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.
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.