I was playing Scrabble with my wife last weekend while on our outing to Bear Mountain in upstate New York. As I stared at the game board, I realized that nearly all board games have a starting point. It’s usually a place where the first game piece is placed after a tile is anonymously drawn from a black bag, or a role of the dice determines which player will make their move first. In some games, like Candy Land or Jumanji, everyone starts at the same place. Though in those games, chance and luck may determine who will make it to the “finish” square first. Staring at the game board, it made me wonder, are game boards a metaphor for our lives, our careers or our relationships?
From the center tile of the scrabble board, the calculations of spaces, possible point scores, and words upon words spiral out. Is this not unlike the decisions we as musicians have to make each and every day? What is your “center tile”? For some it is when they play the first note of the day. For others, it is the first event that happens to them, from which they will react all day long. For me, it is the moment I open my eyes in the morning. In that moment, I can pre-empt whatever is going to happen to me that day, I can start laying the words I want across the game board.
But what about the part that luck plays in games? It’s not tile we draw that is as important as seeing all the options we have once we have drawn it from the bag. In all fairness, you can’t see which tile you are grabbing in the game of life (no pun intended). You don’t always have control there—but you do have control over what you do with it. For musicians and other creatives, this is especially important in the way we approach our careers and the creative work we do. Will we be proactive or reactive? Will you plan ahead, or be a calculation in someone else’s plan?
When we are dealt the next hand of the game in our lives and in our careers, our ability to excel or recover, advance or retreat is all about how far into the future we are willing to forecast. How much risk will you take when the outcome may be unknown? That’s a looming question for many. But I feel that’s where the reward is.
As we in the collective music community begin a new season, I encourage you to start planning and forecasting from the moment you lay down the very first tile of your game. Imagine the extent of what you could do if you extended yourself as far as possible and took the necesary risks. Remember after all, it’s just a game.
I’m going to ask you a question. I want you to pay attention to your very first, immediate, gut reaction and emotion to the question. Listen to your thoughts very carefully and identify the first to come into your mind as an answer to the following: “Do you believe in your organization’s artistic work?” What was your initial reaction to the question? If you said YES! immediately, then congratulations. Your organization is most likely doing in good shape. But if you questioned, doubted, or outright said NO, then I hope that this series of posts can help you restore confidence in your organization.
The first step you must take is fully embracing the fact that you don’t have the faith or belief in the success of your organization that your should. Be honest with yourself. After I asked you the question, and you had a negative response, you probably immediately also felt some sense of reasoning, self-assuring that no, your organization was on the right track. It’s likely that you also had some feelings of guilt regarding your response. When I ask my clients the same question about the organization they are running, or about their personal careers, I often here justification responses like “I feel bad for saying that, I work there!” or “I shouldn’t say that, everyone is trying their best.” Or my favorite, “I may not believe in our effectiveness now, but it’s getting better!” When I dig a little bit deeper, I ask clients to support their justification statement s with facts or proof. How is it getting better? Do you like working there and why? Tell me how everyone is trying their best? Nine times out of ten, I’m answered with a long thoughtful pause.
So, enough is enough. In this series of blog posts, we are going to discuss how our dissatisfaction can motivate us to become arts leaders. We are going to turn up our noses at many long-standing traditions that occur in organizations—but we are going to do it in the best interest of those our arts organization serves. Right from the beginning I want you to do two things with me.
1. I want you to accept the fact that this process is not about you, your boss, your staff. It is about those you serve. It is about those who experience the artistic work of your organization. It could be your audience in the concert hall; it could be public school children who are taught by your teaching artists. This process is about doing what is best for them and no one else.
2. You must take all your doubt, apprehensions, and negative feeling you have about your organization’s environment and bring them together. When you feel them together, then you’ll realize that it’s not just negative thoughts anymore, but a strong sense of intuition. Throughout this process, we are going to learn how to focus our intuitive feelings like a laser beam. Then we are going to turn that laser beam onto our organizational challenges. Intuition will guide the process of improvement and adaptation.
Are you with me? Do you want to play an active role in leading your organization toward authentic success? Do you want to cut through the “clutter” that clouds your organization’s mission? But most importantly, do you want to bring better services to your constituency? Your audience? Your tribe? If you do, then stick with me through the next several posts. I’ll help you learn how to do all of those things, and to lead innovation in the arts world.
- Am I Doing what I Really, Really, Want to Do? (psychologymatters.asia)
- Int-U-ition (thecocoshowblog.wordpress.com)