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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
"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.
I have a sense that during these “interesting” times we live in, we are all searching, actually aching for integrity in our leaders, factual information from our media, dependability from our entrepreneurs, and truth from our artists.
That said, I was compelled to search the inner library of my soul for a good definition of integrity—so that I can recognize it if I ever see it walking up the street some day. So I reached back into my archives and found a story I wrote back in 2011 that is more relevant today than ever before. And what I learned was that integrity alone is a very funny thing. It’s as elusive as luck, as valuable as money and as important as your social security number. However, you won’t get hired simply because you’ve got it, and it could cost you your entire career if you lose it. Sometimes we value it, sometimes we don’t. However, in my 40 years of grappling with impossible projects and cantankerous people in show business, I have seen that integrity is very easy to fake. Therefore, if we are truly searching for a resolve to sooth our deepest ache and desire for truth, then we’re going to need something much bigger than integrity. We’re going to have to move up to PROBITY!
What I’ve noticed is that Probity is far beyond Integrity. It’s the other side of Integrity—like the far side of the moon. If Integrity is being the best you can possibly be, then Probity moves in and improves on it.
If Integrity’s a winner, Probity’s a champion.
While Integrity commits to an exciting new project, Probity relentlessly commits to manifesting a mission...Mission Impossible!
If an act of Integrity is worthy and righteous, than an act of Probity is noble and selfless.
When Integrity takes the high road, Probity takes a jet.
If Integrity means showing up for the job on time, Probity means seeing to it that the work you do represents the very best of what you have to offer, and contributes to everyone involved, with no one left out.
If Integrity means being committed, then Probity means being committed to your commitments.
Important because in an attempt to sooth my deepest ache, my quest for truth, I am no longer looking for integrity anymore—in people, events, situations or politicians. Like I said, it’s too easy to fake. I am now watching out for random and spontaneous glimpses of Probity in who ever I meet and what ever I do. That’s why in 2010 I named my consulting business “The Probity Network.”
Inspired by a story I wrote in 2011, titled Barenaked Probity.
You’re still playing too small. Don’t ask you ask those around you. If you’ve really got the goods they’ll tell you that you’re very capable of playing a much bigger game. Indecision & hesitancy keep us pent up in a small box—where there are limited results. Determination & decisiveness lift us out of the box, where unlimited possibilities exist. No less scary, just more opportunity.
Important because we’re already in the 2nd quarter of 2017! It’s time to be determined and up the ante.
This is what the voice of time pesters me with every day:
- You’re wasting me!
- You’ll never have enough of me!
- Don't be late!
- The clock is ticking!
- You’re not getting any younger!
- Quit trying to save me!
- After all these years, you still haven’t learned how to manage me!
Important because there are so many important things to do;
so many great ideas waiting to be born,
so many things to fix,
so many worthwhile projects to start,
so many great songs to compose,
so many inspiring scripts to pitch,
so many jaw-dropping start-ups to launch,
so many ways to contribute,
so many ways to make a difference,
so many people to help,
and so many opportunities to create art that inspires, entertainment that encourages and ideas that matter. It’s a shame that we hastily kill off our precious time, hour by hour, pretending that our aimless clicking and petty distractions are somehow making a difference.
Clear thinking is logical, it’s predictable, it’s unsurprising and it’s rational. It can also stall your train of thought, stifle your creativity and dam up your constant free-flowing stream of crazy genius ideas.
When we’re in the throes of solving a problem, working on a scene, composing music, redesigning a website or editing a video, the outcome is NEVER clear. In fact, it’s usually foggy, and filled with indecision, hesitation and frustration.
Important because the very last thing we want when we’re in the zone of creating, solving, inventing or attempting, is to be clear thinking. On the contrary, the very first thing we want is to be open-minded.