Sunday, May 26, 2013

3 Biggest Lessons Learned This Year

In the past few weeks, Philly has been abuzz with countless graduation ceremonies and other festivities that have caused me to sit and reflect on what I have learned since I have officially been in the "real world" for over a year.  I hope this list helps some of you who are facing the unknown of what's next in your life.  I've got a lot to learn, but these are just a few things have really made a huge difference in my life that I wanted to share with you all:

1.  Asks LOTS of questions.

If there is one thing that has directly benefited me more than anything else this past year, it has been my fearlessness in asking lots of questions.  No question is too dumb to ask.  In this day and age, you can get in touch with virtually anyone if you know where to look.  Find people that inspire you and reach out them for guidance.  I do this ALL THE TIME, and it has led me to some really great relationships with people I would've never dreamed of meeting.  In the last year alone, I have met business executives, world famous conductors, non-profit CEOs, legendary performers, and so many more interesting people that have offered me some kind of advice or guidance.  I have actually stayed in touch with many of these people and now consider them to be mentors that I can reach out to for guidance.  Not only can these mentors offer guidance to me, but they also act as a connection for me to reach out to infinitely more people that would have never been in my circles otherwise.  Emerson said it best here:

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

Truer words have never been spoken about learning from others.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.

My recommendations for learning how to connect are:  Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, and How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.

2.  Put yourself out there.

It is can be extremely difficult to take risks.  If you never audition, apply, or try anything, you'll never get turned down.  However, unless you're actively putting yourself out there, you will never actually be doing anything.  If I hadn't been actively trying to create my own opportunities this year, it would've been a very sad year of horn playing for me.  Constantly putting myself out there and always looking for the next opportunity to learn has really served me well.  

Seth Godin refers to this as "shipping", and I think it's something that everyone should get used to doing.  I generated well over half of my performing income this year from things that I created myself.  It only takes a little bit of legwork to get started and I can promise from my own experiences that it's incredibly rewarding work.  Getting in the habit of being proactive (and staying proactive!) is one of the key distinctions between people that people that make waves and the others that just bob in the pool.

3.  Pursue other interests.

Not only does this keep me sane, but I have actually learned more about how to create a career as a musician from reading books on totally different topics than in four years of music school.  (It's cheaper too.)  For me, reading has been a great outlet and has introduced me some people and ideas that have changed my entire perspective on careers and life.  Find what excites you and invest yourself in it.  Like I said, the most obvious benefit is that it keeps you sane, but it also develops entire new skills that you can bring to your career as a creative.  Having something unique to offer is so important in the crowded world we live in.  

Personally, the interest I pursued this year was business and entrepreneurship.  I can't even begin to describe the benefits my freelancing career alone has seen from me looking at the music business from a totally different perspective.  Not only has it helped me be more effective in my efforts, but it has even helped give me clarity as to what direction my professional life is headed.  Perhaps it can do the same for you too.

Anyways, so that's my top three list for the year.  I could blabber for days about this stuff, but I will spare you all from that.  I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this and even what you hope to accomplish in the coming year.  

Peace out, folks.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Quick wins.

This past weekend my group, New City Brass, had our first official concert performance.  For those of you that are interested, you can check out samples from the performance HERE.  Now that we've got our first recital under our belts, I can say with confidence that it feels like a "legit" group!  Following this performance, I just had a few thoughts that I think are worth sharing with those of you out there interested in getting your own stuff started.

First off, I think the most important thing anyone should do when starting something from scratch is focusing on getting your first win.

What do I mean by "win"?

Well talking to people I meet, everyone always seems to have a list of things they are "eventually" going to do.  Very few people ever get around to actually trying these things, but the few that do often give up within a few weeks because what they envisioned is actually way harder to achieve than they originally thought.  The best way to combat this feeling of defeat is focus specifically on getting your first opportunity to do what you set out to do.

For me, I was trying to get a brass quintet hired to do weddings and other ceremonial music gigs.  It's actually funny, because I have yet to actually get the group hired for a wedding.  However, the minute that first response came from a church offering to hire us for Easter, I knew this could work.  Immediately following that email, I got that extra boost of motivation I needed to keep pressing on.  About 700 emails later, I have gotten more offers for Christmas and Easter than I could have ever possibly imagined six months ago.  In addition to that first Easter gig, I managed to get us a handful of other opportunities along the way, which have continued to open more doors for myself and the rest of the group.

The point I'm trying to make is that it's a huge ego booster to get that first opportunity.  You shouldn't be shooting for the top of the world starting out.  If you do, you're going to be totally bummed when you don't get any opportunities.  Even if it means doing things for cheaper than you want, it's worth it to start building legitimacy for yourself.  Delivering a high quality product will help you start building a pool of references that could help lead to other opportunities.

Yesterday alone, I sent out over a hundred emails to concert presenters all over PA and NJ.  I only got 2 responses so far, but one of them was an offer to do a Christmas concert at a church in December.  Will it be the most amazing gig ever?  Probably not.  However, just getting that opportunity and connection is a huge win for the group.

Peter Seymour said it best in the interview I did with him:

"The first gigs were all very random and spread out, but very important.  I have always believed the perception of something happening is something happening.  If you’ve got a CD, shows, a website….you’ve got an ensemble!  Once you’re doing gigs and getting out there, it leads to more gigs and more opportunities."

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dealing with haters.

First off, I want to say that while I have my own opinions on dealing with the haters of the world, Julien Smith laid it down better than anyone HERE.  For those of you that are uncomfortable with "profanity", I would not recommend you read what he has to say.  Everyone else, go read it!

As I've mentioned a few times in the past few posts, I think one of the biggest things that holding most people back is fear.  There are oodles of things to be afraid of out there, and trust me, I have my fair share of things I fear.  To be quite honest, one of the biggest fears and obstacles I have dealt with while getting my group a little bit more legitimized, is worrying what other people will think about it.  

I have been working really hard on getting this group running this year, and it wasn't until like a week ago that I finally made a Facebook page for us.  Mind you, there was very little reason until recently to have a page on Facebook, but I seriously told myself I would make this page at least ten times since January.  I realized recently that what I was most afraid of was what the hundreds of music friends I have would think about what I was doing.

How dumb is that?

I was sitting here worrying about what they'll think about my website, what the group sounds like, who's playing in it, where we are playing, and all kinds of other stupid stuff.  Seriously, this is what was holding me back from making something as petty as a Facebook page that most people will never even pay attention to. I know for a fact that I have "friends" and colleagues that will look at the website I made for my group and judge it.  But it took me a little bit to realize that the people that are the most judgmental are often the ones that have the least going on.  Honestly, I don't care at all what those people think.

The website I created was to give people a place where they could learn about and hear the group play.  I'm not trying to impressive my friends that have graduate degrees in music performance.  My audience is people that are genuinely interested in learning more about the group.  It's just place for me to host information, not somewhere to impress people that will never hire us for anything.

It such a silly thing, but I think worth mentioning that people will always have something to say and everyone is always judging someone about something.  There is no reason I should give a shit about what other musicians think because they're not my audience.  So anyways, that is what's holding me back, what about you?