Stand Up in The Boat!

When someone stands up in the boat, everyone else shouts, “Sit down! You’re rocking the boat!” Why? Because when the boat is rocked in any group, company, partnership, or creative project, people have to wake up, snap out of it, and start making things happen! And when things start happening, choices and decisions have to be made. And when decisions are made, forward motion accelerates, and often, extraordinary results are produced.

Important because when our big ideas or impossible projects are just floating along in still waters, waiting for something to happen, perhaps it’s time to stand up in the boat and cause something to happen! Not like a clever metaphor, more like a sensible next step.

Poor-Man’s Excuse

“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 one waiting for the world to change, others are waiting too!”

When artists & treps point to others’ struggles as some sort of clannish, cliquish solidarity, it becomes a poor man’s excuse for procrastinating, dragging our feet, and wallowing in the mire.

Important because if we allow the plight of others to lure us into their drama, we’ll start to forget who we are and begin to believe we’re one of them. We’re in this alone. Put on the blinders and dig in.

Getting Better

It’s possible that we no longer need to strive to get better at our special talent. That our special talent is finally fine tuned.

It’s possible that we may not need to acquire more of something. That we actually have enough of it already.

It’s possible that we don’t have to work so hard at being different. We’re already unlike anyone else on the planet.

Important because it’s possible that we only need to be a little less fearful, and a little more fearless. 

Three Miracles

In addition to exceptional talent, extraordinary skills, and a worthy mission, every artist and entrepreneur needs these three miracles:

Ruthless Resolve: We need Superman focus and Wonder Woman determination to dispel the noisy distractions of the day and lift our cursory commitment up to a new level of unwavering resolve. And then park there indefinitely.

Acute Awareness: We need a razor-sharp, fail-safe, updated radar so we can sense, see, and seize those fleeting opportunities that so often show up unexpectedly and too often cause us to flinch, pause, or ponder until it’s too late!

Escort: We need others who believe in our mission, support our efforts, point the way, or connect us with those who have the wherewithal and resources to make things happen. No one has ever accomplished their biggest goals or achieved their impossible dreams without the words, advice, direction, or a helping hand from someone else. No one…ever!

Important because while it’s true that others look at artists and entrepreneurs like we are the miracle workers, it’s also nevertheless true that we need all the miracles we can get to help us create all the miracles that others expect from us.

Fate & Destiny

While Fate and Destiny may be sisters, they are not twins. This is always such a good reminder for me, and hopefully for you too:

Fate: Like it or not, we are born into our fate: ethnicity, skin color, genes, DNA, physical benefits/challenges, parents, the conditions in which we were raised, and the continuous stream of good/bad circumstances that surprise and blindside us throughout our lifetime. Our fate is pretty much a fait accompli.

Destiny: Our friend Destiny gives us full control. And once we realize that we have our hands on the steering wheel and our foot on the gas, we can guide our destiny toward any goal, dream, or wild idea we want. We can even improve our fate by accepting the cards we were dealt and then choosing to live a healthy, creative, successful life anyway, even though the odds are often stacked against us. The truth is, destiny is ours, to either forge or flounder.

Important because while most folks unknowingly follow the predictable pattern of their fate, all of us, young and old, have the choice to manifest our own destiny.

Watch your thoughts, because they become your words. Watch your words, because they become your actions. Watch your actions, because they become your destiny. ―Lao Tzu

Nearly Impossible

When artists and treps take on “nearly impossible” projects, they are often surprised to discover unconventional methods, unexplored market niches, and revolutionary technologies, which often lead to unexpected breakthroughs that produce breathtaking results. And when we actually “partner up” with AI and the technology of the day, the nearly impossible becomes very possible.

Important because by daring to pursue the unattainable, unforeseen opportunities often show up that pave the way for groundbreaking achievements that defy initial expectations, which could literally alter the course of our creative careers and bring us closer and faster to our dreams and goals.

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek! —Joseph Campbell

4000 Holes

Pro artists and treps are always on the hunt-down for flaws, imperfections, and glitches, and we’re constantly fixing a hole where the rain gets in. Not like perfectionists who follow the rules, more like pragmatists who bend them.

Important because while it’s the task of others to produce their best work for the company they serve, A&E’s need to work that much harder, because we alone will be held accountable for the final result.

Stealing Away

While it’s the destiny of others to meet expectations and maintain the status quo, it’s the destiny of crazy, creative artists and risk-taking entrepreneurs to slip out the side door and head out on the highway, searching for adventure in whatever comes our way.

Important because it’s hard to blend in, when standing up and following your own creative spirit is embedded in your bones.

You Are What You Ate

A 35-second refresher course for creative artists, risk-taking entrepreneurs, and geniuses:

— The current state of our career or business is a direct result of the choices and actions we have either made, dodged, or ignored up to this point in time.

— Our current financial portfolio is a reflection of the decisions we’ve made in the past, resulting in the circumstances we find ourselves in today.

— The status of our relationships with friends, family and cohorts, is the result of the words we’ve spoken, how attentively we’ve listened, and the reactions we’ve expressed, which have either strengthened or weakened the bonds we share in the present.

— The number on your bathroom scale is where it’s at, not because “you are what you eat,” more because “you are what you ate.”

Important because we can’t go back and delete the actions of our past, but we can certainly reboot where we stand right now and remain alert and conscious of the choices and decisions we’re making in the present, which are guaranteed to impact our future.

Scratch the Schedule

If you’re feeling all fired up with inspiration and creativity, don’t allow distractions to douse the flame! Finish your to-do list tomorrow!

If you’re stuck, stopped, or creatively blocked, read a book, call a friend, or listen to an inspiring podcast.

If you’re afraid or concerned, or your insides are shake’n like a leaf on a tree, go for a walk, go for a run, go for a hike, or go to the gym.

If you’re suddenly blindsided with calamity, cancel the flight!.

Important because the most beautiful part of our creative, independent lifestyle is that the calendar belongs to everyone else. Their schedule isn’t our schedule.

Beautiful Angst

As committed, independent artists and entrepreneurs, we are constantly challenged to create and manifest art and commerce that is new, unique, and marketable. Consequently, we face criticism when we don’t, expectations for more/better from us when we do, accusations of selling out when we compromise, and labels of eccentricity when we offer alternatives. Nevertheless, we manage to endure the waiting, the negotiating, and the judgment of others as we muster up the resilience required to continue to churn out our best work in pursuit of our biggest goals and impossible dreams.

Important because remaining completely committed and fully engaged in our worthy, creative work while simultaneously staying detached from the outcome is a beautiful way to dance with the unlimited possibilities that our vast entertainment industry provides.

Breaking Bread

Sharing a “meal-meeting” with like minded artists & treps can create a relaxed sense of trust, confidence, and camaraderie, often allowing us to remove our mask and let down our guard. This opens the door to a stream of creative thinking, which can foster a productive brainstorming session, leading to a download of innovative ideas, solutions and breakthroughs.

I’ve digested plenty of supper-sessions with hungry cohorts, clients, and friends, and here’s what I’ve learned:

Breakfast Meeting: Be prepared for a free-flowing, deep dive, including where you’ve been, where you’re headed, and what your plan is.
What to Order: Big breakfast! Grand Slam! Ask for a pot of coffee! This is going to go longer than you think.

Lunch Meeting: Be prepared to discuss the present, including where you’re at right now, what projects you’re working on, and what challenges you’re facing.
What to Order: Salad or sandwich. This is going to be little shorter than you’d like.

Dinner Meeting: Be prepared to discuss the past, present, and future, including who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and why you matter.
What to Order: Start with an appetizer, then move slowly up the Smörgåsbord. This could go late.

Starbucks Meeting: Be prepared to just skim the surface with a variety of current events. The distractions are high, and the attention span is low.
What to Order: Something tall and tasty. This is going to be social.

Bottled Water Meeting: The most productive of all. Be prepared to get to the point and get back to work.

Important because it’s all food for thought. Å votre santé!

Travel Light

When artists and treps prepare for the new year it’s like packing for a trip; we take a look at what adventures and challenges may lie ahead, and we pack accordingly. Here are three essential things you’ll need in 2024, and three things you should definitely leave behind:

What to Leave Behind:

Your Wining Formula: You were in a different place when your winning formula was an original plan, and now it’s the success story of the past you keep telling yourself over and over. And the worst part is, it feeds your fear of change! The truth is, you know your winning formula is no longer effective when you’ve stopped telling people where you’re going, and your now telling stories about where you’ve been.

Rational Thinking! Although it’s logical and predictable, rational thinking can also stifle your creativity and dam up your consistent, free-flowing stream of crazy, genius ideas. Therefore, the very last thing we want when we’re standing toe-to-toe with uncertainty is to think rationally! Leave it behind and grab “creative thinking” instead. 

Your Worries! Ok, you can bring just one worry with you. But not all of them! You don’t have to worry about all your worries all at once! Your worries are manageable! If you’re a worry-wart then at least learn to triage, and worry about the most important one first! The rest will wait their turn.

What to Bring:

A Beginners Mind! Not because Suzuki wrote the best selling book, more because everything in our beloved industry is exponentially changing right before our eyes. And what we think we know for sure today will turn out to be outdated, dinosaur data tomorrow.

Your Unique Talent! Be sure to bring your exceptional abilities, impossible ideas, and that uncommon quirk that no one else in the world has but you. Add to that, the remarkable skill you have to create your way out of gnarly situations and crummy circumstances. Without that, you’ll be constantly shanghaied by crummy circumstances and gnarly situations!

The Bigger You! Conjure up the biggest vision or version of yourself. The person you aspire to be at the very highest level you can imagine; confident, intelligent, successful, healthy, kind, generous, etc.. Then start living your life, and managing your career as if you’ve already arrived. Not like positive thinking, more like a natural way of being.

Important because pro artists & treps should travel light going into this coming year of possibility, uncertainty and change. Simply because we’re going to need all the elbow room, breathing room, and thinking room we can get in order to navigate the long and winding road ahead. 2024 is a blank canvas on which we have the opportunity to paint a future that aligns with our vision for a more diverse, just, peaceful, sustainable, and joyful world. And it is in our hands to shape this future. Why?  Because dreamers, artists, musicians, writers, actors, directors, producers, and socially conscious entrepreneurs are still, by far the most trusted and effective influencers on the planet! My only hope with this year-end blog is that after the party is over, and the ball drops in time square, you are inspired to head back to your studio or penthouse office, and make a ruthless resolution to stand tall, step up your game, and swing for the fences! Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays Genius Readers!

This week would not be complete if I didn’t revisit John Lennon’s most profound holiday greeting:

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.
When we are afraid, we pull back from life.
When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer.
I want to wish everyone happy holidays and a happy new year!
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.” 

—John Lennon

If you were thinking about making a contribution this year but you’re not sure where to give, please consider sending a donation to the  Westminster Community Care Center, where my awesome wife Nancy contributed many tireless hours as a volunteer nurse. This is a private, non-profit organization serving the working poor and uninsured of Ventura County, California. They also serve as a training site for high school students considering careers in healthcare. Click here to contribute.

Thank you so much for doing that, it means a lot!
Have a smart, safe and fun holiday!
Michael

The High Cost of Arrogance

Knowledge provides not only answers, but also a bigger picture, a wide angle lens to determine how to get to where we’re going.

Experience validates that the knowledge is true…or not.

Wisdom is there to make all the critical choices and decisions when knowledge and experience flinch.

Commitment takes knowledge, experience and wisdom and turns them into a game worth playing.

Important because for the pro artist & trep, the biggest block to knowledge, experience and wisdom is the arrogant attitude, “I already know.” 

The Scuttlebutt Epidemic!

Due to a combination of factors driven by social media, dogmatic opinions, and a blatant disregard for data-driven decision making, the exponential spread of gossip, rumors, and scuttlebutt have become an industry-wide epidemic, especially in our creative careers (and personal life). The entertainment industry has a decades long history of customs and protocols, and much of the gossip we spread and rumors we assume to be true are perpetuated by those ancient, worn out traditions.

As independent thinkers and masters of our own destiny, we need to be vigilant, aware, and conscious of the hearsay we spread and the assumptions we follow, which can adversely affect the progress of our creative goals. The problem is, it’s so much easier to assume that the information we’re getting from others is true, so we go with it, forgoing the due diligence.

Important because it’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble. It’s what we assume we know, that will always blur the choices and decisions we often struggle with.

Not Like a Hippie

Back in my hippie days, it was all about tuning in & dropping out. Today it’s all about catching up & fitting in. Catching up with those we assume are miles ahead, and fitting in with those we assume have arrived.

Important because if catching up and fitting in hasn’t worked for you, perhaps you should try “tuning in & dropping out.” Tuning in to that which moves us closer to what we say matters most to us. And dropping out of those distracting activities (and people) that slow the progress of getting there. Not like a hippie, more like a committed, purpose-driven artist/trep.

How to Tame Your Ducks

— The more you feed them the more they quack.

— If you try to force them to be still they will quack louder.

— If you attempt to treat them like a friend they will quack even louder.

Important because the purpose of your ducks is to question, doubt, and quack about everything you say, think or do. Allow them to do their job, as you continue to focus on your job, and the constant quacking will subside.

Fear less

— We want our ideas and dreams to manifest; however, we fear that the brass ring is becoming too elusive and slippery to grab.

— When ideas and opportunities do show up, we pursue them to a point, but then, out of fear, we flinch.

— We want to promote, market, and sell our art and commerce, but when fear creeps in, it clouds our choices and decisions.

— We want peace of mind; however, we fear that our minds are too wild to tame.

Important because we simply need to give more attention to what we want and less attention to what we fear.

Give & Take

Giving Money is easy.
Giving our talent is easier.
Giving our opinion is easiest of all.

However, giving our time to our own grandest dreams is often accompanied by resistance, resulting in procrastination. Similarly, allocating our “precious time” to lend a helping hand to others is also often met with resistance, resulting in a Google search for acceptable excuses.

Important because it’s not only about giving our time and money, it’s also about giving our attention, focus and energy to that which we say is worthy. Never forget: the dynamic exchange of giving and receiving are different aspects of the same flow of energy. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep that abundant energy circulating in our creative careers and personal lives.

Standing on Solid Ground

The ground is dependable. We need the ground to build things on and grow things… like our dreams and goals. It’s also where we take a stand, and stand our ground, especially when the things start shaking!

Here’s how to tell if you’re grounded: 

— As the world presents around you, you remain mindful of the part you play, and at the same time, committed to your personal goals, dreams and projects, and all the responsibilities that go with them.

You actually make choices and decisions based on research rather than assumptions.  

— You keep up with current events; however, you avoid falling into the rabbit holes of distraction that accompany them.

— Your thoughts, words, and actions align with your values and principles.

You have the insight to take a deeper look at what is truly wanted and needed, and you simply provide it.

— You are open to self-reflection and personal growth.

Important because being grounded doesn’t mean winning. What it means is that you’re in touch with reality, especially when things seem unreal, and you’re able to intelligently navigate the chutes & ladders that come your way, especially when there are more chutes than ladders.

Breakdowns

Once you declare a breakdown it has all the earmarks of a failure, because if something is broken it will need to be fixed.

However, the process of making such a declaration is an intelligent and liberating one, because the true nature of the creative process is not about “fixing” anything. It’s about constantly recreating, reproducing, redesigning, rethinking and reinventing our projects, dreams, goals, relationships and ourselves! Just the words “I’m now in the process of reinventing myself” sounds like an awesome, creative project!

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.

“Break down…go ahead and give it to me…” —Tom Petty

Sticky Note

Artists and treps always remind each other to “go with your gut!” What that really means is to trust your intuition—those instinctive feelings that occur to us without any facts, common knowledge or intellectual reasoning whatsoever. Like that time Einstein said: “I believe in intuition and inspiration. I sometimes FEEL that I am right, even when I do not KNOW that I am.” 

Important because here’s a sticky-note for your fridge: “When you’re stuck, stumped or stopped in your tracks there is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen to that.”

What Dreams May Come

What we intend and what shows up usually looks very different. Sometimes what shows up is more satisfactory than what we originally intended. However, most of the time there are too many road blocks and detours along the rocky road toward the goal, and we begin to justify that “close enough is good enough.”

Important because the final outcome of our efforts is a direct result of the smart choices and decisions we make, and the focused work we put into it. That said, it’s important not to focus on the end result or future outcome. Instead, put all your focus on the work that you need to do in order to keep the project moving in the general direction you want to go. But don’t set your gaze on the goal posts, set your gaze on the work that is directly in front of you today. By doing so, you will ultimately find your way to whatever dreams may come.

Got Junk?

1800GotJunk.com

I always thought that was a great idea for a company. In 1989 a college student, Brian Scudamore, saw what was wanted and needed, and provided a solution. Since that time, his company has grown to approximately 200 locations across three countries. The company slogan is: “We make junk disappear!”

Wouldn’t it be great if Brian sent a truck to every artist and trep’s home, studio, office or penthouse and made some of our junk disappear? Here’s a short list of what we could dump: 

— Our resistance to change.

— Our chronic indecision.

— Our fear of failure or success.

— Our story about why we haven’t achieved our biggest dreams yet.

— Those pointless daily activities that disrupt our priorities, steal our focus and slow our progress to a crawl.

— All the folks in our lives that bring us down, lead us on, deflate our confidence and waste our precious time…bye bye!

— Everything that doesn’t align with our inherent desire for peace of mind.

Important because what’s left is that awesome feeling of breathing room, flexibility, liberation and inspiration that only comes when we declutter not only our exterior space, but more importantly or interior space.

Embracing Transformation

Hopefully you are fully aware and consciousness of the fact that the way we work and interact within our industry, our business, and our careers, is in the midst of a massive paradigm shift. And just a reminder, that a “paradigm shift” calls into question the rock-solid assumptions on which the previous paradigm existed.

That said, shrugging our shoulders or flipping the bird at the many new jaw-dropping opportunities and possibilities that are currently swirling around dinner tables, breakfast nooks and coffee houses, will continue to make it harder to thrive during this time of transformation. And it’s not like this too shall pass, it’s more like this is the new normal.

Important because nothing is more damaging to a career, destructive to a business, or catastrophic to a creative spirit than an inability to pivot, a resistance to change, or an unwillingness to look at the big picture from a different POV. Especially when our comfort zone, and the circumstances we are accustom to are suddenly threatened. 

Partnering with the Future

Raise your awareness to a level where you can clearly see the “deep-truth” of how the world is changing today, especially with regards to AI’s exponential invasion into every nook & cranny of the entire entertainment industry!

Then educate yourself, do the deep research, and begin using the tools and technology to your advantage, in every area of your life, not just your career. Then find that place inside yourself where nothing is impossible and steer the ship from that POV. Not like positive thinking, more like intelligent foresight.

Important because a conversation about AI being your enemy cannot be complete without including AI as your partner.

Beware of the Flinch!

At the heart of every success story lies an artist or entrepreneur who grappled with a profound internal conflict during a critical moment of choice: accept the risks and potentially attain legendary status, or falter in the face of the ‘flinch’ and be consigned to an unremarkable footnote.

The ‘flinch’ is a cunning delivery system, usually sourced in fear and adept at delivering doubt, uncertainty, and hesitation precisely when we are poised to make risky choices or take bold actions. Simply because the nature of the ‘flinch’ is not to inspire change or provoke greatness. Instead, it’s like shiny bait, luring us to play it safe and embrace mediocrity.

Important because pro artists & treps serve as living examples that the path to greatness requires acknowledging the ‘flinch’ but never succumbing to its limitations. And by defying the allure of mediocrity and pushing beyond the confines of repeating the ‘same old, same old,’ we have the opportunity to make a dent or a difference by stepping into the unknown with a clear vision, a fearless spirit, and a hungry heart.

Dancing with Destiny

Your career as a creative artist/trep is not a dilemma to resolve or a problem to fix. It’s actually the amazing odyssey of a smart, talented, independent, free-thinking, risk-taking, human being, who has chosen to venture out, onto the bumpy road less traveled,  while being continuously blindsided with a gauntlet of impossible challenges, and only armed with a ruthless commitment to making a dent or a difference!

Important because there’s never any defeat, failure, or love-loss on this heartfelt dance with uncertainty. There’s only a missed chance at destiny if you don’t drum up the courage to step out onto the dance floor.

— Inspired by Andrea Balt

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Forrest Gump’s “Stupid is as stupid does” is a variant of an old adage: “Pretty is as pretty does” or, “Handsome is as handsome does.” It basically means that true prettiness has to do with a person’s behavior, not just a pretty face.

Important because it all comes down to judging people by what they do, not by how they appear, or what you assume. A smart, talented person who does stupid things is still stupid.

Solace For Strikers!

I’ve said this before: Now is the time to huddle up! Now is the time to have dinner parties and bbq’s with like minded showbiz friends, artists & treps! Now is the time to have conversations at the deep end of the pool regarding our careers, goals, and dreams going forward! As globally massive as the entertainment industry is, we are still a small community of (mostly) awesome, creative, caring people who just happen to have something very profound in common: we love what we do, and we have chosen the bumpy road less traveled. Never forget, “there’s no people like show people!”

That said, there could be some financial relief for many of the cast, crew, and support folks currently out of work and struggling in all areas of our industry. I recently received a press release from Jennifer Jorge, the director of community services for MPTF(Motion Picture & television Fund) and here’s what she had to say:

Most of those who have contacted MPTF for assistance are our below-the line workforce, including IATSE and Teamsters.” Our broad range of social services have already been provided to thousands of industry members and their families this year; in addition, we have received around 1,000 requests from industry members in need of financial support and other social services due to the work stoppage. This is more than 3X the rate of inquiries we receive in a typical year for this timeframe. A very high percentage (89%) of these calls are from industry members who are assessed with high at-risk or crisis levels of need. The bottom line is people are struggling greatly, and they need our support. We are administering financial assistance funds for IATSE, Teamsters Local 399, the DGA Foundation, and TUSC (The Union Solidarity Coalition), and with that we are able not only to provide financial support and coverage for health care premiums, but also case management on other issues. If you are in need of assistance due to the work stoppage, please call us at 323-634-3888. Or visit us at MPTF.com.

Important because as a community, united in our efforts, we will persevere.

Capturing The Zeitgeist

Scholars, politicians and educators have long maintained that each era has a unique spirit that sets it apart from all other epochs. Such a spirit is known as “Zeitgeist.” And capturing the zeitgeist is an essential pursuit for both artists and entrepreneurs, as they both strive to tap into the pulse of the present moment and create something that resonates deeply with the collective consciousness. For artists, it requires an acute observation of the world around them, as they produce and create art and entertainment that reflects the cultural, social, and intellectual trends of the time. Entrepreneurs are the visionaries who recognize the shifting tides and anticipate what is wanted and needed even before the masses do. Then they risk resources and reputation to produce it, and ship it.

That said, it’s important to remember that capturing the zeitgeist does not mean watching the news and writing a song about it. While staying informed through local and national newspapers is important, the online and television news media is mostly made up of an opinionated panel of selected influencers, charged with a specific political agenda.

On the contrary, capturing the zeitgeist involves going beyond headline news and understanding the underlying trends and shifts in society. It requires exploring various cultural, social and artistic expressions, such as literature, art, music, fashion, etc. These sources provide a more comprehensive picture of the collective values and mindset of a specific, cultural timeframe.

Important because by immersing ourselves in the zeitgeist, artists and treps can become the architects of change, shaping the narrative of our time and leaving an indelible mark on the collective consciousness. In doing so, we become not just observers, but active participants in the evolution of society, leaving a lasting legacy for future generations to ponder and appreciate. Never forget, throughout history, creative artists and risk-taking entrepreneurs are the only ones who have always pointed the way out of the darkness and into the light!

2024 Posts