It’s good to be back at the keyboard today and writing. Though the blog was a bit quiet this month, I’ve been working night and day prepping content and organizing projects for the coming year. I saw this quote on #pinterest a few days ago and was amazed by the simplicity and truth in it. It seemed applicable to my life right now, this week, this month, this summer. Action does in fact express our priorities, or as my wife always puts it– “Actions speak louder than words.”
It made me start thinking about what it is that I am doing each day to meet my goals. Do you think about that? Try it. Take a second to get out of your head as best you can and watch your actions as if you were another person. Notice the real actions you make each day toward achieving your goals. This can be both for yourself and/or for your organization. Don’t be shocked by what you might discover about yourself. If you are like me, you might find that you spend a lot of time thinking– but less time doing than you had imagined.
After just celebrating Tuxedo Revolt’s 1-year anniversary back in June, I spent some time figuring out what my priorities would be for this blog, my business, my performance goals, and my life in general. I think it is easy for us to get very idealistic and heady about what we want to achieve over a given time. For me, I was laying plans for the coming year, or more specifically, from now until June 16th, 2014. But the planning period is over; it’s time to start making progress towards my goals. I’m now at the place where actions should do all the talking.
I can make lists all day long– and if you know me, then you know how utterly maniacal I am about list making. (Try the free app called Catch if you are serial list maker like me!) However, even after coming off of last year’s successes, I almost made the same mistake I made in 2011-12, of planning without doing. It’s very easy to get into this kind of cycle and much harder to get out it. It takes not self-discipline, but rather, self-responsibility to identify with your goals and acknowledge that is you who must do the work necessary to achieve them. It’s the asking yourself at the beginning of each day “What am I actually going to do today?” and then at night, “What did I actually do today?” that spins the straw of planning into the gold of reality.
This month, I’m back in the saddle and the afterglow of Tuxedo Revolt’s one year anniversary is behind me. I’m working on a lot of great interviews to feature this year. I’m also resurrecting the Tuxedo Revolt Podcast Project (after losing all my previously recorded podcast material on a fatal hard drive crash). One new addition to the blog this year will be much more strategy content for both arts administrators and music entrepreneurs. I’ll be helping you to outline real nuts and bolts strategies you can use in your own projects— in other words helping you think of actions to express your priorities.
Thanks for stopping by the blog and stay tuned; there is a lot of great content coming your way.
- Tuxedo Revolt Report Card: A Year of Transformation (tuxedorevoltblog.wordpress.com)
There is no singular path toward achieving the goals you have for yourself– and there are certainly no shortcuts. What kind of career do you want? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind– an artistic legacy? A philanthropic legacy? When you are standing at the crossroads of life, I guarantee you that the right path is the one that you and you alone make the decision to take. Others may try to point you in one direction, but it is in my experience that personal intuition is always the best guide in unknown territory.
As an artist, a thought leader or other kind of creative person, you have most likely already experienced that nagging pull within in you that influences your decisions. For me, that’s my inner artist guiding me towards decisions that benefit its agenda for my life. The worst decisions I ever made were those when I tried to ignore my gut instinct– because I “knew” more than it did.
The reality was that I didn’t actually know more than my instincts. We seldom do. Often, it is the fear of the unknown that motivates us to make decisions that are against our will. When you are trying to choose your own path, ask yourself if the reasons you are considering a certain option are reasons that you came up with– or did they come from an outside source? While spouses, partners, friends, family, teachers and coaches can make good advisers; they can often be biased. In truth, it is your feelings that matter most. Your choice to go down a certain path will create a new reality for your life and you have to be okay with it.
In order for you to thrive as a creative person, you have to honor your instincts. When you do decide to listen to your instincts, your impulses, and acknowledge your intuition— you own the decision. The path you take becomes YOURS and not “theirs”. No matter what path you decide to travel, there is no guarantee for smooth travel and easy going. But, when push comes to shove and the struggle to achieve your goals begins remember this: it is always easier to lean into the storm when you have decided to be there than it is when you are there against your will.
Building a career, whether in the arts or in any field is both a worthy pursuit and a challenge. The pursuit will cause you to make choices, take risks, and fight for what you believe. In music, you face years of criticism, years of disciplined practice, and the challenging of constantly re-inventing your performance while staying relevant to your audience. In the face of so many possible paths from which to choose, the best path is the one you feel good about.
Like I said, it really is that simple.
Today is the final installment in this series of posts relating to positive organizational change in arts and cultural organizations. This all began with a simple question “Do you believe in your organization’s artistic work?” In my experience, I find that after my clients have done an in-depth analysis of their organization, they often realize that it is not their organization’s artistic work which they don’t believe in— they don’t believe in the way it’s done. In most cases, the mission of an arts organization is honorable. If you are like me, you are working in the performing arts with a sense of duty to the arts. Whether you are a performer, administrator, scholar, or student—you work in an arts organization because you can identify with the mission itself. What you might have discovered is that the mission of your organization might be blocked or obstructed by things in the organization. If you have done an complete analysis like I suggested, you will have strong ideas about what must change in order to cut down the red-tape that holds up the artistic work in an organization.
At the beginning of this journey, I asked you how you felt because I wanted you to know. I wanted you to identify that you did in fact have a desire to see things done differently and that you were ready to go against the status quo in order to get back to the true mission and artistic work of your organization. In this last installment, I’m going to give you permission to lead a revolution in the performing arts. Here’s how you are going to do it.
1. “Don’t Make the weather then cry that it’s raining.”
It’s an old Southern expression, but it holds true for performing arts organization who need and want to facilitate change. You have the power to change your circumstances. You must be the one who leads by example. You don’t have to be normal; you don’t have to be what is expected. You can be so much more than that! Abandon all the rules you impose on yourself. If you are the lowliest of interns, don’t feel bad about pitching a great idea to someone in the organization who has the power to make it happen. If your organization’s administration has typically been divided from the artists and performers, creating a divisive atmosphere; don’t wait for the Executive Director to change his/her stance on interactions with the artists. You go to rehearsals, you be friendly to the artists. You don’t need permission to do the right thing by another person. So often, it is the smallest of changes in the right direction that can re-route an entire river.
2. Be vocal.
If you are not vocal about your beliefs, your feelings, and your intuition, then you do both an injustice to yourself and to performing arts world. As long as you stay positive, you must always voice your opinion. Do your research and always be able to support your ideas. It shouldn’t be too hard, you’ve been asking WHY? to everything all along. If you are an Executive Director, then be vocal about positive change. Don’t waste a single opportunity to reinforce the organization’s mission with every patron, constituent and employee you meet. If you are a staff member, use every interaction you have with other employees to create a positive work atmosphere. Be positive with others, and lead by example. You don’t need written permission from the Board of Governors to plant new ideas, or change office culture by your example.
Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you—not just for reading this blog, but also for the willingness to be the change in the arts world. It takes courage and innovation. It takes research and knowledge. But I promise you, that feeling of apathy you had when I first asked you if you believed in your organization’s artistic work, if you are the change you wish to see then you’ll never have to feel that apathy ever again.
By far, the most popular post ever written on the Tuxedo Revolt Blog was my post about creating a larger sense of community in the arts. I wrote that post in the hope that It would inspire others to reach out and expand their own artistic circles. At the time, I didn’t know how people would react– if they would take notice. The day after I posted the article, I woke up to the reality that the post had gone viral with hundreds views in just hours. It turns out that artists crave community more than I had thought– and that is a great thing indeed.
Knowing that we want to get to know other artists isn’t enough. As with any concept, an action is required to bring ideas into reality. We have to do something, reach out, collaborate, discuss, listen and learn from each other. So how do you do that? Well, there are a few options I’d like to share with you that can help you start reaching out to other artists, specifically those in other disciplines. You should start by doing what feels natural to you.
Abandon your stereotypes of artists in other disciplines. The reality is that we all share more traits in common than what you might think. Though it may be surprising, the creative process and the act of honing the skills necessary to bring creative ideas to life are very similar across art forms. In fact, these shared traits can be a great point of entry for you to begin a conversation.
If you want to meet other artists, try your hand at their art form. Yes, that’s right. Try your hand at something you’ve never done before. I’ve learned so much about how to be more expressive in my own music making by taking watercolor classes, attending voice master classes, and acting in plays. What better way to meet other creative people than to meet them in their element? It can be an inspiring process to watch other people make art and create.
Be still and listen. While much of what we do as artists is promoting or advocating for our art, remember, “to everything there is a season”. When you do make a connection with another artist, encourage them to talk about themselves, what makes them tick, what drives them to create? Seize the opportunity to listen and learn. Great collaborations are built on a foundation of mutual respect. Show others that you respect their art, their work, and their passion by emptying your mind and listening to them completely.
Be a matchmaker. While you don’t have to wear a kerchief on your head (thou you may want to…) like in Fiddler on the Roof, you too can help put creative people together. I find that introducing like minded colleagues to each other bring am me a lot of happiness, and it can to you as well. If you know a poet who wants to have their work out in the public and you happen to know a composer who is interested in writing a set of songs for soprano and harp, introduce the two people– get the idea? Sometimes, people need the connection to someone else and you could actually be the link that helps truly creative work begin. It is also rewarding process because others can begin to connect you in a likewise manner. Your network and creative community will grow.
Be yourself, and not an artiste. Remind yourself why you are reaching out to other artists to begin with: you are trying to create the right conditions for creative collaborations to flourish. No matter what your project end-goal may be, the success of your efforts will depend on how in sync you are with your creative colleagues. That’s why it is so crucial that you are yourself when you meet other artists. Remember, it doesn’t matter whether you are a singer, instrumentalist, writer, actor, or dancer– you are unique among all others in your field. You are what you are, just as the art you create is whatever it is at the moment you have created it. Let people see the real you. Then, those who collaborate with you will know exactly who they are working with and authentic work can begin.
I hope that you will take one or all of these steps to expand and build your community of artists this year. Be bold, and step outside of any walls that might hold you back. There’s so much out there that we can do if we work together, the combinations are endless.