The world may have shrunk but choices for music, art, movies, TV and videos have expanded to the stratosphere. Why? Because we need an escape from the constant media barrage of doom & gloom, and creative artists seem to be the only ones who can provide it.
Important because now, more than ever, we are all desperately craving truth wherever we can find it. And now, more than ever, we need to hear your truth, roused from the dormant depths of your soul and passionately expressed in your music, writing, performing, producing and creative projects. Now, more than ever, we need the blazing light of your unique talent to shine brightly into the darkest corners of Humanity. Now, more than ever.
There are so many important things to do,
so many things to fix,
so many great ideas waiting to be born,
so many great songs to compose,
so many inspiring scripts to pitch,
so many characters to play,
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 and products & services that matter.
Important because excuses be damned!
I’ve been so fortunate in my showbiz career to work and consult with some of the most comitted, hard working, intelligent and talented artists and entrepreneurs. However, most of the time, the conversation is not focused on their success but rather their sins.
Here are just a few sins that we artists & treps consistently commit—against ourselves:
— Allowing the drama of the day to steal our focus and obstruct our work.
— Resisting “change” as if it were the enemy.
— Setting attainable goals instead of impossible ones.
— Sabotaging the project 3/4 of the way through.
— Faking it!
— Allowing others to direct our destiny.
— Procrastinating until we have to run a mad-dash to the finish.
— Permitting pettiness to dictate our to-do list.
— Allowing fear of failure to thwart a worthwhile project.
— Believing the demon of doubt is actually the voice of reason.
— Taking the low road even when the high road is always less congested.
— Waiting to become rich and famous, before helping others.
Important because absolution is in our control.
— Your music or acting career won’t advance without your persistent progression.
— Your story or script will never see the light of day without your continuous, ruthless resolve.
— Your business will never, ever grow without your willingness to change.
Important because things don’t get better on their own. In every hour of every day, we make choices and decisions that either affirm or deny the advancement of our dreams and goals.
One beautiful sunrise morning a man, a woman and a donkey began their journey down the bumpy road to the village for supplies. Being the head of the household, the man rode the donkey and the woman followed behind. After a while a passing traveler stopped the trio and said, “You should be ashamed of yourself! Making your poor wife walk behind as you sit on top!” So the man got off the donkey and the woman got on the donkey and the man walked behind. After a few miles in the baking mid-day sun another passing traveler said, “You should be ashamed of yourself! Riding high on your mount while making your tired husband walk behind after working all day!” So the husband got back on the donkey and nudged up close behind his wife and they rode together down the road. After a few miles in the setting sun, a third traveler said, “You should be ashamed of yourself, the two of you on the back of that tired old donkey!”
Important because no matter how many people admire us or admonish us we will never impress everyone with our endearing personality, satisfy everyone with our very best work or convince everyone that our way is the right way. The moral of this fable is to ride your donkey to the village, pick up your supplies and return home and don’t allow the criticisms of passersby to alter your strategy.
(This story was adapted from a 6th Century B.C. fable, from The Harvard Classics. Photo Credit: Martin Usborne)
Artists and treps spend a lot of time thinking, wondering, dreaming and imagining. That’s an extremely productive process for us. That’s how we create stuff. However, if someone suddenly walked in, it may look like we’re not doing anything. That’s why we make up a game called “I’m busy.” It’s the best ever excuse to tell friends, co-workers and family when we don’t want to participate. However the danger is we load ourselves up with faux busywork, and then convince ourselves that we really are too busy! Huh?
Important because It’s easy to look busy. Not so easy to look effective.
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 my 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 us awake at night—with excitement and anticipation, as opposed to worry and fear. It’s the kind of urgency that comes with knowing we’re on the right road, even though the final destination is unclear. It’s the kind of creative urgency that tugs at us from deep inside, and beckons us to search further, search deeper, for the answers, for the truth—in our art, in our work, and in our lives.
Important because it’s crucial that we continue to strengthen our ability to recognize the difference between the positive, stimulating urgency that pulls us forward and the negative, stressful, urgency that holds us back, and causes us to vacillate.
In addition to exceptional talent and extraordinary skills every artist and entrepreneur needs these three miracles:
1. Escort: We need somebody who believes in our mission, supports our efforts, points the way or introduces us to others in the inner circle with the wherewithal to make things happen. No one has ever accomplished their biggest goals or made it in the entertainment industry without a helping hand or expert direction from someone else. No one…ever.
2. Resolve: We need Herculean strength and Wonder Woman balls to dispel the noisy distractions of the day, and lift our cursory commitment up to a new level of ruthless resolve. And then park there indefinitely.
3. Luck? I’m not a believer in luck, it’s too illusive and unreliable for me. However, I love what Roman philosopher Seneca said: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” That said, I think the third miracle is less about luck and more about developing a razor-sharp, fail-safe antenna. So we can see & seize those sudden, unexpected opportunities without flinching or pausing to ponder. And while others depend on hope & luck, we need to keep our radar tweaked, and remain alert & aware enough to recognize the telltale signs of an impromptu opportunity. Just like smart market investors do.
Important because while it’s true that others look at artists & entrepreneurs like WE are the miracle workers, it’s also nevertheless true that we need all the miracles we can get, to help us create all the miracles that others expect from us.
— It keeps you thinking you’re on the right track.
— 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 selling yourself over and over.
— It feeds your fear of change.
Important because the world was a different place when your winning strategy was an original plan.
As soon as someone says, “there is no other way,” you can count on a creative artist or entrepreneur (who cares) to find another way.
Important because just because we arrive at a dead end doesn’t mean our joy ride is over.
1. We convince ourselves that what we’re already doing is actually working.
2. Our resistance to change slows our progress to a crawl.
3. We struggle and procrastinate way too long with important choices & decisions.
4. We hire and hang with people who agree with our way of working.
5. We don’t know what else to do, so we do nothing…or repeat the same o’l, same o’l.
6. We’re resistant to learn and reluctant to make full use of the tech tools available today that could actually make a profound difference in the results we produce.
7. We’re too proud to hire an experienced coach or consultant, who could help move things forward.
8. We use the excuse, “it’s because of the money.”
9. We justify, “it’s because of the technology.”
10. We buy the story, “things will eventually return to normal.”
11. We convince ourselves, “we’re not worthy.”
12. We remind ourselves, “it’s all about the journey.”
And while the journey itself has it’s rewards, remaining stuck and stagnant without forward movement is more of a never ending round trip to where you’re already sitting right now.
Important because the question to ask yourself is: What is the real (deep) truth of why it’s taking so long?
– Better question: What will you do if nothing changes and it continues to creep along at this petty pace?
1. Choose! The biggest reason we procrastinate and can’t make important choices and decisions is because we’re afraid of making the wrong choices and decisions. Keep the game moving forward. Do the deep research, gather the facts, consult with a trusted expert, then make those important choices. Don’t flinch. Don’t pause. Keep the ball moving down the field.
2. Loosen your grip! Holding a firm grip on how the end result must look only blinds you from seeing the unlimited options and possibilities that are available. Especially today, in every area of the entertainment industry.
3. Raise the bar! We set the bar too low, thinking that winning the small ones now will give us the courage to go for the big ones later. But that’s a trap. Winning the small ones only keeps us stuck in an illusion that we’re getting somewhere. If you look deep, and tell the truth, you know you’re capable of playing a much bigger game.
Important because the way to advance the ball down the field is to stop wondering and start doing that which you’ve been resisting, that which you’ve been avoiding, and that which you know in your heart you should be taking action on.
While others remain puzzled about politics, confused about the economy and anxious about the future, the pros are busy growing their companies, improving their craft, upgrading their tech, mastering their art and recreating their future.
Important because every one of us artists & entrepreneurs fight the same enemies; uncertainty, rejection, confusion and indecisiveness. And while none of us like the battle, the difference is, pros take it in stride and keep moving forward, while others take it personally and prolong their plight.
1. Why did I pursue this in the first place?
2. Have I completed my mission?
3. Why do I feel the need to change?
4. What do I have to gain by changing course—how will my life/career be different?
5. Will this change cause a hardship for others?
6. Am I enthusiastic about the possibilities that could arise out of making this change?
7. Am I willing to take the necessary steps to initiate this change?
Important because while “never quit” may be our mantra, there are times when quitting or changing course is the only real intelligent thing to do—in order to make use of the very best talents we have, and bring us closer to the lifestyle we desire. I think as pro artists/treps we need to remain vigilant and aware of those signs that tell us when it’s time to shift direction, so we can recover, regroup, reorganize and reinvent a new game.
— If struggling worked, you’d be winning the fight.
— If lots of irons in the fire worked, you’d be a hot commodity by now.
— If setting a frantic pace worked, you’d be taking a victory lap.
— If spreading yourself thin worked, you’d be spending more time experiencing new adventures and less time sweating the same o’l, same o’l.
Important because while struggling and sweating may impress your friends it does absolutely nothing to win over those who would ever consider working with you.
It’s not new news to any of us artists/treps who have spent a lifetime working in show business that the conversations we have and the agreements we make with others in our creative industry are often unreliable, unpredictable and fluid at best.
Important because realizing this phenomenon and accepting it will give us a leg up, and help us communicate and negotiate with more clarity, determination and precision.
It’s so easy to get tangled up in what we’re doing. Our to-do list rules the day, the news of the hour dulls our motivation and blurs our creative thinking, and giving away so much time to clicking & cruising fools us into thinking we’re accomplishing something.
That said, it’s what we are “not” doing that could move the dial and make a difference. It’s the confronting work we resist that could produce the breakthrough we so desperately crave. It’s chipping away at all those grand ideas we dream about, that we know deep down inside, that’s what we should be giving our time to today.
Important because if we start doing what we are “not” doing we would probably get much better at doing it more often.
Knowing where you’re going is top priority. The commitment to get there is a very close second.
You don’t need to know how you’re going to get there.
You don’t need to know how you’re going to pay for it.
You don’t need to know who’s going with you.
You don’t even need to know how much, how many, or how come?
You just need to stand tall on your own two feet, point a steady finger in the direction you want to go and make a ruthless commitment that “come hell or high water” you’ll get there.
Important because to the degree your commitment is unwavering, to that degree the important pieces will noticeably reveal themselves. Not like positive thinking, more like constructing a tabletop puzzle.
— Set impossible goals (like balancing on a ball).
— Make a ruthless commitment to achieve the goal. (Elephants are very trusting. She will believe you and commit too).
— Practice! Practice! Practice! (Mostly the trainer). Repetition is key. Master your craft.
— Use compassion as a reward. (Mostly for the trainer. Elephants already have it in their DNA).
— Acknowledge often. (Mostly for the trainer, to build confidence. Helpful for the elephant too).
— Never punish. Neither the trainer nor the elephant…ever.
— Patience. Use it like a verb.
Important because elephants are smarter, stronger, happier and more inspired when they know what the goal is and how to achieve it. Just like their trainers.
Haven’t we read enough books on communication yet? Didn’t we learn anything from all those seminars we took and TED Talks we watched? What will it take for us to realize that miscommunications and misunderstandings disrupt our creative process and slow our projects to a crawl? And why do we allow such pettiness to derail our goals and delay our dreams?
Important because the result of this conversational apathy is that ordinary discussions are misunderstood, urgent documents are poorly written and hastily proofed, important meetings are carelessly organized, deals don’t go down, and the money never makes it to the bank! Meanwhile, attorneys get rich, sorting out the sea of miscommunications and misunderstandings that abound in this industry. Ultimately, it all leads to stress, frustration, anxiety, and needless to say a total waste of time and money. Not to mention the fact that the creative part of our career gets helplessly entangled in the drama and hoopla of the business part! That said, in our everyday interactions with the people we work with, the people we serve, the help we hire and the experts we trust we need to insist on clear, precise communication in every corner of our career, and demand it in every area of our life!
The volume is getting louder and the distractions are getting harder to tune out; news, media, the Trump show, politics, weather, tech, markets, etc. We’re moving further away from productivity and sinking deeper into the hoopla and I’m not sure that the noise train is going to slow down anytime soon.
Important because I am sure of this: that which we give our attention to will scale. That which we give our time to will advance. That which we act on will produce results. If we give our time and attention to our biggest dreams and desired goals, it’s guaranteed we’ll get closer and closer. If we give our time and attention to the distractions of the day, it’s guaranteed we’ll sink deeper and deeper. That which we give our attention to scales.
“This is the only option we have.”
“This is how it really works.”
“There is no other way.”
“Allow me to explain.”
Important because our industry is currently operating in “anything goes” mode where imaginative, ingenious possibilities rule the roost. Therefore, we need to be vigilant of people with answers. We need to be aware of worn out protocol. We need to leave the door wide open for the unimaginable.
Progress is my drug of choice.
Like that feeling you get when you step on a scale and weigh less. It motivates you to lose more.
Like finally working out a complex song lyric or complicated composition. It inspires you to raise the bar on the next one.
Like figuring out an app and realizing how it completely changes the way you do something. It emboldens you to figure out another one.
Like when your new, risky marketing idea produces OMG results, you’re inspired to try more risky ideas.
Important because progress is addicting. Once you experience it you want more. Once you see how far you’ve come you’re driven to go further.
Important because technology continues to disrupt and change everything in our awesome industry with no corner untouched: music, publishing, distribution, management, television, gaming, theater, radio, etc.. Even the old dinosaur gatekeepers have left their post, leaving the rest of us to figure out for ourselves how to break through the invisible barriers to entry.
That said, here are a few essentials that will never change, not like a rigid to-do list, more like a constantly evolving watch list:
— Revisit, redesign, reimagine and recommit to that which you say must be completed, resolved, manifested or begun. Do some personal soul searching and rediscover or reinvent what it is you really want. Remind yourself what truly matters. Remind yourself what your biggest most important dream/goal is. Then ask yourself, “What am I committed to?” Doing this process is really the very beginning and the most essential part of any successful endeavor.
— Review your support team & inner circle (staff, agents, managers, bandmates, sales team, coaches, consultants, techs, partners and toxic people). 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 and your goals. 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 you can find, who are aligned with your vision and committed to the task at hand, not to wait around for people to change, improve or grow up.
— 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.
— Practice Practice Practice! Our craft is everything. Doesn’t matter if it’s composing, performing, directing, acting, writing, consulting, teaching or running a business. We need to continue to improve and get great at the nuts & bolts of what we do, because the nuts & bolts are changing too! And the only way to get great is to lock ourselves in our studio, penthouse office, or creative space and do the work. The deliberate work, the committed work, the focused work, the repetitious boring work, the work that we resist doing, the work that scares the hell out of us, the work that allows us to maintain the awesome lifestyle of a crazy, genius, independent, artist/trep. Because each day we hunker down and do the work, is another day closer to achieving the personal greatness we so desire.
— 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 follow you, 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.
— 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. Make sense?
Important because every choice we make, every step we take, and every bond we break triggers a series of extraordinary circumstances that will ultimately determine our destiny.
If we are truly crazy, genius, artists & treps, then we might as well set our goals to Mars. However don’t expect to get there. We’ll either fall short and land on the moon, or travel much further than we ever dreamed and land on Pluto.
Important because when we commit to achieving the impossible, long distance travel is imminent.
While it’s true that continuous chipping away gets you closer to the goal, it’s also nevertheless true that what you’re actually chipping away is everything that doesn’t align with your commitment to advance & succeed. What you’re actually chipping away are activities & behavior that slow your progress to a crawl. What you’re actually chipping away is everything you are no longer willing to put up with.
Important because if you plan to build an elephant in 2018, you need to start chipping away at all the stuff that doesn’t look like an elephant.
Your music, acting, writing, art or film career is where it’s at today because of the daily choices & decisions you made in 2017.
Your business is where it’s at today because of the daily choices & decisions you made in 2017.
Your financial situation is where it’s at today because of the daily choices & decisions you made in 2017.
You are the person you are today because of the daily choices & decisions you made in 2017.
Important because it’s fun to make new years resolutions. I just don’t think they’re very effective or productive. However, I do think it’s very effective to make daily or weekly resolutions. It’s easy to announce, “this will happen next year!” It’s much more productive to proclaim, “this will happen today or this week!”
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 2017 draws to a close, stand in the very center of your crazy, independent, creative career and take a long, deep, honest, look around. 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.
Important because as the wizard of your world, take an intelligent look at what’s currently wanted and needed, then simply provide it—without fanfare, without praise, and without applause. Not like mythical magic, more like contemporary pragmatism.
The ground is dependable. That’s why we need to stand our ground, even when the ground starts shaking. Here’s how to tell if you’re grounded:
— You’re grounded if you consistently remain ruthlessly committed to your dream, your goal and your mission, even when petty distractions try to tempt you off course.
— You’re grounded if you can actually make smart, well thought out choices and decisions, even if they are last minute.
— You’re grounded if things are progressing, moving forward and getting accomplished—even if it’s a slow evolution.
— You’re grounded if you’re making enough to keep your world financed—even if it’s just enough.
Important because grounded doesn’t mean set, stuck or resolute. What it means is that you’re in touch with reality, even when things seem unreal, and you’re able to intelligently navigate the chutes & ladders that come your way, even when there are more chutes than ladders.
Most of us artists & treps are always searching for deeper truth and honesty wherever we can find it. Not only from our leaders, but also in our art, our business and our careers. Genuineness and authenticity are paramount when you’re running a business, building an empire, or creating something from nothing. And it’s a struggle to find conversations that are free from the continuous hypnotic blather of gossip, rumor, hearsay and drama of the day.
That said, back in the day when I felt like I was being eaten alive by the hoopla of Hollywood, I always found someone to take a deep dive into a bigger conversation with; a mate, a friend, certain employees, certain clients. For me it’s like a drug. I need the fix of a deeper exchange or I’m out of balance—out of whack. I try to surround myself with friends that need the same drug, who prefer more stimulating dialog. I even build in weekly chats with enlightened, transformed associates, colleagues and clients who need the same fix.
Important because I’m afraid if we don’t have a deeper discourse on a regular basis, with like-minded cronies, free from the distraction of everyday, commonplace chinwagging, we can easily lose touch with our dharma, our purpose, what we’re really committed to and what we are capable of achieving.
– What project is screaming at you to be started, completed or manifested?
– What confronting issues need to be addressed, before you can move forward?
– What are you avoiding that you know you should be pursuing?
– What is the truth that continuously whispers to you from deep within, that gets drowned out by all the other noise?
Important because of the mighty resistance that shows up when we artists & treps confront these simple questions.
• Bits & pieces of music & lyrics scrawled on bits & pieces of paper, waiting for their turn to hopefully, someday, contribute to your biggest score.
• Sentences & paragraphs omitted from scripts & stories stand patiently in the wings anxiously awaiting their turn to speak.
• Scribbled concepts, designs, sketches and ideas lie lifeless on a yellow pad anticipating the day when a sudden spark of inspiration will bring them to life.
Important because we must never neglect our backlog of ideas. Unlike turkey these leftovers never rot.