1. Low Expectations: You set the bar too low, thinking that winning the small ones now will give you the courage to go for the big ones later. But that’s a trap.
* Winning the small ones only keeps you stuck in an illusion that you’re getting somewhere. Raise the bar.
2. Knowing too much: Thinking you have all the answers because you have an education, or experience, or money, or previous success.
* There’s no right or wrong road to success today. That’s what the techno revolution is all about—absence of formula! Try waking up in the morning with a “beginners mind” and proceed from there.
3. Inflexible: Rigid, jammed and stuck on how it has to be.
* Holding a firm grip on how the end result must look only blinds you from seeing the unlimited options and possibilities that are available.
4. Unfocused: Fooling yourself into thinking that you have a clear vision of where you’re headed.
* Constantly switching gears and changing direction only prolongs progress. And it doesn’t mater if you’re a fledgling drummer or a corporate exec. Get a clear vision of your big impossible dream and recommit every day…every single day. Not like positive thinking, more like positive doing.
5. Undisciplined: Wasting more energy worrying, wishing, and wondering than actually putting in the time to improve, excel, and advance.
* Put in the time.
6. Stuck in indecision: Unable to make important choices and decisions because you’re afraid of making the wrong choices and decisions.
* Keep the game moving. Do the deep research, gather the facts, then throw the dart…then throw it again…
7. Shaky Confidence: Confidence Is Everything. It trumps experience, rivals talent and beats the beans out of a good education.
* If you can’t find any, fake it!
You can’t convince me that ideas don’t come to you the same way they come to me. The only difference is the gap. That constant streaming download of new ideas & inspiration is always searching for openings or gaps to slip through. The wider the gap the more ideas & solutions can get in. Make sense?
Important because the way to widen the gap and open the floodgates of unlimited possibilities is to loosen our tight grip on the way things MUST turn out, and rethink our circumstances even though we KNOW we’re right. Not like giving up or giving in, more like giving way to alternative thinking and expanded POV.
In the 2011 Cameron Crow film We Bought A Zoo, Matt Damon’s character has lived a (challenging) life with one credo: “All it takes is 20-seconds of insane courage!” And that’s the one line in the script that has stayed with me long after the film met it’s demise—simply because that line is so incredibly potent.
I think about that line when I hear the stories of people doing courageous acts of heroism.
I think about that line especially when I’m confronted with a risky decision or a challenging choice.
I think about that line every time resistance and procrastination stand between me and doing the right thing.
I think about that line just before I have to admit I was wrong, made a mistake, or really screwed up.
Important because I know takes a courageous character to choose the life of an artist or entrepreneur, especially when you know the paycheck may not be equal to your talent, and your best work may be rejected. However, I have learned that when that moment of “do or die” finally arrives, all I really need is 20-seconds of insane courage to mute my inner critic, knock fear on its ass, and send uncertainty scream’n for the door!
Take in to your career (and life) that which inspires you, empowers you, and moves you forward.
Expel out everything that no longer supports you or serves your highest desire.
Important because most artists & treps are quick to take in, but are slow to release.
While it’s the destiny of others to meet expectations and maintain the status quo, it’s the destiny of crazy, genius artists and courageous entrepreneurs to sneak out the side door and head out on the highway, searching for adventure in whatever comes their way.
Important because it’s hard to blend in when you were born to stand out.
It’s frustrating when we stand in the middle of our creative career and confidently point in the direction we’re headed, only to be criticized by those who just don’t understand.
It’s sad when our best effort can’t even get off the ground because others just don’t get it.
Important because we can never stop the ongoing process of inventing and devising clear, clever, honest, articulate ways of explaining who we are, what we have to offer, and what we expect in return.
I have them too! And I’ve noticed that breakdowns and upsets are pretty much always a double-sided affair. On the outside, they’re an inevitable part of life, which manifest in many different forms at unpredictable times. On the inside they can often become a critical, “oh my god!” situation. That mix sets the stage for a crazy-thinking dynamic right from the start.
In closely observing my own challenges, I have noticed two distinct parts of a breakdown that tug & pull with equal strength:
1) The Dark Part: You become hypnotized, traumatized, stunned, stifled and stopped by the drama of the breakdown, and the words hopeless, miserable and confused begin to bounce around between your ears.
2) The Light Part: A strong desire to “get your groove back” and break through the breakdown, so you can get on with the task of building and maintaining a great career/life going forward.
When our attention and energy is primarily directed toward the dark part, we lose our power over the light part. Here’s how to get your power back:
First: Stand up on your own two feet and declare that a breakdown has occurred in your life! Say it out loud and stare at it right in the face! This process alone has power. Not like positive thinking, more like simply declaring the truth about what has been churning inside for too long.
Second: Plant the flag and make a ruthless commitment that come hell or high water you will get through this. Not like wishful thinking, more like taking a profound stand that “enough is enough!” That you are done living in the dark side of the breakdown.
Third: Get to work on fixing what is broken. You can do this. You have the intelligence to fix this. You have the inner wisdom to figure this out. You have the ability to “create” your way out of this breakdown. Stop being afraid of making the wrong move and start moving things around. That alone will get the balling rolling to the light side of the court.
Important because we do our best work when we’re on the field calling the next play and moving the ball forward. Not sitting on the sidelines wishing and wondering how to get back in the game. That said, when we begin to make those tough choices and decisions that we’ve been resisting and avoiding, that starts to move the ball. And once the ball gets rolling we start thinking clearer. And once that happens the breakdown itself begins to breakdown.
Hope this helps…
And the Artist rested, after an exhausting week of battle, some of it physical, most of it mental, all of it worth it.
And the Artist rested, after a confronting week of intimately interacting with others, who for the most part, may not have regarded a word she said.
And the Artist rested, after a weary week of winning some battles, losing others, and feeling indifferent towards the war itself.
And the Artist rested, after a perplexing week of making choices and decisions; not the obvious ones, or even the necessary ones, but the ones that relentlessly confronted her from the inside:
What should I do next?
How can I make this work?
Am I capable of doing this?
What if I’m wrong?
And the Artist laid her weary mind to rest, for just this hour, knowing that soon enough a new hour will beckon a new battle.
I get so many emails about money. Here’s the way I see it (and live it):
While others frantically fret about not having enough, we’ve been handed an unlimited all-access pass to the creative field of ALL possibilities—along with the knack for cooking up ways to make a buck, save it, spend it and give it away. Why us? Because we’re different than the others. We’re crazy, creative, genius, artists, entrepreneurs, and the right hemisphere of our brain fires on all quantum, cellular cylinders. Face it, we’ve had the gift for “making things up” since we were kids. Whether it was turning a rock into a toy, a doll into a princess, or a bag of marbles into a game. And making up ways to make more money is just another game! Here’s a clue: inventing ways of manifesting more money comes from the same creative, divine energy as composing a score, writing a script, portraying a character, painting a picture or devising a new plan to market your business and motivate your team.
Important because instead of relying on the tired, worn-out excuse of “not being able to do your life’s work because of money pressures,” perhaps you could try inventing new, innovative ways to provoke more of it to flow your way. So you can get on with the task of doing your life’s work.
There’s no excuse any more for not getting it right. There’s just so much information available, so many useful tech-tools, so many ways to get the answers we need to take our talent or business to the next level, and so many coaches and consultants to help us get there. However, even with all the answers right in the palm of our hand, we rarely get it perfect.
Important because the creative mind of a crazy, genius artist/entrepreneur is always on the hunt for flaws, searching for imperfections and relentlessly fixing holes where the rain gets in, right up to the final take. Not like perfectionists, more like pragmatists. Simply because we know deep down inside, that while others may be charged with helping us get there, we alone will be held accountable for the final result.
The one thing independent artists & treps have in common is that we worry about our future. A lot! Why? Because we’re charged with making it up day after day from nothing. And every choice we make and every step we take has a profound effect on our careers and our personal lives. Then, we’re held accountable for the process and responsible for the outcome! Jeeeze! It would be much easier to have a high paying 9 to 5 job!
Important because when anxiety about the future keeps you toss’n & turn’n all night, and your insides are shake’n like a leaf on a tree, don’t choke! Stand your inner ground! Anxiety thrives on “What If?” and loathes the truth. And the truth is, you have managed to create your way out of every single problem and challenge you’ve ever had in your entire life, right up to this moment. And for better or worse, you endured. There’s no reason on earth why that trend won’t continue for the rest of your life. Do the deep research, ferret out the facts, then follow your intuition in the direction IT wants to go.
Let’s take a look under the hood: What is the motor that’s driving your desire to succeed? What do you have at stake?
Your reputation? Your income? The survival of your career? Do you have your pride at stake? Your dignity? Are the lives and well-being of others at stake? Do you have your family at stake? Your kids? Do you still need to prove something to somebody; your friends, your family or yourself?
Having something at stake is the greatest of all motivators. It gives purpose, grants meaning and provides reason. It also sharpens focus, validates intention, beefs up resolve and pumps hot adrenalin through your veins.
Having something at stake is not the same as desperation, which provokes “manic panic.” Having something at stake is more like working like there’s something more important to you than just the frills & thrills of victory.
Important because if you don’t have anything at stake, if you’re just going through the motions, then you need to make up a new game. A bigger one. With new rules. With something important at stake. Because not having anything at stake provokes the question: Why Bother?
In the 60’s it was all about tuning in & dropping out. Today it’s all about catching up, choosing sides and fitting in.
Catching up with those who we think are miles ahead.
Fitting in with those who we think have arrived.
Choosing sides with the group that appears to have it right.
Important because if catching up, choosing sides or fitting in hasn’t worked for us, perhaps we should try tuning in & dropping out: Tuning in to that which moves us closer to our goals and dreams. And dropping out of those distracting activities that slow the process, and prevent us from getting there.
Like it or not, if you’re living the life of an independent artist or entrepreneur, you’re alone at the helm. Oh sure, you may have a staff of assistants, band mates, collaborators, partners, a slew of advisors and a great mentor, however the truth is, you’re the architect of your enterprise, the CEO of your world, and the “Don” of your empire. And your personal support team could be terminated at the snap of a finger because you alone make the big “risky” choices and the uncertain, frightening decisions in your life and career.
The life of an artist/trep is truly about self-motivation, self-dependence, self-discipline, self-confidence, and self-validation. As an independent, crazy, creative genius, only you can motivate yourself to get up in the morning and create something that matters. Then, at the end of the day, it’s only you who truly knows what creative angst you’ve been through that day, what “inner” battles you’ve won or lost, who or what has challenged your efforts, and whether or not you surrendered to fear or resistance. At the end of the day, you rarely get an “atta boy” or a “you go girl,” because when your muse has given everything she’s got, it’s really only you who can acknowledge yourself for not giving up and surrendering to the pettiness of others or the pressures of money—whether you have too much or too little.
Important because solitude is a place to contemplate your most important work, not a place to hide from it.
I was sitting at Coffee Bean with a client who is a very successful P.R. person, and we were discussing her “willingness” to do what ever it takes to grow her company and expand her client roster. Finally I suggested that a conversation about what she was “unwilling” to do could be more interesting and valuable. At that point there was a pause the size of the Grand Canyon, and the dialog immediately shifted to the land of resistance and denial—which led to this question:
What are you “unwilling” to do to forward your art or enterprise?
— Are you unwilling to be the one to “step up” and resolve any communication breakdowns or personal/business conflicts with your partners, team, clients, band mates or board members that may be stalling or stopping the progress of your project?
— Are you unwilling to relax your tight grip on the way things were, and begin to embrace the way things are—especially with regard to technology, and the many changes currently disrupting our industry?
— Are you unwilling to give up being so desperately right about so many things (which only cause your artistic projects and entrepreneurial ventures to lose traction, fall behind and stress you out)?
— Are you unwilling to give up “guessing” and “self-diagnosing” on matters that only an (outside) expert should address? Especially during these challenging economic times when accuracy, productivity and efficiency are so vital.
— Are you unwilling to put at risk who you are for who you could become, even if it meant starting over?
Important because it’s so easy to proclaim what we’re willing to do, and so revealing to expose what we’re not.
Reworked from a story I wrote in 2012.
The game called “two steps forward, one step back” is rigged.
We take the two steps forward in stride. After all, those two steps forward are taking us in the direction we want to go. However, most people get hung up on the one step back. It makes us crazy. It feels like a failure. It suggests that we’re slowing down and not keeping up.
Important because if the game were completely fair it would be called “one step forward, one step back.” But it’s not a fair game. If it were, we wouldn’t get anywhere.
What style? What color? What size? How Much? Why buy?
For the especially talented artist, every choice is plagued with an endless, agonizing stream of perpetual possibilities. And for the super smart, risk-taking entrepreneur, every decision is overwrought with limitless, time-taxing, number crunching options. It can all be so overwhelming that most often, important choices and decisions remain on the back burner, simmering in a stew of indecision and procrastination.
Important because life is short, buy the shoes.
While The Cautious allow themselves to be easily distracted by social media, mainstream media, and the jaw dropping headline of the day, The Determined allow themselves to be consumed with their art, buried in their work, and overwhelmed with their big, worthwhile goals and dreams.
While The Cautious remain cautious about the economy and anxious about the future, The Determined are stepping out onto the skinny branches, making tough choices, confronting impossible decisions and taking big risks.
While The Cautious scratch their heads and wonder what to do next, The Determined are getting their hands dirty reworking their best work, growing their base, upgrading their websites and tech-tools, and relentlessly improving their craft and honing their skills.
Important because while The Cautious pause at the end of the day to admire their work, The Determined are burnt out at the end of the day working to improve theirs.
No matter how great a musician you are, you’re still mortal. That’s why they say “Take 2.”
No matter how skilled a writer you are, you’re still fallible. That’s why they call it “rewriting.”
No matter how successful a leader you are, your brilliant ideas will still meet with forceful resistance. That’s why they say “You may lose the battle but win the war.”
No matter how smart, good looking and talented you are, you will still smash head-on into brick walls.
Important because for some reason we artists & entrepreneurs need to be reminded that we are still only human.
An amateur takes failure personally and often builds it into a case for why he’s not a success.
A professional sees failure as an idea that didn’t work and she builds it into a case for further research and ultimately another attempt.
Important because the fact that our attempt failed is not a reflection of our worth as an artist or entrepreneur…or a human being. Just because you haven’t figured out a successful way of doing something (yet) doesn’t mean you are a failure. The idea just didn’t work. It’s a failure—and failures can be fixed.
Doing your job is expected. It’s a day after day process. It’s predictable, anticipated and ordinary. You get to say things like “I’m so busy working!” and people believe you. Do it well enough and you’ll get an “atta boy” or a “you go girl!”
Doing the work is different. It’s a moment-by-moment process. It’s confronting, loaded with resistance, and mostly a time-sucking pain in the ass. There’s no fanfare or glory when you’re doing the work and no one will pat you on the back. It’s a ruthless, challenging solo effort, the purpose of which is to get closer and closer to achieving your essential goals, biggest dreams and deepest prayer.
Important because we need to be careful that doing the job doesn’t get in the way of doing the work.
How can you not see that we need your skills and talent more than ever before, especially when our current reality is screaming for innovative solutions to solve impossible problems?
How can you not write encouraging stories, inspiring scripts and motivating movies when there is such a desperate cry for inspiration and truth?
How can you not compose exceptional music when there are so many of us fans searching for distinctive and meaningful songs, and so many ways to get your music on our radar.
How can you not grow or excel your worthy business when it’s so obvious that what we need today are entrepreneurs with a worthy mission?
How can you sit back and wait for someone else to step in and move your talent or business or career forward, when you have all the tools you need, and all knowledge known to man in the palm of your hand?
How can you not give us all you’ve got, every ounce, when there are so many who need your best work?
How can you not see that even in the midst of all the media hoopla and political challenges currently disrupting our culture and society, that the world is still in awe of dreamers, artist and creative people like you: talented people who entertain us, inspire us and provoke us to think for ourselves. And who somehow find the courage to drum up the boldness to express their truth, out loud, through their exceptional talent, inspiring art, and new, innovative products and services that help us move forward and reach further. We’re certainly not depending on our leaders for that! We’re depending on you, the creative artist and the risk-taking entrepreneur to create, manifest and contribute your art & enterprise for the benefit of all of us! How can you not see that we are counting on you, dear crazy, creative genius, to teach us, inspire us, entertain us and lead us into an unknown future?
Important because if I give you the ball and you don’t advance the ball, pass me the ball back!
What must happen?
Why do you think it must happen? Why else?
How will it happen? How else?
Who will be the one(s) to make it happen?
When will it happen?
Important because nothing will happen until you resolve these questions.
The reason we crazy, genius artists & treps resist change, is because we want to avoid the unknown responsibilities we would surely be accountable for, the unknown difficulties and failures we would certainly experience, and the unknown person we may have to become in the process.
Important because I guess the battle between our apprehensive self that holds us back and our ambitious self that pushes us forward is too much to bare. It’s probably better to remain safe in a bud then to risk becoming a rose.
You can criticize, curse and condemn the “new” record industry for not giving you a shot, or paying you enough royalties, but that’s not going to make you a better songwriter or musician.
You can fault your employees, belittle your band mates, and berate your crew or team players all you want, but that wont make you a better communicator or leader.
You can blame the current transformation of the television and film industries for repeatedly rejecting your talents, your script, or your brilliant ideas, but that’s not going to make you a better writer, producer, director, actor or pitcher.
You can curse the economy and point to technology for the decline of your business, but that’s not going to help grow your company or make you a better CEO.
Important because after the howling is done and the moon has set, the sooner you get on to what’s next the better.
I’ve met so many talented artists and smart CEO’s who remain stifled and stuck in their own crummy circumstances. They refuse to change with the changing industry, insisting that it’s really not their fault. That their struggle to advance and continuous decline is obviously due to “the way things are today.”
Important because nothing is more damaging to a career, destructive to a business, and catastrophic to a creative spirit than an unwillingness to change.
We can continue to tell ourselves (and others) the same o’l stories about how it worked in the past, and why it’s not working today, or we can revise our story and tell a new one.
We can continue to allow impatience and imprecision dictate our decisions, or we can make intelligent, researched choices.
We can continue to stumble down the same o’l bumpy road, or we can choose to correct our course.
Important because the independent life of an artist/trep is truly an extraordinary, worthwhile adventure. Actually, it’s more like a meaningful, magnificent mission! And we can either sit back and watch, wonder and wait, or we can stand up, on our own two feet and modify our circumstances and manifest our destiny.
Show it to your computer the next time it freezes.
Show it when you’re finally ready to end the conversation.
Show it to the next person who rejects your best work (behind their back of course).
Show it to procrastination the next time you start to fade.
Show it to anyone who says “perhaps it’s time to try something else.”
Show it when words aren’t enough or you have nothing left to lose.
Show it to the beast in your head, every time it whispers a negative thought. Wait…that could get tedious!
Show it to the person in the mirror the next time you even think about selling out, wimping out or bailing out on your biggest dream, your highest purpose or your deepest prayer.
Important because you thought your middle finger was only good for snapping and flicking.
If you’re afraid to change because you fear the change you make will be the wrong one…
If you’re reluctant to choose because you think waiting and hoping for more options to come along is the better choice…
If you’re hesitant to make the next move because you just can’t decide the next move to make…
…then you may as well throw caution to the wind.
Important because it’s only your choice temporarily. Eventually, if YOU don’t call the shots then fate will make the call for you.
“I practiced guitar in my bedroom for four hours a day, every single day, from the time I was seven to the time I was thirteen, and every single day I sucked. Then, one day when I was fourteen…I got great.” —Mike Bloomfield
If we waste our precious energy waiting, wondering, speculating, doubting and trying to figure out what to do next, we will most likely fall off the path that matters—the path that will actually take us there.
Important because the only way to get back on the path is to lock ourselves in our 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, independent, artist, entrepreneur. Because each day we hunker down and do the work that matters most to us, is another day closer to achieving the personal greatness we so desire.
In his 2013 bestselling book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates the fact that we already know the answers to the most challenging questions we have, the instant they arrive on the scene. Doesn’t matter if it’s what agent to sign with, which web expert to hire, which drum set to buy, what videos to upload or when to finally pitch our script. The instant the challenge is presented, the solution is standing at attention right next to it.
However, at that moment, what happens to most of us crazy genius treps is the fog rolls in and doubt and uncertainly cloud things up. Followed shortly thereafter with either procrastination, a white flag, or “this must turn out exactly the way I want.”
Important because I’ve seen it so many times in the smartest CEO’s and the most talented artists who ultimately get stuck in a thinking called “my way or the highway.” Not like holding out for what they believe, more like refusing to budge because they can’t fathom any other way. And I think to the degree that we can let go of “the way it has to be” and patiently and intelligently remain open to the field of unlimited possibilities, to that degree the best choice will bubble up and reveal itself. Not like magic, more like trust. Because in my experience, what’s usually buried behind “this must turn out a certain way,” is the best way it ought to turn out.
Stop questioning your sanity and give yourself permission to be the crazy, doubting, creative genius that you are—no matter what challenges you face and no matter what others think!
Important because it’s wasted power and misused energy to struggle with your entire career by struggling with this moment.