Picking Up Good Vibrations—How to Have a Healthy Love/Hate Relationship with Your Job, Goal, or Project
Last week, I met with artist and author who wanted my advice on how she could sell more of her books.
It was a friendly meeting as a favor to a friend, so without going into painstaking detail, I simply recommended she create partnerships with companies who relate to the subject matter of her book. The crux of my plan for her was to go out in the world, make relationships with the right people, and hustle her way (in an ethical manner) to getting the results she wanted.
Before I could finish my thought, she interrupted me with something about how she didn’t want to do that because it didn’t “flow with her vibrations” and she wanted to live in her joy all day long.
To which I responded, “How are you going to live in your joy if you’re going hungry from not selling any books?”
The rest of the conversation was a bit of a blur, and we parted cordially, but she couldn’t part with the idea that it’s simply impossible to not get your hands dirty in the pursuit of your goals.
This is life. You’re not going to love every single minute of every day. You’re not going to enjoy every part of your job.
I work for myself and have wonderful clients, and speaking gigs, and book signings… and it sounds so darn glamorous (maybe, ha!) and that I’m “living in my joy” BUT… it is hard work and I don’t love all of it. It can be stressful and irritating and it can make you want to cry. But all of it can be super sweet and a great way to live.
Your relationship with your goals can be much like a friendship or romantic partnership. You can truly be in love but there are things about the relationship you might not love (your partner’s snoring, your mother-in-law) but you deal with it or manage it because the good grossly outweighs the bad.
With a goal, job, or project; find ways to eliminate or outsource as much as possible, the work that you find undesirable. Play to your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.
Always kill the toxicity in bad relationships with employees, co-workers, employers, and partners. This should be something on which you don’t compromise.
Yes, it’s possible for you to “live in your joy” but not every single minute of every day. Get your hands dirty. Acknowledge the valleys so that you can appreciate the peaks—it will make that joy you’re trying to live in much more delightful.
In our wildest dreams we calculate and wonder is what the worst thing that could happen should we pursue what it is that we want.
- I might fail.
- I might fail… again.
- I might lose all of my money.
- He or she might reject my affections.
- The casting director could hate my work and send me back to Iowa.
- My business partner could be a thief.
- My children might resent me.
- I might become homeless.
- My family might spurn me.
All of those are scary. They’re discomforting and potentially painful.
But these are not permanent defeats. These are things from which you can recover.
The worst that could happen is that you never take action, that you wait till it’s too late, that you stop trying. Living out the rest of your days as a zombie may truly be the worst thing that could happen.
Reach for the stars. Tell her how you feel. Push harder than you ever thought you could. TRY. Keeping trying. Never give up.
The best thing is not the end point but the evolution of self that happens along the way to that desired end point. The sights, sounds, and experiences along the “Journey of Trying” all combine to become the sweetest nectar from which you’ll draw life and strength.
Recently, I was put (or rather put myself) in a precarious work situation. Things didn’t turn out as planned. I allowed myself to be duped and I needed to learn a hard lesson—that when working with others as a manager, employee, sub-contractor, artist, or anything in between; I need to set clear guidelines and boundaries about the work I’ll be doing.
I created for myself (and you), The Ten Commandments of the Working Professional.
Some of these are the traditional “Thou Shalt Nots” while others take the “I Shall” affirmation format.
- I will not work for less than what I’m worth
- I will not work for someone or something that undermines my personal values
- I will not work on something for someone on simply a promise, without a written agreement (this solidifies trust and protects everyone involved)
- I will not work with someone who does not share the same passion and work ethic that I do
- I will not allow someone I work with or for, to make the same mistake with me more than twice (at three times it becomes a habit)
- I will not allow myself to rest on laurels of any size great or small (laurels are the sirens of the workplace)
- I will continue to evolve and adapt without being asked or told to do so
- I will learn to say “yes” when appropriate and when to say “no” when appropriate
- I will not tie my self-esteem or self-worth into the success or failure of my work
- I will give more than what is asked of me (and I will stretch myself past my perceived abilities)
This week I had a large scale artistic project, a musical, blow up in my face. I was the writer and associate producer. It had a large financial backing. It had a team behind it. It was an incredible concept that had “huge success” written all over it. And it turned out that the business model behind the project was flawed from the very beginning, long before I came on board. So, the plug was pulled ten days before the launch of the project—something to which I gave my heart and soul.
Painful. Annoying. Near heartbreaking.
When I got the news, I needed some time to think. I had to take a long walk to clear my head.
Do I give up and throw in the towel? Do I abandon the project along with everyone else? I wanted this to succeed but my heart was just ripped out. What was I supposed to do? I still believed in the concept as long as it was tweaked a bit.
We couldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We had components of a show that could still be saved for the future. Sets were already built, costumes sewn, a cast album near completion, orchestrations written, and a pop song from the show ready to go on the radio.
On my walk I saw a couple of old houses being knocked down to make way for new construction. But before knocking down the old houses, they were being gutted, stripping the copper wiring from inside so it could be resold or used for new buildings.
When all seems lost, when the thing in front of you looks like a pile of rubble—there’s almost certainly something salvageable from the site of the wreckage.
I’m taking my musical, revamping it slightly for a different audience, keeping the copper wiring—the album, the costumes, and the orchestrations—and living to fight another day.
Bad things happen, even painful things. That’s inevitable. It’s our response to those bad things that dictates what kind of life we lead.
Find the silver lining in every situation… or the copper wiring. Things won’t get easier right away but you’ll be giving your future a fighting chance.
Before my flight to Austin last week, I was sitting inside the Jet Blue terminal at JFK airport and a little brown bird flew and landed ten feet in front of me. The bird had spotted some kind of large nut lying on the ground that it wanted to eat.
The nut was too large for the bird to swallow much less grab with its beak, so it started pecking at the nut. The bird worked hard until the nut cracked into three pieces. But cracking the nut was not the bird’s main objective. The bird started biting at each piece of the nut until it was small enough to chew and swallow. It wasn’t easy biting at each piece of the nut. Smaller pieces were flying in different directions but the bird kept at it and finally ate the entire nut.
That bird was on a mission, a mission to complete his objective, a mission to win.
If that tiny little bird can find a way to win, so can I. But what does it mean to win in the grand scheme of things? What does it mean beyond a little brown bird inside an airport?
- Always looking for solutions
- Willing to take on big challenges
- Taming the negative voices inside your head
- Standing up for yourself
- Standing up for what is right
- Working within the rulebook to make the rules fit the game you want to play
- A phenomenon that can lie inside gray areas… until your decision negatively affects someone else—then it’s a black and white situation
- Patient but not complacent
- Not a diva
- Not something that makes you better than anyone else
- Something that enables you to empower others to win
- Willing to fail
- Needing to learn from a failure
- Earning trust
- Often different than what you envisioned
- Following through on a promise
Winning above all is finding a way to lasso the word “impossible” from the heavens, bring it down to earth, tame it, and make it possible.
Recently I got downgraded. Humbled. I got asked to sing for my supper.
I was supposed to perform The Gospel According to Josh for three different groups of students grades 6-12 at a private school in ritzy suburb of Detroit… along with a sweet fee to pay my expenses and salary. I got booked by the school’s counselor.
And then the school’s teachers and administration stepped in. “We know nothing about this guy and want to make sure he does what he says he does.” So long three performances and sweet fee. Hello, one paid performance/audition for the school’s faculty and staff to potentially come back in the Spring of ’14.
But wait… I’ve been presenting this program for three years. Hundreds of positive outcomes. Endorsements. Testimonials out the wazoo… A published book. I have to audition and take follow up meetings with groups of teachers?
Yes you do, sonny boy.
Stewing on all this for a few days it hit me. Singing for my supper isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s a great thing. There’s no way (outside of budgetary restrictions) that they won’t have me back. This product is too good…
But more importantly, it’s an opportunity for me to forge new, deep relationships. Speaking confidently and intelligently in front of groups of people is a great thing. It should be something we strive to do on a consistent basis. It helps build trust between two or more people and reinforces the fact that you’re honest and credible.
When (not “if”) you do a great job performing on small stages, when you take a small opportunity and create something exceptional from that; you’re grooming yourself for bigger and better things. You also endear yourself to the people who are making the ask of you to prove yourself.
This too shall pass. But in the interim, take stock of your current circumstances. Singing for your supper will keep you humble and hungry — two traits that will keep you on the long route to the success you seek and deserve.
Simply tell your audience or customer how your show, product, or service changes lives.
Often we get caught up in the creation of a product, show, or sales pitch and we tell people all about what it does, it’s features, and who endorses what we do.
The sales pitch becomes convoluted. And the person you’re speaking to, tunes out because they only want to listen to one radio station—WIIFM or.
Figure out how to tell the story behind your story. How does it change lives?
- Does the iPhone app you created keep children safe and save busy working moms from losing sleep at night? Give me a brief example?
- Did the life insurance you sold prevent your unemployed client from having to go $50,000 out of pocket for a funeral? Tell me a little more about that.
- Did the show you wrote bring awareness and funding to the cause of breast cancer treatment and support? That’s a compelling story.
Find and tell those stories tangent to the one you initially wanted to tell—the story about how your show, product, or service changes lives.
That story isn’t a sales call… it’s providing a solution to someone who so greatly needs it.
This week, I had the incredible opportunity to do my show in Northeast Nebraska—well, make that four shows in two days.
The first day was awesome. Both shows had nice sized audiences, lots of great feedback, healing happened, I got to hock a couple of my books, and I made some new friends.
The second day I was going to be a two different schools. After arriving at the college I was supposed to perform for in the morning, I found out they had forgotten to promote the show to the student body. I had driven more than an hour from my home base through the corn fields of Nebraska for no reason at all. I was disappointed not only because I wanted to do my show, but the community had several recent suicides and I was hoping I could help with the healing process.
While I was breaking down my equipment and getting ready to leave, three members of the community showed up. They were counselors for teenagers at a local youth center. It was too late in the morning to do my one-man show for them, but they stayed to hear my usual post-show discussion about hope and crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Because of this, these three counselors were able to take away with them a little bit of helpful information and tools to help the kids that they counsel.
Yes, it felt bad to have been forgotten about by that school… but it paved the way for an intimate and meaningful conversation and dissemination of useful information to those three counselors.
Often, success doesn’t look like the flowery picture we’ve built up in our minds. Follow me on this analogy for second… let’s say I’ve found a cocoon on my front porch one morning. I imagine that the cocoon will, in ten days, turn into an elegant and picturesque butterfly. However, the day that it hatches I find that this butterfly is actually dark brown with an uneven blotch of red on each wing.
So it’s not the butterfly I expected… but it’s still a miracle of nature that all the right conditions were met for this caterpillar to turn into a moth—right on my front porch.
My response to the creation of that moth is all about mindset…
My response to having three people in a room instead of three hundred is all about mindset…
Turning a negative situation and turning it into something positive is all about mindset…
Learn how to tame your mind and how to unleash your mind at appropriate times… and you’ll find much success in everything you do.
The first rule of public speaking or any sort of public presentation is to “Know thy audience.”
Selling (aka finding a solution to someone else’s problem) is a form of public speaking and one must know their audience when making a sale
When selling your show, your skills as an artisan, the company health insurance plan, or anything in between—you’ve got to take into account the person(s) with whom you’re speaking.
I’m going to make some obvious examples to illustrate my point:
- You’re selling a family-themed Christmas musical to the archdiocese of Minneapolis. While meeting with the nuns who are your potential buyers, you wouldn’t lace a few “F-bombs” into your speech.
- When selling your vegan soap line to a grocery store run by PETA activists, you wouldn’t mention the T-bone steak wrapped in bacon that you had for dinner last night.
Again, these are obvious examples. But there are more subtle examples that sway the other way. And the idea here is to learn the language of the person with whom you’re speaking. Become fluent in that language and converse with that person.
I’ll bring up the Christmas musical I’m working on, once again. I’m trying to sell the show to churches. My initial reason for coming onto the project to write the English script and associate produce, was not to bring to light the true meaning of Christmas. However, I know that for someone else on my producing team, the thought of showing people the true meaning of Christmas is a big deal for them.
So, when I speak to the churches I make mention of that. “I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. X. and we want to remind people of the true meaning of Christmas.”
When selling to schools, I tell them “We want to educate Anglo and Latino children on the various Christmas traditions of Latin America.” Which is true. But again, not the prime reason why I came onto the project. Yet, it makes sense to sell the show this way to schools.
There are so many smaller or tangential stories you can tell that live inside the bigger one you’re working so hard to sell. It reminds me of the word game I played as a kid.
How many additional words can you make out of the word “Challenger”?
- Challenge 2) hall 3) anger 4) all etc…
Do the research. Find all the words living inside the bigger word. Find all the angles. *Taking an improv class might help here also because sometimes you have to be able to think on your feet and create a (TRUTHFUL) substory out of thin air.
Two final points to consider when finding these sub-stories.
1) Be creative and have fun doing it.
2) Always tell the truth.
So, I’m writing this one while on an airplane after spending a week in Miami putting together partnerships, group sales, and a pop music single (you read the right) for a Spanish language Christmas musical I’m associate producing, Rescatando la Navidad. PS I also wrote the English/Spanglish version of the script as well—woohoo!
I learned a ton while I was down there… specifically: how to create a spark and then turn it into an explosion.
A short preface:
As artists and artisans we aim to be “present” in everything we do… but we should always be looking to leverage our work into another opportunity. This doesn’t diminish the quality of the work you’re currently doing and requires as much creativity as you’re putting into your project.
While the tone of this post is more theater producer-y the underlying themes apply to actors, writers, and insurance salespeople.
In an effort to try to sell more tickets while providing an all around experience audiences will never forget… I thought we as producers of Rescatando la Navidad “RLN” should be more giving. We should be trying to tap into the spirit of Christmas as much as possible.
While driving to a meeting down Calle Ocho, a Cuban subdistrict of Miami, I got lost (as usual) and stopped in a parking lot to grab some Cuban coffee and ask for directions in my broken Spanish. While in the parking lot, I came across a man who had no shirt on and very few teeth and he mentioned he was homeless and wouldn’t be able to eat today unless I helped him. Something about this bothered me more than when I’m in New York City and I gave the guy a couple of bucks. But it made me pause a little longer to think: “There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of people who will be in the same predicament this Christmas—hungry and having to beg for food…” This kind of thing should not exist. People shouldn’t be going hungry. What if I could do something about it with this show? When I got back to my hotel later in the day, I started looking up Miami based food banks and organizations dedicated to ending hunger. I found Feeding South Florida. They serve four counties in the Miami area through a network of partner agencies, including daycare centers, assisted living facilities, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and emergency food pantries.
This was how we were going to help. I got in touch with them and together we drew up a food drive that will take place on our opening performance, November 26th. We’ll be accepting canned and fresh foods and will also be donating 10% of proceeds from our November 26th performance to Feeding South Florida.
So, on one hand, we get to help feed people this Thanksgiving and Christmas… and on the other hand we get some nice extra foot traffic and extra publicity for our show. I certainly prefer the former but the latter isn’t a bad deal either!
But then I thought… wait a minute… we could go a step further. What if we enlist a celebrity chef based in Miami to help us with the food drive by doing a Latin-American cooking demo out in front of the theater. The chef gets publicity, the food drive gets EXTRA publicity, and we get a little of that action as well.
** Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with doing good things for the sake of doing them. Altruism is great. And a gift is truly its own reward. Giving without keeping score is the best way to do things.
But sometimes there are opportunities (on a variety of levels) to take a little spark like wanting to help feed some people… and turn it into an explosion by enlisting big people to help.
My biggest takeaway from the whole thing:
Always be as giving as possible and remember that you can get anywhere you want to go much faster faster by helping others get where they want to go too.