Monday, October 29, 2012

Getting in the habit of starting

So I'm sitting here staring out the window as my new friend hurricane Sandy pummels the east coast with flooding, squalls (I had to look up what that was when the weather channel told me they were heading my way), and all kinds of other nifty things.  Since the outside world has seemed to stop for now, I decided to write about something that has been on my mind a lot lately.  So for today's post, I'll be talking about starting.

In the last few months, I have found myself with what feels like infinite amounts of free time on my hands.  After years and years of absolutely no free time, it has been a nice change of pace to just sit and relax from time to time.  Relaxing is great and all, but I have discovered I waste tremendous amounts of time.  I seriously spend hours sometimes getting excited about ideas I have but have a tendency to just write them down and never act on them.  This has to stop.

Instead of sitting around waiting for the world to hand over opportunities to me, I have made the decision that from now on I need to get in the habit of creating my own opportunities.  I am constantly thinking of these big ideas and unfortunately I have yet to follow through on putting them in to action.  One thing is this blog you're currently reading.  I have seriously been telling myself for about 6 months I was going to start this and when I finally did it was a great feeling to just do it.

I think a big reason that so many of us never get in this habit is because we're afraid to fail.  I know I was about this blog and still am about some of my other projects I have in mind.  But facing the fear of failure isn't all that bad when you just do it.  Who cares if you fail?  I mean really, who cares?  At least you tried.  It may be a drag, but you'll get over it and learn from the experience.  In my case, I have virtually nothing to lose and everything to gain so there is really no excuse for not pursuing these projects.

The most successful people constantly start.  Seth Godin (whose blog can be found here) reminds me of this every single time I read one of his 15 books, ebooks, or listen to him speak on TED.  He and many of the people he writes about have created their own careers from just constantly starting.

Every successful group, organization, school, or whatever started from an idea.  All it takes is someone with the creativity, motivation, and passion to get it off the ground.  We all have what it takes, but we just need to make the decision to get started.  That's it.  Not every idea will be a total success, but there's no way of knowing unless you just start and see what happens.

We've all got what it takes and if you're reading this from the east coast, take advantage of the time you've got while this storm passes to get started.  The world is just waiting for the next great idea.  Maybe it's yours.  You'll never know unless you try.

Don't put it off until tomorrow or next week.  Start now!  Go, go, go!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The one trick pony. Don't let that be you!

Let's say you are trying to get a project started from scratch on your own.

Who would you rather work with?

-A qualified person that will bring enthusiasm and always have their part prepared?

-Someone that not only does everything listed above, but also comes ready to offer any other skills they have to further the project?

Personally, I'll take the latter.

Too many of us get totally wrapped up in our own playing and tend to forget (or not even realize) that we all have something else to offer.  The world is filled with people that can play the excerpts better than you can. Period.  I don't want to a be a negative nancy, but these days I don't think anyone can rely solely on one skill to get their dream job.  Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that you don't "have what it takes", but I'm just saying that it's important to be realistic with ourselves about this stuff.  I have a ton of incredibly talents friends and colleagues that don't have full time gigs but do well for themselves by bringing different skills to the table.  

These other skills could be literally anything as long as you're creative and active in your use of them.  Maybe you're flexible with different styles, compose/arrange, or are good with people.  Whatever it is, if you present it the right way, anything you've got a knack for can be used at some point to further your career.  We are all individuals and have something unique to bring to the table.  Everyone can play the excerpts so don't be afraid to set yourself apart with something unique to you!

If you're having trouble thinking of some ideas, here are some different ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
-Being organized
-Being proactive 
-Fund-raising/grant writing
-Being hip to social media
-Networking/using your personal connections
-Even having a car could be something you've got that others don't!

Again, pretty much anything you're good at can be applied to your career if you're creative about it.  So if you haven't already start thinking of ways that YOU as an individual can contribute something totally unique to your future, get started now!  In short, make your self indispensable!

Thanks for reading!  I'd love to hear some feedback for you!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thoughts on networking

I can only speak from personal experience, but my brief time out of school has been an incredibly eye opening experience.  This will almost certainly be an on going topic in future posts, but looking back on my time in school, it kind of blows my mind that no one ever mentioned the skills that really make or break you as musicianl  Perhaps this is obvious to you (it wasn't to me), but when I really started thinking about it, I realized networking is unbelievably important.

I'm still learning, but I think the most important thing to stress about this is that networking isn't about just knowing everyone and handing out your business card to anyone that you think might get you a gig.  It's absolutely about creating meaningful relationships with people that can be mutually beneficial but I think should go beyond professional needs.  Don't be afraid to really get know someone.

One of the greatest things about your network is having other people to reach out to when you need some guidance.  I was fortunate to have some really incredible teachers that really took me under their wing outside of horn lessons to help me get started when I was worrying about the future and how to go about everything.  Not only did they constantly offer me advice and guidance, but they were able to lead me directly to others that were able to offer me guidance as well.  

And I think it's worth pointing out that most people are extremely willing to take time to offer guidance to those starting out.  Everyone started somewhere and knows what it's like.  It feels good to help someone in need of guidance and most people are absolutely willing to take the time to help.  

There is a great book on networking called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi that I think should be required reading for every music student.  We can't all make it alone, and at some point we will absolutely need the help of someone else .  Ferrazzi does a fantastic job of laying it all out when it comes to networking.  It helped me out and if you're not sure where to start with this whole networking business this book may be a good fit for you.

Thanks for reading, and as always comments and feedback are always welcome!


What's the plan?

Everyone has a goal.  These goals may change overtime, but no matter who you talk to, everyone has some kind of goal for themselves.  The tough thing that I think a lot of musicians and other artists have trouble with is figuring out what to do to get there.

How many people do you know that finish school and have no clue what's next?  It's a total drag, but I know a ton of incredibly talented musicians that fall into this category.

This may be totally obvious but I think it's worth mentioning (I know I could use the reminder once in awhile!) that the first step to figuring out the next step is to figure out what you truly want to accomplish.  Once we know where we're going, it's a hell of a lot easier to start getting there.  Unfortunately there isn't a map to accomplish anything so we're on our own figuring out how to get where we're going.  Some of my favorite conversations with veterans of the music biz are hearing their stories from their own journeys.  Mind you, no plan could ever predict the winding road of life, but you gotta start somewhere!

This is a perfect place for everyone's favor Michael Jordan quote, but I'm going to throw curve ball and leave you with this one instead:

"There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth.  Not going all the way, and not starting."

-Siddhartha Gautama

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Where it all started

You know what is a total bummer?  When you dedicate years of your life preparing for something and when you get there it is not only completely different than you were expecting, but strangely unsatisfying.  

This happened to me a few years ago when I took my first orchestral audition.  I showed up in Princeton, NJ to take the audition for the 2nd Horn position and I really thought I was going to really blow the walls down. For months I had been plowing through the excerpts and playing the Mozart concerto a bar at a time with a metronome.  This was all fine and dandy, but there was some very frustrating about the process that I couldn't seem to shake for months following the audition.  My audition was at the end of my junior year of college, and this feeling stuck with me all the way through the day I graduated from school. 

So, now what?

Well, I must say I have been fortunate to be exposed to the world of freelancing, private teaching, auditions, and all that other stuff from a pretty young age.  This experience, I think was the most valuable thing that I took away from my years as a student.  It prompted me to take a major step back and really examine the direction I had been going in for the last few years.  I won't claim that it was an epiphany that instantly changed my life (wouldn't that be nifty though?)  but it has led to some serious thoughts about what I truly wanted to do.  The most important thing I took away from the experience was that even though it didn't show me what I wanted for myself, it did show me what I didn't want to do.  

As I begin to make my way in the world, I will be posting here about my experiences and lessons I learn along the way.  Please feel free to join in the conversation at any point!