— While The Anxious are constantly on the hunt for others who agree with their anxious concerns, The Adamant are constantly on the hunt for experts and thought-leaders to help point the way.
— While The Anxious remain uncertain and indecisive about their strategy going forward, The Adamant are making tough choices, confronting impossible decisions and taking big risks.
— While The Anxious allow themselves to be stressed by mainstream media, distracted by social media and stopped in their tracks by the jaw dropping headline of the day, The Adamant allow themselves to be consumed with their art, buried in their work and adamant about achieving the goal that is right in front of them.
Important because while The Anxious remain anxious about the future and indecisive about how to proceed, The Adamant remain optimistic about the big picture and focused on the very next step they need to take today, in order to inch closer to the ultimate outcome they want to achieve tomorrow.
Q: What’s the right strategy going forward?
A: The one you will actually follow.
Q: What’s the best solution to this problem?
A: The one that will benefit everyone involved.
Q: What item on my to-do list should I do first?
A: The one that’s screaming the loudest.
Q: What’s wrong with my computer?
A: Try rebooting.
Important because most often, the road to resolve is well lit.
Solutions, ideas and innovation live in the conversations we have with each other. And if you’re talking to the same people all the time you’re likely to remain attached to your own thinking and unlikely to see other workable possibilities and options. And when that happens progress slows, projects stall and results creep along at a petty pace. Pretty soon another year flies by and nothing much has changed.
Important because bringing in outside thinking moves the ball. It provides a unique POV and another way of looking at the situation—which always sparks creativity, ignites innovation, jumpstarts enthusiasm and offers a new twist to an old worn out strategy. The reason to bring in an outside thinker is because we don’t know how to think other than how we think.
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, if the next step you really want to take is actually a quantum leap right into the belly of your biggest dream, then it cannot be taken by who you are today. It can only be taken by that bold, confident, crazy person you become, when you finally make the commitment to take the leap!
Important because “You may be a f***ing tough guy, but I’m a crazy guy! And the difference is crazy guys don’t give up!” —Billy Bob Thornton, Goliath.
In my experience, pro artists and entrepreneurs are always smarter than they think, stronger than they seem and braver than they believe. However, with so many uncertain twists & turns and radical ups & downs in your crazy career, it’s easy to forget who you are in the matter, what you’re capable of and where you’re headed.
That said, here’s a sticky-note to stick on your bathroom mirror to help clear your head when you’re dancing with doubt:
1) Trust the experiences you’ve had to teach you.
2) Honor the knowledge you’ve acquired to lead you.
3) Have confidence in your talents, abilities and skills to support you.
4) Have faith in that “deeper wisdom” you’ve attained to bubble up from the inside and guide you in the right direction.
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, clients, customers and partners may not notice if our ducks are in a perfect row. However, they will notice (and remember) if just one of our ducks is out of line.
It was drilled into my brain at a young age that smart entrepreneurs make long term plans. Now that I’ve dumped that myth into my digital trashcan, I’ve learned that unless you’re beholden to shareholders or investors, long-term plans are an illusion. A best guess. And given the blinding speed at which our creative industry is changing, I place little value on guessing the future and plenty of focus on what I’m rigorously committed to achieving today, or this week, or this month. For me, this simple strategy makes it much easier to track progress and achieve results quicker.
Important because planning too far in the future fuels our resistance to change, keeps us at a dangerous distance from our destination and supports the excuse that we still have plenty of time to reach our goal.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Ann Hathaway, GaGa or Jordan Peele. The doubt of making it and the fear of blowing it ferociously nip at the heels of every pro artist and entrepreneur like hungry wolves. Just listen closely when world class artists give their heartfelt, teary-eyed, lip-quivering award speeches. In those speeches, we hear a person who heard the wolves of doubt and fear growling between their ears but didn’t listen. Instead they remained steadfast and committed to their dream and took hold of their own power to achieve it.
Important because this is what I know for sure (and you do too): at this very moment, we can muzzle the wolves and regain our confidence. At any moment we can turn our fractured thinking around, which in turn will always alter our circumstances. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to shift our POV and change our reaction to our anxious, unsettled, disconcerting thoughts.
It’s easy to follow the centerline.
It’s daring to be divergent.
It’s easy to say, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
It’s bold to say, “I need more time to decide.”
It’s easy to get distracted by pointless, Internet clicking.
It’s ambitious to disconnect and remain focused on your master plan.
It’s easy to cave in.
It’s gutsy to stand tall.
Important because it’s easy to take the easy way out. It’s worth it to remain resolute.
A plan of action that’s too small will continue to grow slowly, as it sets an intelligent pace for the future. A plan of action that’s too big is more prone to collapse.
Important because in the popular children’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, the determined tortoise always wins the race. And one of the essential lessons in that story tells us to think BIG, but take small, smart steps to get there.
Some artists & treps give up in quiet despair, believing that surrendering is the easiest way out of a disheartening situation. A situation where they’ve banged their head against the wall so many times they no longer have the passion to continue…they’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’.
Then there are those who when faced with similar distress or adversity finally begin to realize that the only way to breakthrough the stalemate is to loosen their tight grip on how they think it should be and open up to the fact that there are many other ways it could be.
Once that happens they rediscover their determination and enthusiasm to reinvent, rewrite, reimagine and re-adjust their course until they find an alternate route that will get them back on track toward the pursuit of their goal.
Important because while both options have their pros & cons only one will take you further down the road toward that ultimate vision you see for yourself.
Every single day we struggle to figure it out, effort to get it right and meticulously scrutinize every step we take in order to manifest an idea, a vision or a dream. Then, at the end of the day, our inner critic casts doubt on how much we really accomplished and points to how much more needs to be done.
The process itself is mentally confronting, emotionally frustrating and physically exhausting. And while it’s difficult for others to understand, pro artists and risk-taking entrepreneurs forge ahead toward the promise they’ve made to themselves and the dream they have committed to achieve.
Important because it’s from the sweat of that exhaustion and the angst of that frustration that our destiny is forged.
Your life as an independent artist/entrepreneur 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.
Important because some are guided by their own self-righteousness and insist they can handle it themselves. However, pros are aware of their limitations and smart enough to know when to reach out to a trusted, like-minded advisor to help them avoid occupational roadblocks, take advantage of spontaneous opportunities and sort their way through perplexing problems.
Too often we spend more time thinking about it than doing it. It’s a high cost to pay for such a petty payoff. We must continuously stand toe-to-toe with the work that is truly wanted & needed in order to get closer to that which we say is our greatest goal and most desired dream.
Important because artists and treps are notorious for dragging their feet, until the resistance to do the work is exceeded by the exhaustion of avoiding it.
Sorry to tell you this…
They don’t care that you’ve devoted hours, days, weeks, months and years practicing your trade, perfecting your art and building your independent creative career.
They don’t care about your manager/agent problems, legal challenges, all the money you’ve invested in yourself and your project or how much you owe the government.
They don’t care about your staff worries, partner problems, investor concerns, startup attempts, exit strategies, customer complaints or band dilemmas.
They don’t care that you’ve been doing this for such a long time.
They don’t care that you worry and fret so much about getting it right—even when it’s for them.
And they’re certainly not interested in your excuses, justifications, apologies, alibis or tales of woe.
Important because the only thing they really care about is that you continue to entertain them with your incredible talent, wow them with your “must-have” products, enlighten them with your brilliantly crafted words, knock their socks off with your extraordinary art and provide them with worthy services that far exceed their expectations. As long as you keep doing that, you can count on them to love you and follow you to the moon.
We must keep studying, researching, learning and observing the changing landscape and the continuous disruption in every corner of our beloved entertainment industry. Which is being meticulously dismantled and rebuilt from top to bottom, including music, movies, television, theater, publishing, production, art, animation, acting, design, radio, retail, big corps and small business.
Then we need to re-evaluate how our own art and commerce fits into this new exponential culture of creative exploitation.
Then we need to re-consider our willingness to break old habits and change the way we create, produce, present and pitch our work.
Then we need to re-commit to a revised set of goals and dreams.
Important because in the midst of the chaos there is opportunity. And as our industry evolves so should we.
In case you missed it, Lady Gaga is now an Oscar winner! The A Star Is Born actress just won the Best Original Song award for the movie’s breakout song “Shallow.” On stage, Gaga gave an emotional acceptance speech to mark the moment. She started by thanking all her co-writers; Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt. Then she thanked her family and Bradley Cooper. Then she spoke directly to other artists:
“And if you are at home, and you’re sitting on your couch and you’re watching this right now, all I have to say is that this is hard work! I’ve worked hard for a long time, and it’s not about, you know…it’s not about winning. But what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There’s a discipline for passion. And it’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you’re beaten up. It’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going. Thank you!”
During the early days of our publishing company, whenever I created or took on an impossible project, I always had to muster up a profound intention to go for it, along with a fearless commitment to do the work and achieve the goal. Occasionally we slammed head on into a brick wall. But most of the time if our resolve was unwavering it usually worked out—we got close enough.
Important because I learned that simple lesson from Roger Daltrey. During an interview for a cover story, the Who’s high baritone said: “I go for the notes I know I can’t hit! But I’ve learned that if I have a profound intention of hitting it, along with a fearless commitment to go for it, I can usually get close enough.”
— The glitch is not that we don’t do the work. The glitch is that the work we’re doing is not the crucial work that’s wanted & needed most right now!
— The glitch is not that we don’t look for solutions. The glitch is that we keep choosing the same old, worn out solutions over and over, expecting the glitch to go away!
— The glitch is not that “there’s not enough hours in the day.” The glitch is that we procrastinate and allow petty distractions to steal our focus and rob our precious time!
— The glitch is not that we don’t know how. The glitch is that we resist asking for advice, coaching or direction!
Important because the glitch is not that we don’t know what the glitch is. The glitch is that we do know what the glitch is and we resist doing anything about it!
Since I started blogging in 2011, I’ve always tried to write at least two blogs a week. Not an easy task no matter how short they are, but certainly a task I love and one that pushes me and provides just enough discipline to keep me sharp.
However, this past few months I’ve been squeezing out barely one a week, slammed with an unexpected flurry of personal challenges that insist I remain at the top of my game and demand precision thinking and diligent decision making. One of the challenges has to do with a major health issue facing someone very close to me, and the other is a time-crunching project that I committed to two years ago that has yet to produce the results I expected. I do believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but man, that light constantly flickers from dim to bright.
That said, I’m reminded how Seth Godin emails a blog every single day and has rarely missed a day in decades. I’m sure he gets slammed with unexpected circumstances too! How does he do that? I’ll tell you how he does it; he writes a blog every day, then queues it up and launches it. There is no other secret.
I’m also reminded how Wayne Dyer ran eight miles every single day, rain or shine, for 29 years! I’m sure he got slammed with unexpected circumstances too! How did he do that? I’ll tell you how he did it; he got up every morning, put on his tennis shoes and ran out the door. There is no other secret.
All this reminds me of a blog I wrote back in 2016 called “Romancing The Stone.” It’s the mythical story of the Greek King Sisyphus, who was severely punished by the god Zeus for his deception and trickery. He was ordered to push a huge boulder up a steep hill. However, every time he got close to the top the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing Sisyphus to begin again and again, for eternity.
Important because we are all faced with giant boulders that we must continue to push up the hill. Sometimes we choose our own boulder and sometimes life blindsides us and insists we start shoving a different one. Nevertheless, when we get close to the top and the boulder rolls back down we are always faced with the same choice; do I just stand at the bottom and do nothing, or do I start over and begin shoving? Of course we artists & treps are programmed to keep pushing no matter what. However, that choice can often be as heavy as the boulder itself.
“When I get to the bottom
I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and turn
And I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again…”
—Beatles, Helter Skelter
1) Choose a can, a destination, and a path.
2) Place the can right in the middle of the path.
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 steps 1-2-3-4, 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 method, consider their POV, then keep kicking the can.
– If the voice in your head criticizes your ability, don’t listen, just keep kicking the can.
– If petty distractions temporarily pull your focus, return your attention to kicking the can.
Important because 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. Have fun!
*Reprinted from a blog I wrote in 2015.
We (artists & treps) were born into an already established system. An innate “rule-set” of edicts, theories, policies and expectations. We were born into a flawed condition that has existed for over 100 years:
— You must be successful.
— You must constantly advance.
— You must have a degree.
— Looks beat talent.
— Money beats looks.
— Looks & money beat everything else.
— The price of success is effort, struggle and hard work.
— The only thing that beats 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.
Important because 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. It’s not your fault. It never was your fault.
As artists & entrepreneurs, we stand alone, every day (actually every minute) right on the very edge of an unknown future which is hurling at us at quantum speed, waiting for us to toss caution to the wind and create great art, awesome music, inspiring scripts, amazing characters, important books and extraordinary products & services.
However, it’s at that moment, as we stand toe-to-toe with unlimited possibilities, that we are most afraid to take risks and try something new. Sadly, most often, that’s when we 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.
Important because 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 than 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, tempting us to create art & commerce that really matter and challenging us to drum up the courage to not reach back but to lean forward into a future that beckons our best.
Drawing a line down the middle of a page and labeling one side pros and the other side cons is an old fashioned, archaic, even childish method of decision making. But it still works!
Important because the simplicity of separating the massive traffic jam in our heads by distinguishing the positive vs. negative outcomes can often be the door OUT of the room called confusion and delay, and the door IN to the room called solutions and resolve.
If you can just stand back and point your lens at today’s entertainment industry, then shift your POV just a couple of degrees, you should be able to see that there are so many more opportunities today then ever before in the history of show business. And after observing our esteemed industry slowly transform with the times, there is no doubt that the Internet, specifically Netflix, Amazon and Spotify have disrupted the traditional content-distribution supply chain and caused profound changes in the entertainment industry…for the better and forever!
That said, if we artists & entrepreneurs (especially composers, actors, writers, directors, small biz owners and big dreamers) continue to resist the exponential transformation that is currently taking place in our awesome industry (specifically in television, movies, music and publishing); and if we fail to educate ourselves or go through the necessary learning curve (and alert our agents, managers and reps to do the same), 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 and forever chasing our dreams instead of catching them!
Important because This is not the year to hold back and wait—it’s the time to jump into the deep end of the pool! These are the days of the creative artist and the fearless entrepreneur. And if you can relate or resonate at all to what I’m saying, then this is YOUR time!
I wrote 56 blogs & stories this past year; some great, some so-so, but each of them had a prompt, a poke or a prod. Here are just a few of those pokes to help inspire you to keep your head in the game:
1) Revisit, reimagine and reconsider that which you say must be completed, resolved, manifested or begun. Remind yourself what it is you really want. Remind yourself what your biggest most important dream/goal is. Remind yourself what truly matters to you. Then ask yourself, “What am I committed to?”
2) Focus on improving. Everything you’re good at today you sucked at in the past. That’s because you kept improving.
3) Assess Your Strategy. If you continue to repeat the same tactics and schemes over and over, convincing yourself that you’re doing something different; your fans, customers and clients 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. Not budging from your tired old strategy is a lousy strategy.
4) Your time is so precious. Why waste it on rechecking emails, continuous media updates and irrelevant social media that steals your focus, invades your creative thinking and robs your precious time?
5) If procrastination couldn’t be ass-kicked, there would be no Steve Jobs, Irving Azoff, Tarana Burke, Beatles, Jeff Bezos, Gaga, JZ or Swift.
6) Review your support team and inner circle, including staff, agents, managers, bandmates, sales team, coaches, consultants, techs, partners, etc.. I know it can be a heavy scene to split with people you work with (and like). However, a heavier scene is continuously putting up with the pettiness and incompetence of others at such an emotional, physical and monetary cost to you. Don’t flinch or choke on this one. If issues need to be addressed or personnel changes need to be made, don’t be afraid to pull out Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Truth be told, YOU are the CEO of your world. And the goal is to work with the most talented people who are aligned with your vision and committed to the task at hand—not to wait around for people to change or grow up.
7) Remain vigilant and aware of those signs that tell you when it’s time to change direction or toss in the towel. While “never quit” may be our mantra, there are times when changing course is the only real intelligent thing to do—so you can recover, regroup, reorganize and reinvent a new game. Not to mention loose the stress and reclaim your sense of Self.
8) Don’t Fake It! “Truth” is by far the most magnetic and attractive attribute, and we all crave it like a drug. Especially during these crazy “point-the-finger” days when everything is so transparent. If you express the truth in your art, music, business, marketing, writing, life, etc., your fans and customers will support your mission and join your tribe. If you try to “hype it,” they’ll see through the ballyhoo like Superman sees through brick walls.
9) The last person you should consult when you’re faced with a big challenge or stuck in indecision is yourself! If it’s that important, bring in a trusted confidant or personal consultant to help you sort through the details.
10) Don’t complain about how hard it is. Everyone who has ever made it in showbiz worked hard. Rather, revel in how great it is to work hard on something worthy of giving it everything you’ve got.
11) Give it back! 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.
12) 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!
Important because every choice we make and every step we take triggers a series of extraordinary circumstances that will ultimately determine our destiny.
• Your music, acting, writing, art or film career is where it’s at today because of the daily choices & decisions you made in 2018.
• Your business is where it’s at today because of the daily choices & decisions you made in 2018.
• Your financial situation is where it’s at today because of the daily choices & decisions you made in 2018.
• You are the person you are today because of the daily choices & decisions you made in 2018.
Important because it’s fun to make new years resolutions. However, I think it’s more effective and productive to make daily or weekly ones. It’s easy to announce, “this will happen next year!” It’s much more productive to proclaim, “this will happen today or this week!”
I was 29 when I started Music Connection magazine. Zero money, zero experience. I couldn’t PROVE to anybody that MC was going to work. But I could KNOW it. I was holding it in my hands and reading it in my mind before I ever committed to actually doing it. Just like an actor sees the scene played out in her minds eye before she ever hears the word “Action!” Just like when a songwriter hears the music in his head before he ever writes it down.
Important because you may not be able to PROVE to investors, producers, agents, managers, staff or even friends and family that your crazy, genius idea 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.
Inside the box: where the known lives.
Outside the box: where possibility lives.
Inside the box: common sense at work.
Outside the box: experimentation at play.
Inside the box: withheld expression.
Outside the box: full self-expression.
Inside the box: where caterpillars dwell.
Outside the box: where butterflies soar.
Important because while others insist on tried & true, artists and entrepreneurs get anxious & antsy when confined to any regular routine. And while it’s the desire of others to maintain the status quo, it’s the destiny of artists to climb out of the box and report back to us what they find—through their lyrics, music, movies, screenplays, art, books and breathtaking performances.
Unfortunately, for some pro artists & treps, the end of 2018 doesn’t look that much different then it did back in January. Or for that matter from the year before!
— Has your income changed much?
— Has your personal time-management system or your daily routine changed much?
— Did you manage to breakthrough any of those barriers that prevent you from gaining ground?
— Did you exceed your goals? Did you go beyond this year’s projections?
— Have you grown your base? Improved your art? Upgraded your business? Revised your strategy?
— Are you still fighting the same demons you were fighting at the beginning of the year?
— Have the books you read, the seminars you took or the podcasts you listened to provoked any real, lasting results? Did you actually partake in any?
— Did you keep all the promises you made to yourself this year? Did you even make any?
— Are you still wondering when it’s all going to finally start working out?
Important because what if nothing changes? What if your current circumstances remain stuck where they are? What if the end of 2019 looks the same as today? Would you be okay with that? Or, is it time to finally consult with an intelligent advisor or a knowledgeable cohort who could help?
When you share the stories about all the irons you have in the fire it’s sure to impresses the heck out of everyone.
However the truth is, having too many irons in the fire puffs up your ego and keeps you stuck in an illusion that you’re getting somewhere.
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.
Having too many irons in the fire becomes food for distraction and fuel for confusion.
Important because the only red-hot 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.
“There’s the next mission and nothing else! The only thing that’s important to me is the next mission.”—Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man
— 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 get it.
— Assuming that no one knows the real you.
— Assuming that if you just keep doing what you’re doing, things will someday improve.
— Assuming that the decline of your business has to do with the times we live in.
— Assuming that when others finally understand what you’re trying to say they will side with you.
— Assuming that a representative from a big company will discover you, or buy you out some day.
— Assuming that since you’ve been doing this for so long, odds are you can’t fail.
— Assuming that “that’s just the way it is” is a true statement.
— 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 set in stone.
Important because assumption is the ball ‘n’ chain that slows the progress of our goals ‘n’ dreams to a crawl.