Artists & treps strive to be “relevant.” Why? Because we’re in this for life, and sustainability is imperative. Nobody wants to look like a dinosaur in their field. However, once you find your groove, achieve some success, and enter the comfort zone, fighting obscurity becomes a bigger challenge than getting there in the first place.
That said, the two things that breed relevancy are consistency and change (two opposing forces). Consistency is the act of constantly producing exceptional work that exceeds the expectations of our fans, followers, clients and customers, and that actually provokes eager anticipation for more. Change is the ever-present tug in all artists and treps, to learn, grow, innovate, re-create, invent, take risks, and push the boundaries.
When combined, consistency & change = relevance.
Important because it doesn’t matter if you’re an artist, musician, actor, writer, director, PR expert, or business owner. To the degree your work consistently exceeds expectation, to that degree you’ll continue to be relevant. Not like an Amazon robot. More like an unremitting pro.
Alas, we are doomed! Doomed to work and interact with showbiz morons for the rest of our lives. Why? Because our awesome industry is filled with them: moron agents, moron actors, moron writers, moron musicians, moron editors, moron producers, moron publishers, moron attorneys, moron staffers, moron employees, moron bloggers…
Question is, why do you continuously work with, and put up with the pettiness of morons at such an emotional, physical and monetary cost to you? And it’s absolutely moronic to use the incompetence of others as an excuse for why it’s taking so long for you or your project to advance: “I’d be much further down the road if it wasn’t for those morons!” Huh?
Heck, we even allow morons to dictate what songs are the best, what movies are the best, which artists are the best, who gets into the hall of fame, and what to wear to the Grammys!
Important because thank God we get to work with brilliant people too. People who are grounded, not flighty. Pros who are confident, not cocky. Team players who are committed to more for us, not more for me. And while the morons we work with slow us down, the smart people we work with raise us up, and elevate our game.
The question is, as the CEO of your creative career, are you content to produce half-ass work just to “get it out there?” Or are you committed to doing everything in your power to produce full-ass work that will strengthen your personal brand and blow away your fans, clients & customers?
Important because every success (or failure) stands on the shoulders of the leader of the band.
1. Your unique abilities, exceptional talents, and that uncommon quirk that no one else in the world has but you. Without them you’re toast.
2. Your incomplete to-do list of unfinished tasks, abandoned goals and postponed projects, staring you right in the face, and still waiting for you to take action.
3. That remarkable skill you have to “create” your way out of crummy circumstances. Without that, you’ll be constantly stalled by crummy circumstances throughout the year.
4. Your biggest goals, wildest dreams and strongest desires. They lead, you follow.
5. Your advisory board. Those few people (or that one person) in your life you can count on, confide in and consult with for advice, guidance, direction and inspiration.
6. Trust, in all those experiences you had in 2019 that taught you something. Confidence, in all the knowledge you acquired that lead you somewhere. And Faith, in that deeper wisdom you attained that prodded you to look deeper.
Important because the only thing you can’t take with you into 2020 is any hope of a better 2019.
What if we joined other like minded people and stood our ground together?
What if we spun a sign that expressed what we feel inside?
What if we spoke our truth, from deep inside our guts, right into the lens of a media camera?
What if we chose the perfect location, stood up on our own two feet and howled at the moon?
Important because our voice and our presence matters.
Knowledge provides a bigger picture, a wide angle lens to see how to get to where we’re going.
Experience validates that the knowledge is true…or not.
Wisdom makes all the critical choices and decisions when knowledge and experience flinch.
Desire takes knowledge, experience and wisdom and turns them into a lifelong game worth playing.
Important because for the pro artist/trep, the biggest block to knowledge, experience and wisdom is the arrogant attitude that “I already know.”
Show Biz is the only biz that you break into. You don’t break into plumbing, you don’t break into nursing, and you certainly don’t break into politics. However, you break into Show Biz. Why? Because we assume the door is locked, therefore, we have to break it down to get in the building! Huh? Then, after we’re in, people laugh and say, “What a lucky break!” Huh?
It’s time to let go of that mythical, antique slogan and realize that our awesome entertainment biz is the only industry where the door is always unlocked, always wide open, and always on the lookout for the next great song, an inspiring screenplay, a stellar production, a great movie or TV series, a mind blowing startup, a jaw dropping performance, a creative artist with an extraordinary talent, or a brave entrepreneur with an impossible vision.
Important because somewhere between impossible and hope there’s a less-traveled road that leads to all possibilities. The best part is there’s no toll booth, turnpike or stop signs!
1) You’ve been faking it for so long you’re exhausted and it’s getting harder to keep up the charade.
2) You’re selling a new story: instead of telling people where you’re headed, you’re telling them stories of where you’ve been.
3) You’re still waiting for someone to walk in and save you and your career or your business.
4) Not making it for so long has become the new normal.
5) Every time you’ve come close to the brass ring, you’ve been afraid to let go and reach out for it.
6) You’re stuck in a thinking that “success” has to match your definition.
7) You resist “change” as if it were the enemy.
8) You’re too embarrassed to admit to yourself or others that it’s time to fold up the tent.
9) You will never admit or even listen to the notion that the choices and decisions you’ve made in the past are the reason you are where you are today.
10) You need help and you’re too proud to ask for it.
Important because nothing on this list is more important than #2. If you can (honestly & confidently) start telling people where you’re headed instead of where you’ve been, that would mean the other 9 reasons don’t apply to you.
A crummy song sung by a great singer?
A great song sung by a crummy singer?
A crummy screenplay performed by a great actress?
A great screenplay performed by a crummy actress?
A crummy product sold by a reputable brand?
A great product sold by an unknown?
Important because even a great actress can’t make a crummy movie a box-office hit. Craft outshines uniformity. And even though the industries of certainty are disrupting all around us, and even though we have entered into a time of political ambiguity, what matters most during this time is the art we create, the songs we compose, the books we write, the movies we direct, the worthwhile content we produce, and the worthy ideas we manifest. And that art and those manifestations will outlast and outlive adversity and mediocrity, and they will be remembered, recalled, recited and reproduced over and over again for generations to come.
It’s frustrating when we stand tall in the middle of our creative career and confidently point in the direction we’re headed, only to be dismissed by those who just don’t understand.
It’s defeating when we are absolutely certain that our talent, idea or product has the potential to be great, and make a difference, but others don’t or can’t see the vision.
It’s sad when our best effort can’t even get off the ground because others scratch their heads and just don’t get it.
Important because we can never stop the incessant, ongoing process of inventing and devising clear, clever, articulate ways of asserting who we are, explaining what we do, describing what we have to offer, and clarifying what we expect in return.
It’s not you, it’s not your work, and it has nothing do with your talent, ability or skill. It’s all about constant interruptions!
Constant interruptions scatter our thoughts, thwart our creativity, kill our motivation, and wreak havoc on our productivity.
Yet we somehow continue to boast about our ability to multitask, and treat constant interruptions as a given in today’s culture of endless distractions.
Important because it’s not a given! We always have a choice how we spend our time! And our big goals, worthy projects and biggest dreams, are all screaming to get as much of it as they can! Here’s a wakeup call: Time spent = progress made.
It’s a powerful honest statement. No one will think less of you for saying it. It’s a statement that shows your willingness not to get stuck in a righteous standoff. It’s a statement that suggests that you’re still mulling something over and trying to get to the heart of the matter. In fact, it’s a state of mind that we should stand in most of the time.
If you were sure, it would mean you played it safe and followed the rules of predictable protocol.
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.
Important because a pro artist or entrepreneur is never sure, about anything. Doesn’t matter if you’re composing music, writing a script, shooting a video, writing a book, standing on stage 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 and unlimited possibilities. Not like living in doubt, more like leaving the door open so that opportunity doesn’t even have to knock.
As creative artists & treps we easily get swept away with those grand ideas, visions, words and sounds we see and hear in our heads. So swept away in fact that our own creative fantasies and dreams can actually knock us off course and distract us from the very real work that needs to be done in order to keep progressing.
Important because here’s a reminder: You don’t have to pursue every single great, genius, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping idea you have.
In spite of all the risk, struggle, insecurity, doubt 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. And I’ve never met a business owner who when he finally closed his doors regretted opening them in the first place. That said, in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.
Important because whatever barriers rise to stop our progress or block our way, the mere process of creating, conceiving, experimenting, designing, inventing, or simply attempting, will never let us down.
“It takes a worried man to sing a worried song, I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long” —Woody Guthrie
The one thing we artists & treps have in common is that we worry too much! Mostly about the future. Why? Because we’re charged with inventing it from nothing—then we stake our entire livelihood on it! And if our insides are “shake’n like a leaf on a tree” that’s one of the many side effects of living an independent, entrepreneurial, creative life.
Important because we are not alone in our plight. There’s a huge group of us creative worriers. And behind every great jaw-dropping success there are artists & entrepreneurs who faced difficult internal worries and personal struggles. However, they chose not to pause or flinch or wait around to be rescued. Instead they chose to somehow, someway, at some point in the midst of their worries, figure out a way to stand up on their own two feet and take the necessary steps to rescue themselves.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve hit the career lottery or, suddenly your hard work is paying off and finally moving forward with velocity. Here’s what to do when things start to happen:
1. Beware of self sabotage: It will do you in every time. It causes great opportunities to crash, sends dreams & goals back to the “waitlist” and can bring to a screeching halt the actual progress you’re celebrating right now. Be vigilant of your own dark side creeping in to wreak havoc.
2. Check your ego: fight the urge to get cocky & arrogant and embrace the impulse to be grateful & humble. Never forget, out of all the rides in the amusement park, you chose the exciting rollercoaster that always goes up…and then it always goes back down, ad infinitum.
3. Play Much Bigger: Now is not the time to take your foot off the pedal. Now is the time to floor it! Start to up the ante on your dreams and goals and begin to ratchet up your career commitments. Now is also a great time to hire a personal coach or jump into an online class or webinar to sharpen and enhance those unique skills that got you here in the first place.
4. Rethink the people you work with: 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, now is the time to make them, while you’re in power mode.
Important because while you’re sitting at the top of the mountain with newfound confidence and wisdom, now is also the time to: share something that will motivate us, teach us something that will help us, show us something that will inspire us and give us a ray of hope with your acquired wisdom, seasoned experience and unique talents.
Pointing to others’ struggles as some sort of clannish, cliquish solidarity is a petty excuse for not advancing.
“I’m not the only struggling artist, other artists are struggling too!”
“I’m not the only business owner feeling the pinch, others are feeling it too!”
“I’m not the only musician who can’t get my music heard, nobody can!”
“It’s not just me, everybody’s having a tough time!”
Important because if you allow the plight of others to lure you into their drama, you’ll start to forget who you are and start to believe you’re one of them. You’re in this alone. Put on your blinders and dig in.
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 from our staff, bandmates, partners, agents, managers, advisors, reps, etc. That said, here’s the only method that works for me:
Gather the info, expel the gossip, research the facts, analyze the data, poke the evidence and explore all the possibilities.
Then discuss the outcome with a trusted cohort, advisor or knowledge expert. Debate the downside, dispute the upside, argue your point and consider all POV.
Then go inside. Take the knowledge you’ve acquired, right into your private time, thought process, daily meditation or whatever methods of personal solitude you choose and simply “contemplate.” Let the noise dial down, as your inner wisdom bubbles up. Ask yourself if you’re willing to accept the truth even if you don’t agree with it. Allow your intuition to enlighten you, nudge you, tug you, pull you, sway you and lead you toward your own “deep truth.”
Then take the requisite action to make those tough, risky, ambitious decisions with confidence, clarity and wisdom. Not out of confusion, or frustration, or because others say so. But rather out of your own intelligent research and your own deep truth.
Repeat this process in your art, your job, your business, your personal life and with all your big goals and impossible dreams.
Important because when you mix intelligent research with deep truth it always points to the choice you should be making and the path you should be taking.
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 and 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, a small biz or a big Corp.
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.
Important because 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 we’re left with the same ol’, same ol’.
Every single day, a plan, a plot, a project, a scheme 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 business deal that needs a push. A website that needs to be built or updated. A relationship that needs to be dealt with.
Important because sometimes our best-laid plans work out, far beyond our 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 that we’re NOT doing that continue to keep us uptight, worked up and edgy.
It’s the apprehension of not getting it right or failing that presents the biggest challenge. 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, if the fear of blowing it subsides, you lose your best shot at producing art and commerce that really matters!
Important because when our work becomes safe and routine, the artist/trep 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.
I’m re-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, circumstances and remind me that every breath I take, every move I make and every step I take, in some small quantum way affects everyone and everything.
I’ve written about UBUNTU in the past, however this time it struck me particularly deep. In his 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.”
Important because this game may be difficult to play for most of 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 self-regard, more like collaboration.
“…I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from win and lose and still somehow, it’s life’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know life at all.”—Joni
I’m sure there are plenty of books that proclaim: “The Top 10 Ways to Handle an Unexpected Catastrophe.” But when you’re suddenly blindsided by a career or life altering tornado you’re not going to run off and buy a book! At least not until the dust settles and you have the time to read it.
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 when an artist/trep is up against the wall she will immediately begin to conjure up ideas, invent solutions and explore options right on the spot. I’ve often said that whenever I’m confounded with challenging circumstances I much prefer a creative thinking pro by my side, even if it’s a sudden, life threatening medical challenge! And of course I rely on the advice and coaching from expert specialists! But I also seek out the wisdom of those proven, qualified writers, thinkers and pros who dive into the deep end of the pool and explore the uncharted depths of unlimited possibilities.
I don’t know the answers and I don’t have a top 10 list. We all get slammed in different ways. I do know that while the fear and confusion is very real, what’s most important is how we react to it. When I am hit with an unexpected catastrophe I immediately try to hunker down, take heed and surround myself with my inner circle. I move out that which does not serve the moment and slam the door on gossip and rumor. Then I diligently scour the global infosphere for factual guidance. I also let my emotions run free on their own without any concern about being appropriate. In fact, being appropriate is the last thing I’m concerned about when I’m swimming in the dark sea surrounded by sharks!
Important because when we find ourselves standing toe-to-toe with the demon of disaster the best thing we can do is trust the experiences we’ve had to teach us, honor the knowledge we’ve acquired to lead us, have confidence in our talents, abilities & skills to support us and have faith in that “deeper wisdom” we’ve attained to help us navigate the perplexing labyrinth we’ve unexpectedly found ourselves lost in.
If you’re a regular reader of my blogs & stories you already know that I’m a huge advocate for artists & entrepreneurs. That’s because I’ve been both all my life and in my world there’s no difference between the two. They both dwell in the land of uncertainty and risk and they both have to use creativity and innovation to negotiate their way through it. That’s not all…
A songwriter composes the music he hears in his head.
An entrepreneur creates a vision for the future that she sees in her mind’s eye.
A painter prepares a canvas for her next artistic expression.
An entrepreneur prepares a Powerpoint presentation for his next keynote.
A writer processes words that stimulate and entertain.
An entrepreneur processes words that motivate and inspire.
A singer nervously stands in front of his audience and shares his soul.
An entrepreneur nervously stands in front of her shareholders and shares her vision.
Neither one would last long in a regular 9-5 job because both have a relentless muse and an untamable creative spirit which they simply MUST follow. And unlike others, A&E’s have an advantage: the unique ability to devise, create, invent, fabricate, formulate, manifest and cook-up ways to make a buck.
Important because if our world ever crashes, it will be the crazy, genius artists and risk-taking entrepreneurs who will survive to inspire us and point the way out of the rubble and into the light.
As artists & treps, the urgency to choose and the pressure to decide, along with everyday “breaking news” can be overwhelming, stressful and distracting. I feel that urgency 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 notes before I lose it. To finally arrive at a fait accompli, so I can get on with the next thing.
However, in a world of ever increasing speed, I think it’s okay to walk slow. You can still feel excited, still meet every deadline, still move forward with intention, just move through it all in slow motion. Think slow. Talk slow. Move slow. Act slow. And ignore those who would accuse you of procrastinating, it’s not the same. Procrastination is fueled with doubt and uncertainty. Slow is fueled with intelligence and skill, and laced with careful consideration.
Important because to the degree we can find a way to move through the details and circumstances of our career (and life) at a much slower pace with less urgency, to that degree our thinking will be clearer, our focus will be sharper and it will be a lot easier to zero in on that which is truly wanted and needed.
Nobody has ever made it in show 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.
— Those friends we call friends either encourage us to become the best versions of ourselves or they lock us into a version that works for them.
— Those folks we work with; in the studio, on the stage, behind the camera or in the office, either encourage us to do our very best work or validate our deepest feelings of unworthiness.
— Those people we are related to either acknowledge us for who we are now and support us in where we want to go, or continuously try to show they know what’s best for us.
Important because the people we hang with the most are the ones who either raise or lower our standards. Therefore, in addition to our old friends, family friends, funny friends and marginal friends we should really spend the lion share of our time with these three extraordinary friends:
1) A friend who is wiser and more grounded: to learn from, confide in and consult with.
2) A friend who’s at a similar place in life as we are: to laugh with and kick around crazy ideas.
3) A friend who needs our support & coaching: to remind us of the essential benefits of selflessness, empathy and generosity (especially with our time).
My favorite 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: Plan ahead.
Unreasonable: Things are changing so frick’n fast that planning ahead could leave you farther behind!
Reasonable: Never invest more than you’re willing to lose.
Unreasonable: If you really believe in your game, go all in!
Reasonable: If you ask for too much you may crash the deal.
Unreasonable: Never be afraid to make an unreasonable request.
Reasonable: Stop while you’re ahead.
Unreasonable: Ahead isn’t far enough!
Reasonable: Never stop trying.
Unreasonable: You got to know when to fold ‘um.
Important because “In the beginning everything I ever did or said or suggested, I was told I was being unreasonable. But none of it seemed unreasonable to me.” —John Lennon
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 are your immediate plans for the future? “It’s hard to explain.”
Sounds a bit arrogant to me. It suggests that your art, product or plans may be too esoteric or perplexing or over my head and it’s hard 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 fan, customer or advisor 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.
Important because you can’t build a dream if you can’t clearly and intelligently explain what it is.
I think sometimes it’s ok to let things fall apart. Let things go south. Let the whole idea or project breakdown, collapse and crash 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 decide if your idea, plan or project will live or die (better you than someone else). Breakdowns are too often misinterpreted as failures, but they’re not. They’re just part of the process. Believe me, I know you know this. I’m just reminding (both of us) of what we tend to forget in the hoopla and drama of a potential breakdown.
Important because breakthroughs are always preceded by breakdowns. And if we squirm to avoid the breakdowns, we actually deprive ourselves of the experience and wisdom from which breakthroughs are born.
Your fans may discard your latest work, but that’s much better than abandoning you.
Your customers may complain about your product or service, but that’s much better than saying good-bye.
Talent buyers may reject your art, but that’s much better than rejecting the artist.
Important because the way I see it, the more you swing from the skinny branches the more you will be critiqued & criticized, but that’s much better than being ignored!
“Be so good they can’t ignore you”—Steve Martin
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 and escort the elephant out of the room.
Important because whether we like it or not, escorting the elephant out of the room always provides a huge space for new options and possibilities, plus, opens new pathways to achieving significant breakthroughs in stalled or seemingly unsolvable situations.
— 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.