greater good of the work.
So many times we feel the need to tell a story or prepare others, BEFORE we get to the precise point we want to make.
Truth is, in my experience, it’s a much more effective communication technique when you flip that scenario around and make the point first, THEN tell the story:
Television: When you “live-pitch” an idea for a TV show, often you only have a few minutes to “get to the point.” Then, if they’re interested, you can delve deeper into the back story.
Film: When you send a script to an agent or producer, the accepted protocol is to include a brief (one page) synopsis that “gets to the point” of the story. If that hooks them, they will be more inclined to read the entire script.
Newspaper headline: “Scientists Find Cure For Diabetes!” The story follows.
Politicians: “I promise to lower taxes!” Followed by how they’re going to do it.
Music: When you pitch a manager, agent or record company, the first thing you do is “get to the point” and send a link to your music or video. If your performance (or composition) is jaw dropping, THEN they will ask to hear all about you and your fascinating life.
My “point” is: I know we all feel that a unique story will help sell our art or product—and indeed it may. However, what all of us really want you to do, is just “get to the point!” After that, if we’re interested, we’ll reach out for more.
“Mastering how and when to communicate effectively, and learning how to “get to the point” is one of the most important skills one can learn.” — Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Records
Certainty is safe and dependable. Uncertainty is risky and speculative.
Certainty makes folks feel comfortable. Uncertainty makes them squirm.
Certainty has the final answer. Uncertainty has unlimited possibilities.
Certainty is safe. Uncertainty is scary.
Certainty is a fait accompli. Uncertainty is far from it.
Truth is, as professional artists and courageous entrepreneurs we live and work in a perpetual state of UNCERTAINTY!
No wonder we’re always a little edgy! No wonder we have quirky personalities! No wonder we dress different! No wonder we have capricious social skills! No wonder we rarely have time for petty gossip! And it’s no wonder why others love to get close and intimate with crazy, unconventional, unpredictable, lovable, avant-garde artists & entrepreneurs!
Go ahead “leap!” Every four years on this day, February 29, we are reminded that it’s ok to “leap!”
Today is a day like no other. It’s extra. It’s a bonus. It’s a freebie from the gods. And if there were ever a time to “leap” now is the time.
In fact, why not make it a “quantum leap?” Grab hold of your biggest, most impossible dreams and take a giant quantum “leap” to the next level!
Of course believing in your talent, and believing that the work you do is relevant and worthy, and mustering up the courage to push the giant boulder up the mountain every day, is already a leap. It’s a “leap of faith” in yourself, and you don’t need a special day to do that.
As free-spirited, autonomous, self-reliant artists & treps, we are constantly challenged to create and manifest ideas that are new and different. Consequently, we’re criticized when we don’t, hailed as geniuses when we do, marked as sell-outs when we compromise, and labeled “eccentric” when we offer alternatives. Nevertheless, we manage to endure the slings & arrows of others as we pursue our dreams.
Here’s the upside: It’s better to be on stage struggling with a broken string, a lousy PA, and a drummer with an attitude, than it is to be trapped in an office with an outdated computer and a boss with an attitude!
It’s better to be struggling with confusing new software, than it is to be standing on the sidelines waiting for the tech train to slow down.
It’s better to be a free, independent, creative entrepreneur, struggling to reach your goals, than it is to be content working on someone else’s.
That said, it’s better to be entangled in a beautiful struggle than it is to be watching from a safe distance.
I have this argument with every one of my clients—doesn’t matter if they’re releasing a record, promoting a project, or building an empire:
When you post an announcement, product or service on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.), you can only HOPE that people see it, as they quickly scroll and scan through a hodgepodge of hundreds of other posts—just like you do. However, when you send a weekly email, newsletter or blog directly to your fans, clients and customers you KNOW they’ll see it. And while any marketing plan should include the full use of social media, it’s even more effective when paired with direct, personal, customer/fan engagement.
There’s plenty of marketing research to show that a “direct-to-customer” email campaign is still the most effective way to provoke your followers to visit your site, experience your art, consider your new offerings, and make a purchase. There’s also plenty of market research to show that most people procrastinate when it comes to pursuing direct marketing. Or, they’re in denial and are still under the illusion that “likes” and ‘follows” translate into dollars & devotees.
If you’re in this for the long haul, then experimenting with innovative ways to grow your email list should be a daily priority.
If you’re building a future, then it would be smart to explore ways to reach out, interact and engage with your fans and customers via blogs, videos, podcasts, webinars, etc..
If you’re in this for life, the tools are available and the ideas are endless. And if you can’t figure out how to do this, there are plenty of coaches and consultants out there to guide you. Pick one.
As self-reliant, independent artists & entrepreneurs, the one thing that incessantly troubles us, the one thing that mercilessly crawls under our skin, the one thing that causes us to anxiously fidget and squirm the most, is that haunting voice between our ears that relentlessly reminds us of what we haven’t achieved, what we haven’t attained, and what we have yet to accomplish.
We now live in a hugely competitive world, filled with a myriad of delightful distractions. As a listener, viewer, fan, client or customer, if I’m not continuously captivated, enticed, engaged and delighted with your art & commerce, I will (very) quickly get “bored” with your style and move on. This insight should alert you that “customer boredom” is now a criticle challenge for artists & entrepreneurs.
“Growth” is the ultimate telling factor in any worthy endeavor. Hits & likes are warm & fuzzy but they don’t represent real growth. The only thing that represents real growth is product sales, new subscribers, and a steady influx of scalable new customers, clients and fans. And if your best work doesn’t get shared, or if you can’t get people to subscribe to your world, or if you’re slowly losing the interest of former fans and devotees, it’s probably time to barricade yourself in your creative space and take an honest, intelligent look at why this is happening. That’s not a bad thing. Like the warning light in your car, it’s warning you that something needs to be done. “No Growth” is a warning light.
We spend most of the time avoiding it because it’s so confronting and anxious. Nevertheless, saying the unsaid, expressing the unexpressed, revealing the concealed and exposing what’s hiding in the shadows has huge transformative results in any relationship, group, band, partnership, company or impenetrable situation. Drumming up the courage to finally say out loud what you’ve been withholding for so long may be confronting and uncomfortable going in, but it’s really the only true way to get to the heart of the matter of any problem or challenge. Plus, it offers clear pathways to achieving significant breakthroughs in stalled or seemingly unsolvable situations.
1) The “visual” entertainment business, including movies, television, gaming, videos, graphics, animation etc., is quickly becoming a multi-device, global streaming entity. Not just a stationary, national one. Think Broader.
2) Advertising, marketing and PR are now completely different conversations. Although everyone needs marketing, not everyone needs to buy advertising or hire a publicist. Think Cleverer.
3) It’s now a “direct-to-customer” industry. Reaching out and connecting personally with your fans and followers is proven to be more effective than any other media outreach strategy. If you want to expand your empire you must Think Intimate.
Truth is, most artists & entrepreneurs aren’t thinking about this at all.
A common concern I hear from clients: “I have a great idea, I just don’t know where to start.” Or, “I’m an artist not a salesman. I’m just not good at marketing myself.”
Truth is, somebody’s gotta do the “left-brain” work. Otherwise you’ll be sitting alone in your office or studio with a stack of unseen, un-heard, un-pitched, un-distributed, unsold, brilliant ideas and genius works of art.
If you’re really serious about moving your career/project forward this year, then you must overcome your resistance to this critical part of the process. Either hire someone to do it for you, learn how to do it yourself, or hire a coach/consultant to help you hash out an intelligent plan. It’s time to start “thinking smart” about your pitch process, marketing strategy and social media. Because if you don’t get your great idea or worthwhile project in front of the people who matter, you’ll just continue to day-after-day, hesitate in confusion and wallow in the mire.
“The time to hesitate is through, No time to wallow in the mire...” —The Doors
Keep looking ahead—looking back is a trap. Plus it’s not in your DNA. You’re an artist, an entrepreneur, looking back only gives you heartache. Why? Because it’s your job to look forward into a NON-EXISTENT future—a future that we depend on YOU to create and manifest for us. A future filled with great songs, compelling videos, motivating stories, inspiring acting, encouraging books, and new, innovative ideas and products that help us move forward and reach further.
We’re certainly not depending on our leaders for that! We’re depending on YOU, the artist, songwriter, musician, actor, designer, writer, director, producer, manager, and courageous, risk-taking entrepreneur.
You chose this path—the path of the independent, creative, artist/entrepreneur. And it’s your responsibility to create, manifest and contribute your best art and commerce for the benefit of all of us! We’re counting on you to lead us into the coming year! Do you accept the challenge?
The beginning of the year always feels exhilarating. It provokes excitement and enthusiasm for a future that could be—that will be. It also wakes up that crazy inner voice that insists, “this year is going to be better.” That said, here are 6 reminders to help make 2016 better:
1) The “Internet of Everything” is here: Upgrade your digital world—it’s a wise investment. Everything is now mobile, portable and global, and it’s not going to stop—it’s not even going to slow down. Don’t break the bank! However be sure you have the best tech-tools you can afford, including phones, pads, laptops, apps, software, etc.
2) Strengthen your base: I’ve said this many times: “Content may be king, but community holds the keys to the kingdom.” We live in a “direct to customer” world, and if you want to expand your empire you must incessantly grow your tribe, and consistently interact and engage with your fans, clients and customers. It’s an intelligent investment of your time.
3) Don’t freak out about money: Just make sensible choices and decisions regarding your resources, whether you have a lot or a little. Be smart enough to avoid spontaneous, emotional spending, and courageous enough to jump on wise investment opportunities when they come your way. Also, be sure to reread my 13-second “Money Seminar.”
4) Commitment is EVERYTHING: Doesn't matter if you're a fledgling songwriter or the CEO of a mega-corp. The commitment to "get there" is your first priority—HOW you’re going to do it is second. To the degree you are ruthlessly committed to achieving your biggest goals, to that degree you will achieve them. Not like “positive thinking,” more like a well-built foundation to stand on.
5) New Year resolutions? Instead make intelligent daily resolutions. You already have a project, a goal, a mission, a plan, or an idea bouncing around between your ears. Commit to working on that every single day of 2016!
6) Don’t Do Anything Stupid! You’re an artist, an entrepreneur—an independent, crazy, creative genius! I know it can be tough, however, it’s a GREAT life, and the only life for you! Don’t screw it up!
Your big project of the year is either finished or unfinished because of the daily choices you made and the actions you took in 2015.
You’re bank account is where it’s at today because of the daily choices you made and the actions you took in 2015.
You are where you are today because of the daily choices you made and the actions you took in 2015.
That said, I don’t think it’s very effective to make annual resolutions. However, I do think it’s very powerful to make daily ones. It’s easy to announce, “this will happen next year.” It’s much more productive (and challenging) to proclaim, “this will happen today!”
The final 10 days of the year are mostly filled with edgy family, anxious friends, last minute shopping, binge eating and hectic travel. They’re also filled with a long “personal” list of what you still need to accomplish and complete before 12/31.
Here’s the upside: While others frantically run around at the last minute trying to do a million things at once, you manage to get through the madness barely unscathed. Why? Because you’re a multi-tasking pro! This is where you live every day of the year! On the edge, overwhelmed with unfinished projects, and overcome with huge career choices and mammoth business decisions—at the same time trying to figure out how to grow your following and make a buck—or another million of them.
If anyone can get through this time of year without freaking out, it’s you—a crazy, genius, independent, multi-talented, creative, genius artist/trep.
Let the others go nuts with last minute details, while you calmly go about “business as usual.”
Your plight is no different than any other successful artist or entrepreneur who consistently questions and doubts her own abilities, and who is confronted every day by the armies of distraction, resistance and uncertainty.
The prudent wage earner knows that the road he’s on will lead him to a predictable destination. However, YOU walk the road less traveled. Uncertain of where it will lead, yet confident you’re headed in the right direction.
Thank God every day that you chose this path in your life; the daring, independent life of a creative artist/trep—no matter how challenging it is. Because the alternative can be an endless traffic-jam of mediocrity—no matter how appealing it looks.
“The road to success is always under construction”—Lily Tomlin
The next step is already pre-planned, thought out and ready to take—so you might as well take it. The next BIG step is different. If it’s really going to be a BIG one, if it’s truly going to take you to the next level, then the next BIG step cannot be taken by who you are today. It can only be taken by that bold, intelligent, courageous, confident, surefooted person you become, when you finally make the commitment to take the next BIG step.
Ripped off, rewritten and plagiarized from a blog I wrote a few years back.
1) Stuck on a specific outcome that has to turn out a certain way...your way! After all, out of the unlimited medley of creative possibilities, your way is the right way and the only way that will work.
2) Waiting to be discovered, or waiting for help to arrive, or waiting for a certain person to change, or waiting for the unrelenting wave of technology to at least slow down so you can catch up.
3) Undisciplined: You’ve discovered that aimlessly clicking around the Internet makes it look and feel like you’re actually accomplishing something.
4) Insecure (inside): On the outside you’ve got everyone convinced that you’re in control. However, on the inside you feel inadequate. Which leads to a fear of making growth-oriented choices, which then “clogs the works” and slows your progress to a crawl.
You need to “believe” you can do this. And to the degree the actions you take are “in sync” with your core beliefs, to that degree nothing can alter the course of your destiny. Not like pollyanna wishful thinking, more like taking a profound, unwavering stand.
The NBA season lasts 6-months. During that time there are 82 games played. A team must win approximately 40% of those games in order to make it to the playoffs. If you win the playoffs you become champion of the world.
— From the coach’s POV the intention is on winning the current game. — From the player’s POV the intention is on the very next play. — From the referee’s POV the intention is on playing by the rules. — From the broadcaster’s POV the intention is on clear, precise, play-by-play analysis. — From the advertiser’s POV the intention is on persuading, enticing and convincing the fans to buy their products. — From the fan’s POV the intention is on winning the championship.
While it’s true that the goal of all participants is to win, as the head coach of your career, it’s also true that knowing the diverse POV and distinct intentions of your partners, bandmates, teammates, staff, agent, manager, producer or investors is an invaluable asset to achieving your goal and becoming a world class artist/entrepreneur.
“You don’t get better in games, you get better in practice” —Byron Scott, head coach, L.A. Lakers.
Wait! Don't go “outside the box” yet! Some boxes are worth building and staying in! Especially the ones that contain a well thought out plan, along with a ruthless commitment to achieve it.
We all love the notion of “thinking outside the box.” But not if the box you’re in shelters you from mediocrity, encourages you to attempt something extraordinary, and emboldens you to take premeditated risks.
Wait! I think that’s what “thinking outside the box” really means in the first place!
When you share the stories about all the irons you have in the fire it’s sure to impresses the heck out of everyone.
Truth is, having too many irons in the fire puffs up your ego, and it keeps you stuck in an illusion that you’re getting somewhere.
Truth is, having too many irons in the fire supports an archaic belief that the more irons you have in the fire the better your chances for success.
Truth is, having too many irons in the fire becomes fuel for distraction and food for resistance.
The only iron you should have in the fire is the one that will bring you closer to the dreams and goals that are most important to you. The rest of those irons are just a great excuse for why you haven’t arrived yet.
“There's the next mission, and nothing else! The only thing that’s important to me is the next mission.” —Tony Stark, Iron Man
You can have a great big impressive office and surround yourself with awards, citations, trophies and acknowledgements. However, your greatest ideas and most important work will still be the most imposing energy in the room.
You can design your studio with the coolest gear and the latest technology, and surround yourself with worthy awards and platinum records. However, your greatest ideas and most important work will still be the loudest noise in the room.
You can create an atmosphere of productivity and a cool creative vibe in your creative space, and surround yourself with inspiring posters, meaningful artifacts and memorable chachkies. However, ultimately, your greatest ideas and most important work will be screaming at you the minute you walk through the door.
Look, I enjoy a nice creative workspace too! However, when you take a look at the genius, brilliance and talent that have come out of small, dusty garages (from tech giants to rock gods), it becomes evident that your great ideas, your most important work, your most commanding projects, and your biggest dreams could care less whether you do your work in a small cubicle, a dusty garage or an elaborate studio. The only thing your best ideas want is to become meaningful and relevant.
The response was overwhelming in favor of keeping WW alive! I read your emails and I must say your suggestions were taken to heart and your acknowledgements brought a tear to my eye. Thank you so much.
Here’s what I learned: I think those who have regular 9-5 type jobs are mostly beholding to a boss, supervisor or senior mgr. who constantly points in the direction she wants the ship to go. Therefore, while the employees are certainly responsible for the specific work they produce, they are rarely responsible for the entire ship. I guess that can be a good thing for some.
However, when you choose to live a crazy, creative, independent lifestyle you’re responsible for the entire ship! And the only captain standing over you pointing the way is YOU.
And while it’s true that the very best way to gauge if our art or commerce is relevant is to take an honest look at the stats, charts, hits and sales (the numbers don’t lie), it’s also nevertheless true that from time to time we artists & treps need the unbiased opinion and impartial input of others, to suggest, advise and coach us through those uncertain stormy seas that rise up between our ears.
Educate yourself. Do the research. Raise your awareness to a level where you can clearly see the “deep truth” of how the world is changing today, and use the tools and technology to your advantage—in every area of your life, not just your career. Then find that place inside yourself where nothing is impossible and steer the ship from that POV. Not like “positive thinking,” more like intelligent foresight.
— It keeps you thinking you’re on the right track. — It feeds your fear of change. — You believe that if it got you this far, it will take you the rest of the way. — It’s the success story of the past you keep telling yourself over and over. — The world was a different place when your winning formula was an original plan.
That said, the only way to break through the door to the next level is to step outside your current comfort zone and reinvent, rewrite, and reimagine your career or business. Literally create a “new vision” for yourself—a greater vision, a smarter vision, perhaps one that could literally transform your life! Then, make an outrageous, ruthless commitment to make it happen!
Truth is, you know your winning formula is no longer effective when you've stop telling people where you’re headed, and instead, you tell them where you've been.
Your big idea wants to go viral. Your worthy project is screaming for attention. Your impossible dream wants to be made real.
Don’t give up on your big idea just because it’s too hard or costly. “Hard” is a way of telling you it’s got potential. “Costly” is a way of telling you its an investment worth considering.
Don’t give up on your worthy project just because you think it will take too long to manifest. Plant the seeds, add water and let time do the rest. You know that, right?
Don’t give up on your dream just because you don’t know how to proceed. All knowledge known to man is now in the palm of your hand. If you can’t figure out the next step, hire a suitable coach to point the way.
Don’t pause the one project that continues to tug at your heartstrings just because you have too many other irons in the fire. Most of the time that’s a lame excuse—a device “Resistance” uses to keep you from moving forward.
Stop dreaming in the drivers seat, wondering which way to go. Just turn the key, rev the engines and floor it!
The madness is that free-flowing, non-stop stream of ideas, brainstorms, videos, melodies, rhymes, beats, money-making schemes and bright ideas that flow in directly from the divine ethos and invade the sacred space between your ears. It’s a constant download of creative inspiration that has never stopped and never will! Others don’t have it. It’s reserved for creative “right brained” thinkers like you. Consider it a gift from God—she must think you deserve it.
Truth is, most folks get distracted by the stream and allow the madness to invade their daily goals and objectives—that could be the reason they make so little progress. However, the game is not to stop the streaming download, the game is to manage it.
Here are 3-things I do:
How to prioritize when everything is #1: Divide your daily list into Urgent, Essential and Constant. If you’re ruthless and disciplined about this, it becomes obvious where to put your focus.
Focus on one thing: It’s a skill that all pro artists & treps must eventually master. Kinda like when you’re in front of an audience (or camera), or pitching investors, or writing dialogue. Kinda like when you’re so lost in the creative zone nothing else exists—because your focus is so fixed. You know where that zone is, right?
Use the tools: I always set a timer for 2-hours when I’m working on a book. During that time nothing else is allowed to enter my space. During that time my focus is either on writing, research, editing or even staring out the window searching for a thought. Point is, I’ve committed that 2-hours to a specific project. To the degree I keep my word, to that degree I’ll be that much closer to completion.
When it was clear that Smokin’ Joe Frazier had the upper hand on Muhammad AlI, manager Dundee tossed in the towel—a sign to the referee that Ali had quit the fight.
It didn't mean that Ali’s career was over. It's didn't mean he would never fight again. It didn't mean he would never again have a shot at becoming "Champion of the World." It just meant that from the POV of his personal coach, this particular fight was not winnable, and it was time to tell the truth about it.
It takes experience and wisdom to realize when a particular project has run its course. After that, it takes courage and confidence to tell the truth about it and pull the plug. So what your ego takes a hit!
I don’t think it makes sense to wait until it’s too late to “toss the towel.” Taking an “unnecessary” beating; whether it’s financial, personal, or creative, could result in eliminating you from the game indefinitely, and that would not be good.
And while “never quit” may be the mantra, there are times when quitting is the only real intelligent thing to do to further your rise up the ladder. Be smart enough to know when it’s time to “towel toss,” so you can recover, regroup, reorganize, and get back in the ring.
There’s really no big mystery to making more money. There’s no big secret that only rich people are privy to, and absolutely no proven formula that only the wealthy have access to.
To the degree your art is extraordinary, your product is exceptional and your service is above and beyond, to that degree more money will flow your way. And it doesn’t matter how unfair you think the system is or how much more loot others are raking in. The only thing that matters is that you offer us something that’s irresistible, something we simply must have, and something we simply must share with others. If you do that, we’ll “direct deposit” dollars into your account.
With a brush full of sticky, gooey, messy wet paint, painters splat all their feelings and emotions onto the canvas. Then they coyly hang back and observe the reactions of others. Some praise the work and genius behind it, others rip it apart. And while the artist may feel the sting of any rejection, she also knows it really doesn’t matter. Because by the time all the votes are in, she’s already elbows-deep in the bucket again, splattering wet goo all over the next canvas. Then, once again she coyly hangs back to observe. Then it’s back to the bucket. The process will repeat itself ad infinitum.
Truth is, the “amateur” artist, whether a painter, a drummer or an entrepreneur, thrives on attention and needs constant reassurance. However, the “pro” is experienced and confident enough to know that not everyone will like her work. All she’s counting on is that eventually someone will find her work appealing enough, engaging enough and valuable enough to offer an equitable exchange; art for assets. Then, it’s back to the bucket.
1) Build The Best: Use the best tools, the best tech, and the best talent you can possibly afford. Then build and produce the best art and commerce you can possibly manifest. * Personal note: When I invest in anything, I always look for people or companies that do one thing better than anyone else. Focus on that one thing that you do better than anyone. Then do more of that. (Please don’t send investment ideas).
2) Build A Marketing Base: Waiting until the record is finished, the product is built, the video is launched or the service is proven before you begin a marketing blitz is old-school thinking, and most often a "death knell" to the project. Your “marketing plan” starts NOW! I tell all of my clients to do a weekly blog or newsletter—doesn’t matter if they’re an artist or the CEO of a mega-corp. We live in a “direct to customer” world, and if you want to expand your empire you must consistently interact and engage with your fans, followers and customers DIRECTLY—way beyond Facebook or social media. To the degree you continue to collect emails and build up your customer/fan base, and remain in constant communication with your tribe, to that degree your followers will be there for you when you offer them something special. Building your tribe is the most intelligent investment of your time.
3) Build Your Own Presence: Don’t be hypnotized by the hoopla of Facebook! It’s the lazy man’s business card! Many artists & entrepreneurs, even pros & CEO’s seem to think that their Facebook page is enough. IT’S NOT! When it comes to doing business, NOTHING is more effective than consistently reaching out directly to your fans, and there is absolutely no better place to do that then via your own storefront—your website! Remember, Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg’s website, not yours. And he knows how to distract and target your followers much better than you do. (Reread my blog “Weighing Facebook”)
4) Build Trust: That’s all we really want. We want to know that we can trust you to do what you say, and deliver the art/product/service you promised. Doesn’t matter if you’re a rock star, Corp CEO, or candidate for president, we must have some kind of assurance that we can trust you. And the way to do that is to consistently produce and distribute extraordinary art & commerce that matters most to us—your devoted followers.
5) Build A Solemn Vow: Doesn't matter if you're a fledgling band, struggling writer, savvy business owner, or the CEO of a mega-corp. The ruthless “commitment” you make to produce your very best work “trumps” HOW you’re going to do it.
Bonus Block: No matter what condition your career is in, fledgling or flying high, never underestimate the power of building your own stairway to heaven, one block at a time; slowly and intelligently. As your art or brand continues to grow, you’re going to need solid ground to stand on—especially if what you’ve built begins to wobble some day.
Every time you choose to aimlessly click around the Net, scan emails, scroll Facebook, check the weather, check stats or refresh the news, it’s a fool’s errand, that keeps you that much further away from where you want to be.
Don’t be a fool. Simply ask yourself if the activity you’re about to do is consistent with your commitment to manifest your goals and dreams. If it is, do it. If it’s not, don’t.
More suggests that it’s overflowing with greatness. Better suggests that nothing else compares. Different suggests that it’s not even in the same category as the rest.
The problem is, the MBD formula lives in the same box that you started with. All you’re doing is rewriting and revising that which you already created in the past—which is really the same o’l, same o’l, only with a different color paint.
Instead of constantly rehashing the “More Better Different” formula, why not attempt to push the envelope and create what’s next?
Kinda like what Dylan did when he went electric. Kinda like what Jobs did when he first saw the Mouse. Kinda like what Viola Davis said at the Emmys. Kinda like what Netflix and Amazon are doing with television.
3) Kick the can as hard as you can, and try to keep it in the center of the path.
4) After you've kicked the can, walk up to it and kick it again as hard as you can, while still trying to keep it in the center of the path.
5) Repeat 1-2-3, ad infinitum.
* The object of the game is to keep kicking the can down the center of the path until you arrive at your destination.
If others criticize your work, consider their POV, then keep kicking the can.
If the voice in your head criticizes your work, don’t listen, just keep kicking the can.
If petty distractions temporarily pull your focus, return your attention to kicking the can.
Truth is, some folks arrive at their destination much faster than others. Perhaps it’s the can they chose, or the way they kick it, or perhaps they’re just natural born “can kickers.” Either way, the more experiences you rack-up by just kicking the can down the path, the better you’ll get at the playing game.
I’ve been working with an artist/entrepreneur who had finally got his business running smoothly enough to pursue his music career. However, after 5 years of doing both, his business faded into oblivion and his music career has stalled. Now he’s distraught, dejected, tired and busted. The conversation we’re having these days is not about failing or quitting, it’s more about “retreating.”
Retreating doesn’t mean surrender, submission, giving up or wallowing in a pool of self-pity. Smart CEO’s retreat all the time. It’s the intelligent thing to do when the direction you’re headed is no longer producing the results you want—doesn’t matter if it’s personal or financial.
If your best work just isn’t cutting it, and you’ve exhausted all options and possibilities, then by all means pull back, retreat, and reinvent your game plan—which for some may include getting a “real job” for awhile. There’s no shame in that by the way, and it doesn’t mean you’ve quit or failed. It just means you’re making an intelligent decision regarding your wellbeing and the preservation of your personal goals. To step away for a time, provides you the opportunity for a fresh POV, (along with the possibility of generating a more reliable income).
Don’t forget that you’re different. You have an “edge up” on most others. You’re a creative artist/trep, and unlike others, you have the ability to create ways of reworking your art and reinventing your business. You also possess the rare gift of devising innovative ways of manifesting more money.
Truth is, what I have noticed, is that some folks quit in quiet despair. However, others retreat, to adjust their course, until they find an alternate path to continue the pursuit of their goals, dreams and desires.
Listen to any discouraged business owner, frustrated manager, confounded author, or crestfallen musician and they’ll tell you endless stories of the way things were, recite countless reasons why things are worse today, and insist that their way is still the only way that’s been “proven” to work.
Listen to any “Generation Z” young’n and they’ll show you detailed algorithms on where things are headed, endless data to prove that “disruption” is inevitable, and a daunting warning that you better catch up with the technology, or stand aside.
However if you talk to other “like minded” pro artists & entrepreneurs, who are currently knee-deep in the hoopla of their career, they will tell you how the industry is operating TODAY. They will share with you how to navigate the obstacles and circumvent the challenges TODAY. They will give you an accurate narrative direct from the muddy playing field TODAY.
And While others stand in the bleachers and "rant n’ rave" about how better it was, or how different it’s going to be, it’s the creative A&E’s like you, who are hard at work, day after day, pushing the envelope, taking the risks, and building a dream.
Need advice or direction? Ask one of your own kind.
There’s no excuse any more for not getting it right. There’s just so much information available; so much factual data, so many useful tech-tools, so many ways to get the answers we need to take our talent or business to the next level, and so many coaches and consultants to help us get there. These days our best excuses are lackluster, and “yeah but’s” no longer raise eyebrows.
Don't let your big “yeah but” block the view of the road ahead.
While the Cautious remain stifled by the economy, gridlocked by the technology, anxious about the future and hypnotized by the media, the Determined are quietly hard at work, honing their skills, testing their ideas, growing their tribe, calculating their risks, and hedging their bets. And the way they hedge their bets is by constantly revising, refining, developing and improving the one thing they do best.
We don’t care that you’ve devoted hours, days, weeks, months and years on your big important project.
We don’t care about all the money you’ve invested—and lost.
We don’t care about your staff worries, partner problems, investor concerns or band dilemmas.
We don’t care about your manager/agent problems, legal challenges or how much you owe the government.
We don’t care that “luck” has been illusive at best, and things just haven’t gone the way you planned.
We don’t care that you worry and fret so much about getting it right.
And we’re certainly not interested in your excuses, justifications, apologies, alibis or tales of woe.
The only thing we really care about is that you continue to entertain us with your incredible talent. Wow us with your “must-have” products. Enlighten us with your persuasive words, knock our socks off with your extraordinary art, and provide us with worthy services that far exceed expectation.
As long as you keep doing that, you can count on us to follow you to the moon.
Although I prefer Coffee Bean, this day I was sitting alone at Starbucks on the outdoor patio, enjoying the people watching and sipping a frothy iced chai latte—while the awesome wife was shopping for cute shoes next door.
This particular Starbucks was extremely crowded with its eclectic mix of artists & entrepreneurs, and I was sitting nearly shoulder to shoulder beside two animated characters. One was an extremely handsome Bulldog and the other was a beautiful Fan-Tail Goldfish. As it turned out, both the fish and the dog were exceptionally talented creative geniuses, with big plans, impossible dreams, and much to contribute. As I leaned in to eavesdrop, I heard the fish talking about her fear of failure, and her uncertainty about the future. She added that she wakes up in the morning to hesitation and doubt.
The dog also talked about his fear of failure, and waking up in the morning to hesitation and doubt. He also added that he’s fearful of making wrong choices, reluctant to make any changes, and unwilling to take any big risks that would threaten his lean bank account.
As I continued to stretch my ear closer to their table, it became very clear to me that although the fish was aware that the resistance is strong and the doubts are convincing, she also knows that in order to succeed and manifest her big dreams, she needs to be a fully confident and committed participant in the game. So she finished her morning latte, wished her dog friend good luck, and proceeded to her creative space, determined to do her best work.
The dog was also aware that the resistance is strong and the doubts are convincing. However, instead of moving forward, he paused and lagged behind. He permitted doubt to set his pace and distraction to steal his focus. So he ordered another Cappuccino and continued to ponder his plight.
After observing all this go down, it made me think that although both the fish and the dog were exceptionally talented creative geniuses, with big plans, impossible dreams, and much to contribute, only one was ruthlessly committed, only one has a chance of breaking through, only one of them is a pro.
I slurped the very last drop of frothy foam from my tasty chai latte, and met up with the awesome wife, who by that time was wearing the cutest shoes I’d ever seen.
Whatever resolutions, promises or plans we made at the beginning of this year, we are now, very quickly, approaching the 4th quarter. I say we because I get stuck in the mud same as you! We’re looking at four months until show time—that time at the end of the year where you’re either dancing in the end-zone or dashing to get there. Truth is, the fourth quarter is never a walk-in-the-park, therefore, here are four things you can take action on right now that will prep you for the big victory dance:
1) Re-commit to that which YOU say “must” be completed by the end of this year. Not like a “note to self,” more like a ruthless commitment.
2) Chip Shot: You can’t finish it all at once but you can certainly chip away at it. Do something, no matter how big or small, every single day, 7-days a week for the rest of the year. Start chipping now.
3) Distractions Begone! Break the hypnotic grip that Facebook and social media have on you, and turn off the news! Those are by far the two biggest distractions that prevent most folks from moving forward, gaining ground, hitting the mark and achieving their goals and dreams. Your time is so very precious, use it intelligently.
4) Hunker down: The last quarter of the year always taunts you with many more curve balls than the first—that’s a good insight to know. Now is the time to step up to the plate, hunker down, stay focused, and start swinging, with every ounce of strength & smarts you’ve got.
Waiting to get the ball rolling: If the ball is in the hands of others all you can do is give them plenty of space and boatload of support, so they can get that ball moving! If the ball is in your hands there’s no excuse.
Waiting to hit the jackpot: It’s a very long line. Why wait? Better to step out of line and devote all of your time and energy to manifesting your greatest ideas.
Waiting for answers: There are no answers, only unlimited possibilities. It all comes down to Chocolate or Vanilla...CHOOSE! Then get on with it.
Waiting to be relevant: Consistency breeds relevancy. To the degree you keep producing and releasing superior work, to that degree you’ll be relevant.
I’ve digested plenty of food meetings with hungry clients. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Breakfast Meeting: Be prepared to discuss the future; where you’re headed, your dreams & goals, how you plan to get there and how long you think it will take. What to order: Big breakfast! Grand Slam! Ask for a pot of coffee! This is going to go longer than you think.
Lunch Meeting: Be prepared to discuss the present; where you’re at right now, what projects you’re working on right now, what challenges you’re facing right now. What to order: Light salad. This is going to go shorter than you think.
Dinner meeting: Be prepared to discuss the past; who you are, where you’ve been, how you got here, why you matter. What to order: Start with an appetizer, then move slowly up the Smörgåsbord. This is going to go late.
Starbucks Meeting: Be prepared to just skim the surface with a variety of topics. The distractions are high and the attention span is low. What to order: Something tall and tasty. This is going to be social.
Bottled Water Meeting: The most productive of all. Be prepared to get to the point and get back to work.
The awesome wife and I love Paris. And there’s no better view of the city of lights than from the very tip-top of the Eiffel Tower. That said...
Although it’s called the “Eiffel” tower, it was designed in a very modest home studio, and engineered by an artist named Maurice Koechlin. Maurice got very little credit for his efforts but that didn’t stop him from submitting more designs.
At first, Eiffel and his construction company were not impressed with the “outlandish” drawings—but that didn’t stop Maurice from submitting more designs.
Frustrated and dissatisfied, Eiffel brought in an artist friend, Stephen Sauvestre, to add to the design. Although he was deeply offended, that didn’t stop Maurice from submitting more drawings.
The magnitude of the project and the details of the construction were “jaw-dropping.” No one really believed that it could actually be built—but that didn’t stop Maurice from submitting more designs.
Eiffel himself was severely criticized by respected artists and entrepreneurs—especially journalists, intellectuals, architects and city authorities for proceeding with Maurices’ “implausible” designs—but that didn’t stop him either.
Still standing after 126 years, the Eiffel Tower is now considered one of the greatest engineered expressions of “art” ever constructed.
That said, NOTHING should stop you from manifesting your vision. Happy Bastille Day!
(Big Thanks to Seth Godin for his unwavering inspiration)
If she has to, a monkey will suddenly leap for the trees, swing from limb to limb, and begin screaming, just to get your attention.
I know it’s hard to get peoples attention these days. It’s also frustrating and challenging to figure out ways to market and promote your art & commerce—especially with so many new “social” marketing choices.
However, like it or not, these are the days of trial & error. These are the days of hit & miss. These are the days of experimentation and exploration. These are the days of conceiving it, building it, packaging it, and tossing it into the river to see if it floats!
And while these may be tough times for the Prudent, who busy themselves with the process of getting it “right.” These are golden times for the Audacious, who busy themselves with the process of trying new methods, testing new ideas, taking creative risks, and literally inventing new ways to get their best work out there, any way they can.
I’m reminded of this every single day of my life, and I have a hunch that you are too:
I don’t always know what direction to take. However, I also can’t just stand there at the crossroads, frozen in doubt, waiting and hoping that someone will come by and tell me which way to go. NO ONE’S COMING! Why? Because I chose the road less traveled! Because I intentionally chose a life of independence, free from others telling me which way to go. Because back in the day, I puffed up all the cocky confidence I could muster, and I intentionally decided to forgo the job market and forge my own career in show business. It was a very personal choice. And whether it was Divine intervention, parental influence, or both, I’m forever grateful that I was inwardly guided in this direction.
Sometimes I forget that I was a 19 yr. old kid when I made that choice, and occasionally I question my decision. However, I have never ever regretted it—even during those confusing times of frustration and doubt.
Reminder to self: Everything in my life is a result of the choices I make. If I want different results, I need to make different choices.
Nothing shuts up a “know-it-all” faster than Barenaked Facts. Nothing quiets doubt quicker than Barenaked Truth. Nothing stops procrastination faster than a Barenaked Deadline. Nothing will take you there quicker than a Barenaked Commitment. Nothing will keep you there longer than continuous, incessant Barenaked Improvement.
Pros know the exact, precise spot where the rubber meets the road. Why? Because they take that rough, bumpy ride down opposition highway every day, and they know precisely when to brake and when to floor it. However, what they don’t know, and what keeps the game so interesting, is “change.” When the road you know so well suddenly ends. When the methods you’ve taken years to master have been unexpectedly modified. That’s when your 10,000 hours of trial and error, practice, research and hard work pays off the biggest dividend.
When you’re blindsided by “change,” trust the sweat and struggle you’ve already invested, and stand firm on the foundation you’ve already built—to get you through those changing circumstances that keep the game so challenging, and make the game so interesting (and so much fun)!
I start to squirm whenever I’m in a conversation where the person I’m talking to has all the answers—especially “over-ripe” showbiz people who have amassed their 10,000 hours. Once they begin speaking in a way that is “sure and absolute,” it becomes clearly obvious that it’s not a lack of talent or ability that keeps them stuck, it’s all that puffed-up, righteous knowledge from past experiences that prevents them from moving forward in their career. And try as you might, it’s very challenging to present new options or ideas to someone who has a boatload of answers and a string of marginal successes to back it up—yet are still trying to figure out how to breakthrough to the next level.
I know it’s obvious that as we grow in knowledge and experience, we also grow in confidence. However, it’s also equally true that “overconfidence” can be just as much of a career killer as a lack of confidence. Overconfidence provokes arrogance and entitlement, which these days, is so transparent, it makes everyone else squirm but the person who has it!
I learned from the great sage Suziki, to always remain in a “beginners mind,” no matter how much knowledge or experience we stockpile. Therefore, I think the taller we stand in an “answer-free zone,” and the more we remain a flexible, perpetual student of showbiz, the more we can see clearly the extraordinary, new opportunities and possibilities that are opening up all around us, as the industry we love continues to transform and grow before our very eyes.
1. You’re not ruthlessly committed. 2. You’re in over your head and afraid to admit it. 3. You overestimated the time and underestimated the cost. 4. There’s a deeper, un-communicated issue going on. 5. You’re stuck that it has to turn out a certain way. 6. You’re too proud to hire a coach to help move things forward. 7. Blaming the technology no longer holds water. 8. You're still trying to prove something. 9. You buy the story: “this is happening for a reason.” 10. You really believe they’re aren’t enough hours in the day. 11. Your fear of change is slowing the progress to a crawl. 12. You insist that others are slowing the project to a crawl. 13. You don’t know what to do, so you do nothing. 14. You continue to allow procrastination to rule the day. 15. You actually believe that the answer to your bottleneck problem is not on this list.
As the legend goes, the coal miners would carry caged “singing” canaries down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases leaked into the mine, the canaries would die before the miners. And even while consumed with uncertainty and confusion, the canaries simply chose to sing anyway—because that’s what canaries do. That said, artist & treps do the same thing—sort of. We live life on the edge, not really knowing for sure if or when the next opportunity or disaster will come along—and for some, that can be a very risky “do or die” situation. But I think that’s the reality of ruthlessly pursuing your dreams, manifesting your ideas and living life independently. When you’re consumed with uncertainty and doubt, you just keep singing anyway—because that’s who you are and that’s what you do.
It’s all about making choices and decisions, every single day. Not the simple petty ones, the hard ones. The ones you resist the most. The ones that could really make a significant difference. Continue to make well-researched, intelligent choices and you could find yourself living a good life. Cower, and you may find yourself stuck in the rut of mediocrity and wishful thinking.
“I mean—hell, I’m surprised how sane you guys all are. As near as I can tell you’re not any crazier than the average asshole on the street!” —Jack Nicholson’s character rants on the other patients in the ward.
There’s a reason you like hanging out with the other crazies in the ward, it’s because you’re nuts too! You’re crazy because of that free-flowing, non-stop stream of ideas, brainstorms, videos, melodies, rhymes, beats, money-making schemes and bright ideas that flow in directly from the divine ethos and invade the sacred space between your ears. It’s a constant download of creative inspiration that has never stopped and never will! Others don’t have it. In fact, others often see you as scattered, unfocused and pensive. That’s because they don’t get it! They’re the ones who ask: “Where did you get that great idea?” How did you come up with those lyrics?” What possessed you to start that project?” “What makes you think you can change the world?” You’re nuts because while others struggle for the right answers, you’re content living in a world of endless possibilities, and people just don’t get that. Not even your therapist gets it—unless she’s crazy too! Truth is, only other crazy artists & entrepreneurs really understand what it’s like to be an independent, creative, risk-taker. That’s why we love talking, sharing, arguing and hanging with other A&E’s. There’s a common camaraderie there. It feels like “home” when we’re in the company of other crazy artists & treps. So admit it—you’re nuts! Stop questioning and doubting your sanity, and finally give yourself permission to be the crazy creative genius that you are—no matter what others think!
* Ripped off, rewritten and plagiarized from a blog I wrote a few years back.
It’s the number one topic of discussion between artists & entrepreneurs. My clients and I grapple with “strategy” all the time. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about record promotion, career development, hired guns, staff challenges, manifesting a “great idea,” or reinventing a declining business, the term “strategy” always shows up in the mix.
Truth is, some folks are resistant to change (especially if they’ve achieved some previous success), preferring to stick to old, familiar marketing methods.
Truth is, you may be able to "temporarily” get away with the same o’l worn out, antique strategy you’ve used before, but those days are fading fast…better said, your results will continue to slowly decline.
Truth is, not changing your strategy simply because you can't think of a better one is a crummy strategy.
Truth is, if a solid plan defines the goal, a smart strategy provides the map to get there.
There’s a great, old American Indian fable that’s been around a long time, and the reason I’m reminding you of it is because it provides a subtle backdrop for the film Tomorrowland, co-written and directed by Brad Bird (this is not a plot spoiler):
A Tale Of Two Wolves One evening, an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a terrible fierce battle that goes on inside everyone.
He said, “My son, it’s a terrible fight! The battle is between the two ‘wolves’ inside your head! One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.”
“The other wolf is good,” he continued. “It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins the battle?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed the most.”
P.S. I loved the film Tomorrowland. However, Disney is not very happy. They forked over $180M to make it, and it only grossed $110.6M on Memorial Day weekend. See the Wall Street Journal article “Holiday Box Office Lowest Since 2001.”
I just returned from a trip to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California (my favorite 6-hour drive through the San Marcos Pass and up the 101). I was formally introduced to an Apple manager who told me that he was forbidden to talk about any Apple products. Turns out the only thing he was willing to discuss with me was employee moral and the working conditions at Apple—which was my cue to mention the atrocities that I saw growing in the men’s room, but I did not. While on the Apple campus I visited the famous Apple gift store where I played with the iWatch, picked up a cute V-neck t-shirt for the awesome wife, and an official baseball cap for me. I had to, I’m a devotee—in spite of the stinky bathrooms.
The next day we attended the graduation ceremony of a good friend we met in India. He proudly walked off the stage with a Masters degree in software engineering from San Jose State University. Turns out that more SJSU grads are hired into Silicon Valleys’ big corps., start-ups and incubators then from any other university in the country. It seems that the entire Valley is a confab of smart people who have gathered from around the world to suck up and absorb as much knowledge as possible from the other super smart people who live, teach and work in the area. The whole Valley is like one central brain that represents a melting pot of the worlds’ best minds, who in turn produce the coolest tech products the planet has ever seen.
That said, what I noticed most is that while “knowledge” has become so easy to acquire, whether it’s from a renown university or directly from the palm of your hand, it’s actually “wisdom” that tells you what to do with that knowledge, and it’s wisdom that stands on the shoulders of that knowledge and points the way—otherwise you’re stuck with “textbook” results. And while you may argue that wisdom comes from experience, I would argue that wisdom comes from a deeper place of intuition, inspiration, and that “queasy gut feeling” you get when you just KNOW something is right—or not. I also believe that when knowledge and wisdom are introduced to each other, predictable textbook results are trumped by unexpected surprising results —and not just in Silicon Valley.
I’m fortunate (if not blessed) to interact with a broad range of crazy, creative, genius clients every week. Some are extremely wealthy, while others are just getting by—just the same, all of them go through hard times. And what I notice is that while it’s true that money, whether you have too much or too little, can often be a contributing factor in stalling or pausing a worthwhile project or career, it’s also nevertheless true that the persistent, unwavering, constant stream of innovative ideas, visions and solutions cannot be stopped by the crush of financial calamity or even the sudden set-back of distressing circumstances. And for most creatives, that streaming download of bright ideas never stops—and in fact can often be a life-saver!
Social media is filled with compelling stories of rich and famous artists & entrepreneurs who are buried deep with money problems and personal crisis. Yet the best of them rise up from the ashes and often do their very best creative work—even while their personal lives are spinning out of control in a whirlwind of upset and turmoil. How do you think those artists & treps can remain focused and work at the top of their game with all that personal distraction going on? They have somehow figured out a way to leave all that drama outside the door: when they enter the studio, walk on the set, pick up the brush, stand in front of the camera, stare down at the keyboard, or call the staff meeting to order. Some talk it out with a coach, others hire a therapist, while others take their problems directly into their daily meditation (few handle it themselves). The method itself doesn’t matter. What matters is that they find a way—because they have to. That’s what separates the haves from the have-nots—the courage and fortitude to just “do the work” and relentlessly go for their dreams and goals, even in the face of adversity.
And while it’s true that during hard times we often feel like we’re alone, out of control and losing ground, it is also nevertheless true that it’s during those hard times the hero within rises up to take charge of the situation, and lead the way. However, it’s up to us to drum up the courage to follow.
“If it wasn't for the bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all.” —William Bell
Are you working on your big impossible dream today? Or are you working on things that you think you should be doing just to keep things the way they are?
The most important thing you can do is to spend an exhausting amount of energy on that which matters most to you.
The most important thing you can do is a mountain of hard work on manifesting that vision you have for the future.
The most important thing you can do today is work on that great idea, that awesome plan or that crazy, genius project, that when finally completed, will give you and others, the most joy, the biggest reward and the greatest peace of mind.
If procrastination can’t be ass-kicked there will be no grand victory cry!
Of course it would be easier if someone with knowledge, experience and integrity showed up and said “here, let me help you with that.”
Of course it would be easier if an A&R rep approached you at a gig and said "here's my card, call me tomorrow."
Of course it would be easier if an investor walked in out of the blue and offered you a whopping sum for your great idea or business project.
Of course it would be easier if I just handed you the number and said "here, call this person, tell them I sent you."
Problem is, the cavalry rarely shows up when you need them. Therefore, while you’re waiting for a miracle, it just might be easier (and more productive) if you continue to seek out, hunt down and pursue any or many of the infinite ways of manifesting your big project on your own. You’re a creative thinker, this is what you do.
“May the Force be with you” is charming but it’s not important. What’s important is that YOU become the Force—for yourself and for other people too.” —Harrison Ford
Gather the info, expel the gossip, research the facts, analyze the data, poke the evidence, and explore all the possibilities. You’re the proprietor of your ideas and the owner of your results. Do the lead work, then do the deep work, then make intelligent choices and decisions going forward.
That question was asked, uttered, mumbled, whispered or shouted by someone scurrying through the halls of my publishing company nearly every day for decades. It’s the single most effective and inspiring motivator I know.
By when will you... - redesign your website? - upgrade your tech tools? - start that big project? - finish that big project? - begin blogging? - start podcasting? - finish your album? - edit that video? - finish that script? - complete that design? - initiate that marketing plan? - ship, print, publish, release, launch, etc. etc. etc.?
Every stand you take must include a “by when,” or the conversation holds no accountability—it carries no liability—it’s just a hallow statement—it downgrades what was just said to a half-baked idea!
Think about it, nothing says commitment like “By When?” Not like a rigid deadline, more like one component of an intelligent plan.
Back in the day when “print media” was king, my partner and I used to seduce NEW customers by giving them perks: “Subscribe now and get two months FREE! Or “Buy a 1-year sub and get a free t-shirt, or coffee mug.” Today it’s all about rewarding “the regulars,” your devoted fans, repeat customers, regular clients, and loyal followers. They’re all you’ve got! No one is more important than your devotees. They’re your lifeblood. They are the reason you can make a buck doing what you love to do. And if what you do continues to blow them away, time after time, they will evangelize on your behalf and follow you forever.
— Give your faithful followers a worthwhile reason to give you their time. — Give them a sensible reason to give you their money. — Show them the benefits of subscribing to your world. — Stay in constant communication with them. — Don’t rely on social media alone. Email them regularly and invite them to your Site. — Give them extra. Offer them more. Deliver customer service above and beyond. — Prove the jaw-dropping greatness of your work. — Use your art & commerce to inspire & serve.
And most of all don’t be afraid to step out onto the skinny branches and give your devoted fans, repeat customers and regular clients the very best of who you are...along with a t-shirt and a coffee mug!
I know it can be frustrating. However, frustration is a sign that you’re working really hard on something really worthwhile.
I know it can be doubtful and uncertain. However, while certainty may point to a hopeful outcome, uncertainty points to unlimited possibilities.
I know it can be costly. However, if what you’re going for is worthwhile, and if what you’re trying to achieve not only benefits you, but also your fans, clients and customers, then the payoff is worth the cost, and the ROI is priceless.
I know it can be defeating. However, defeat shows that you’re on the playing field—where victory lives. You’re not just on the sidelines hoping to get into the game.
I talk to a lot of artists and entrepreneurs about a lot of things. Here’s what I’ve noticed—not like a judgment, more like an observation:
Pros tend to talk about ideas, possibilities and opportunities. Semi-pros tend to talk about events, proven methods, and past experiences. Amateurs tend to talk about people, celebrities, and associates.
It’s a very cool cocktail party with your friends and family, where you get to exchange funny stories, post crazy pix and videos, argue about politics, announce your happenings, and keep up with intimate family news and updates. Oh, and have 1000 people wish you happy birthday!
However, when it comes to doing business, nothing is more effective than your own website. That said, Facebook has become the lazy man’s business card, and many artists & entrepreneurs, even pros & CEO’s seem to think that their Facebook page is enough. Here’s why it’s not:
Facebook is Mark Zuckerbergs’ website, designed how he wants it to look and function. Your Website is designed exactly how you want it to look and function. It should reflect your style and that of your brand, and make available your art and commerce.
Marks Website: if you launch a post on FB you HOPE that your fans, clients and customers see it—as they quickly scan through many others—spreading “Likes” like flower petals. And the illusion is that those “Likes” will translate into dollars. Your Website: If you send a weekly email or blog directly to your fans, clients and customers you KNOW they’ll see it—then you can entice them to visit your site, experience your art, consider your new offerings, and make a purchase.
Mark’s Website: FB advertisers target your followers much better than you do. They stalk your fans and customers and lure them into clicking on those targeted ads that mysteriously show up at just the right time. Your Website: Your fans and customers are there because they have chosen to visit your site and discover more about who you are and what you have to offer them.
Mark’s Website promotes petty distraction and provokes habitual procrastination—which sadly, keeps you a safe distance from focusing on your big goals and impossible dreams. Your Website provides an opportunity to experiment, and create new innovative ways to connect with your fans and customers, and grow your presence on the Internet.
Mark’s Website is HIS digital storefront and you’re extremely limited with what you can do. Your Website is YOUR digital storefront and the possibilities are literally endless with what you can do.
P.S. When he started out, Mark didn’t have Facebook to help promote his company. All he did was create something so cool, so awesome, so worthwhile, so beautiful and simple, that you spread the word for him—every single day, with everyone you know. That is a marketing lesson you should apply to your own creative world, any way you can!
P.S.S. I would never suggest that you abandon Facebook. And if you’re using Facebook as a fun “cocktail party” with your friends and family, that’s great! However, if you’re depending on Mark’s website to help you establish meaningful interactions with your fans, clients and customers, then you’re avoiding, denying or resisting the importance of improving, tweaking and growing your own digital storefront.
As a high performance personal coach, I often have to encourage my clients to play bigger. In fact most of the artists & treps who I have deep conversations with agree that they’re definitely playing too small.
You’re probably playing too small too. Doesn’t matter if you’re a struggling composer, a tireless entrepreneur or a corporate CEO. We live and work in times of fast change, Internet distractions, and rapid tech growth—too rapid for most A&E’s to keep up. So instead of growing, building and risking, we opt to hunker down, cut back and play it safe—waiting for the economy to pick up and the tech train to slow down. Endless change and stifling doubt keep us quivering in a small box where there are only limited options.
Truth is, the economy will always fluctuate and the technology is here to stay. Therefore I think it’s OK to take a few creative risks. I think it’s OK to be courageous and up the ante. I think it’s OK to play bigger, and poke your head out of the box, where ALL possibilities exist—no less scary, just more opportunity.
Don’t be too proud to ask for help. A project consultant or a personal coach is cheaper than a partner or a manager but acts like one just the same. Corporate CEO’s use them and so do artists & entrepreneurs. Be smart, hire someone smart to help you sort through the possibilities, dissect the challenges, and point to the opportunities.
— The price of success is effort, struggle and hard work. — The only thing that “trumps” hard work is luck. — If you don’t make it, you must be “unlucky.” — If you don’t make it, there must be something wrong with you.
Although all of this (and more) is embedded in your DNA, none of it is embedded in stone. Those precepts and notions were in place long before you were born. And to the degree you can go against your (inner) grain and dismiss the “rule-set,” to that degree you’ll have a chance to forge your own way, make up your own rules and manifest your own destiny.
You don’t need to be challenged today any more than you already are because according to you, “everything is just fine.”
You don’t need to make any practical choices or decisions today that will take you out of your comfort zone because according to you “everything is just fine.”
You don’t need to do any “tech” research or read any worthwhile books today because according to you “everything is just fine.”
You don’t need to take any noteworthy action today that will move you just one foot closer to your big goal or impossible dream because according to you “everything is just fine.”
Who are you kidding? There are no four words in the English language more harmful to an artist/trep than “everything is just fine.” There are also not many words in the English language that carry so little value than “just fine.”
“You're fooling yourself if you don't believe it, You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it, Get up, get back on your feet You're the one they can't beat and you know it Come on, let's see what you've got Just take your best shot and don't blow it.” — Tommy Shaw, Styx, Grand Illusion album, 1977.
The awesome wife and I used to live up the street from Steve Allen in Encino, Ca. I never saw him much in the neighborhood but I did hook up with him at the “California Wok,” a local Chinese take-out restaurant on Ventura Blvd. Many times I would go in to pick up our food and Steve would be sitting there by himself, waiting for his take-out order. Each time I saw him I said hello and reminded him that I was a neighbor. His glory days in the spotlight were over, and he had suddenly gotten noticeably older.
One time I struck up a conversation with him about television. I told him that I once had a gig at CBS working the Sunday Night News. He told me about some of the battles he had with the NBC brass regarding his “cutting-edge” show (he was the very first host of the Tonight Show). He also told me that in the early days of television there was so much opportunity for writers, performers, musicians, and anyone with a little talent and big ideas. But he said most creative people at the time were hard up to make a buck, and reluctant to take a chance on the new technology of TV. They really didn’t understand it, and doubted it’s validity, so many stayed in radio as long as they could. He added, “but the truth is, all you needed was a blue shirt and a tie and you could get your own TV show!”
I think its very similar today—well maybe not the tie.
Once again, we’re on the very cutting edge of the transformation of television—better said “video.” At this writing, what we watch, when we watch, how we watch, and what we watch it on is slowly morphing into something very different. And I think 2015 is the year we can finally say goodbye to cable subscriptions (Comcast & Time Warner), and embrace the arrival of “online television.”
That said, along with the ability to watch video content on any device, anytime, anywhere, there has also been a Godzilla rise of original programming in the past few years from production studios like Amazon and Netflix. Even the Huffington Post has a weekly “satirical” news show on their website, and “BuzzFeed Motion Pictures” (a division of BuzzFeed media) recently announced that its videos have accumulated 1 billion monthly views. See Los Angeles Times article.
What that means for you is that opportunities for more original, visual “multi-device” programming, including innovative music videos, webinars, TED type talks, reality shows, sit-coms, short-films, documentaries, and original YouTube type shows, is about to explode. And the after-shock will blast open the windows of opportunity for any showbiz-savvy creative artist or entrepreneur who has the talent (and the courage) to make the leap, including; writers, composers, actors, directors, film makers, publishers—even support staff and location crews.
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell said, “Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities. And those who seize those “uncertain” opportunities are often the ones who reach the very top of the mountain.”
Anyone can produce video content now and in fact, almost everyone does. And I think that the extraordinary opportunities that are now available in the new “visual medium” belong to anyone who can create and publish compelling visual content, which appeals to not just an “age bracket,” but rather a specific audience for a specific outcome. According to marketing expert Seth Godin,“A video or streaming show won't work because everyone watches it. It will work because the right people watch it for the right reason.”
That said, I just wanted you to be aware and vigilant of the open windows of opportunity in the world of television, movies, and original video "Internet programming" today. I also encourage you to take a close look at the great ideas and unique talents that you have to offer to this growing sector of the entertainment industry, and research a few of those opportunities & possibilities for yourself.
The Chinese say that opportunity comes as a double-edged sword—the opposite side of the blade is “crisis.” However, it doesn’t remain a crisis with YOU for very long.
Fortunately, “career crisis” is where artists & entrepreneurs shine. I don’t mean petty “dramas” I mean genuine crisis. That’s when you do your best work—under pressure, under the gun, undercover and up against an impossible deadline. Scoff if you like, but it’s true.
You’re a creator, a deep thinker, a thought processor—you’re the one with the advantage. When others come face-to-face with crisis, they anxiously search through the manual for answers.
You on the other hand CREATE your way out of financial jams; FORGE your way through frustrating tech challenges; REASON with difficult people; and INNOVATE your way around challenging career barriers. All the while, standing alone, on your own two (shaky) feet—standing toe-to-toe with uncertainty, face-to-face with doubt, and nose-to-nose with fear.
Truth is, you don’t see career challenges as a “crisis” because you’re too busy looking for ways to turn them into career opportunities! Why? Because when you chose your crazy, genius, independent, creative life style, it didn’t come with a stinking manual!
It’s well known that when he couldn’t afford brushes, the emotionally tormented, often “freaky” Vincent Van Gogh made his own, with sticks and horsehair. Proving that if you’re a true “committed” artist or entrepreneur, NOTHING can stop the creative urge within from getting out. Actually, you have no choice. Like a raging, rushing river, the torrential flow of great ideas and vivid visions MUST forge its way through the rocky resistance of fear and doubt in order to ultimately arrive at the ocean of expression. Give up, and that river dams up somewhere deep within the dark, inner world of the artist—causing frustration, resentment, envy, anger, and too often, resignation. That said, as a freaky, genius artist; a crazy, risk-taking entrepreneur, we expect you to fully express your most outrageous inspiring works of art, and manifest your great, impossible ideas. In fact, it’s your responsibility, we’re depending on you to let loose, let go, and let your freak flag fly!
Jimi Hendrix wrote:“I'm gonna wave my freak flag high” (1967 song “If 6 Was 9).
David Crosby wrote:"I feel like letting my freak flag fly" (1970 song “Almost Cut My Hair”)
Sarah Jessica Parker said:“I don’t judge others. I say if you feel good with what you’re doing, let your freak flag fly!”
One of my favorite authors Steven Pressfield, wrote the best selling book Do The Work. It’s about battling the resistance that all artist & entrepreneurs face when they finally sit down to write a song, market an album, prep a speech, finish a script, stand in front of a camera, or make gut-wrenching business decisions. In the book, Steven talks about Navy Seals and their struggle and plight. As it turns out, in SEAL training, they have a bell. When a candidate can’t take the agony any longer; the 6-mile ocean swims; the 15-mile full-load runs; or the physical and mental torments—when he’s had enough and he’s ready to quit, he walks up and rings the bell. That’s it. It’s over. He has dropped out.
As crazy, genius artists & treps, you and I have a bell hanging over our heads too. We can quit anytime the going gets tough. However, there’s a difference between Navy Seal training and what you and I go through when we come face to face with “doubt.” Our ordeal is harder. Because we’re alone. We’ve got no drill sergeant shouting in our ears or kicking our butts to keep us going. Worst of all, no one is pointing to the finish line—we can’t tell whether we’re doing great or falling on our faces. When we finish our work for the day, if we do, no one will be waiting to congratulate us. We’ll get no diploma, and no medal of honor. Because the battle that artists & treps fight is a day to day, hour by hour battle with uncertainty, doubt, and resistance.
Truth is, the only thing we have in common with the Navy Seal candidates is the bell. However if WE decide to ring it, no one will be there to hear it. And if that’s the case, why ring the bell at all?
If you’re like me you’re a fairly good person with malice toward none. Until the “none” becomes someone who gets in the way of your work, your responsibilities, your goals, or that which you are committed to. Then “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” comes down!
- Why do you still work with a band mate who constantly holds the group back?
- How can you continue to keep an employee on the payroll, who pollutes the working environment with negativity, and continuously produces unacceptable results?
- What sort of disaster will it take to finally realize that it’s time for you and your partner to “split the sheet?”
- Why do you continuously put up with the pettiness and incompetence of others at such an emotional, physical and monetary cost to you, and your goals?
Truth be told, the time you waste procrastinating, and waiting for them to change, has nothing to do with THEM! It has everything to do with the dread of making a hard choice, the fear of making a wrong one, and the angst of never making one at all.
Reminder: The goal is to work with the most talented people you can find, who are aligned with your vision and committed to the task at hand, not to babysit.
This is the poster that hangs in designer Jon Ive’s office at the Apple campus in Cupertino, California. It was created by the crazy geniuses over at GFDA.
Believe in your fucking self. Stay up all fucking night. Work outside your fucking habits. Know when to fucking speak up. Fucking collaborate. Don’t fucking procrastinate. Get over your fucking self. Keep fucking learning. Form follows fucking function. A computer is a Lite-Brite for bad ideas. Find fucking inspiration everywhere. Fucking network. Educate your fucking client. Trust your fucking gut. Ask for fucking help. Make it fucking sustainable. Question fucking everything. Have a fucking concept. Learn to take some fucking criticism. Make me fucking care. Use fucking spell check. Do your fucking research. Sketch more fucking ideas. The problem contains the fucking solution. Think about all the fucking possibilities.
Any deal can be negotiated, any barrier can be crashed, any challenge can be conquered, and any door can be opened. And even though we call them “gatekeepers,” no one really holds the keys to anything. The truth is, unlike any other industry on the planet, showbiz invites you, actually dares you to boldly step up to the table with unique ideas, unrivaled entertainment, and lucrative trade business. Because unlike any other industry on the planet, there is absolutely no absence of possibilities and no shortage of work in show business today. If you can’t find the gig you want, you are strongly encouraged to use your imagination and make one up.
Whether or not you were nominated for an Oscar, SAG, Emmy or Grammy this year, and whether or not you’re a seasoned pro or a struggling artist, the message is crystal clear: Hold your desire for excellence high above your craving for riches and fame. Given you now have the opportunity to present your work to thousands if not millions of people, continue to strive for mastery over mediocrity. Commit to learning all you can about your particular craft and business, and absorb as much knowledge about our ever-changing industry as you can hold. You’ll end up “ahead of the pack” with more confidence, and a greater, more worthy expression of your unique talent.
“I'm looking for the truth. The audience doesn't come to see you, they come to see themselves.” —Julianne Moore, Best Actress
“Someday I’ll get there.” At least that’s what we tell ourselves. It’s in our DNA: work hard, never quit, and someday you’ll get there. However, many of us find ourselves growing older with an ever increasing fear that the biggest opportunities of our life have already passed us by, and the only thing left to do is settle, or surrender.
Back in the day, it was the challenge of “gatekeepers” that got in our way. More recently, it’s the challenge of technology. However, for an older artist or entrepreneur it’s the challenge of time—the race to “make it” before we run out of gas. There’s a new voice screaming between our ears: “Why haven’t you made it yet!”
I think there is one way to quiet the voice (other than meditation), and that’s to make a profound shift in your POV:
From: What’s in it for me? To: How can I continue to be relevant and offer my best work, to those who continue to want it?
Truth is, you may not have an audience of 100k, but you still have an audience. Your video may not get a million views, bit you still have viewers. Your company may not have 50k customers, but you still have customers.
I think the biggest mistake we make is waiting; waiting to be discovered, waiting for the economy to turn around, waiting for the kids to grow, waiting for the tech train to slow down, waiting for things to return to the way they were. Tom Petty says, “The waiting is the hardest part.” Billy Joel says, “Wait until the breeze blows in, and that old second wind comes along.”
Perhaps it’s not about waiting for that perfect opportune time to finally come along. Perhaps it’s about using the time we have to continue to offer the very best we’ve got.
In spite of all the doubt, risk, struggle, insecurity, and uncertainty, I’ve never known a musician who regretted being one. I’ve never met an entrepreneur who dreamed of having a 9-5 job. I never knew an actor who didn’t figure out a way to accept rejection. I’ve never met a writer who was satisfied with the first draft. I’ve never seen a committed business owner retreat from a company challenge. Whatever barriers rise to block our way, the mere process of creating, conceiving, experimenting, designing, inventing, or simply attempting, will never let us down.
There's a hole in your boat, water is coming in and there's no way to fix the hole. Given you’re a creative genius, you immediately realize that there are only two possible options: Sink, or bail water out faster than it’s coming in.
“Triumph bows at the feet of any steadfast artiste” —Apollo, mythical god of music, arts, and knowledge.
I recall the urgency I had back in the day, when the letters at the end of my name were CEO, and the voice inside my head kept prodding me to “keep your eye on the prize.” I still feel it today; the rush to complete, the race to finish, the itch to make a buck, the determination to extract that great idea out of my head—before I lose it. To finally arrive at "a fait accompli” so I can get on to the next big project. That urgency is NOT the stressful kind, nor the nerve-racking kind. Rather it’s the kind of urgency that keeps you awake at night—with excitement & anticipation, as opposed to worry & fear. It’s the kind of urgency that comes with knowing you’re on the right road, even though the final destination is unclear. It’s the kind of creative urgency that tugs at you from deep inside, and beckons you to search further, search deeper, for the answers, for the truth—in your art, in your work, and in your life. I believe that that “urgent energy” is the blood of your muse, the nectar of the Divine, running through your veins like “red-hot honey,” feeding you sweet inspiration, tempting you to make your art worthy, taunting you to make your business enterprise relevant, prodding you to make your work matter. It’s the life-blood of every crazy, genius artist, and every brave, risky entrepreneur. Be grateful, not everybody has it.
I fall into them too, so does every crazy genius I work with. A creative rut is usually caused by confusion, or mental exhaustion, or boredom, or not playing big enough. The creative work we do, inventing something from nothing, day after day, then trying to figure out how to market it and make a buck, is mostly exhausting and the process can be tedious and mind-numbing. At some point it just becomes easier to slip into the “tred-grooves” of what others have already created, and just follow along.
However, if you’ve largely “upped your game,” and if you’ve really set the bar high enough, and if you’ve truly set your sights far enough, and if your goals are righteous & worthy enough, then the way out of the rut is to remind yourself that the commitment you’ve made, and the stand you’ve taken is not hard...IT’S IMPOSSIBLE! That thought alone should terrify you enough to get out of the rut and back into your groove.
Do you really need another ten tips on how to proceed? Are you really that stuck? Even with "all knowledge known to man" right in the palm of your hand? You’re a creator, an inventor of art, and a smart entrepreneur. You make stuff up for a living. You manifest ideas from thin air. You’re the one who’s suppose to give US great creative tips—from your experiences from outside the box!
Truth is, perhaps you don’t need 10 tips at all. Perhaps what you really need is a little reassurance that you’re smart enough to find the info you need to stay on course, and courageous enough to make the necessary choices that will take you there. It’s not easy being the artist and the CEO at the same time, it’s a privilege!
A client recently asked, with frustration, “What am I doing wrong? What’s the problem?”
— The problem is not that you’re doing something wrong; the problem is that you keep choosing the same old road, again and again, expecting it to take you to the fast lane.
— The problem is not that you don’t put in the effort; the problem is that the effort you’re putting in is not going where it’s needed most.
— The problem is not that you don’t know how; the problem is that you resist doing the necessary homework or deep research, to figure out how.
— The problem is not that you don’t have the connections; the problem is that you don’t use the connections you do have—to lead you to the connections you want.
— The problem is not that your timing is off; the problem is that you allow impatience to dictate your agenda.
— The problem is not that “there just isn’t enough time in the day,” the problem is that you allow petty distractions (like Facebook, email, and news) to steal your focus and rob you of your precious “creative” time.
The problem is not that you don’t know what the problem is; the problem is that you really do know what the problem is and you resist doing anything about it.
Every friend you choose, every lover you lose, every argument you fight, every race you win, every dollar you earn, every petty annoyance and frustrating flop you endure, every choice you make, every stand you take, every promise you break, and every grateful bow you take, is “fresh material” for the art you make and the ideas you manifest. Every magnificent morsel, and crummy crumb of life is food for the genius artist, and vitality for the brave entrepreneur.
The beginning of the year always feels exhilarating. It provokes excitement and enthusiasm for a future that could be—that will be. It also wakes up that crazy inner voice that insists, “this year is going to be different.” That said, here are 8 ways to help make 2015 different:
1) Make NO New Years resolutions. Instead make intelligent choices. You already have a project, a goal, a mission, a plan, or an idea bouncing around between your ears. Commit to that for 2015!
2) The “Internet of Everything” is near: Upgrade your digital world—it’s a wise investment. Everything has become mobile, portable and global and it’s not going to stop—it’s not even going to slow down. Don’t break the bank, however be sure you have the best tech-tools you can afford; including phones, pads, laptops, apps, software, etc. Plus, don’t resist the opportunity to take a few classes this year to sharpen your skills and deepen your awareness of the ever-growing tech revolution.
3) Strengthen your base: Content may be king, but community holds the keys to the kingdom. We live in a “direct to customer” world, and if you want to expand your empire you must “consistently” interact and engage with your fans, followers and customers. It’s an intelligent investment of your time.
4) Turn Off The News! Really, it’s the worst form of hypnotic poison and the most embarrassing product of the entertainment industry. Say good-by to Wolf, Anderson, Storm, Erin, Forrest, Shepard, and all the other talking heads with funny names. Allow others to gather around the TV and get stoned on the drama while you respectfully step away and return to your studio, office or creative space. You’re an artist, an entrepreneur! You have your own drama unfolding right in front of you; Your Art! Your Company! Your Project! And don’t worry about “staying informed,” if something critical happens you’ll rush to the TV for the latest info.
5) Don’t freak out about money: Just make intelligent choices and decisions regarding your resources, whether you have a lot or a little. Be smart enough to avoid spontaneous, emotional spending, and courageous enough to jump on wise investment opportunities when they come your way. Also, be sure to take my 13-second Money Seminar.
6) Commitment is EVERYTHING: Doesn't matter if you're a fledgling songwriter or the CEO of a mega-corp. The commitment to "get there" is your first priority—HOW you’re going to do it is second. To the degree you are ruthlessly committed to achieving your biggest goals, to that degree you will achieve them. Not like “positive thinking,” more like a smart, sturdy foundation to stand on.
7) Silence The Beast: Learn to quiet the critic between your ears. I began meditating daily in 1985, and the balance I’ve found in my life between the hoopla of showbiz and the silence of my soul is astounding. If you’re interested I’ll send you a copy of my personal meditation practice (exclusively for my subscribers only). All you have to do is ask.
8) Don’t Do Anything Stupid! You’re an artist, an entrepreneur—a crazy, creative, genius! I know it can be tough; however, it’s a GREAT life, and the only life for you! Don’t screw it up!
Every single day we struggle to figure it out, effort to get it right, scrutinize the next step, analyze our next move, and risk everything to create something great from an idea or vision that’s stubbornly lodged between our ears. The process itself is mentally confronting, emotionally frustrating, and physically exhausting. However it’s from the sweat of that exhaustion that our destiny is forged. Artists & treps are very aware of this, and still they forge ahead, though it’s often difficult for others to understand.
“Every man gotta right to forge his own destiny.” —Bob Marley
Many of the clients I work with invest time and money to build a project or develop their career for 2-3 years with unsatisfactory results. They work hard at the daily routine of pushing the giant boulder up the mountain, only to watch it roll back down to the bottom time after time. Truth is, at some point I have to ask the question: “Is it worth it to continue?” If answering “yes” comes from a place of clarity, wisdom and confidence, then by all means don’t quit. However, many times artists & entrepreneurs are so afraid of failing, or losing, or crashing (especially in front of others), that they just keep going down the rabbit hole year after year until they hit rock bottom and fold up the tent in despair.
If your project is not growing or gaining ground after a number of years, and your productivity is going south, along with your original vision, then something is wrong. That’s okay. Just go back to your creative space and reinvent, reconstruct, or start over. That’s what the smart A&E’s I work with do. They know when it’s time to call it a day on one project and begin the process of investing their energy in another. Sure there’s disappointment. But when the conversation finally gets to the deep truth of the matter, it’s always more prudent, more practical, and more liberating to get the monkey off your back than to keep chasing rabbits down a dark hole.
The life of an artist/trep is truly about self-motivation, self-discipline and self-reliance. Problem is, YOU are the worst person to consult when you’re deep inside the belly of the beast being devoured by doubt, and consumed with confusion. Amateurs are guided by their own self-righteousness, and insist they can handle it themselves. Pros know their limitations, and they're smart enough to know when to consult an advisor to help avoid occupational roadblocks, and sort things out during perplexing times.
Career success is not about having the right agent, the right manager, the right coach, or the right staff. What it’s really about is the extraordinary talent you have, stirring deep within. After that, it’s about your resolve to keep improving. After that, it’s about your tenacity to persist—day after day, year after year.
And after that you begin to glow...
It becomes about what you feel inside and letting it flow freely, with confidence; your songs, your script, your acting, your writing, your art, your great ideas, your vision for your business, and your big dreams for the future. And finally, after that, what matters most is a crazy burning desire to get your best work in front of as many people as possible...at any cost!
If you get that far, THEN it’s about hiring the right coach, finding the right manager, securing the right agent, and building a great team.
The young naïve King Arthur once asked the great wizard Merlin why he always wore robes with moons & stars on them. Merlin replied, “Why it’s because everywhere a wizard goes he is always at the center of the universe.”
That said, as the wizard of your universe, stand in the very center of your crazy, independent, creative career and take a long, deep, honest, look. Hunt down the petty activates (and people) that distract you from doing your best work. Search and destroy anything that continues to slow your progress. Terminate anything that thwarts your growth or stalls your advancement. Discern weakness at the very core of your creative work, and insist on accuracy and precision in all those who work with or for you.
That said, as the wizard of your universe, take an intelligent look at what’s currently wanted and needed, then simply provide it—without fanfare, without praise, and without applause. Not like magic, more like diligence.
“You may be destined to rule Camelot, but you have a choice as to how you do it.” —Merlin
If you remain rigid, steadfast and firm in order to maximize profits, you're probably a year away from losing your business.
If you remain stuck in hoping that there's still enough life left in the old ways of marketing your music, promoting your business and shipping your commerce, then you probably think there's still enough life left in your Blackberry.
If you constantly run down the same old worn out rows of the maze, over and over, expecting that this time you’ll find the cheese, then you’re probably still under the illusion that even though all of your effort & struggle has produced bupkis, what you’re doing is still right.
Truth be told, resisting the new world order, and holding on to old world thinking will only lead to the slow depressing decline of your business, the disheartening decay of your independent creative career, and an ego-busting, confidence crushing, humiliating shortage of cheese in your life.
Do you rush through projects just to finally complete them—whether or not they are “up to par?” Do the personal dramas of your bandmates, teammates, workmates or staff, pull your focus and thwart your intentions? Does the continuous barrage of “new tech,” which is designed to enhance your productivity, actually slow your productivity?
I know how much you care and how hard you work. It’s a shame that the same working culture that offers you so many worthwhile opportunities, also works over time to divert you with so many petty distractions. Nevertheless, it’s unforgivable to allow your best work, and your biggest dreams play “second fiddle” to the paltry disorders, dismays and disruptions of today’s working culture. It’s unforgivable.
Used to be there was a “right way” to get your work out there; radio, TV & print. Today there is no right way—there are many ways; social networking, blogging, videos, podcasts, webinars, spamming, tweeting, texting, crowdfunding, etc. The thing to do is try them all—give them all a fair chance to work, give them all 100% effort. In time you will downgrade the ones that don't work and bolster the ones that do. Truth is, having the choice of so many outrageous methods of marketing gets your work "out there" so much further then the “right way” ever did.
Back in the day it was A&E’s vs. consumers. Today artists, entrepreneurs and consumers are now profoundly connected, via blogs and social media. The thing to realize is that that “connection” is the most important thing. The thing to do is never stop growing, improving and nurturing that precious connection.
There’s only two months left in 2014, and our two dearest relatives, "Distraction" and "Procrastination," absolutely love this time of year. And the one thing they love to whisper in your ear is: “let’s wait until after the holidays.” Screw them! Last January you had a vision of the coming year, and it was very important that you manifest that vision. You're an artist, an entrepreneur, and this is the crazy, independent, creative life you’ve chosen! Respect your vision, keep your word and complete your mission! Not like “pressuring yourself.” More like finishing what you set out to do.
It’s happened to me, and it’s happened to you. Problem is, most don’t recognize it, or trust it, or we’re not prepared. Those times in our life when an extraordinary idea, discovery, revelation, force, breakthrough, surprise, or sudden shift shows up, unexpectedly, without fanfare or ballyhoo, and offers us possibilities and opportunities, which can reshape, refocus and redirect our life and career forever...for the better. That said, when it happens, when that sudden, unexpected, “Unidentified Fortuitous Opportunity” (UFO) suddenly appears, (and it will), don’t doubt, don’t cower, and don’t run and hide. Rather, welcome it with all the courage you can muster, and all the gratitude you can offer.
1. Unfocused: Fooling yourself into thinking that you have a clear vision of where you’re headed. Constantly switching gears and changing direction only prolongs the circle game.
2. Low Expectations: You set the bar too low, thinking that winning the small ones now will give you the courage to go for the big ones later. But that’s a trap. Winning the small ones only keeps you stuck in an illusion that you’re getting somewhere.
3. Inflexible: Rigid, jammed and stuck on how it has to be. Holding a firm grip on how the end result must look only blinds you from seeing the unlimited options and possibilities that are available.
4. Waiting to be discovered: Huh? Really?
5. Knowing too much: Thinking you have all the answers because you have an education, or experience, or money, or previous success. There’s no right or wrong road to success today. That’s what the techno revolution is all about— absence of formula! Try waking up in the morning with a “beginners mind” and proceed from there.
6. Tech Dread: Do I really have to say this? To the degree you learn and use the tools and technology, to that degree creating, promoting and shipping your art & commerce will be that much more rewarding.
7. Undisciplined: Wasting more energy worrying, wishing, and wondering than actually putting in the time to improve, excel, and advance.
8. Stuck in indecision: Unable to make confident choices and decisions because you’re afraid of making the wrong choices and decisions. Keep the game moving. Do the research, gather the facts, then throw the dart.
9. Brittle Confidence: Confidence Is Everything. It trumps experience, rivals talent and beats the beans out of a good education. If you can’t find any, fake it!
Today, there’s an excessive selection of software, hardware and mobile apps to help promote your business, market your music, advance your art, and distribute your products & services. However, procrastination usually stands in the way of utilizing those most-important tools—fostering a strong resistance to do the necessary research and go through the mandatory time-crunching learning curve. The most common excuse that A&E’s use to “weasel & whine” their way out of doing the left-brained work: "You don’t understand, I'm just not good at the “tech” part."
Obviously, it’s in your best interest to at least do the research.
The one thing we artists & treps have in common is that we worry about the future. Why? Because we’re charged with inventing it from nothing—then we stake our entire livelihood on it. So when anxiety prevails, and your insides are "shake’n like a leaf on a tree:"
Don’t Choke Stand your inner ground. Don’t allow doubt & fear to keep you toss’n & turn’n. Recall the 10,000 hrs. you’ve invested in your career. No one can question the work you’ve put in and the experience you take out. Do the deep research, then follow your intuition.
Don’t Stall Distraction wants you to stop what you’re doing, change direction, and give your attention over to something more mundane and less essential. Don’t stall. Keep the momentum moving forward. Keep your two eyes on the ball and your third eye on the BIG goal, your impossible dream—the one that’s always jogging two steps ahead of you.
Don’t Flinch Remember, behind every great jaw-dropping success there’s an artist or entrepreneur who faced a difficult internal struggle at a critical moment of choice: choose risk, and possibly become a legend. “Flinch” and possibly become an unexceptional footnote.
As artists & entrepreneurs, we stand alone, right on the very edge of an unknown future which is hurling at us at quantum speed, waiting for us to make the leap and create great music, inspiring scripts, amazing designs, important books, and extraordinary products & services. However, it’s at that moment when we are confronted with uncertainty, stifled with self-doubt, and knee-deep in challenge, that we are most afraid to risk and try something new. So very often, we fretfully reach back behind us and grab hold of the past, and toss it out into our future like a safety-net, hoping that our past successes and experiences will protect us from failing. Truth is, while our past work can be a sturdy shoulder to stand on, it’s never a blueprint for anything new. And really, there’s no better place to find anything new then right here on the edge of the future, where the field of all possibilities is staring us right in the face, waiting for us to make the next move, warning us to forgo mediocrity, and tempting us to create art & commerce that really matters.
In 2000, after creating a few hundred awesome greeting cards for Paper Moon, my dear friend Steven Rotblatt saw the need for online greetings, and launched one of the first greeting card company’s on the Internet, “Rubberchickencards.com.” Today his small niche business is in fierce competition with all the giant card companies, including American Greetings, Hallmark, Bluemountain, and of course Paper Moon. The fact that these mega-corps can create and develop astounding products, services and apps, seemingly over night, keeps Steven constantly riding a manic merry-go-round, up & down, with doubt and uncertainty all the time. He’s come close to “calling it quits” a few times but he’s managed to hang in there with his own unique creative style of art and humor, along with a ruthless commitment to keep his customers satisfied, and his company relevant.
We were talking the other day about the angst and struggle of being an independent artist/entrepreneur, making your own way, and forging your own path, especially when you’re up against a mountain of uncertainty. I finally asked him, “Why don’t you just go back to the easy, certain life of a greeting card artist and collect a steady paycheck every week?” He scoffed and said, “I could never go back! I love the roller coaster ride too much!”
We both agreed that it’s in your DNA: you’re either a normal, everyday person who prefers to collect a weekly paycheck and travel in comfort by train, or you’re a crazy, creative, independent, genius artist/trep, who prefers to travel by roller coaster.
Truth is, once you’ve traveled by train, it’s almost impossible to risk giving it all up for the uncertain bumpy ride of a coaster. However, once you’ve traveled by coaster, any other mode of transportation seems ordinary and lifeless.
That said, I think at some point you just have to stand tall and face your truth: even though taking the comfy train on the road most traveled is tempting, as an independent, crazy, creative, genius risk-taker, YOU are a born roller coaster person, you always were, and you always will be. And finally coming to terms with that fact makes all the twists & turns in your fragile, unpredictable, creative career, worth it.
Me? I’m ride’n in the car right behind you with my hands in the air!
- As soon as I get ahead financially, that’s when things will start working out. - As soon as I have more time... - As soon as I upgrade my computers... - As soon as I get outta here... - As soon as I get back on the road... - As soon as I get moved in and set up... - As soon as I get this crazy person out of my life... - As soon as I get a great team together... - As soon as I get a few more clients & customers... - As soon as I get healthy...
With a spectacular rock concert style production, Apple just announced their new line of products at their annual keynote extravaganza, starring CEO, Tim Cook. Doesn’t matter if you like Apple products or not. Also doesn’t matter if you’re a singer/songwriter, tribute band, business owner, or VP of a mega-corp., there’s plenty to learn from the most successful company on earth:
1) Anticipation: While it’s true they may leak their own rumors, the fact that Apple keeps a tight-lip about their upcoming products, builds anticipation in the media, anxiousness in the competition, and a salivating hunger in their fans & customers. —You could do the same thing. 2) Original: Apple doesn’t emulate or copy anyone—they never have. They are always first out of the chute with innovative, new, “never before” tried products—which others quickly follow behind frantically trying to reproduce what Apple has created. —You could do the same thing. 3) Beginning of the end: Just like the iPhone was the beginning of the end for "just" telephones, the “Apple Watch” is the beginning of the end for watches that only tell time, and “Apple Pay” is the beginning of the end for cash, checks and credit cards. —You could do the same thing. 4) Extraordinary: There’s a reason they charge more. Their products are truly the best and most reliable products in the world, hands down—best computers, best phones, best tablets, best customer service, and now best watches. —You should also strive to be “the best in the world” at your particular talent, product, service or art. BONUS: Once again Apple has made a dent in the music industry by giving away U2’s new album to 1.3 billion people for free. Making it the largest release of a single album in history! What U2 does with that sudden global saturation remains to be seen. (Something really smart I hope.)
Watch the entire 2 hr. Apple presentation complete with U2’s live performance Here.
The artists I know, the entrepreneurs I talk to, and the clients I work with are either on the playing field work’n, sweat’n, taking chances, and playing their heart out. Or, they’re on the sidelines scratching their head, still trying to figure out how to get a foot in the game.
1) You hold "all knowledge known to man" in the palm of your hand.
2) You have a GLUT of digital hardware, software, and communication tools to record your music, produce your movie, publish your ideas, run your company, promote your products and market your impossible dream to the entire world.
3) There is now a “level playing field” in which you have as good a chance as anyone to create something that really matters, and make a difference. You can also make a buck...or a whole bunch of them. The balls in your court.
Every day, day after day; a plan, a plot, a project, a scheme, a blueprint, or a great idea “screams” to be on the front burner: A song that needs to be recorded. A video that needs to be shot. A website or app that needs to be built. A relationship that needs to be dealt with. A project that needs to be kick-started.
Sometimes your best-laid plans work out, far beyond your expectations. Other times they fall apart and fade away. That’s the nature of a creative, independent lifestyle. However, truth be told, it’s all those big plans, worthy projects and bright ideas you're NOT manifesting that continue to keep you edgy, crabby and restless!
"What If I Screw Up?" You're going to. Guaranteed. You're going to lose money, lose fans, lose customers, lose confidence, make BIG stupid mistakes, embarrass yourself in front of your friends and family, and be forced to start over.
However, what's more important is how you fix it. What's your recovery plan? Your rescue mission? Your Mea Culpa? Truth is, after the big fail, you should be stronger, wiser, more experienced, and a lot closer to where you want to go.
In fact, if you're smart, the choices you make after your big screw-up should put you ahead of the pack. And ahead of the pack is where jaws drop and hits happen. It's also where extraordinary projects live. That's where you want to live too.
My uncle Norman used to say, “it’s not about the losses and failures we have in life, it’s all about the amazing comeback we make!”
I’ve been thinking about “the next level” lately. It’s a positive term commonly used in the syntax of our super hip culture. And while “breaking through to the next level” may be a useful term for others, I think it’s a perplexing axiom for most artists & entrepreneurs—simply because as creative people, we have no directions or decorum to lead us there. Others follow a protocol and a step-by-step plan, that when completed will move them to the intended “next level.” Just like a college student working toward a Masters degree. She knows exactly what classes to take and units to complete in order to ultimately arrive at that fateful day, when someone in a suit & tie hands her a diploma—which automatically moves her to the next level.
A&E's don't have the luxury of a planned protocol. It’s usually just chipping away at your art or business one day at a time, building, growing, failing and improving with each day. Oh sure, you may have huge plans on the drawing board, but they always carry risk and uncertainty, and there are certainly no guarantees that someone in a suit & tie will hand you a gold record or a framed certificate for your efforts.
It’s a very common scenario with A&E’s, when they reach a certain “comfort zone” and their “winning formula” seems to be working, they want to use that winning formula to take their world to the next level. However, little do they realize that the “winning formula” that got them to this level will not get them to the next. The only way to break through to the “next level” is to step outside your current comfort zone and create a “new vision” for yourself—a greater vision, perhaps one that could literally “transform” your life! Then, make an outrageous, ruthless commitment to manifest it.
I wish it were easier, but it’s not. While there may be a set protocol for achieving a Masters degree, there certainly is no protocol for achieving the impossible dreams of a crazy, genius artist, or a bold, courageous entrepreneur.
What’s the most important ingredient in your record, video, screenplay, website, small business, big corp or dream project? What's the most valuable component or precious commodity? What must you have in order for the project to succeed? What’s the one thing your project will not survive without?
Answer: Your inimitable POV. Your unique, specific talent. Your divergent life experiences. Your courage, in the face of doubt. Your distinct, accumulated knowledge. Your creative spirit and deeper wisdom. Your own personal brand of crazy genius. Your true love and unwavering confidence. Your many years of practice and persistence. Your failures, setbacks and disappointments. Your exclusive contribution that no one else on earth has or could provide.
“Art is the most intense form of individualism the world has ever known.” ― Oscar Wilde
Big projects begin with a mix of anticipation, excitement and confidence. Then things start to get more challenging and less fun. Then, over time (months, years) things get real hard, the money leaks through every crack, you lose faith, and the project becomes a stressful quagmire for you and those in your inner circle. Then people start to say things like, “why are you doing this to yourself?”
What really sets successful artists & entrepreneurs apart is their foresight to recognize when the ship is sinking, and their courage to make intelligent decisions (so they can move on and get excited about the next project). However too many “personal” factors get in the way of smart choices:
— The righteous voice in your head is programmed to say, “Never Give Up.” — You’re embarrassed to tell others that the project failed. — The fear of bailing out trumps the stress of staying in. — You need to prove something to yourself. — You’re afraid to make a big change. — You dwell in denial.
I’ve said this before: It’s ok to let things fall apart. Let things go south. Let the whole project "breakdown" and collapse if necessary. Truth is, breakthroughs are usually preceded by breakdowns, and if we squirm to avoid the breakdowns, we actually deprive ourselves of the real grit from which breakthroughs arise. I know it’s not an easy choice to let the boat sink. However, all things considered, it just may be the wisest.
“The most talented captain can't save a ship with a hole in it.” —Bob Lefsetz
1. Your time is so precious. Why waste it on “rechecking” emails, hourly hits of world news, and petty Facebook blather?
2. You may not be able to prove your project will work, but you can KNOW it! And the manner in which you articulate that KNOWING may be the only convincing “pitch” that sells it.
3. Every artist & trep fights the same enemies: doubt, uncertainty, rejection and failure. And even though no one likes these traits, the difference is, pros take it in stride. Amateurs take it personally.
4. Confidence Is Everything. It trumps experience, rivals talent and beats the beans out of a good education.
5. Great work is not created out of a “common” formula. It’s actually created out of an “absence of formula.”
6. Don’t allow the adverse influence of others to seduce you away from your own personal inner truth.
7. Sadly, there are plenty of folks who still think the game called “More For Me” is real.
8. If procrastination couldn’t be ass-kicked, there would be no Van Gogh, no Beatles, and no Zuckerberg.
9. While others remain confused about the economy and anxious about the future, the pros are busy growing their company, designing new products, upgrading their websites, composing great music, writing inspiring screenplays, and investing in exciting new ventures.
10. Be smart. Do the due diligence. Do the homework. Do the research. Practice, practice, practice!
This is not the time to hold back—it’s the time to get busy, get sweaty, jump in the mud and get filthy, grimy dirt under your fingernails. These are the days of the creative artist and the fearless entrepreneur. This is YOUR time! Follow your crazy, creative spirit in the direction IT wants to go—it already knows instinctively the best route to take!
Once again the message comes through in a very loud, extreme demonstration of profound sadness and loss: “Money and fame cannot buy peace of mind!” If it could Robin Williams would be alive today.
The life of an artist/trep is truly about self-motivation, self-dependence, self-confidence, self-validation and self-discipline. That delicate, fragile “Self” is your fervent advocate and your unwavering devotee. Take care of her. Keep her healthy. Keep her strong. Keep her clear thinking. Keep her alive so she can keep contributing her own brand of worthwhile, crazy genius to the world.
“If you think your life is complete confusion because you never win the game, just remember that it's a grand illusion, and deep inside we're all the same.” —Styx, “The Grand Illusion.”
I cringe when people have “answers.” Especially well known bloggers who post endless lists of self-proclaimed “Facts.” Really? Are these the answers we’ve been waiting for? Is this the most up-to-date manual for artists & entrepreneurs to follow?
Most of the time when we really need the answer, we’re facing a big challenge or even a catastrophe; whether it’s in the studio, on the stage, at the staff meeting, or standing right in the middle of your world, facing yet another financial crisis.
It’s at those times the answers you need are never available on a convenient list. Rather, they’re inside of you, waiting to bubble up and reveal themselves at your command. And they reveal themselves in the form of risky choices, and uncertain decisions, that you make hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, day after day.
Others consult the workplace manual for answers. A&E’s work without a net.
Others follow the company guidelines. A&E’s follow their intuition.
Others obey the rules and stick to proven protocol. A&E’s: Rules? Protocol?
To the committed artist and the hardworking entrepreneur there are no answers. Only possibilities. And often those possibilities show up in the form of judgment calls, snap decisions, and instinctive choices—right on the spot! But that’s where the real genius does her best work. Right in the middle of the fire. Right in the middle of her creation. Standing on her own two feet, right in the middle of “the answer-free zone.”
I met with a client the other day and he was talking about getting ready to shoot a segment of an extremely popular TV show, in which he landed a guest-starring role. I just happened to say, “when you walk on the set, why not be the best in the world?” We both laughed. But then we both looked at each other and said “wait, what are we laughing at? Why not walk on the set and be the best actor in the world for that role?" I said, “after all, when the casting director was looking for actors, she wasn’t looking for the 3rd best actor, or just a mediocre one, she was looking for the best actor she could find, in the group of head shots on her desk, who were available, and fit the character she was looking for. She was looking for the best in HER world! And she chose you!”
After the shoot I got a text from my client: “I killed it! I was the “best in the world” at my part!”
So if your world includes writing a certain genera of songs, why not be the best in that world? If your world includes creating a new product, why not go for being the best in that world? If you publish an online magazine, why settle for mediocre, when being the best in the world is available to you?
I know there's a tendency to laugh when I say, “why not be the best in the world?" But really, why not? Are you working hard for 3rd best? Are you busting your tail for 5th best? Why not just lock doubt in the closet, and go for being the best in the world? After all, you are a crazy genius, right?
Here’s the big question: if you DID decide to go for being "the best in the world” what would you do differently?
"With limited time and so many options, everyone looks for the “best” choice, and the rewards of being first are enormous." The Dip, Seth Godin
July 30 would have been the 31st birthday of my stepdaughter Michele. Reminds me of the time I had the great opportunity to teach her how to dive off the board into the pool. She was 9 years old. She could dive off the side of the pool real easy, however head first off the board was a different conversation. Over and over she would come to that place that we’re all familiar with: the very edge of the diving board, with her toes hanging off the very end, shivering with a combination of fear and cold. I kept encouraging her that she was a great swimmer and she could do it. However the voice in her head was louder, convincing her that she couldn’t.
Finally after many failed attempts and aborted efforts, she was once again on the edge. I had run out of pleasantries and supportive slogans, and finally I just said "fuck it Michele, just dive in the pool!" She looked at me shocked, like I had just committed the mortal sin of a lifetime. Then she looked at the water, looked back at me, and dove off the board. Of course as soon as she poked her head out of the water I hugged and praised her like she just won an academy award. She was thrilled, I was proud and when the summer sun finally set in the back yard, it was a milestone day to remember.
There are only a few words or slogans that provide so much wisdom and provoke so much action: “One day at a time,” “Be Here Now,” “Live and let live.” However “Fuck It” has a certain finality to it. It’s loaded with power and filled with commitment. To finally arrive at “Fuck It” is to finally get to that place where procrastinating has lost it’s lure, fear has loosened it’s grip, frustration is at it’s highest peak, and pettiness is something you are no longer willing to put up with. To finally arrive at “Fuck It” means that your commitment to your work is now resolute.
I’m not sure, but it just could be that “Fuck It” is the secret password that finally opens the door between amateur and pro.
One of the blogs I regularly follow is Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels Of Separation. He writes mostly about technology, marketing and business. Mitch talks about the fact that finally, we live in a day and age when individuals, from a very young age, can start a business, build something formidable, and literally change the world. And it's not just software any more. Thanks to technology we can start our own record company, publish our own books, invent and develop our own products and build our own empires. It has become a “learn as you grow” world.
In a recent blog, Mitch included a 40-minute video from one of the other bloggers I regularly follow, Seth Godin. In the video, Seth is speaking at a conference called “Nearly Impossible.” It’s an annual conference held in New York and San Francisco. The event is for small companies that provide a service or make physical products. And while you may not think that applies to you, I suggest that you watch the video with your “nearly impossible” project in mind. Enjoy the video.
Just so happens that the crazy, creative, independent career you've chosen is a "win some-lose some" game. The ones you win are temporally encouraging, but they never seem to get you “there,” they only get you closer. The ones you lose are temporarily disappointing, and they never get you “there” either. But they too, always get you closer.
Therefore, the game isn’t about winning or losing anything, it’s about getting closer and closer to where you’re going.
Therefore the crazy, creative, independent career you've chosen is actually a “win-win” game—always inching you closer and closer to where you’re going, no matter how often you lose or how many times you win.
Therefore the game is rigged...in your favor. Good Choice!
— Your work/life has hit a hardspot and repeating the same mechanical efforts over and over has caused you to lose focus.
— You’ve stopped creating something from nothing, and returned to producing the same o’l, same o’l.
— Excitement & enthusiasm about the future has been replaced with confusion and doubt.
— You’re beginning to expect failure and accept mediocrity.
— You’ve lost confidence in yourself.
— You’ve lost faith in the project.
— You’ve lost your way on the mountain.
— “You’ve lost that love’n feeling!”
These are all delightful excuses. However the trouble is, boredom leads to laziness, which leads to procrastination, which leads to apathy. And once you don’t care anymore it means you have forgotten, or worse yet abandoned the most important thing of all: What you’re committed to!
Once you reconnect, and remind yourself of that big, crazy, genius, impossible idea or vision you’re committed to, you won’t be bored anymore...you’ll be terrified!
You can't constantly beat yourself up for not arriving at your destination yet. How can you ever expect to get there when the one person who’s suppose to be on your side keeps bringing you down? Lighten up on yourself, and give yourself permission to not get it right every time:
Give yourself permission to not “anxiously” chase the tech train.
Give yourself permission to be super wealthy, and welcome abundance into your life—a lot of it!
Give yourself permission to fail—again and again.
Give yourself permission to be scared shitless, and not share it with anyone.
Give yourself permission to procrastinate—just for one day.
Give yourself permission to change your mind—over and over.
Give yourself permission to create a ruckus.
Give yourself permission to be a dick! (Once in awhile)
Give yourself permission to “temporarily” forget what you’re committed to.
Lighten up on yourself and give yourself permission to keep fighting the good fight.
For pitty sake, give yourself permission to be a crazy, creative, genius human!
Dream: With great respect to my idol MLK, the term “I have a dream” has lost its punch for me. I’m going to replace it with, “I have an idea.” Sounds more doable. Makes me want to know what the idea is. Better yet, “I have a plan.” Much more powerful and real. Sounds like something is in the works.
Success: It’s too subjective for me. I’m going to replace it with “Complete.” “I’ve completed this project, now it’s on to the next.”
Successful:“I’m successful.” Sounds like you’re done. An artist is never done. I prefer the words “effective,” or “relevant,” or “significant.” At the very least “productive.” Now it sounds like you’re still at it.
Luck: It’s too Illusive for me. It’s never there in the beginning when you need it, and it gets all the glory at the end, “I sure was lucky.” I’m going to eliminate it from my vocabulary.
Goals: Should remain in the sports vernacular. When I hear “I have a goal” it sounds like you want me to say “Good Luck!” In the context of art and commerce I still prefer “I have a plan.” Sounds like you want me to ask you what it is.
Try: It means nothing to me. Only means you’re using the word “trying” as an excuse for not doing the work—the work that matters. I’m going to eliminate it from my vocabulary.
Positive Thinking: Over rated! Too many “positive thinkers” not getting anywhere. I prefer “positive doing.”
It’s a powerful honest statement. If you were sure, then you probably weren’t creating something unique, or making a risky choice that could take you further along. If you were sure, then your expectation for a specific result would be fixed, with no chance for any other outcome. If you were sure, it would mean you played it safe and followed the rules of predictable protocol.
No true artist or entrepreneur is ever sure. Doesn’t matter if you’re composing music, writing a script, shooting a video, or making risky decisions for your business. “Surety” is yet another obstacle to greatness. And when we remain willfully and confidently unsure of the outcome, that leaves us wide open to unseen opportunities and unlimited possibilities.
Just for the record: I'm never, EVER sure when I hit the send button and launch a new blog!
Doesn’t matter if your working musician, a successful businessperson, a struggling screenwriter or an active actor. Doesn’t even matter if you’ve been in the business a long time and think you’ve got it all figured out. Either way, hopefully this will help provoke some forward movement in your world:
1) Once a week, send your “opt-in” fans, followers, or customers a very short video, sound bite, newsletter, blog or free sample of your work. Keep it short and keep doing this once or twice a week infinitum. Doesn’t matter if you have 20 emails or 20k.
2) Build your tribe slowly and intelligently. Direct them to your website NOT your Facebook page! Sure, it’s fun to have a lot of people you don’t know wish you happy birthday. However it’s smarter to have a 1000 true, “opt-in” devotees visit your personal website every day—where a mutual exchange of art & commerce could take place. Of course you’re not going to abandon your FB friends. You’re just going to continually (and creatively) provoke them to visit your website, watch your videos, listen to your music, test your products, and read your blogs.
3) Respectfully ask us to subscribe, opt-in or join your world. Put a “join” option on your home page. Make it easy for us to connect with you. Also, make it easy for us to disconnect or “op-out” as well.
4) Don’t get all flustered about those who choose not to follow you. Rather, honor, respect, and reward those true devotees who love your work. If what you offer is genuine, honest, entertaining, informative, and beneficial they will share it with those who they think would be interested, and your tribe will grow.
5) Be patient and be grateful. It’s taken me a few years of continuous blogging to win the trust of thousands of crazy, genius “unique” readers.
We’re 1/2 way through 2014. Here are 5-critical reminders, to help make the second half better:
Quality: Take the extra time and go the extra mile. Your ability to produce your very best art & commerce exceeds everything, including marketing and social networking. First produce greatness. Everything else follows.
Risk: Find the courage to do it your way. Stop looking for someone to rescue you, discover you, or give you money. Keep creating, inventing, trying, failing, and discovering new ways to make a buck and inch closer to your goals.
Upgrade (your digital world): It’s a smart investment. Be sure you have the best tech-tools you can afford, including phones, pads, laptops, etc. Also, upgrade your website(s). The competition for our time & attention is overwhelming! Don’t risk losing your fans and customers because they’re bored with your store, or they’ve lost interest in your world.
Extend your reach: Continue to grow your following. Content may be king, but community holds the keys to the kingdom. Maintain a “constant” flow of communication with all your past, present and future followers.
Reconnect (with your purpose): In the deep silent privacy of your own soul, remind yourself what it is you really want. Remind yourself what truly matters. Remind yourself what your biggest most important dream is. Then ask yourself, “What am I committed to?”
And the Artist rested, after an exhausting week of battle, some of it physical, most of it mental, all of it worth it.
And the Artist rested, after a confronting week of intimately interacting with others, who for the most part, may not have regarded a word she said.
And the Artist rested, after a weary week of winning some battles, losing others, and feeling indifferent towards the war itself.
And the Artist rested, after a perplexing week of making choices and decisions; Not the obvious ones, or even the necessary ones, but the ones that relentlessly confronted her from the inside: What should I do next? How can I make this work? Am I capable of doing this? What if I’m wrong? When should I speak up? Will I ever get past this?
And the Artist laid her weary mind to rest, for just this hour, knowing that soon enough a new hour will beckon a new battle.
2) Don't allow income to rise faster than productivity.
3) Do everything you can to raise your productivity.
4) Let go of the struggle, avoid the media hype, do the research, and make intelligent choices and decisions regarding your money.
5) Whether you have too much or too little, the same (inner) place you go to create your art and run your world is the same place you go to conceive and devise ways to manage and grow your money. Really.
I guess we think it’s going to end some day. The struggle. That if we struggle today, we won’t have to struggle tomorrow.
However, perhaps it’s not the struggle that wears us down. Perhaps it’s the fact that for us artists & treps there never seems to be a finish line, or a fait accompli. That the work we do and the art we manifest just never seems to end. It’s like a new song is screaming for attention before we even finish the song we’re working on.
If we had a real job, we’d know when our shift was over. We’d know that after we sent that last email, and checked the inbox one last time, we could call it a day.
However for the pro artist and entrepreneur, there is no end to the shift, and there is no “calling it a day.” Because in our world there are more beginnings than endings, and more starts than stops.
Perhaps the word “struggle” is simply a term that we add on top of the challenging work we do, to give it purpose and value. Perhaps we choose to use the word “struggle” to alert others that we’re working very hard, every day, to achieve something extraordinary. However, I think the very last thing we ought not do, is allow the word “struggle” to become our identity.
I listen to my gut feelings, my intuition and my “inner intelligence” much more than I do common knowledge or popular opinion. Sometimes I hit the jackpot, sometimes I don’t. However, here’s when I really pay close attention to my “inner acumen”:
— When it says: “This Is Wrong!” — When it says: “I’m In Danger!” — When it says: “This Is It!” — When it says: “Walk Away!” — When it says: “Do It!” — When it says: “Avoid this person!” — When it says: “I Should Help!”
I also consult my “inner intelligence” after I have completely digested all the facts, OR when I have absolutely no facts to go on.
“What a lover’s heart knows let no man’s brain dispute.” ―Aberjhani, poet.
One of my favorite foreign films is the 2006 British release, The Prestige, starring David Bowie, Michael Cane, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Scarlett Johansson. The film earned $14.8M on opening weekend in the U.S., debuting at #1, and ultimately soared to $109M thereafter. Here's what I walked out of the theater with (besides the awesome wife):
Every great magic trick consists of 3 acts:
The first act is called "The Pledge.” The magician shows you something ordinary, like a deck of cards or a top hat.
The second act is called "The Turn." The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary.
The third act is called “The Prestige.” Wala! The audience loves you, your fans adore you, and your customers become devotees.
In your world, “The Pledge” is over. You already put your cards on the table when you committed to a career of independence and creativity.“The Prestige” will happen when your extraordinary screenplay is “opted,” your contagious video goes viral, or your business is sold for 18-billion.
However the act you want to focus on is “The Turn.” That moment when you stun your fans, wow your customers, and amaze your followers by offering them the unexpected, something they weren't anticipating, or something they didn't know they needed. When you arrive at “The Turn” you’ve piqued their interest and won their trust enough to bring them to “The Prestige.”
“The Turn” can also be (broadly) thought of as a tipping point, or a turning point—a time in your life when the circumstances have dramatically changed so much that they alter the course of your entire world, and present uncommon opportunities and possibilities.
Be aware of “The Turn” in your art and commerce, however be extra vigilant of “The Turn” in your own personal life—it can be magical.
The task of tuning a sitar can be intimidating and frustrating, and you need a “keen awareness” to listen for flat strings. Just like you need a “keen awareness” to listen to the wants & needs of your tribe.
Your fans are not going to tell you what songs to record. Your readers are not going to tell you what blogs to post. Your customers are not going to tell you what services to provide or what products to create. And your clients are not going to tell you how to proceed.
You must be so “in tune” with your tribe, that you know what they need before they do. You’re the leader of the band, and you can’t expect us to follow you if you’re not inclined to lead the way.
Imagine all is well in your world, everything is running smoothly, and you’re in your creative space diligently doing your thing. Suddenly the alarm sounds and the announcement is made “There’s a tiger in the village!”
When there’s a tiger in the village the only thing you can think about is getting rid of the tiger!
When there’s a tiger in the village gossip & rumors spread fast: “Oh my God, I just heard there were three tigers in the village!”
When there’s a tiger in the village we look for someone to blame: “Who left the gate open?”
When there’s a tiger in the village everything changes and you’re on high alert! This is the closest you can get to being in the “present moment.” Everything that was so important before is now put on the back burner, because the highest priority has moved to the front.
Truth is, tigers walk in and out of our life constantly. So we know they're coming, we just don’t know when.
Here’s a thought:
- What if you always ran your world from a heightened state of clarity and awareness?
- What if you always made choices & decisions based on facts & truth, rather than gossip & rumor?
- What if instead of quickly looking for someone to blame, you slowly looked for unique options and smarter solutions?
- What if you always ran your world like there was a tiger in the village?
The 2003 film was a commercial success, grossing almost $120 million from a budget of only $4 million. It also won director Sofia Coppola an Academy Award for “Best Original Screenplay.” An extraordinary script, which told the story of two people on the road to somewhere, seduced onto the road called uncertainty. An extremely familiar scenario for the pro artist & entrepreneur.
The road to victory is besieged with so many distractions, so may ups & downs, and so many unpredictable twists & turns. And as crazy, genius A&E’s, we get irritated sooner, frustrated faster, distracted constantly, and seduced off that road much quicker that others. Why? Because we’re a channel for a never-ending flow of exhausting creative thinking, and an outlet for an annoying stream of wild ideas & unlimited possibilities, constantly flowing through us 24/7. And while others frantically thumb through the rulebook of protocol, the pro artist & entrepreneur courageously defer to creativity, ingenuity and intuition to navigate the road of uncertainty. BUT IT ISN’T EASY!
That’s exactly why artist & treps need more support than others. No kidding! We need people who we trust to remind us who we are and where we’re headed—so we can remain steadfast, inside the “zone.” Heck, we often need an entire “support team” to keep us focused and on purpose!
Truth is, whether it’s one person or two, or whether it’s a friend, family member or a monthly visit with a private coach—we just need trustworthy people who know the very “best of us,” what we’re really capable of, and have the audacity to consistently encourage us and point us in the right direction. And what do WE need to do? Trust them.
Truth is, after you’ve read the latest self-help books, watched the current TED videos, attended your umpteenth seminar, and finished reading your favorite blog. And after your pastor gives his blessing, your Rabbi says Shalom and your guru offers Namaste. And after your eyes have closed, your mind has opened and your last stick of incense has burnt out, the only thing you’re really left with is a choice: Play it safe, OR raise the Bar. Stick to the road your on, OR take the high road, which may be bumpy but yields higher benefits. Hold back and hope, OR step out, way beyond who you’ve been, and reinvent your world. Every day we have the opportunity to take what’s already there and accept it, OR take a look at what’s not there and manifest it. You’re a crazy, creative, genius artist/trep, it’s your choice.
I can't help you get there unless you know exactly where you want to go.
I can’t help you get there if you keep vacillating and wavering and changing the destination.
I can't help you get there unless you're willing to let go of the way it was and immerse yourself in the way it is.
I can't help you get there unless you keep your word.
I can't help you get there if you continue to allow petty distractions to steal-away your focus, and procrastination to waste-away your time.
I can’t help you get there if you already have all the answers.
I can't help you get there until you release your tight grip on the outcome.
I can't help you get there if you're still trying to prove something.
I can’t help you get there until the fire inside is so hot that you’re ready to explode, because you finally realize, deep in your soul, that this is your dharma, this is where you were destined to go, and “no way-no-how” will anyone or anything stop you from getting there.
I can’t help you get there until you’re ready to go.
Watch out for it. It will do you in every time. If you’re the leader of a rock band, owner of a small biz, or the president of a big corp. you have to watch out for others. However if you're the CEO of your own world you have to watch out for your Self!
Sabotage shoves worthwhile projects to the back burner and moves easier and safer ones to the front.
Sabotage causes great ideas to get squashed because something someone said caused you not to believe in them anymore.
Sabotage provokes unique concepts & designs to be replaced by more conservative, benign ones.
Sabotage sends dreams & visions to the “waitlist” because of doubt & uncertainty.
The end result of self-sabotage? Worthy projects, meaningful ventures, and personal accomplishments are prevented from ever seeing the light of day and making a real difference.
Really? Do you think more "effort" is going to make a difference? Do you think more “struggle” is going to do it? What about “trying real hard,” will that get you closer?
Every day the voice in our head prods us to work harder with more effort. However the biggest successes in my life had less to do with “effort” and more to do with a clear vision of where I wanted to go, a mountain of rigorous research to light the way, a ruthless commitment to shield me from distractions, as much cocky confidence as I could muster, and a boatload of courage to bolster those scary, risky choices and decisions.
I realize those are overused, contemporary buzz-words. However for me, those worn out cliches’ have grounded me more and driven me farther then I ever imagined.
I’m reading The Turning Point by Gregg Braden. I enjoy reading his books because they have nothing to do with showbiz, everything to do with humanity, and they temporarily take me away from my own personal, petty circumstances and remind me that every breath I take, every move I make, every bond I break, and every step I take, in some small quantum way affects everyone and everything.
In this book Gregg talks about an anthropologist who proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he gave them the signal to run, they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said: ''UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?'' 'UBUNTU' in the Xhosa culture means: "I am because we are."
This game may be difficult to play for most if us who were raised playing the game “more for me.” However, if you subscribe to the thinking that giving and receiving are different aspects of the same energy, then perhaps we could play a new game called “share that which you seek.” In doing so, the energy of abundance would eventually circulate and come back around directly to you. Not like magic, more like collaboration.
Artists & Treps thrive on feedback! And when you open your world to your fans, followers and customers, and invite them to review and critique your work, you’re opening yourself up to growth. They become your partners, your allies, your PR firm, your devoted evangelists, and your bread & butter. Being part of a tribe is in our DNA. Whether it’s the girl scouts, a rock band, your loyal fans, or steady clients, being part of something important is good for the soul. And once you have established a “personal” connection with your tribe, it becomes a very powerful relationship—one of trust, prosperity and growth. And once your tribe finally begins to trust you (and your work), their comments, their sharing, their patronage and their applause become the very reason you do what you do.
“My new album was written with the energy I get from my fans. They protect me, so now it's my destiny to protect them, and make them top priority.” ―Lady Gaga
The awesome wife sleeps in. I’m up, on my feet, coffee in hand, between 4-6 a.m. every morning. Many of my clients are earlier risers too. That said, here’s what I’ve discovered from too many “oatmeal” strategy sessions:
If you have breakfast with a writer, you’ll be provoked to better your vocabulary, fire your publisher, and embrace KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
If you have breakfast with an Actor, you’ll learn how to live with rejection.
If you have breakfast with a Musician, you'll learn that practice is everything, success is elusive, and who you know is paramount.
If you have breakfast with an Artist, you’ll reconnect with your spontaneous fearless self. Then you’ll want to research how to sell traditional art in a digital world.
If you have breakfast with an Architect, you’ll begin to rethink the way you look at your own neighborhood.
If you have breakfast with a Screenwriter, you'll never watch a movie the same way again.
If you have breakfast with a Director, you'll learn more about finding money then making a movie.
If you have breakfast with a Talent Agent, you’ll learn the true art of selling.
If you have breakfast with a Manager, you’ll learn more about behavioral development than career development.
If you have breakfast with an Attorney, you’ll walk away pondering “what if” for the rest of the day.
If you have breakfast with an Accountant, you’ll be happy to know that they never ditched school.
If you have breakfast with a Restaurant Owner, you’ll learn the major distinctions between FOH vs. BOH employees.
If you have breakfast with an Entrepreneur, you’ll realize why tiny beads of sweat dance on their forehead when they try to explain why it’s not working.
If you have breakfast with a major corporate CEO, you may question if you made the right college choice.
If you have breakfast with a Web Programmer, you’ll walk away excited about the future but freaked about the present.
If you have breakfast with a Marketing Expert, in your heart you’ll reminisce about the good ‘ol dinosaur days when simple display advertising worked.
If you have breakfast with a Multi-Millionaire, you’ll begin to realize that having too much can be just as stressful as having too little.
Always have breakfast with those who are seeking the truth. Never have breakfast with those who say they've found it.
When I was climbing the ladder, a five-year plan was important. It was drilled into my brain that smart entrepreneurs make long term plans. Now that I’ve put the ladder in the garage, I find that unless you’re beholden to shareholders, long-term plans are an illusion—at best a guess. And given the blinding speed at which our creative industry is changing, I place minimum value on future forecasting, and maximum attention on today’s forecast—what I’m rigorously committed to achieving today, or this week, or this month, or this quarter.
“Planning too far in the future is simple guesswork. The chain of destiny can only be forged one link at a time.”
It’s senselessly annoying and foolishly frustrating. Truth is, I learned early in my days as a CEO not to get too crazy about flaws and imperfections or I would blow a fuse. Whether we were producing mags, books, newsletters, seminars, workshops, websites, or webinars we always found mistakes after we hit the launch button. Everything has a crack, and most often the people we work with are typically cracked & flawed as well. So the 2nd goal, I think, is to just keep working it, improving it, and getting it closer to how you want it, until you’re finally satisfied enough to hit the "ready" button. The 1st goal is to continuously refine & mature our communication skills so we can motivate and provoke our cracked comrades to get it right too. Isn’t it obvious, that while most cracks & flaws seem like frustrating failures, they’re actually opportunities for improvement?
"There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in." —Leonard Cohen
“Facts” don’t kill the deal they just up the ante. They provoke you to think more clearly, and plan more intelligently. When you’re presented with the facts, you may not like what you hear, but you deal with it, and invent ways to keep moving forward. That’s what artists & treps do, they innovate.
However, facts aren’t the problem. Drunk Monkeys are. Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, scratching, spitting, carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds, with dozens of drunken monkeys all clamoring for attention.
Fear is an especially loud monkey, incessantly sounding the “what if” alarm. Procrastination is the cunning monkey, who persuades you to slow down your progress to a crawl. Resistance is the soldier monkey who prevents you from moving forward. Distraction is the bandit monkey who robs you of your focus and attention. Sabotage is the heartlessly monkey who constantly derails your dreams and visions. And Doubt is the skeptic monkey who relentlessly questions and demeans your talents and abilities.
The trick to silencing the drunken monkeys? Keep your eye on the prize and your focus on the facts.
A few weeks ago, comedian Paul Reiser wrote a riveting “tribute” piece in the Huffington Post about the death of his idol David Brenner. It’s a lengthy article and worth the read if you were a David Brenner fan. The article.
Anyway, there was one short excerpt that I wanted to share with you, where Reiser describes one of the best stand-up shows he ever did. It reminded me that most often our focus is on assessing, correcting, and critiquing our work. And while that’s all good, lets not forget to acknowledge the successes, wins, and especially those times when we “killed it!” Whether it was on stage, in the studio, at the office, or at the investors meeting.
Reiser wrote:“It was one of the best shows I can remember ever doing. My "A" material killed. And the "B" and "C" stuff worked like "A" material. It was one of those shows where—and this may be something only other comics understand—I felt my bones grow! I took chances, I pushed harder. I paused longer. I experimented—pulling material from here and putting it there. And it all worked! When I walked off stage at the end of the night, I was a better performer than when I walked on stage earlier. Maybe in ways that only I would notice—but it was magical nonetheless.”
Objectives are not linear. Your impossible dream, your ultimate destination is not a straight shot to the land of milk and honey. It's mostly a long and winding road, like HWY 1 heading north to Big Sur. A 60-mile stretch of switchback turns, dangerous cliffs, frequent landslides, unpredictable dead ends, blinding fog and multiple distractions along the way. It’s also the most beautiful drive on earth! If you run into blinding weather, you pull over and wait it out. If you get distracted, you re-focus your sights on the destination. If you reach a dead end, you turn around and find another way. If you come to an unmarked crossroads, you follow your intuition. If you get lost, you ask an expert for help. When you’re at wit’s end and out of options, you create another option. If your destination is clear, and your resolve is strong, you’ll eventually get to where you’re going.
First of all, you don't have to like these 2 videos in order to catch my drift. Secondly, these lessons are not just applicable for music people. They work whether you’re a screenwriter, film director, actor, yoga studio owner, or the CEO of a billion dollar corp. Watch the videos before you read the blog.
Lesson 1—Youth: It’s not that they’re young and beautiful. It’s that the youth of today don’t know the rules. In fact, they think there are no rules! You and I come from a “rule set” that is no longer valid. The lesson: You don’t have to be young and pretty to be successful in the new world. You just have to let go of the limiting constraints of the way it used to work, and embrace the way it works now. (Not easy for most “technophobic” grown-ups).
Lesson 2—Distinction: You’ve got to have something worthwhile. Really worthwhile. To hold our attention, to keep us on your website, to provoke us to give you our time and money. You must provide something that is distinct and far beyond our expectations. Ordinary is out. Extraordinary is in. “WOW!” is even better.
Lesson 3—Reach: Imagine a new world where you could attract thousands or even millions of customers and fans without any salespeople or advertising. Imagine a tribe of devotees that follow you because they like what you do, use your products and services and love your art. NOT because they were provoked or manipulated by mass media marketing, or advertising. It all starts with slowly and intelligently building your tribe now, today. NOT after your CD is released or your book is published.
As far as I know, these two artists don’t know each other...yet. Sara a.k.a. Smouktahontas is from Finland and has rapidly grown her popularity as a singer/comedian in the virtual world. After so many million “hits” to her videos, she was recently invited to be on the “Ellen” show. Her current video, “One Girl, 14 Genres” was published on 3/9/14 and has attracted 4 million views. Joel a.k.a Roomie is from Sweeden. He’s known for his Youtube videos which in three years have attracted over 30,000 opt-in subscribers. His current video was inspired by Saras video. “One Guy, 14 Voices” was published 3/18/14 and has attracted 2 million views.
If you want to live a creative, independent life, and if you want to achieve your impossible dream, you’ve got to take it personally. You’ve got to make it TOP priority in your life. Screw self-doubt, and the negative proselytizing of others. Work every single day to improve, and get “crazy great” at what you do, whether it’s sing, write or run your own business. Educate yourself. Do the research. Raise your awareness to a level where you can clearly see the “deep truth” of how the world is changing today, and use the tools and technology to your advantage (and the advantage of others too). Then find that place inside yourself where nothing is impossible and steer the ship from that POV. Not like new age voodoo, more like intelligent foresight.
“Those who have expressed doubts and misgivings about their ability to live this kind of life shouldn't. Because being an artist (or entrepreneur) is not something you chose to be, it is something you already are.” —Billy Joel
The next step is already pre-planned, thought out and ready to take—so you might as well take it. The next BIG step is different. If it’s really going to be a BIG one, if it’s truly going to take you to the next level, then the next BIG step cannot be taken by who you are today. It can only be taken by that bold, intelligent, courageous, confident person you become, when you finally make the decision to risk it all, and take the next BIG step.
Behind every great jaw-dropping success there’s an artist or entrepreneur who faced a difficult internal struggle at a critical moment of choice: choose risk, and possibly become a legend. “Flinch” and possibly become an unexceptional footnote.
The “flinch” is a sophisticated delivery system. It delivers doubt, uncertainty and indecision at the most precise moment when we are about to choose, decide, or take action. It’s the reason most modern movies are remakes, most successful books are copy's, and most music sounds like something we’ve heard before.
I think whatever form it takes, the “flinch” is not there to encourage change and provoke greatness. Rather, it’s purpose is to “play it safe” and preserve mediocrity.
Thanks to Dan Pinks book "To Sell is Human," I found Emma Coats. She's the former story editor for Pixar. She has Pitched story ideas and has been pitched hundreds of times. According to her IMBd she’s also a writer/director known for the films, Brave, Horizon, and Monsters University. Emma says in order to move or pitch others, we need to become much better at clearly stating what it is we want and where it is we want people to go. A few years go she tweeted “The 22-Rules of Storytelling” and it went viral. She also came up with a simple, six-sentence template that every Pixar film shares, and I think it can teach any artist or entrepreneur a lot about building a story—regardless if it’s a music video, a screenplay, a novel, an investor presentation or anywhere a good story is needed. It’s called the “Pixar Pitch.” As an exercise, see if you can tell the story of your project, company, career goals, or impossible dream in this 6-sentence format:
The Pixar Pitch: Once upon a time _____ Every day ______ One day _______ Because of that _______ Because of that _______ Until finally _______
Here’s an example from Finding Nemo:
1. Once upon a time there was a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo. 2. Every day Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away. 3. One day in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water. 4. Because of that he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney. 5. Because of that Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way. 6. Until finally Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.
It’s what every artist & entrepreneur wants to hear, including me: — I’m so proud of you. — You completely nailed it. — I wouldn't change a thing. — You did a great job. — You’re a creative genius.
All of us crazy artists & treps crave applause & acknowledgement. It boosts moral, provokes confidence, and fuels persistence. However for some, that’s enough. For some, being a starving artist or a struggling CEO is enough success. They could easily spend the rest of their life surviving off the praise & approval of their friends & family. Heck, you get tons of sympathy: “You worked so hard on this.” Plenty of agreement: “It’s a tough world out there.” And a boatload of assurance: “I’m sure you’ll make it some day.”
For others it’s not enough. For others, applause is a temptation to repeat the same thing over and over, and acknowledgement is a sweet cookie that often spoils your appetite to persist. The pro likes cookies too. However no amount of praise can replace insightful, constructive criticism from experts, and useful worthwhile feedback from fans and customers. Of course if you’re not ready to hear the truth, then head for the cookie jar.
“The important thing to me is that I'm not driven by people's praise and I'm not slowed down by people's criticism. I'm just trying to work at the highest level I can.” —Russell Crowe
This week I had one of those lengthy, deep, philosophical conversations with a client who was stuck in the circumstances of her career. We were grappling with the fact that even though she's extremely talented and worthy of huge success, and even though she’s followed the “new rules” of the industry, along with the preachings of the most popular bloggers and tech gurus, her showbiz career continues to creep along at a turtle’s’ pace. And after hearing her “story” over and over, and after much poking, prodding, cajoling, explaining, and arm wrestling, she finally came to this realization—which for her was a profound insight:
Your crazy, genius, independent, entrepreneurial, creative career is a metaphor of the story you tell yourself. Not the story you tell others, rather the story that you keep hidden and only tell your self. And it's the story you tell your self that dictates the results you produce and the degree of success you achieve. Change your story and the choices and decisions you make will change. Once that happens, your actions will change. Once that happens, the results you produce will change. Not magically, but intelligently. They have to.
There’s no excuse any more for not getting it right. There’s just too much information available, so much factual data, so many useful tools, so many ways to search for answers and seek out opportunities.
There are so many investors looking for great ideas, and so many great ideas looking for resources. There are so many enlightening seminars and classes, and great teachers and personal coaches. So many great books and helpful videos, and interviews with folks just like you, who share how they conquered their circumstances or “came back” after multiple failures.
There’s so much information about the “tech revolution” and how to grasp it, and the “connection revolution” and how to exploit it. And there’s plenty of information about the industries that have crashed (music, publishing, etc.) and how to traverse your way through the rubble.
More than anytime in history there is finally enough “knowledge” to navigate your way out of crummy circumstances, and pilot your self into just about any situation you desire. The only things that may be missing are the timeless essentials; the wisdom (and honesty) to recognize your true dharma (your real purpose), the confidence to go for it, and the courage (and patience) to persevere. In my experience working with artists and entrepreneurs, these essentials are why most folks continue to question why it’s taking so long.
In her tear-jerking acceptance speech, after winning the Oscar for best supporting actress (12-years A Slave), Lupita Nyong’o expressed her wish that her “unknown-to-Oscars” trajectory would inspire someone watching at home to go for it! Because, as she explained: “No matter where you’re from or what your circumstances are, your dreams are valid and reachable.”
Somewhere in the world an exceptionally talented artist or entrepreneur, with much to contribute, wakes up in the morning to hesitation and uncertainty. However, even though the resistance is strong and the doubts are convincing, she knows that in order to succeed she needs to be a fully confident and committed participant in the game. So she proceeds to her creative space determined to do her best work.
Somewhere in the world an equally exceptionally talented artist or entrepreneur with much to contribute, wakes up in the morning and is hesitant to proceed, fearful of making wrong choices, and doubtful that he has what it takes. He permits impatience to set his pace and distraction to steal his focus. So he proceeds to his creative space dubious and disordered.
Both are equally talented and have much to contribute. Both have doubt. Both have fear. Both are uncertain about the future. However only one is a pro.
My friend Brad Parker wrote a great song called “Nothing Lasts Forever (except my love for you),” and he’s right. Devo guitarist Bob Casale didn’t last forever. He died this week of a sudden heart attack. And whether you liked them or not, back in the 80’s Bob and his bandmates took some huge career risks, and made a significant contribution to the music of the day. A great loss indeed. It made me think that not only do our friends pass, but our great ideas and worthwhile projects pass too. And the syndrome that kills great ideas and worthwhile projects the quickest is the disease of "Procrastination." — If you keep putting it off, it will become more challenging to keep it alive. — If you stall long enough the motor will be harder to start. — If you’re waiting for circumstances to improve, you’ll be waiting a long time. — If you continue to “dawdle” on your big crazy, genius plan, you’ll earn the payoff that dawdling produces.
“Don’t die with your music still in you” —Wayne Dyer
It’s not your fault. We just happen to be alive, on the planet, at a time when the volcano of certainty has erupted and the lava of change is slowly consuming everything in its path. From the way you create it, to the way your market it, to the way you monetize it. A traditional, predictable, sufficient system of producing results has vanished, and it happened so fast that many people still don’t know it’s gone forever and never coming back.
The real challenge is that these historical, revolutionary times we live in do not come with a manual or a “rule-set” for how to produce, promote and manifest your art & commerce. This is where others balk, or stall, or whine, or complain, or fail. Most need a rulebook to confirm they’re building it the right way. Most need a five-year plan to keep them focused on future goals. Most need a manager, or a boss, or a supervisor, or a VP of A&R, or someone in a suit to tell them what to do.
Thank god you don’t need a stinking manual! In fact, others are looking to YOU for the answers. Why? Because they know you’re different. They know you’re one of the crazies—a “creative type.” They know you have the ability to invent a way out, forge an alternative path, craft unique solutions, generate creative income streams, and actually manifest worthwhile, profitable ideas. Others have always relied on creative artists & entrepreneurs like you to lead the way and point us in a new direction—that has never changed. What has changed is that you’re now becoming aware of the huge responsibility that is staring you right in the face—taunting you to create something that really matters.
The awesome wife is hooked by the hoopla of the Olympics. She makes loud, funny noises when a skater completes a triple axel jump on the ice, and she’s empathetic when they don’t—doesn’t matter if they’re Russian or Israeli. Me? I like to observe them closely, read their facial expressions and body language, scrutinize their “on camera” comments—learn from them.
Champion athletes practice and rehearse with a head full of fear and resistance just like any other artist or entrepreneur. And you can bet that the beast of doubt is standing right there in the starting block, toe-to-toe with the champ, attempting one last ditch effort to induce a choke. However, when the flag goes up and the start-gun “BANGS,” that desperate, maddening inner chatter is immediately drowned to death by the deafening sounds of sweet silence. No thoughts, just the work. Only the work. The work itself has consumed and devoured the doubt & fear and replaced it with the deepest meditation. Nothing else exists while the task is being performed. The skater becomes the ice, the artist becomes the art, the musician becomes the music, the writer becomes the words, the CEO becomes the risk. It’s like the work itself takes up the space where the chatter was, and a certain respectful reverence occurs—like Divinity herself just entered the space. That’s what happens when pure, poetic perfection merges with riveted, ruthless commitment. Resigned, like the “Terminator” pledged to carry out only one task. And while others watch in amazement, the champion athlete, the crazy artist and the genius entrepreneur slip into that “still zone,” and confidently dazzle us with their extraordinary, jaw dropping contribution. “Work hard in silence and let success be your noise” — Natalie Van Coevorden- Australian Triathlete
Are you working on your BIG dream, the one that will put you in front of the room, behind the podium, in front of the camera, center stage at the Hollywood Bowl, or live on Oprah? That grand vision of yours that will finally give you the freedom to do what ever you want, whenever you want? Or are you working on other things, “responsible” things, “appropriate” things, “grown-up” things. Things that you think you should be doing just to keep things the way they are.
The most important thing you can do is a “mountain” of hard work on your biggest dream. The most important thing you can do is to spend an “exhausting” amount of energy on the vision that matters most to you. The most important thing you can do today is to work on that great idea, that awesome plan or that crazy, genius project, that when finally completed, will give you the most joy, the biggest reward and the greatest peace of mind. It’s very easy to identify: it’s the one that you say you’ll get to as soon as you have more time.
Are you simply “parroting” what you watch on YouTube, copying what you hear on Spotify, or imitating the bravura of others? If I visited your site would I think: “nothing really new here?” If I heard your song on the radio would I say: “that sounds just like____” If I read your screenplay would I think: “this reminds me of____” If I saw your video would I say: “that’s been done so many times before!”
As the CEO of your world, it’s so tempting to play it safe and “parrot” the dictates of proven industry strategies or follow in the footsteps of others who have paved a successful path. That’s what record companies, television and book publishers have done forever! However, timing is everything. And because of the times we live in, and the tech-tools available, inventing your own style, writing your own inimitable stories, expressing your own unique art, and building your own exceptional empire, has more traction today, and more of a chance to break through than ever before in history. No kidding!
Perhaps it’s time to “whack the parrot!” Perhaps its time to (finally) stop playing it safe and drum up the courage to create art from your own vision, run your empire by your own rules, and rewrite your life story from a much deeper place of ownership. Perhaps it’s time to drum up the courage to invent (or reinvent) your own destiny.
You wouldn't believe how many times I've asked the question and gotten the same answer: What kind of music do you play? “It's hard to explain.” What's your screenplay about? “It's hard to explain.” What does your business do? “It's hard to explain.” Sounds a bit arrogant to me. It suggests that your art, product or service may be too esoteric, or perplexing or over my head, and it's an effort to find the words to explain it to me. Do you really want us to follow your work or do you just want to impress us with your brilliance? If you really want us as a customer, follower or fan, it's probably best to continue working on a clear, articulate way of explaining who you are, what you’re offering, and what you want from us. Truth is, you can’t build a dream if you can’t clearly explain what it is.
My art teacher, Peter Kraus, said, "Don't draw past the finish line. There is a point when the picture is done. Be careful not to over design it.”
As crazy, genius artists & entrepreneurs, we're all vulnerable to the last minute whims of the playful Muse. Just when you think your record, script, book, painting, video or website is finally finished, she offers yet another option, another new idea, another POV. As beautiful as your Muse is, her ONLY job is to consistently feed you new ideas, NOT to tell you when the project is finished.
Truth is: We allow ourselves to be "seduced" by distraction, "wooed" by perfection, and "choked" by the fear of pressing the launch button. Truth is: You KNOW when the project is finished and you KNOW when it's time to launch.
Back in the day when I felt like I was being eaten alive by the hoopla of Hollywood, I always found someone to have a “bigger” conversation with; a mate, a friend, certain employees, certain clients. For me it's like a drug. I need a fix of "deep truth" every day or I'm out of balance—out of whack. I gain so much profound insight by temporarily taking one step back from the "game," to become the observer, the listener, not the player. I try to surround my self with friends that need the same drug, who prefer deeper conversations. I even build in weekly chats with enlightened, transformed friends, colleagues or clients who need the same fix. If I can’t find another human to kick it around with, I’ll read the words of one of my favorite authors or poets. Just a cue from a deeper POV is all I need; to stay grounded, to keep connected, to remain balanced. Some get it from a personal coach, others from reading a book or a blog. Anyway you get it, I just think, these days, if you don't have a deeper dialogue on a regular basis, free from the mundane and the petty, you can easily lose touch with your dharma, your purpose, who you really are, what you’re really committed to, and what really matters to you.
Back in the day when I was a hotshot CEO, January staff meetings were always a blast. My partner and I would stage electrifying (PowerPoint) presentations designed to enlighten and inspire our staff to start the New Year with an explosion of brash, cocky confidence. It was a chance to gather everyone together and sell our ideas about where we’re headed, grapple with ways to get there, and get pumped about the coming adventures that would ultimately lead us to the Promise Land. Did it work? Sometimes yes, other times not so much. Does it matter? Yes.
The beginning of the year always feels exhilarating. That adrenaline-charged, quivering feeling that bubbles up from the deepest part of you, every January, that’s filled with anticipation, loaded with righteous certainty and anxious with impatience. Can you feel it? That excitement and enthusiasm for a future that could be—that will be? An inner confidence that insists, “this year is different, this time it’s going to happen!” It’s a propelling energy that provokes so much confidence and commitment that it really does have the power to catapult any project into the stratosphere.
BUT? No buts. Go with it! Jump on the back of that rocket and ride it as deep in the New Year as you can. Not like sappy, idealistic, “positive thinking,” more like an intelligent way of being, like this is how it’s suppose to be, all the time!
Ask any horse trainer and they’ll tell you that the home stretch is not about “ground & pound.” It’s about letting go and not holding back. It’s about putting on the blinders and not allowing distraction to steal your focus. It’s about giving it all away—everything you’ve got. And it’s about making smart choices and intelligent decisions. Even the jockey who’s far behind in 7th place knows that anything could happen between now and the finish line that could miraculously put her in the winners circle. So she hunkers down, takes heed, gets muddy, and emboldens her horse to “let go” and “break free” from the rest of the pack!
If you’re really serious about your life’s work, if you’re truly committed to manifesting (or maintaining) a successful, creative, independent life, then you must take command of your world—no kidding! You must begin each day with unbreakable purpose. You must not allow distractions to thwart your intentions. You must not allow pettiness to pass through your door. And you must hunker down, take heed and get muddy. This is not a race with a starting gate and a finish line. Rather this is a lifelong mission that will never end...unless you say so.
Really? "Safe" sounds like you did nothing. Just sat on the sidelines and watched opportunity go by—in a warm blanket, protecting your bank account or your reputation from any kind of failure or loss. "Sorry" sounds like you took a chance, gave it a shot, risk it all, reached for the gold ring and went "all-in." That said, don’t you think it’s better to be sorry than safe?
Forget New Years Resolutions! Instead make intelligent choices. You already have a project, a goal, a mission—commit to that for 2014! That said, here’s 7-things you can do to make 2014 a more prolific year:
1. Upgrade your digital world. It’s a wise investment. Everything is becoming mobile, portable and global. Be sure you have the best tech-tools you can afford; including phones, pads, laptops, etc.
2. Upgrade your website(s). Don’t risk losing your fans and customers because they’re bored with your store, or they’ve lost interest in your world. Refresh the look, improve the navigation and consistently add new audio, video and content to your site.
3. Grow your following. Content may be king, but community holds the keys to the kingdom. Whether you’re an artist or entrepreneur or both, if you want to make a decent living at this you must “consistently” interact and engage with your fans, readers, followers and customers. The world may have shrunk, but choices for entertainment and commerce have expanded to the stratosphere. Maintain a “constant” flow of communication with all your past, present and future followers—it’s an intelligent investment of your time.
4. Transform Your Goals from possible to IMPOSSIBLE! Make them outrageously HUGE! In my world, a dream is not worth pursuing unless it’s impossible, because in my world, ANYTHING is possible!
5. Don’t Worry about the economy. It’s out of your control. Just make intelligent choices regarding your money, whether you have a lot or a little. Be smart enough to avoid spontaneous, emotional spending, and courageous enough to jump on wise investment opportunities when they come your way. Don’t forget you’re an artist, an entrepreneur—wherever you go to create a song, write a script or invent an idea, that’s the same place to go to create solutions to financial challenges.
6. Help Others Triumph: Give more of yourself—yes, especially in these tough times. Your time, money, art, contacts, coaching, listening, empathy, etc. could easily change someone’s life forever. Don’t forget that giving & receiving are different aspects of the same energy. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep that energy circulating in our lives. Make sense?
7. Meditate! Learn to tame the beast between your ears. I’ve said it a million times, I began meditating daily in 1985 and the balance I’ve found in my life between the hoopla of rock & roll and the silence of my soul is astounding. I’m not sure who I would be without this one simple practice in my life. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a book I’ve written about meditating. If you’d like to reserve a copy (free to my subscribers) just drop me a note: email@example.com. Again, you must be a subscriber to my blogs.
I've never missed a holiday season without watching some version of “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol.” To date there are 39-different theater productions, 22-different film versions, 27-different “made for TV” adaptions, 3-opera's, 7-record albums, 14-different radio productions, 6-parody productions and 63 “plot” adaptions—making it one of the most remade, rehashed, reinvented, rewritten scripts in history. The original story was a “novella” written by Charles Dickens in 1843.
Look at hoodies: We called them sweatshirts back in the day. However the rap bad-boy culture of the 90's made them hip & cool for everyone to wear-which created an opportunity for the fashion industry to create multiple versions of that one simple design. Then when one of the richest bad-boys in the world, Mark Zuckerberg, continued to wear his Harvard hoodie to his Facebook office, sales went to the moon!
Perhaps it's time to revisit your art or products or the services you offer and examine the success you've had in the past and your most popular works to date. How many versions, rewrites, remakes, alterations, redesigns, re-recordings and refried beans could you create out of your best work? Who knows, maybe there's a hidden income stream there. After all, it's still your “original” work, right?
In an exclusive interview with Music Connection, John Mellencamp said: “I consider myself a singer songwriter, but I've only written about five songs. The rest are just unique, rehashed variations of one of those five.”
People will critique, analyze, assess and judge your best work...in a matter of seconds—minutes if you’re lucky. Then they will do either of three things: trash it, share it with others, or save it for later.
If they trash it, so be it. You only want the followers that love your work and get who you are, and what you’re up to.
If they share it with others, that means they liked it. If they share it with many others, that means they loved it. So long as the others share with others you’ve got a good shot.
If they save it for later, think about it, bookmark it, or do nothing, I would probably put them in the first category. Because when was the last time you scanned through your bookmarks or opened your “read later” file?
That leaves only one option.
As you continue to create, invent, design and produce worthwhile art & commerce, don’t forget to build in simple easy methods for others to share it with others. Sharing and marketing are becoming inextricably interwoven, and I don’t think you can talk meaningfully about one without talking about the other.
The ground is dependable. We need the ground to stand on, to build things on, to get from here to there and to…well…stand our ground.
Here's how to tell if you're grounded:
— You're grounded if you consistently remain “ruthlessly committed” to your mission.
— You’re grounded if you can actually make choices & decisions BEFORE the doors of opportunity close.
— You're grounded if things are progressing, moving forward and getting accomplished—even if it’s slow.
— You're grounded if you're making "enough" to keep your world financed—even if it’s “just enough.”
Grounded doesn't mean you've won the lottery or picked up a million YouTube views. What it means, is that you’re intelligently navigating the cutes & ladders that come your way, and you’re able to pick up and keep moving when they don’t.
“When adversity strikes, that's when you have to be the most calm. Take a step back, stay strong, stay grounded and press on.” —LL Cool J
The blathering mind of the crazy, genius artist & entrepreneur:
— Where should I spend my time today? — Should I check all my emails now and get it over with? — Maybe I should email the client and get things rolling. — Should I finish the song or work on the video? — Maybe I’ll upload that pic on Facebook. — Ummm...I should really clean my office. — Maybe I should walk the dog now, instead of later. — Perhaps I should read that contract now? — I should confirm that lunch meeting. — If I do this now, I can do that later. — What should I do first? What’s worth doing today?
Sad thing is, these distractions have little to do with doing the muddy work, the work that matters. They’re all part of a scam, a scheme, a strategic method of sabotage, disguised in logic and hell-bent on halting any forward movement. And the sadder thing is, you’re the saboteur!
This is what happens the instant you forget what you’re committed to. This is what happens the moment you allow pettiness to pause what means the world to you. Stop beating around the bush...BEAT THE BUSH!
I think sometimes it’s ok to let things fall apart. Let things go south. Let the whole project "breakdown" and collapse if necessary. It’s not always about “fix it in the mix.” In fact the true creative process is not about “fixing” anything! It’s about constantly reinventing, rewriting, redesigning and recreating until you reach that pinnacle moment when you KNOW your work is complete.
Breakdowns are too often misinterpreted as failure, “What’s wrong with me?” "What's wrong with them?" “What’s wrong with it?” But they're not. They're just part of the process. Truth is, breakthroughs are usually preceded by breakdowns, and if we squirm to avoid the breakdowns, we actually deprive ourselves of the real grit from which breakthroughs arise.
Last December you had a vision of the coming year, and it was very important that you manifest that vision. So you boldly made resolutions, declared promises, and confirmed best laid plans. Then you stood on the mountaintop and proclaimed “This I Shall Do!” Have you achieved your goals for this year? Fulfilled your resolutions? Kept your promises? Are you close?
There’s only 30-days left in 2013, and our two dearest relatives, "Procrastination" and "Distraction" absolutely love this time of year. And the most effective logic they use to dissuade you is: “let’s wait until after the holidays.”
Screw them! You're an artist, an entrepreneur, and this is the crazy, independent, creative life you’ve chosen. Respect your vision and honor your dharma by “owning” your resolutions, keeping your word, and completing your mission.
Thanks For Reading My Words I know you have choices. There are so many worthwhile bloggers to read on the net—from shock jocks to easy riders. They all have their own individual styles and bring a unique POV to the conversation. I’m grateful that you have included me on your reading list.
Thanks For Sharing Your Comments It tells me that you’re willing to participate in the conversation, and that you’re inspired to express your thoughts in a public forum. We learn more from your personal experiences than anything I could ever write.
Thanks For Sharing And Forwarding My Stories It tells me that you like what you’ve read and you want others to have a similar experience.
With Great Respect & Gratitude My Thanksgiving wish for you is that all your crazy, impossible dreams come true!
— Things to get better. — The kids to grow up. — The inheritance to finally come in. — All your ducks to get in a row. — Till you get it just the way you want it. — Business to get better. — Others to realize your genius. — The tech train to slow down. — Record companies to start developing talent again. — Things to go back to the way they were. — Your mate to get a decent paying job. — Your shrink to tell you your ok. — The right timing. — Your ship to come in. — Someone to discover you. — Investors to pony up. — Home prices to go down. — Your health to improve. — All this “change” to stop changing. — The holidays to pass. It’s not about waiting for the perfect time to begin the journey; it’s about using the time we have to get us there.
That crazy, genius poet, George Bernard Shaw, said, “The reasonable person adapts to the world; the unreasonable person persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable person.”
Reasonable: Waiting for investors. Unreasonable: Going forward with or without the bucks.
Reasonable: Plan ahead. Unreasonable: Realizing that things are changing so rapidly that planning ahead becomes useless.
Reasonable: Wait until after the holidays. Unreasonable: Everyday is a holiday if you’re pursuing your dream.
Reasonable: Follow the money. Unreasonable: Trust your intuition.
Reasonable: Never invest more than you’re willing to lose. Unreasonable: Invest “all of it” in yourself.
Reasonable: Fabricate a great story to tell fans, followers & customers. Unreasonable:“Gimme your heart make it real, or let’s forget about it.”
Reasonable: Stop while you’re ahead. Unreasonable: “Ahead” isn’t far enough. Never stop.
Really unreasonable: They built train tracks over the alps before there was ever a train to make the trip!
You’re an artist, an entrepreneur, which makes you different from the others—not better, just different. You have a special place (inside), a ‘field” that you can go to make stuff up, write a song, paint a picture, write a script, design a building, or conceive your next business strategy. It’s also the same place you can go to figure out how to make a buck...or a million of them.
Others don’t know where that field is. Really. They have other gifts, like the ability to sell, or market, or read a blueprint, or follow a plan. They know how to finance it, build it, and distribute it. But YOU know how to invent it, create it, design it, and imagine it.
Others rely on research and knowledge, and proven methods.
You can do that too. However YOU have the upper hand, the unique advantage of creative insight, keen intuition, limitless inspiration, and the rare ability to pull great ideas out of thin air.
I believe that gift you have, that special talent that makes you YOU, that whisper you hear, is coming directly from your own personal creative muse, the goddess of art, the queen of imagination—the Greeks call her “Mousai.” It’s coming from deep within your soul, from “Divinity” or Divine inspiration, and it’s coming from the quantum “field” of all possibilities. Honor it, respect it and learn to trust it. Above all, use this gift to make life a little better. Not only for you, but for all of us.
“There is no place for grief in a house which honors the Muse.” ― Sappho
I've always been good at “knee-jerking” a brilliant answer. I can flower up a response and snap it off to you before you can even blink twice. However I don't want to be good at that anymore. I don't have to impress anyone with my so-called “quick wittedness” or amaze anyone with pomposity. Maybe back in the day when I was CEO of MCI, when I was making my bones and building my world, I had something to prove. Not anymore, especially if it doesn’t serve somebody. I want to be good at pausing and thinking through a challenge, maybe doing some research or consulting others before I give away my decision or choose too fast.
Business and life are now moving at the nearly the speed of thought, and I welcome and embrace that notion, and I’m ”dug-in deep” on the front lines of the tech revolution. However, these days when it comes to making smart, intelligent choices and decisions, I think that taking just a little more time to get it right, is better than shooting a blind arrow. Especially when it comes to growing your brand and exploiting your art.
Regarding your impossible dream or your BIG project, what do you have at stake? Your reputation? Your money? Your life? Your business? Do you have your pride at stake? Are the lives and well-being of others at stake? Investors? Do you have your family at stake? Your kids? Your dignity? Do you still need to prove something to somebody or yourself?
Having something at stake is the greatest of all motivators. It gives purpose, grants meaning and provides reason. It also sharpens focus, validates intention, beefs up resolve and pumps adrenalin through your system. Not to mention it brings “doubt” to its knees and knocks the wind out of “procrastination!"
Having something at stake is not the same as desperation, which provokes “manic panic.” Having something at stake is more like making a risky investment in you...in your impossible dream.
Not having anything at stake provokes the question: Why are you doing it?
Used to be, having a #1 hit in Billboard meant everything. Today being the #1 hit on Google means everything. Huh?
So much focus is put on increasing your SEO, and paying top dollar to your “web guy” to get you there. Sure, you can buy a slot at the top, just like you could buy a slot on the music charts back in the day. However, if your site, product, art, video, music or service doesn't consistently raise eyebrows, or doesn't resonate, no Google ranking will make a difference. More “hits" don’t always translate into better results.
I think if what you have to offer is worth bookmarking, downloading and sharing, then it will spread faster than any SEO strategy. If it doesn’t get shared, or if you can’t manage to get people to follow you or subscribe to your world, or if you’re slowly losing customers and fans, it’s probably time to go back in the studio, or barricade yourself in your creative space and start over. That’s not a bad thing. Like the warning light on your dashboard, it’s warning you that something needs to be done. You need to take some sort of “smart action.”
I think there are circumstances when optimizing a site for search engines can be beneficial. I also believe that an intelligent marketing plan is the one that creates a unique, invaluable and unforgettable benefit for the end user, and builds a continuous following of devoted fans and customers for you. So that you can continue to live the independent life of a crazy, genius artist/entrepreneur. Make sense?
Aloha! The awesome wife and I are in Hawaii celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary and her 19th birthday:) She likes to do stuff—like zip lines. I like to grease up with a tube of “Bain de Soleil” and read. We’re staying in Princeville, Kauai. This used to be the serene “garden isle,” the playground of the rich and famous, but not anymore—the tourist trade dominates—just like what happened in Vegas. Except for the majestic beauty, the energy here could easily be mistaken for overcrowded Santa Monica, Ca. Hawaii is very low-tech. You don’t see a lot of iPads around here. It’s a vacation spot, not a place to build an app, find a talent agent, pitch a script, or launch a music career.
Reminds me that while it’s true that the computer revolution has provided us with all the tools we need to live our dharma, and do our life’s work from literally anywhere, it is still nevertheless true that geography, where we plant our feet, can provide huge opportunities to help secure our potential success. Truth is, like birds, humans like to flock together and stay close to their tribe: - Musicians like to jam with each other. - Actors like to work on scenes together. - Writers like to collaborate. - Entrepreneurs like to compete, merge, and swap biz ideas with other treps. - Creative people like to hang with other creative people.
So if you want to be a world-class artist, musician, actor, writer, director, etc. you’re better off packing it up and moving to California—the creative capital of the world. If you want to be a world-class executive and pull the financial strings, you’re better off in New York— the business capital of the world. If you want to be a world-class beach bunny, or zip line pro you should move to Hawaii.
Me? I think it’s time to turn over and get some sun on my back:)
— It’s the invisible force that keeps us centered & grounded. — It’s the irresistible attraction that keeps drawing us toward our impossible dreams. — It’s our own personal “tug of truth” that is in constant battle with our relentless resistance.
The Movie: I think showbiz artists & entrepreneurs will respect and appreciate this film more than the general public, simply because of your understanding of the creative process and the various challenges it takes to pull off such a production. However, as of this writing 10/19/13, it has already grossed $200M world wide since its 10/4/13 U.S. release, (it cost $100M to make). I'm impressed by the tremendous risk and $$$ that Kevin Spacy brought forth to “exec produce” this film. Here’s what hooked me>>>
— Only Two (Physical) Actors:Sandra Bullock and supporting actor, George Clooney. I wasn’t a big Sandra Bullock fan. I'm just a big fan of real life, hi-tech, computer-driven movies. However, I'm now a big Sandra Bullock fan. Her acting was such that she convinced me that she wasn’t Sandra Bullock, she was a real medical engineer/astronaut, sacred out of her wits. It was her acting alone that carried the entire movie—it had to, she was (almost) the only one in it! Cool Fact: There are a few voiceover actors in this movie but a key voice part comes from Ed Harris, who is guiding the astronauts through space from Mission Control in Houston. It's a particularly cheeky choice, since Harris played John Glenn in The Right Stuff and NASA flight director Gene Kranz in Apollo 13. He also played the “Christof” the god-like character in The Truman Show.
— Great Soundrack: Steven Prices’ score is so unique (reminiscent of Danny Elfman) that it's hard to imagine the film working as well as it does without his creative composing. It’s also a good stand-alone album for background music while you’re putzing around the house. I listened to the entire album as I was writing this blog.
— Only One Set: The entire movie was shot on one set, using green screen, CGI and plenty of VFX.
— Great Special Effects: 80 percent of the film was hand-animated on an Apple computer. It’s a tightly shot film with a very small set. The special effects make us believe we are entrapped in the entire universe while at the same time experiencing its violent wrath. Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki invented a "light box" set made of 196 panels, each containing 4096 LEDs. The entire rig was 20 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide. Imagine yourself as Sandra Bullock, hanging on an intricate 12 ft. wire rig like a puppet, inside a small box made of flat-screen TV's flickering light in your face. The UP-side? One of the TV’s was actually showing the scene to which Sandra was reacting to.
— Great Direction:Alfonso Cuaron had to convey his eccentric vision to his (two) actors, via drawings, miniatures, playbacks, and…well…plenty of (Spanish) hand gestures! There was no other outside action for the actors to react to.
— Great Script: Took five years from story idea to theatrical release. Cuaron co-wrote the screenplay with his thirty-year old son Jonas—this was the first collaboration between the two of them. It was Jonas’ idea. Truth is, it doesn't get any more challenging for a writer then to create a believable dialog with only two characters, without boring us to sleep. Truth is, one of those characters ultimately carries ALL the dialog for 3/4 of the movie. Truth is, from what I've heard from actual "crew-talk" a lot of this script was re-written on the fly. In fact, Clooney contributed one of the movies major pivotal transitions. (It’s the scene that’s so unbelievable).
— Great Message: Never give up. Even if the odds are absolutely, positively against you and you only have a .0001% chance of making it, never give up on your big impossible dream. Follow your own personal “Tug of Truth” in the direction IT want’s to go.
Really, when it comes to candy there’s no better in the world. Did you ever see their TV promos or read their magazine ads? No? That’s because they built a small empire one customer at a time, with an irresistible world-class product, brand recognition and no media advertising. (Then Warren Buffet stepped in and took them to the moon).
Today, YOU have the same opportunity to build your own personal brand. From production to promotion YOU now have all the tools at your fingertips to create your grand ideas and manifest them in the world. Problem is, if no one knows about your work it just becomes part of your "failure legacy." In order to make a decent living working your dream, you need listeners to listen, readers to read, fans to evangelize, and customers to buy.
How do you get them? The same way you eat See’s Candy, one piece at a time.
As the leader of your empire, the future success of your crazy, genius idea is not only dependent on how truly jaw dropping it is, the future success of your work is equally dependent on how many people will care, how they will find you, and how many will share their experience of your amazing, astounding, astonishing, talent.
I think that intelligently growing your following, enlarging your fan base, expanding your readership, developing your tribe, and putting a big sticky, gooey smile on your customers face, must be at the very top of your priority list. Without a group of people standing in line salivating to get a taste of your sweet work, what’s the point of opening a candy store?
BTW: My Favorite See’s candy is Dark Chocolate Almond, yummy!
I’ve been fortunate to see Billy Joel perform many times in many different arenas and venues over the years. Billy has always been a profound influence on me and my own fledgling piano playing, and his lyrics have always resonated with whatever was going on in my life at the time. That’s what great songs, books, blogs, poetry and scripts do; they cut in deep, and go right to the core—and remind us of who we are, and what we’re committed to.
Anyway, in each of his live performances the one thing Billy did that was consistent, the one thing you could always count on, and the one small thing he would do that I always eagerly anticipated, was at the end of every show, just after he finished his third or fourth encore with the rousing tune “Piano Man,” Billy would jog to center stage and leave the same parting message:
“Thank you so much everybody! Good Night! AND DON'T TAKE ANY SHIT FROM ANYBODY!"
The crowed would roar, the lights would go up, and we all left the arena feeling a little more "cocky" then when we walked in.
That said, what parting gem do you leave your fans, followers and customers with? After they use your service, buy your product, read your book, watch your movie, listen to your music, or subscribe to your world, what extra “lift” do you give them that causes them to want more, reminds them of what’s essential, “inspires” them, and provokes them to share your work (with their tribe)?
I think that given we're all in the throes of an often confusing, somewhat concerning “cultural revolution," perhaps it’s a good idea to give some thought to creating a simple, yet profound “take away.” An inspiring statement, a significant slogan, or a perceptive, provocative proclamation that becomes your decree, or your “uplifting” parting signature. A declaration for your fans, followers, and customers to consider and anticipate, with each and every offering you produce.
Having a job means you have the option to "wing it.” Flying solo means you don’t have that option.
Like it or not, if you’re living the life of an independent artist or entrepreneur, you’re alone at the helm. Oh sure, you may have a staff of assistants, band mates, collaborators, partners, a slew of advisors, a career consultant and a great coach, however the truth is, you’re the architect of your enterprise, the CEO of your world, and the “Don” of your empire. And your personal support team could be terminated at the snap of a finger (yours!) because you alone make the big “risky” choices and the uncertain, frightening decisions in your life and career.
The life of an artist/trep is truly about self-motivation, self-dependence, self-discipline, self-confidence, and self-validation. As an independent, crazy, creative genius, only you can motivate yourself to get up in the morning and create something that matters. Then, at the end of the day, it’s only you who truly knows what creative angst you’ve been through that day, what “inner” battles you’ve won or lost, who or what has challenged your efforts, and whether or not you surrendered to fear or resistance. At the end of the day, you rarely get an “atta boy” or a “you go girl,” because when your muse has given everything she’s got, it’s really only you who can acknowledge yourself for not giving up and surrendering to the pettiness of others or the pressures of money—whether you have too much or too little.
Picasso said:“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”
Steve Wozniak said:“Solitude has long been associated with art, creativity and transcendence.”
Aldous Huxley said:“The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”
Bono said:“As a totally independent artist I have two instincts; I want to have fun, and I want to change the world. I have a chance to do both.”
As the story goes, the musician was down on his knees begging God for help: “Oh, God you gotta help me get this gig at the House of Blues. It means everything to me. If I don’t get this gig at the House of Blues, I will have to quit my career as a musician and take that office job. And you know how I HATE computers! Oh God, if you can just get me this one show at the House of Blues, I promise I’ll go to church every Sunday, stop cheat’n on my wife and give up drugs...I promise Lord.” Just then the phone rang and his agent informed him that the HOB gig is not going to happen. However, he got him booked at the Hollywood Bowl, opening for a benefit concert for diabetes, featuring Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Sheryl Crow! The musician quickly composed himself and said, “never mind God, I just got a much better gig, thanks anyway!”
In the Hindu philosophy the great mythical elephant god, Lord Ganesha is the creator and destroyer of obstacles. Ganesh always works in strange ways, often closing the door to what we think we want for ourselves, and opening the door to what is best for everyone involved.
Used to be called “five degrees of separation.” That meant if you wanted to get to the VP of Production at Warner Brothers, you knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, who could get you to that person.
Today, it’s “one degree of separation.” That means that if you’ve been playing the game for the past few years, and you’ve built up a good following, you’re probably already connected to someone who can help kick your creative career up to the next level. When was the last time you filtered through your Twitter followers? How long has it been since you shuffled through every one of your Facebook friends? How often do you cruise through every one of your LinkedIn contacts to see if there’s a really good connection there—one that can assist with your current situation? When was the last time you went “fishing” in your own private pond?
• It’s too hard. • You overestimated the time and underestimated the cost. • You allow personal dramas to get in the way. • You struggle (too long) with important choices & decisions. • You allow your scattered thoughts to trump common sense. • Your fear of change is slowing the progress to a crawl. • You don’t know what to do, so you do nothing. • You’ve got too may irons in the fire. • You’re still using antique methods of promotion & marketing. • You’ve “had it” with the technology conversation. • You allow uncertainty to keep the ball from rolling. • Others are standing in the way. • Others are slowing the project down. • Others just don't get it. • You can’t find good help. • You’ve tried everything and can’t think of anything else to try. • You’re an egoic “prima donna” and you want someone else to do it for you. • You’re sabotaged by doubt and stifled by fear. • You’re afraid they’ll find out that you really don’t know what you’re doing. • You’re too proud to hire an expert to help move things forward. • You have a warehouse full of logical excuses. • You buy the story, “this is the way it was meant to be.” • You buy the story “it’s because of the economy.” • You buy the story, “you’re not worthy." • You’re addicted to Internet distractions. • You believe, "it's ALL about the journey." • You’re under the illusion that someday someone will discover you. • You're still trying to prove something. • You yield to resistance. • You listen to your ego when it whispers: “If you don’t finish, you can’t fail!” • You continue to allow procrastination to rule the day. • You’re stuck, that it has to turn out a certain way—your way. • You think the reason it’s taking so long is not on this list.
Question: What is the real (deep) truth of why it’s taking you so long? Better question: What is it going to take to move it forward with velocity? Better question: What will happen if nothing changes and it just creeps along at this petty pace?
I was 29 when I started my first magazine. After my partner and I printed the first issue we literally ran to the newsstand at the corner of Hollywood Blvd. & Cahuenga and waited for people to buy it. Huh? No advanced email blast? No notification sent out to the tribe that we were coming? No tweets, no Facebook posts, no Google+ or Pinterest? Nope. My partner managed to get Music Connection in forty 7-11’s, newsstands and music stores throughout Los Angeles and we figured that that was enough exposure to get the company moving. So we waited…and waited…and waited. Until one by one music people would accidently bump into it and buy it. Took years to finally catch on and become “the most beloved music mag in the industry” (according to the L.A. Times). If we had had the ability to establish a tribe first, then build anticipation for our product BEFORE it even hit the stands…well, it would have taken a lot less time and effort.
Fortunately today the “connection revolution” provides the opportunity to build anticipation and excitement first, BEFORE your product ships. Just like movie previews, you have the opportunity to entice us with your new music BEFORE your record is even released, or better yet BEFORE airplay, even BEFORE your next gig! You have the opportunity to lure us in with excerpts from your new book BEFORE it’s published. And you have the opportunity to get our opinion or win our vote with your new forthcoming, worthwhile creative idea BEFORE it’s even financed.
If you start building and growing your tribe now, by the end of this year you could begin to tease the pallets of your fans and customers, tempt their salivary glands, and create a ravenous hunger for your “extraordinary pizza” BEFORE it’s even out of the oven!
By the way, the best pizza in the world is “Barones” in Sherman Oaks, California. Yummy!
If the first impression of your crazy, creative, genius work raises eyebrows, drops jaws, tempts the gate keepers, and gets the door of opportunity to open…even just a crack, then that will provoke us to want more, learn more, probe more, and take more of our limited time to click through your world. However, if what we find when we enter your world disappoints us, or doesn’t live up to that first impression, then you’ve probably lost our trust forever, and it will take a monster effort to provoke us to return and click through your world again.
The first sweet, scrumptious, juicy bite sets our taste buds up for the rest of the peach. But do subsequent bites live up to that first delectable delight?
They’re dumb at playing small. They’re dumb at being afraid to share their truth. They’re dumb at discussing petty showbiz gossip, even dumber at spreading it. They’re mostly dumb at demanding their way and very dumb at needing to prove they're right. They’re dumb at giving up AND giving in, and they’re way too dumb to think of themselves as being smart.
Look, I’m working on not being judgmental, and I try not to discriminate, and I call my self on it every time I talk down on somebody. But the truth remains, I love hanging out with smart people. I love walking away from a long conversation, blown away by somebody’s smart ideas. I enjoy grappling with deeper issues, with smart people who aren’t afraid to grapple with deeper issues. I even love the swagger of smart people, the way they glide into a room with the nonchalant confidence of a prima ballerina. And I enjoy regular weekly conversations with smart, foolhardy artists & treps who have absolutely ridiculous, utterly impossible huge goals and are nevertheless determined to achieve them. Smart people, who are not afraid to go deep, and get to the real truth that confronts their lives, tests their relationships, and stalls their careers. I also love it when smart people express genuine humility and play themselves down, giving others the upper hand, because it’s the smart thing to do. And I love reading smart books by smart authors, like Gladwell, Pressfield, Godin, Bruce Lipton, Deepak Chopra, Tom Cambell, Ray Kurzwiel, David Hawkins, and Elizabeth Gilbert.
Of course I learn something from everyone I encounter—of course I do! But often my breath is taken away by a smart film director or a brilliantly written screenplay, or the genius lyrics and melody of a great composer, or a really intelligent band manager, or the phrasing of great poetry, or even the coding of a genius programmer. I even respect & admire the brilliance of a smart basketball coach, like Phil Jackson. Now there’s a really smart guy! Wanna learn how to market your music, publish your book, sell your script, turn your big corp into a global one, or incorporate the benefits of meditation into your daily business? Then read his new book “Eleven Rings.”
Truth is, the more I hang out and interact with smarter people than me the more my awareness expands. The more I humble myself in the presence of smarter people than me, the more my level of consciousness rises. And the more I read smarter people than me, the more I realize how far I still need to go. Truth is, I just like playing racquetball with someone better than me.
“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.” —Bill Gates
In 1984 someone walked into my office and asked if he could leave his Macintosh with me for a couple of weeks. He was an independent salesman, repping Apple products from his home. He said if I liked it he would sell me a new one for less than I would pay at a retail store. If I didn’t like it, he would just take it back at no charge. Sounded good to me, so I went for it. Before he left, all he did was show me how to turn it on, and gave me a quick demo of a crazy little thing called a “mouse.” When he returned after three weeks I bought four Mac computers: one for me, one for my partner Eric, one for our art director and one for our VP of sales. Remember, the “promo hook” they used back then was “Desktop Publishing.” So, being a publisher, I was very intrigued at the notion of producing our products faster, better and cheaper. I’ve been an Apple devotee ever since.
HOWEVER; Just because I love Steve Jobs, just because I love apple products, just because I have confidence in Tim Cook, doesn't mean I'm going to run out and buy the new iPhone 5s. My most current iPhone is working fine. It syncs with my iPad, desktop and laptop, floats every bit of my data in and out of the cloud, and runs every app & software program I need, seamlessly and effortlessly. I like to upgrade (hardware) when something is so unique, so over-the-top, so jaw dropping that I can't live or work without it. That's when I shell out. When it’s must-have, must-see, must-hear, must-do, I’ll be at the front of the line with my wallet open.
Just because you tell your fans and followers to buy your new record or book doesn't mean they will. Just because you spend six months re-designing your website doesn't mean you're going to get that many more visitors. Just because your fingertips are bloody from practicing the same guitar riff over and over doesn't mean your fans will love you any more.
It's the “end product” that counts. It’s what you ultimately produce, it's what you finally release, publish, launch or ship that may or may not provoke us to lay down the bucks for the privilege of ownership.
If you expect your devoted tribe to respond with likes, comments, follows and friends, then give them “what ever you’ve got.”
However, if you expect them to respond with greenbacks or a credit card, then give them what THEY want, give them what THEY need, give them something that’s missing in THEIR lives, give them something that doesn’t sound like everyone else, or taste like all the others.
We may be your devoted loving fans forever, but if you want us to fork over the bucks, give us something that we must-have, must-see, must-hear, must-do!
As Artists & Treps, we; Struggle to blend in Work hard to please Battle with mediocrity Effort at being patient Fight to get it right Yield to the status quo Go with the flow And try our best to be appropriate.
How's that working for you?
Try going the other direction…for just one day: — Forgo blending in — Nix trying to please — Deny mediocrity — Screw being patient — Surrender being right — “Flip the bird” to the status quo — DO NOT go with the flow — And don’t be appropriate...just for one day...or maybe two...ok three.
The fact that you can record a song, shoot a video and launch it in front of as many people that you can muster is miraculous! It should provoke you to get to work!
The fact that you can launch a website, and slowly and intelligently build a brand, that could go on to finance the rest of your life, is cause for a sleepless “brainstorming” night.
The fact that you have all the tools & tech necessary to make a difference to millions of people with your art & commerce is an opportunity worth pursuing.
And the fact that you have all knowledge known to man right in the palm of your hand is mind-blowing.
Yet the grand probability is that you will continue on in this petty pace, waiting for someone to discover you, waiting for someone to choose you.
Truth be told, you’re an artist, an entrepreneur. You don’t get chosen, YOU choose you!
Today, the responsibility falls on you (the crazy, genius artist) to make something happen. Offer us something that has never been offered to us before. Create something that helps us learn and causes us to grow. Make life a little easier for us, a little happier, with your simple designs, tasty products and outrageous talent. Enlighten us with what’s inside you, and lift us up to the next level of consciousness with your inspiring poetry, alluring music, and compelling stories. This is your time! Show us what you’ve been holding back. Show us what’s inside you, screaming to get out!
— Assuming that others know what they're doing, because they've been doing it a long time.
— Assuming that when people say "ok," that means they “got it.”
— Assuming that no one knows the real you.
— Assuming that when others finally understand what you’re trying to say they will side with you.
— Assuming that since a lot of people like your work, there’s no need for them to subscribe or “opt in” to your world.
— Assuming that a representative from a big company will discover you, or buy you out some day.
— Assuming that as soon as you make your first million, it will all start working out.
— Assuming that the tech train will eventually slow down, just long enough for you to catch up.
— Assuming that as soon as you get out of the situation you’re in, you’ll finally be free, and that’s when it will all start working out.
— Assuming that since you’ve been doing this for so long, odds are you won’t fail.
— Assuming that you have to “break in” to showbiz.
— Assuming that “that's just the way it is.”
— Assuming that the Social Networking fad will eventually fade away.
— Assuming that if you work real hard someday you’ll make it. (Tip: try working real smart).
— Assuming that when you wake up in the morning and look around your world, that the room you’re in, the town you’re in, the country you’re in, the culture you’re in, the career you’ve chosen and the society that you're a member of is basically fixed in stone.
Today it begins with the bleachers full, SRO, an attentive audience, filled with anticipation—those who are willing to give your music a spin, your videos a glance, your books a read, your products a chance, and your website more than a few seconds. It begins with a list of repeat customers—a continuous rendezvous with those who are willing to return for a second helping of whatever it is you’re dishing out. It begins with a group of dedicated fans and followers—those convinced that you’re worthy of their trust and deserving of their money. And it begins with your devotees—those who are willing to forward your art, evangelize about your work, and “YELP” their opinion.
It no longer begins with an antiquated advertising campaign or a Jurassic marketing blitz. Rather, it begins with direct, personal, consistent communication with your fans, customers, friends and followers—through the very process that you resist the most: blogging, tweeting, continuous site upgrades, and all the diverse variety of social networking you can handle on a regular basis. It begins with including your customers in your creative process, consistently sharing your new and most recent art, always teasing them with free samples, always listening (and responding) to their critiques, and repeatedly inviting them into your world. It begins with engaging your followers with your story, your honest, transparent story, then building their trust over time—and then rewarding them for their devotion.
I know that some of you read the same books and follow the same bloggers that I do. However most are resisting the message…actually the warning. Truth is, like it or not, we are currently in the midst of a great revolution, a “connection revolution,” a rendezvous with destiny. And whether you’re a new start-up, a seasoned corp, or a crazy genius artist, if your intention is to make a decent living at doing that which you love, then it all begins with slowly and intelligently filling up the bleachers and building your tribe…right now.
There's a very candid interview with Oscar nominated actor Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Revolutionary Road, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II, etc.) in the current issue of Malibu Magazine. I just wanted to share one excerpt with you that addresses the notion that as a crazy genius, scared-stiff artist, you are not alone:
"I always show up at the beginning of a Boardwalk Empire shoot, thinking I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I'm scared, I don't want to be here, I'm not right for this—all the terror we all experience. But then I sit in the makeup chair, and they do my hair, and I stare in the mirror I think, "maybe I can pull this off." I look at the script and think, "well, it isn't really that many lines, if they give me a few tries, they can find enough good versions to cut it together. I think I’ll be fine."
Then he courageously steps in front of the camera, fear and all, and just does the work!
Back in the day, when we were faced with a publishing challenge, I would meet with my team and we would just keep uncovering and revealing the facts in the matter. Once we arrived at the truth (the real hard to face truth), we began the arduous task of “reworking” the plan. Boy, at that moment you could really feel the resistance in the room.
When your best effort isn’t working, most of us move into “OMG!” mode and begin frantically trying more of the same, much more, again and again, over and over, repeating what has always worked in the past. All that does is compound the problem and make everyone stifled in frustration. It also calls into question your willingness as an artist/trep to start over, from scratch, and reinvent.
“It’s not always about trying to fix something broken. It’s about starting over and creating something better.” —Unknown
With so many ups & downs in your crazy creative career, it's so easy to forget who you are in the matter, what you've accomplished, what you’re capable of, and where you’re headed. Those four standards form the foundation on which you stand.
In my experience, pro artists & entrepreneurs are always stronger than they seem, braver than they believe, and smarter than they think. Those who see the future first are always assumed to be a little nuts. That's because you ARE a little nuts! All of you pro artists & treps have been granted the gift of seeing the future, then reporting back to the rest of us—through your jaw-dropping inventions, ground-breaking websites, extraordinary music, profound videos, provocative designs, informative books and thought provoking, gut-wrenching, soul-searching, insightful movies. Risk is the artist’s favorite pallet, and “uncertainty” (lucky for you) actually carries the spectrum of ALL possibilities!
Trust the experiences you've had to teach you… Honor the knowledge you've acquired to lead you… Have confidence in your talents, abilities & skills… And have faith in the “deeper wisdom” you’ve attained to bubble up from the inside and guide your crazy creative journey.
I’ve seen’um all in the past three decades of my showbiz career. Here are just a few sins that artists & entrepreneurs consistently commit—against themselves: — Allowing personal dramas to thwart a worthwhile project. — Resisting “change” as if it were the enemy. — Faking it! — Setting attainable goals instead of impossible ones. — Sabotaging the project 3/4 of the way through. — Procrastinating until you have to run a “mad-dash” to the finish. — Permitting “pettiness” to dictate the to-do list. — Surrendering to the voice of doubt, ignoring the whisper of confidence. — Allowing others to dictate your destiny. — Denying the value of building a tribe. — Righteously prophesying the demise of Social Media. — Resisting the “Tech Revolution” — Denying the “Connection Revolution.” — Allowing fear to prevent you from raising the bar. — Believing the demon of doubt is actually the voice of reason. — “Knowing” the high-road, but taking the low-road. — Waiting to become rich or famous, before helping others.
When I was a head honcho at MCInc, my partner and I were constantly grappling with our company’s “Modus Operandi,” or two distinct operating states: “Maintenance & Growth.” It took awhile for us to ultimately get a grip on the fact that in order to maintain our big project we needed to delegate & conserve. In order to grow our big project, we needed to innovate & improve. There’s an appropriate time for maintenance and a perfect time for growth.
As the CEO of your world, staying aware of what “Modus Operandi” you’re currently in is crucial to the continued success of your project:
Maintenance: Big project is on simmer. Growth: Big project is on fire!
Maintenance: Repeating what works. Growth: Altering and improving what repeatedly doesn't work anymore.
Maintenance: A time to learn new things. Growth: A time to upgrade, innovate and apply what you’ve learned.
Maintenance: Feeling confident. Growth: Feeling uncertain and scared to death! (That’s a good thing!)
Maintenance: Pilot the ship on your own. Growth: Bring in smart advisors.
When you’re in growth mode, everyone is on high alert; up early, late to bed, no procrastinating or allowing the lure of the Net to tempt you off purpose. This compares to maintenance mode, which is more like keeping the ship sailing on a steady course.
By the way, having a partner helped, because while my natural M.O. is always “growth,” his focus was always on “maintenance”—a perfect balance indeed.
FYI: I’ve saved “Survival Mode” for another conversation.
1. Keep Your Boots Muddy. Even though many artists & entrepreneurs are doing some “great” work these days, it’s the “extraordinary” work that’s getting the attention and making the big bucks. This should not be new news to you. Your fans, your followers and your customers are now demanding superior products, outrageous service and tear-jerking, sidesplitting, jaw-dropping entertainment. And if you don’t give it to them, they have the entire world in the palm of their hands where they can find it. If you expect your tribe to spend their (limited) time spreading the word about you, then go the extra mile, step up your game and give them outrageous & extraordinary work! This is not the time to hold back—it’s the time to get busy, get sweaty, jump in the mud and get filthy, grimy dirt under your fingernails. These are the days of the crazy artist and the fearless entrepreneur. And if what I’m saying is resonating with you then this is YOUR time! No kidding! This is YOUR time! Don’t waste it. Make something extraordinary happen!
2. Grow Your Tribe. Whether you’re an artist or entrepreneur, if you want to make a decent living at this you’re going to need a tribe, a fan base and a following. Never stop interacting and engaging with your fans, readers, followers and customers. The world may have shrunk but choices for entertainment, information and commerce have expanded to the stratosphere. Maintain a frequent flow of communication with all your past, present and future followers. “A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” —Seth Godin
3. Re-Connect With Your Confidence. Confidence Is everything. It trumps experience, rivals talent and beats the beans out of a good education. Re-read my blog “Confidence Is Everything.”
4. Don’t Fake It! People are attracted to the truth, especially these digital days when everything is so transparent. If you speak the truth in your art, music, business, writing, etc. your fans and customers will follow you, support your mission and join your tribe. If you try to “hype it” you’ll lose them forever.
5. Help Others Triumph: Giving and receiving are different aspects of the same energy. And in our willingness to “give that which we seek,” we keep that energy circulating in our lives. Make sense? Give more of yourself. Your listening, time, money, art, ideas, coaching, contacts, empathy, etc. could easily change someone’s life forever.
6. Detachment: Remain detached from the outcome: You’re an artist and unlike others, you are privileged to have a endless stream of ideas & possibilities constantly flowing through you. Why would you be stuck on one outcome, only to eliminate a billion other possibilities?
7. Don’t Worry About The Economy, it’s out of your control. Just make intelligent choices regarding your investments, spending and debt.
8. Improve Your Computer/Tech Skills (especially mobile). There’s no excuse. Today’s learning curves are much shorter and the technology is much easier to learn. You’re smart, you can do this.
9. Review Your Support Team (staff, mgmt., agents, sales team, coaches, consultants, techs, bandmates, etc.). Don’t flinch or choke on this one. If personnel changes need to be made, don’t be afraid to make them. As an artist/trep YOU are the CEO of your world.
10. Prepare For Battle! The 3-heartless enemies of every artist and entrepreneur are waiting to take you on every day: Procrastination, Distraction and Doubt. When you hear the bell, come out swinging!
11. Meditate! Learn to tame the beast between your ears. I’ve said it a million times, I began meditating daily in 1985 and the balance I’ve found in my life between the hoopla of showbiz and the silence of my soul is astounding. If you’re a subscriber to my blogs I’ll be glad to send you my personal guide to a simple meditation practice. Just drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, you must be a subscriber. (Subscribe here)
12. Don’t Do Anything Stupid! The awesome, crazy, unpredictable, independent life of an artist/trep is the only life for us, right? Don’t screw it up!
It's the apprehension of not getting it right and failing that presents the biggest risk. Uncertainty of the outcome provokes fear and doubt, which provokes heightened anticipation and anxiety, which often provokes a “flinch” that could cause the whole project to fold.
However, ironically, once the fear of blowing it subsides, once you stop questioning and doubting, you lose your best shot at producing something that matters, something that contributes and makes a difference.
When the work becomes safe and routine, the artist becomes complacent. And while others may wallow and bask in the comfort zone of complacency, the crazy genius artist and the courageous entrepreneur loathe it.
The trap is buying the story that you’re headed in the right direction. And while that may be true, it’s also nevertheless true that the road to manifesting something from nothing has no street signs to tell you where you’re going, not even a street lamp to light the way. The pro is never really sure if she’s headed in the right direction because the road less traveled is always paved with doubt and uncertainty. However, as an artist/trep, it's the only road you can take that makes you feel like you’re headed in the right direction.
“Yes there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew. But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all, and I stood tall and did it My Way.” — Songwriter, Paul Anka
The voice in your head would have you believe that you’re creating something important. Are you? Or are you just creating to create? Creating more noise? Creating to avoid? Creating to impress? Creating yet another distraction that will slow the progress of reaching your impossible dream.
Hopefully you’re using your talent to create art & commerce that makes a difference, fills a void, serves a purpose, solves a problem, or adds value. Hopefully you’re creating something that will make a worthwhile contribution to your fans, followers, tribe and customers.
I think it’s ok to create just to create. It’s fun. It’s inspiring. It has value. It’s passionate. However, even passion fizzles out eventually, while creating art that matters last a lifetime.
“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
The urgency to choose and the pressure to decide can be overwhelming and stressful. I feel the rush too. The rush to complete, the press to finish, the race to make a buck, the need to get that great idea out of my head and into my computer—before I lose it. To finally arrive at “a fait accompli,” so I can get on with the next thing. That urgency is consistent with who we all are—a bunch of crazy, creative, genius artists & independent entrepreneurs!
However, in a world of ever increasing speed, I think it’s ok to slow down too. In fact I think it’s smart to do so. You can still feel excited, still meet every deadline, still move forward with velocity, just move thru it all in “slower” motion. Think slow. Talk slow. Move slow. Act slow. Whether it’s a song, a script, a book, a conversation, a start up, or a big corp meeting, slow is ok. And ignore those who would accuse you of procrastinating, they’re not the same. Procrastination is fueled with doubt and uncertainty, which leaves you frozen in indecision. Slow is fueled with intelligence and skill, and laced with careful consideration—and leaves you open to all possibilities.
“We Are Slow Dancing In A Burning Room” —John Mayer
My short blogs never start out short. They begin with a page or two of everything I want to say about a subject. Then after cutting, editing, trimming and trashing what I most often think is important, a tight paragraph begins to emerge that best represents an idea I want to share with you.
Writers know that writing is rewriting. Musicians know that composing is re-phrasing, and CEO's know that continuous trial & error eventually produces the desired result. You just have to be willing to go through the wrenching process of letting go of that which you love for that which you think is best, or right, or for the greater good of the work.
Not every great song makes it on the album, and no creative artist or trep says the process of “killing the good stuff” is easy.
When you stop putting up with the pettiness in your life, people start to take you seriously. And when that happens, things begin to move forward a little—sometimes a lot!
There are so many important things to do, so many great ideas waiting to be born, so many things to fix, so many things to invent, 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 entertainment that inspires products & services that matter. It seems a shame to trade our precious time for petty distractions.
Just finished reading Peter Gubers book “Tell To Win”for the second time. It’s that good. Reminded me why I love the entertainment biz so much, probably because I’ve never worked in any other industry in my life—sawdust is in my DNA. Music, movies, radio, theater, media, print, promotion, photography, graphics, production, teaching, writing, directing, design, catering, construction, imagineering, circus clowns and Vegas stage hands. In fact, ANY job you can think of can be found in the entertainment industry. Whether it’s up on the high wire in front of the camera, or behind the scenes shoveling the elephant poop. There’s really no biz like show biz, and no folks like crazy creative showbiz folks. Especially here in SoCal where almost everyone you meet has some connection to showbiz; from waiters to accountants. And although there’s plenty of ego, there’s also an abundance of heart, a wealth of support, and always someone in “the biz” close by to point the way when you get “knee-deep in the hoopla.”
That’s why I say, “don’t buy it” when doubts begin to rumble between your ears, or your friends, family or some infamous showbiz blogger tells you it’s time to give up your dream, quit the biz and make room for others. That’s absurd! There’s plenty of room in show biz for anyone who wants to play. There’s always room for another great song, a provocative screenplay, a unique production, an unprecedented business venture, an innovative start-up, a viral video, or an “out-of-the-box” artist or trep with an extraordinary idea. Unlike other industries like finance or law, where the market is flooded with college grads and limited job opportunities, showbiz provides a vast choice of unlimited unique and different career options. And even though others complain they “just can’t find a job in showbiz,” the truth is, there’s absolutely no shortage of work in our industry for a determined, adventurous person who has the talent, desire and commitment to break in. Got kids? Point them in the direction of the global entertainment industry. Doesn’t matter what their special gift is, they’ll find a place for it, as well as a home (and family) here in the crazy, creative circus of showbiz.
It's not that checking emails, posting on Facebook, sending tweets, watching the news, and scheduling yet another meeting don't have their place, they do. However they’re all "Time Bandits." It’s so easy to swap what really matters for the petty things that just keep us entertained and distracted. I think that managing your precious time, making intelligent choices, and relentlessly chipping away at the things that matter most is the only way to inch closer and closer to attaining your greatest desires.
“They always say time changes things, but YOU actually have to change them yourself.” ― Andy Warhol
Back in the day my publishing company was just down the hall from HTA, one of the top commercial talent agencies in Hollywood. I became lifelong friends with Herb Tannen, the CEO of the company. I used to walk down the hall to his office and hang out with him as he sorted through 20-50 headshots of actors that he'd ultimately choose to go on interviews. He'd say to me, "How about that one, or that one, or that one?" Within 10-15 minutes he'd choose 2-3 of the lucky actors to be sent on the audition. He had a trained eye and knew what he was looking for. He was a gatekeeper.
Spent lunchtimes with many A&R execs, including Ron Oberman, who was the top head honcho of A&R at CBS records. He would fast-forward through a selection of demo tapes so quickly, he would barely get to the bridge before going on to the next song. He had a trained ear. He knew what he was looking for. He was a gatekeeper.
Heck for nearly three decades I was a gatekeeper. Back in the day when everyone wanted to be on the cover of Music Connection or Songwriter magazine, my editors and I held a firm grip on the keys to that gate.
Thank God the old greedy, antique methods and protocols of showbiz are waning and the locks on the gates of entry have begun to rust. YOU have now been given the job as gatekeeper of your own network, your own promotion company, your own publishing firm, your own record company, your own empire, and your own independent career. What the new revolution provides are the tech-tools to build your unique brand, the networking opportunities to promote it, and revolutionaries to help you get there; experts, coaches, consultants, savvy managers, etc.. All you need are sensational ideas, jaw-dropping art, innovative and worthwhile products & services, and the courage to step out of the past and into the present. Don’t flinch! You’re a crazy genius artist, a risk-taking “trep,” you can do this!
Truth is, you’re either part of the current “connection revolution," or you’re standing on the sidelines scratching your head, waiting and hoping it will end soon.
You KNOW before you KNOW. Malcolm Gladwell calls it a "Blink:" The fact that you KNOW the truth the instant it arrives on the scene. Doesn't matter if it's which agent to sign with, what web person to hire, how much $$ to invest, what songs to keep on the record, how to market your book, when to launch your video, or when to start chipping away at your dream project. You already know the answer. However, if you’re attached to the outcome, or you “over think” the problem you can easily get “spaced” in the shadow of doubt, frozen in the fear of making the wrong choice or dogged by a lack of confidence. I’ve seen it so many times in the smartest CEO’s and the most talented artists. To the degree that you can let go of the way “it has to be,” and remain open to the quantum field of ALL possibilities, to that degree the truth will bubble up and reveal itself. Make sense? When in doubt, even in the face of popular opinion, follow what you KNOW to be the truth, which is usually the first option that bubbled up in the first place.
Navigating through an unstoppable whirlwind of ideas, crashing through insurmountable barriers, making anxiety-filled choices and nerve-racking decisions, wrestling with doubt and resistance, challenging yourself, growing, failing, creating art and commerce that inspires people, contributing something worthwhile to the world—THAT’S what being a pro artist or entrepreneur is really about.
However, making a living at it is different. And if you’re not good at that part, if you’re not a fully loaded “left-brainer,” if you don’t have connections to investors, or media, if you’re not proficient at “intelligently” promoting, marketing, distributing and selling your art, products or services; then you simply bring in someone who is, and make them part of your “circle of influence.”
In the same way you would hire a pro producer to master your recording, or a web expert to connect you to your customers & fans, or a designer or writer to put the finishing touches on your book or script, you do the same thing on the commerce side. Bring in a coach or consultant, or an expert to help you figure out how to promote, market, and sell your art (or yourself). Because to me, “creating art that matters” means sharing it, distributing it, marketing it and selling it—and making a profit! It means making art that matters to others, so that others can benefit from your hard work and your own special, unique brand of crazy genius.
The one line in the movie Rocky, that nailed the “best supporting actor” nomination for Burgess Meredith was, “Rocky, you’re gonna eat lightning and crap thunder...Rocky...you need a manager!”
You’d think after three decades as a CEO and 28-years of daily meditation it would stop...or at least quiet down a little—that continuous questioning & doubting between my ears. And it doesn’t matter if you’re Ann Hathaway or Bob Dylan. The beast of doubt is relentless in all of us. Truth is, the more I swing out on the skinny branches and take risks, the more profound my questioning gets. Sometimes I get answers, sometimes I get bupkis. However, every time I ask, I get a revealing insight. And the more uncomfortable and intrusive the question the more revealing and insightful the answer:
- Am I that much further along than last year at this time? - Am I hesitating, pausing or stalling—because of uncertainty or fear? - Where exactly am I stuck or stopped? - Who or what is slowing my progress? - Why hasn't that project gone viral, or manifested more sales? - Am I spending too much time and energy on smaller, petty distractions, and not enough on the projects that matter most? - Do all the signs show that I may be moving in the wrong direction? Or not moving at all? - Why do I often feel like I’m climbing a greased pole? - What questions do I NOT want to know the answer to?
Questioning your crew, staff, partners, fans, customers, investors or management will undoubtedly provoke a variety of reactions. Asking your SELF the deeper questions, and getting to the truth in the matter, will always bolster confidence, increase velocity and move any project or idea forward—inching you closer and closer to your impossible dream.
“The purpose of your mind is to question and doubt. Allow your mind to do it’s job.” —Muktananda
We box with the demon of doubt daily, while at the same time wrestle with our art, fighting to get it just right before we launch, release, publish, ship or produce. The inner dialog is relentless and the process is exhausting. No one else on earth could possibly understand what you go through to manifest just one inch of acceptable, original work. However, this is it, this is what it’s like to be an artist, an entrepreneur, and every single day of your life is “Showtime!” And every single day of your life you have a choice; Stick to the same script, or write a new screenplay. Rehash mediocrity, or manifest magnificence.
Bring to the show: A finger, pointing in the direction you want to go. Leave behind: A well thought out plan.
Bring to the show: Your best work—the work you’re afraid to present. Leave behind: The work that makes you feel safe.
Bring to the show: Gratitude, transparency, genuine humility, and an eagerness to suck up that which you don’t already know. Leave behind: Your righteous opinions on how things ought to be.
Bring To The show: Your truth. Leave behind: Everyone else’s.
“Showtime” is different for all of us, and it doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a growing Corp, the keyboard player of a rock band or a songwriter with one aging hit to your credit. Everyday when the lights go on and the curtain goes up, it’s your choice to “bring it on”...or not.
Back in the day I had the opportunity to work on many TV and movie locations. And even though I “made my bones” in the music biz, I’ve always had a profound love, and a mountain of respect for the challenging movie making process. It’s a brave endeavor indeed to commit your time and talent to a project that could easily make or break your career in the first week of release. I also think it’s the epitome of synchronicity when a great crew is brought together with great actors, great directors, great composers and great screenwriters to tell a story worth telling. A story that leaves us contemplating the past, anticipating the future, and questioning and doubting whether we’ve made brave choices in our life, or just easy, simple ones. That’s why I love Les Miserables. It got me wondering if I’m making truly brave choices in my life. And no one was braver in that cast & crew than the director Tom Hooper. I was so impressed with the fact that even in the face of so much resistance from the investors, producers and actors, Hooper chose to have the actors sing while acting, (no lip-syncing). Not because he thought it would make good “box office,” on the contrary, simply because he thought it was the right thing to do—that it would expel bravery from the actors, and bring more passion and pathos to their performance. I thought that was such a brave risky move, for such a successful director. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now and have your own opinion, and I could rant on and on, however there was one line of dialog in the script, that really stuck with me and I thought I’d share it with you:
“There is a determined though unseen bravery that defends itself foot by foot in the darkness against the fatal invasions of necessity and dishonesty. Noble and mysterious triumphs that no eye sees, and no fame rewards, and no flourish of triumph salutes. Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields that have their heroes; obscure heroes, who are most often greater than the illustrious famous ones.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
I’m done with grandpa’s worn out, antique motto: "Go with the flow." The only thing that goes with the flow are dead fish, and soccer balls named “Wilson!”
I'd rather take a chance, and go against the flow like a crazy salmon. They are one of the most rich & famous fish in the world! Why? Because against all odds, they “spawn” (or get laid) against a raging current—they risk it all and swim against the stream with joy & abandon! Other fish must look at them and think “boy, those Salmon sure are nuts!” But the crazy salmon swim against the flow anyway. Alright, they have a very short lifespan. But that’s not the point. Here’s the point:
Remember the film, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen? I loved that film. It’s all about going against the flow and taking a leap of faith, against all odds. Make the leap, and you could find yourself swimming in the river of dreams. Don’t, and you may continue on, day after day, stuck in the rut of mediocrity and hopeful thinking. That’s the point! You either make the leap, or sit by and watch the river flow. You either get up every day with the intention of “making a dent” and creating something that matters, or you don’t.
“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” —Salmon Fishing In The Yemen
May not be you, or your work or your talent. Could just be that “timing” thing. If you launch, publish, release or ship too soon, you run the risk of no one understanding. If it’s too late, everyone is already on to the next thing. There’s nothing more frustrating than great art at the wrong time. Took Huey Lewis 17-years to become an overnight success. Took the Beatles nearly 10-years of performing before they first landed in the U.S.. Took Jay Z 15, Obama 20, Van Gough 200! Heck, it took me and my partner a good 10-years to get our company to a place where we could finally smile and take a breath—even take a limo once in a while!
Even though you may think others are somehow “luckier” than you, and even though some music bloggers will insist that “if you haven’t made it by now you should just quit,” none-the-less, as a pro A&E, you have something unique to contribute, a distinct talent, something different to offer the world. And the only thing that may be standing in the way of your next big breakthrough is patience and timing.
According to Malcom Gladwell (Outliers), it’s not only the 10,000 hours of hard work you put into achieving success it’s also the year you were born that can make all the difference. Why is Bill Gates a billionaire? He's smart, of course, and he has tremendous ambition. But he probably wouldn't have started Microsoft if he hadn't been born in 1955. That made Gates old enough to take advantage of the opportunities that opened up with the introduction, in 1975, of the Altair 8800, the first do-it-yourself computer kit. Timing may not have been “everything” but it sure was a huge contributing factor.
Although the notion of “perfect timing” may be out of your control, the opportunity to manifest your best work in the time you have isn’t—ask any drummer.
“I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown, which always causes me to “blow it” at the most important times.” ― Jim Morrison The Doors
I once asked Stephen Stills, what’s the best advice he could give fledgling musicians? He said, "Don't quit your day job." Wise words back in the day. However, given that the current “tech revolution” has put career control and unlimited income possibilities directly in the hands of Artists & Treps, I think today's mantra is just the opposite: “Quit your day job ASAP!”
Better said: Quit what ever time-robbing, energy sucking, myrmecophilous activities that hold you back from doing your best work, expressing your unique talent and selflessly contributing your art. So you can finally get on with the business of manifesting your crazy genius ideas and fulfilling your destiny.
“Myrmecophilous”1. Living symbolically with ants. 2. Relying on or requiring a person or thing for support.
According to Greek mythology, as a punishment for his trickery, the god Zeus ordered King Sisyphus to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. Before he could reach the top, however, the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing Sisyphus to begin again and again, for eternity. However as the tale goes, Sisyphus was very content with his destiny because at every punishing push, at every sweaty shove, and at every steely step forward, the desire to succeed and the anticipation of victory made him stronger, and gave him hope to carry on.
Once the show is over, the product has shipped, the website launched, the record released or the book is published, the customer returns home to enjoy the rewards of her new purchase, and the fans leave the stadium with gratification and exhilaration. But the pro artist and the committed entrepreneur will return the next day to the studio, the workshop, the warehouse or the office and start the process all over again, pushing the giant stone up the mountain.
This is the true joy for any Artist or Trep: to be given the opportunity to wake up the next day into a crazy, uncertain, exhilarating, creative lifestyle and manifest your art—day after day. And the big payoff for your efforts is not just the ultimate financial prize, it’s the tenacity it takes to win it.
"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one” —George Bernard Shaw
I know a guy who has a product that could revolutionize guitar playing. I’m blown away with this product. It’s a simple, jaw dropping invention that any “pro” guitar player would want. And he’s already manufactured a few thousand units. However, he doesn't want big investors and is not interested in taking it global. “Huh?”
I’m sure that YOU or someone you know, has a project, or is so talented that they could easily soar to the moon! But for some reason they continue to play small. My good friend, Dr. Jim Gottfurcht (Psychology Of Money), calls it “poverty thinking.” He says even though a talented artist or a brilliant entrepreneur may have everything it takes to be very successful, they still choose to remain in a small arena.
Why do Artist & Treps play small? Because “Doubt” overrides every choice and “Fear” clouds intelligent thinking: - Fear of getting ripped off. - Doubtful that they could ever make it to the “biggs.” - Fear that others will find out the truth. - Doubtful that anyone will pay “big bucks” for what they do. - Fear of failing, especially in front of friends & family. - Doubtful that they could keep up the charade. - Fear of being confronted or challenged. - Doubtful they could handle the responsibility of “success.”
Peter Guber, one of the most successful showbiz moguls of all time, has always impressed me. And it’s not so much his credits as a super successful, Oscar winning movie producer, or his ownership of the Golden State Warriors AND Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s who he is as a person. Check out his website, read his Twitter feeds, and get his inspiring, thought provoking book “Tell To Win.” I think you’ll discover that here’s a guy who YOU can relate to, whether you’re a Corp CEO, or a struggling songwriter.
I recently received an email from him (perhaps you got the same one), telling me his 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2013. I thought I'd pass them along to you. Tell me what you think:
1. Embrace flying in the red zone – this is where the greatest risk, but also the greatest opportunity awaits. 2. In gathering collaborators and support, focus on “what’s in it for them” – this will garner their attention and intention to respond to your call to action. 3. Be authentic and have your feet, tongue, heart and wallet all going in the same direction – this creates a trusted and respected relationship which precedes transactions. 4. Be interactive – engage social media to change yesterday’s sales monologue into today’s dialog. Today, everyone wants to be participants, not just passengers. 5. Share success – emotional and open acknowledgement for work well done is critical to sustaining a motivational workforce. 6. Be generous– your scarcest resource is your time and when you spend it helping other people, you reward yourself, others and your organization. 7. Be a challenger to your own incumbency – sustaining your success requires constant reinvention. If you don’t, it can mean extinction. 8. Use the emotional resonance of purposeful story telling with the facts and information embedded inside, as your secret sauce to create memorable and actionable results –for success in business you’re always in the emotional transportation business. 9. Embrace failure – if you’re not failing on occasion, you’re not taking enough chances testing the real quality of your talents and will unlikely achieve your greatest success. 10. Habituate yourself to success – review your resolutions quarterly and remember good habits create great results.
Entrepreneurs are artists, and artists are entrepreneurs. Artists need to express their art, entrepreneurs need to exploit their art. Problem is, Art is always on the battlefield with Commerce:
Art wants nothing more than to be expressed. Commerce wants nothing more than to profit from Art. Art dreams about being admired. Commerce dreams about abundance. Art wrestles with the doubting mind of the artist. Commerce wrestles with the doubting mind of the consumer. Art loves how Commerce promotes her to the masses. Commerce loves how Art is so willing to be exploited. Art's real enemy: A timid artist. Commerce's real enemy: Bad Art.
To the artist, Commerce is the audacious mercenary of Art. To the entrepreneur, Art is the essential swag of Commerce.
I think Art & Commerce really want the same thing: to be respected and paid. So why do they always end up on the battlefield?
"When artists get together, they talk about money. When entrepreneurs get together they talk about art." —Oscar Wilde
We all have “access” to the same tools; the same Mac, the same production software, the same Internet, the same smart phones & Pads, the same cameras, guitars, keyboards and drums. And if we don’t own the tools, we can often beg, borrow, steal or rent them. And ultimately, with enough talent & expertise, a creative artist or entrepreneur will skillfully use those tools to build something worthwhile: a song, a movie, a painting, a book, a script, an app, a start-up.
However; before talent or skill, before innovation or invention, even before creativity, there is a “vision.” You see or hear something (within), that you believe is obvious, worthwhile and possible—often it’s only a “fleeting glimpse,” but it’s enough to arouse an eager Muse. Then you proceed to skillfully and masterfully use the tools to manifest that vision in the world.
Most have the tools, some have the talent to use them, but few have the vision to create something that matters. Without a “vision” for something new, we're just repeating what's already been done before. Without a “vision” for something original, we’ll use the tools to simply build to code. Without a vision for something unprecedented, I'm afraid were left with the same ‘ol, same ‘ol.
1. Forget New Years Resolutions! Instead make intelligent choices. You already have a mission, your impossible dream, commit to that for 2013.
2. Don’t Worry About The Economy. It’s out of your control. Just make intelligent choices regarding your money, whether you have a lot or a little. Be smart enough to avoid spontaneous, emotional spending, and courageous enough to jump on wise investment opportunities when they come your way. Don’t forget you’re an artist, an entrepreneur: wherever you go to create a song or invent an idea that’s the same place to go to create solutions to financial challenges.
3. Upgrade your digital world—it’s a wise investment. All knowledge known to man is now in the palm of your hand. Be sure you have the best “mobile” connection you can afford; including phones, pads, laptops, etc.
4. Grow Your following. Content may be king but community holds the keys to the kingdom. Whether you’re an artist or entrepreneur or both, if you want to make a decent living at this you’re going to need a tribe, a fan-group, a customer base and a following. Read this article “1000 True Fans." Also watch this Seth Godin video on “Tribes”
5. Prepare For Battle! The 3-heartless enemies of every artist and entrepreneur are waiting to take you on every day: Procrastination, Distraction and Doubt. When you hear the bell, come out swinging!
6. Meditate! Learn to tame the beast between your ears. I’ve said it a million times, I began meditating daily in 1985 and the balance I’ve found in my life between the hoopla of rock & roll and the silence of my soul is astounding. I’m not sure who I would be without this one simple practice in my life. If you’re a subscriber to my blogs I’ll be glad to send you my personal guide to a simple meditation practice. Just drop me a note: email@example.com. Again, you must be a subscriber of my blogs.
7. Don’t Do Anything Stupid! You’re an artist, an entrepreneur—a crazy, creative, genius! Although it’s a tough row to hoe, it’s nevertheless a GREAT life, and the only life for you. Don’t screw it up!
You may be burnt out on it but I’m a sap for this movie. I’m talking about the original 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 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 respect and 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 fledgling attorney, risking it all so that someday he could possibly become head of his own law firm. He also risks his relationship with Doris:
Doris (Maureen O’Hara): You're not really serious about this? Gaily: 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!
Doing what’s obvious and ordinary provokes ordinary results. However, courageously stepping out on the skinny branches and taking on the “extraordinary,” 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.
Trivia: —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.
I recently received an email from Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson—perhaps you got the same one. He said, “There’s a massive generational shift occurring that will blur the distinction between doing good for everyone and doing business.”
In his best selling book Rework, Jason Fried said, “In these digital days of quantum change, you need to feel that you’re making a difference. You want your fans and customers to say, “this makes my life better.” You want to feel that if you stopped doing what you do, people would notice.”
In his first interview since the death of Steve Jobs, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “We have a maniacal focus on making the best products in the world and enriching people’s lives.” —Bloomberg Business Week 12/6/12.
Seth Godin, author of Linchpin says, “The good news is that more than ever, value accrues to those who make a difference, to those that do work that matters.”
Get the hint? See what's happening? You don't need to be the CEO of a billion dollar corp to understand this thinking. All you have to do is include this philosophy in your career, company, outrageous projects and impossible dreams. You now have the wisdom of the most successful people in the world at your fingertips, along with all knowledge known to man in the palm of your hand. What do you intend to do with all that power?
Ever worry that your art or products are not commercial enough? Ever think about “reinventing” your work to fit the mold because you read somewhere the “new formula” or the “new rules” for making it today? I think that redirecting your art just to make it more mainstream and commercial would just provoke your current fans & customers to look the other way, because to them, you’d become just another one of the 250,000 other “hopefuls” attempting to go “viral” or “socialize” your way to fame and fortune. In the old days, we called that “selling out!”
Great work is not created out of a “common” formula. It’s actually created out of an “absence of formula!” And the only true “formula for success” for any pro artist & entrepreneur is the one that you cook up in the sanctity of your own creative space, whether that's in the studio or the penthouse. That sacred time of day (or night) when you get completely consumed in the work you love, creating form, inventing truth, grappling with your muse, and battling with your inner demons of doubt & fear. It’s during those times when the crazy creative genius (inside you) gives life to incredible ideas, and produces extraordinary work, and designs ingenious ways of sharing and spreading great entertainment that inspires us, and great products & services that benefit all of us. THAT’S the new formula. Heck, that’s the ONLY formula! And it’s not found in a bloggers tip-list or a consultants how-to book. It’s found in your room...in your office...in your home studio...in your creative work-space. And it’s mostly found in the deepest purest depths of your creative soul. You’re an artist, an entrepreneur and this is your destiny! And the only true formula or “plan of action” designed for your personal success is the one that YOU write.
Back in the day I made plenty of mistakes because I was so “overconfident.” As a hot-shot, CEO publisher at 29, I huffed & puffed around the office like I knew what I was doing, wearing bravado like a gold record around my neck. It was only due to years of reading the words of many wise swamis and cool sages, like Suziki, that I learned to reside in a “beginners mind.”
Overconfidence causes artists & entrepreneurs to overestimate their knowledge and underestimate the risks. It provokes blurred reasoning and leads to flippant decisions. Overconfidence always precedes sloppy work, and gives way to dissention & frustration within the team, which can ultimately lead to a total project breakdown. Why? Because overconfidence provokes arrogance & entitlement, which these days, is so transparent, it makes everyone squirm but the person who has it!
I know it’s obvious that as we grow in knowledge & experience, we also grow in confidence. However, I also think it’s equally true that the more we remain a vigilant perpetual student, the more we can access our deeper wisdom.
Consider the words of Suzuki as he whispers to us from his grave: “It is better to remain in the beginners mind. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” ―Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind