Thursday, November 20, 2014

Safe? Who Said Anything About Safe?

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe."

"He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” 

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I'm sadly amused when people who want to quit their 9-5's start talking about what kind of health insurance they're going to need to get after they quit working.

Those are the ones who are never going to make it.

You see, they've come to rely on having an income stream.

But what would happen if that income stream went away?

What if they woke up one morning and found that the economy had collapsed, their partners had been laid off from their jobs, their businesses had folded, the dollar wasn't even worth the paper it's printed on, and NOBODY had any money, anywhere.

Not even to lend.

The folks with the income addiction wouldn't have a snowball's chance in Hell of surviving, because they have no idea how to construct a new business without money.

You see, you've gotta think outside the box of conventional wisdom, which says that you need to have a safety net in place before you move forward.

There is no safety net. Ever.

It all boils down to this:

If you're not offering something of real value that will stand on its own two feet without being propped up by a bunch of money, then you're selling nothing but air and butterflies.

(Not that I have anything against air and butterflies.)

You're much better off learning to do without.

Do without credit cards. Do without loans. Do without health insurance or tech toys or savings or any of that stuff.

Learn how to live like a minimalist.

Then, if things head south, you'll know that you can fall back on this kind of lifestyle.

You'll know how to rebuild from scratch.

You'll figure out that all that stuff was never really that big a deal after all.

And the fear of losing it will never hold you back again.


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Friday, November 14, 2014

5 Things Business Owners Must Sacrifice in Order to Succeed

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Making room for something better

The word "sacrifice" has come to be associated with things like endangering our lives in the service of country or community, like firefighters and emergency and military personnel. Or it might mean giving all of our money to a noble cause and becoming a pauper.

Such sacrifices are seen as very heroic, but they also carry an almost self-destructive connotation.

It's sort of like the pig and the chicken who wanted to thank the farmer for taking such good care of them. The chicken wanted to offer the farmer a breakfast of ham and eggs.

The pig replied, "That's all fine and well for you; you're just giving the farmer a nice gift. But for me, we're talking about total sacrifice."

However, in the case of the Law of Sacrifice, the word "sacrifice" is energetically more in line with the word "exchange".  We give up one thing in order to make room for something better.

The thing that we give up might feel very precious. It might be an attitude that has served us well, a grudge that we're holding against someone, or a certain way of doing things that is comfortable and yields predictable results.

But clinging to these things can keep us trapped, like a monkey who seizes the candy in a hollow log but finds that her fist with the candy in it is too big to fit back through the hole.

If our choice is between hanging onto that candy and getting away from an oncoming bear, better to choose freedom earlier; we're more likely to be able to get a head start.

Here are 5 things business owners must sacrifice in order to succeed:

1. Anonymity

It can be tempting to tell ourselves, "My work speaks for itself. I don't need to have anybody else to speak for it, and I don't need to go out there and speak for it myself."

The trouble is, how is anybody going to know about your work unless you tell them? And if you can't trust your own work enough to stand behind it with your own name and toot your own horn about it, why should anybody else trust it?

Sacrifice anonymity for pride.

2. Golden Shackles

Many business owners take any profits left over after the bills are paid and buy expensive toys or go on posh vacations. This is fine once in awhile if your bottom line can take it; everyone deserves to be rewarded for their hard work.

But if you're finding that every extra penny is being sunk into buying and maintaining toys and gadgets, it might be time to look at the law of sacrifice

 Sacrifice golden shackles for investment opportunities.

3. Past mistakes

As entrepreneurs, we're gonna mess up. And sometimes, we're gonna mess up right royally. And it's fine to learn from those mistakes.

But the problem with focusing on past mistakes in an effort to avoid making them again is that we actually tend to re-create them.

This is why some people migrate from one bad relationship to the next...and the next...each partner displaying the same traits that they hated in the last one.

If we leave a relationship because we hated living with a control freak, guess what? We'll probably end up with another control freak.

Sacrifice trying to avoid mistakes for long-term vision.

4. Working IN your business

A friend recently told me "If it's important, do it. If it's urgent, don't do it."

We're our own worst bosses and our own worst employees. It's easy to get caught up in the endless to-do lists and damage control.

But we businesspeople need to make it a priority to carve out time to work ON our businesses, not just IN them.

It's like the jar that we fill with the big rocks and then fill in around it with the littler rocks. Take care of the big stuff: the goals, the 10-year plan, the 5-year plan, the branding, the message, the strategic view...and the little stuff will fall into place much more easily.

Sacrifice working IN your business for working ON your business

5. Trying to do it all yourself

Americans pride ourselves on being rugged individualists.

We tend to be control freaks. We want to do it all by ourselves. That way, we don't have to share the credit.

After all, it's why we started our own businesses, right?

And in a way, this is laudable. If we didn't have this kind of drive and ambition, we would be forever stuck in do-nothing land, grumbling about the jobs that we hate.

But this can also keep us stuck, because "the wine bottle can't see its own label".

It's helpful getting another pair of eyes to look at our big pictures and give us honest feedback.

This is what business coaches are for. Many of the top guys -- Bill Gates, Meg Whitman, Larry Page -- all of these top CEOs use business coaches heavily, and look where they are!

It's also helpful realizing that there are things that other people can do way, way better and way, way faster than we can...and it makes sense to ask these people to help us so that we can focus on what we do best.

Sacrifice rugged individualism for collaboration and asking for help.

6. A Final Thought

Remember, the Law of Sacrifice isn't about self-immolation.

It's about giving up something that is slowing us down for something that will take us where we want to go more quickly.


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Friday, November 7, 2014

Is It Possible to Stay In Love With Your Business for the Long Haul?

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I've been divorced twice and am on my third marriage.

I've lost count of the number of jobs I've held, the number of lovers I've had, the number of diets and workout routines I've tried for 3 months, 6 months, a year, three years...only to quit, give up, get dumped, be laid off, leave, stomp off, get fired, lose interest, move on...

Is your life, like mine, littered with exes? Ex lovers? Ex spouses? Ex business ventures? Ex hobbies?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to stick with something or someone for the long haul?

To work through the rough patches, stick together through thick and thin, and grow to really, truly trust on the very deepest level that another something or someone has your back, no matter what?

Can you even imagine it?

Or, deep down, like me, do you even believe it's possible?

My band sings a Tim O'Brien song called "Like I Used to Do". The bridge and chorus go like this:
I still want you the way I wanted you then
If I could do it all over, I'd do it all over again
And those old ways of mine, I've left them behind
Those crazy days are through
The only thing I still do like I used to do
Is carry this torch for you
How do you keep that torch burning for your business over the long haul?

How do you keep that torch burning for your relationships?

How do you keep that torch burning for anything?


Think back

Is there something that you've been doing for a long, long time that still makes your face light up?

For me, it's music. I've been playing the flute for 40 years. Well, 39...but basically 40. And even though I don't practice every day -- or even every month! -- I know that when I pick up that silver instrument, I know it so well, so intimately, so thoroughly...I know its shortcomings, my shortcomings, its quirks, exactly what I can and can't do, exactly how much it can be pushed before the note cracks, how to ask it for exactly the sounds that I want, the amount of vibrato to use to get exactly the effect that I need...

And within those limitations, the two of us, silver stick with keys and human with lips, breath, and tongue...we're the ultimate team.

I know the flute has my back. Music has my back.

And if you ask me about music now, even after 40 years, even though it has never supported me in a monetary way, my face lights up.

Every single time.

And I'll talk your ear off, just like I am now.

What would it be like to feel like this about a business?

What would it be like to feel like this about another human being?

I don't know.

But in 40 years, I hope to be able to tell you.


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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Quiz: What's Your Archetype?

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Back in 1999, I was sitting at my cubicle in the QA section of a software company, killing time on the Internet while waiting for our database administrator to refresh the database. Again. (I did a lot of paid surfing in those days. A-h-h-h, the life of an employee...)

Somewhere along the line, someone who claimed to be a psychic told me I was an "older soul".

I didn't know what that meant, and was bored, so I looked it up.

And stumbled onto a set of teachings that have affected my worldview to this day.

The Michael Teachings first came to public knowledge in 1979 when Chelsea Quinn Yarbro published the book Messages from Michael on the nature of the evolution of the human soul.

This channeled material maps out an entire complex personality system, and ties in a whole worldview that includes reincarnation, time travel, human evolution, astrology...basically, "life, the universe, and everything". And all that other good science fiction - New Age stuff.

The overall premise is that "All Is Choice".

Ain't that the truth?

The personality system has many layers, but the first and most basic layer is the Role.

There are seven Roles:

1. Server
2. Artisan
3. Warrior
4. Scholar
5. Sage
6. Priest
7. King

So, what's your soul's true Role? What's your Archetype? What's your REAL raison d'etre?

Note: When I first took this quiz, I got Sage, but later found out I'm actually an Artisan with Sage just be aware that, if you ever decide to get properly channeled, the quiz results may technically be "wrong", but it'll still pick up one of the top influences in your personality chart.

(This quiz was originally created by J.P. Van Hulle and Jose Stevens, and I shamelessly swiped it from Apologies for the funky formatting.)


What Role Are You?

Written by David Gregg.

This is the type of soul you are, your primary way of being. It is the blueprint of who you are and the special proclivities that you possess.


Read over the grouped statements below. You may see a bit of yourself in all of them. Select the group of statements that most accurately describes your core self. Self-honesty is essential when evaluating these answers. Avoid choosing descriptions that simply indicate how you'd wish to be.

Tally each group to determine which one received the highest number. The groups with the next highest numbers could be your casting or essence twin influence. Your overleaves may also be a factor in the scoring.

Be wary of scoring that appears to reflect career paths or an adopted philosophical stance. Someone interested in spiritual growth, for example, may find themselves attracted to the role of Priest; whereas, someone with the actual role of Priest may find King traits particularly compelling because they're useful in the business world. In short, when taking the test, cast-out all traits you primarily posture for the sake of your career. Only choose traits that accurately match your true self.

After taking the test, you may also find the following one word summaries helpful in sorting out the scoring that best exemplifies your primary way of being. Choose two or three.
  • Service
  • Creation
  • Persuasion
  • Knowledge
  • Expression
  • Compassion
  • Mastery

A test like this does not substitute for good channeling, but it can give you a general idea of what role energies you express, and how those energies differ. The test can also be used as a quick run-down of the traits common for each role.

The key to scoring is at the bottom of the page.


  I support and nurture others, and see the world as my honored guests.
  I feel a need to help alleviate suffering with one-to-one personal attention.
  The word that describes me best is service. I'm a practical, competent, and efficient worker and enjoy being on a team that serves others.
 I regard service as a noble endeavor, and at times, even a duty.
  I'm at my best when I can care for and nurture those who are most in need.
 At my worst I try to control too much. I feel I know what's best for people and resent having my intentions interfered with. Since I consider meeting the needs of others my special calling, I get frustrated when I'm not allowed to serve.
 Sometimes I slip into the role of the downtrodden housewife or the unappreciated caretaker, and can feel like a doormat.
 Domestic life and a "sense of home" are important to me. Although by nature I disavow all excess, my home is appropriately decorous, comfortable, and nurturing. I have a keen eye for work that needs to be done, and tirelessly make sure that windows are cleaned, carpets are vacuumed, and dust never settles.
 I pride myself in preparing a wholesome meal and view food as an expression of love to share. My holiday meals are legendary and I go out of my way to provide favorite foods or a personal touch for all that attend.
 I consider myself a charitable person who is quick to take on the personal needs of others if it will ease their suffering.
 I am neither a seeker of praise nor out to save the world. I help people with what is most needed right now.
 I rarely seek the limelight and prefer to serve behind the scenes, assisting people on an individual level.
 Generally reserved in nature, I'm not prone to wild behavior or extreme exaggeration, but instead seek those "simple pleasures for simple folks."
 Friends and family might describe me as self-effacing, sweet,  service-oriented, productive, dedicated, and caring.
 My ideal choice of work would be as a doctor or nurse, diplomat, politician, bureaucrat, social worker, accountant, office worker, food server, doting husband or wife.


 I seek to create something unique, and see the world as just one big canvas for my creative offspring.
 I'm at my best when I'm creative, expressing my artistry through either fine art, inventions, crafts, fashion, design, poetry, music or ideas.
 Exotic tattoos, body piercings, expressive hairstyles, and fashionable apparel may all be part of my artistic realm. 
 I'm fascinated by the inherent structure in things, and have an innate curiosity for how things are put together, from the tallest skyscraper to the sub-atomic particle.
 Day to day living is often a bore for me, and I delight in being a connoisseur of anything novel in life, leaving the monotonous grind of the 9-5 workplace to those that crave that kind of responsibility. That's not to say I can't contribute and adhere to a productive lifestyle, but I embracingly favor the beat of a different drummer.
 I'm known for my mood swings, and when depressed can alter the atmosphere of my surroundings like a cloud that blocks the sun, leaving everyone around me affected by the shadow.
 I can seem a bit scattered and ungrounded at times.
 I'm generally uncomfortable in large groups of people, and gravitate to the intimacy of the one-on-one connection. 
 I greatly value my alone time and need personal space.
 I can make almost anything a canvas for my creative explorations, and possess a make-the-most-of-what's-available style of inventiveness that allows me to create things out of a limited number of resources. If I metaphorically can't get a table out of those resources, I'll be just as happy to get a chair, or perhaps a small toy..
 I can be hypersensitive, overemotional, and easily hurt by the opinions of others -- especially if it pertains to my own creations.
 I'm at my worst when I slip into delusional worlds of my own making that bear little resemblance to reality.
 There's often a random sense of order in the way I focus on projects, and my world can be littered with a confusing array of unfinished projects, sometimes strewn everywhere. Others are baffled by my seemingly unordered approach to life, but I always see a structure in it.
 Friends and family might describe me as creative, emotional, eccentric, airy, vulnerable, ungrounded, dreamy, spontaneous, artistic, musical, or moody.
 My profession of choice might be as actor, dancer, fine artist, surgeon, fashion model, carpenter, contractor, mechanic, designer, craftsman, architect, inventor, musician, writer, poet.


 I seek a challenge and see the world as unconquered territory to command and explore: life is a game and I play to win.
 I take charge of situations and know what I want and know how to get it.
 The word that describes me best is "persuasive."  My ability to persuade others gives me an edge in business, management, and the achievement of personal goals. 
 At my worst when I'm coercive. I can be hot-tempered, intimidating, and use my strong physical presence to take advantage of the weak. I must avoid the inclination to push people around, or like a guard dog, be unduly suspicious of those that enter my territory. I've learned through trial and bitter error that "might" doesn't always make "right."
 I'm an excellent strategist, goal-setter, and organizer; a "mover and shaker" in society that gets things done.
 I can drop the ball when mired in a minutiae of knotty details, and prefer to do what needs to be done right now.
 I can be a workaholic at times, take on too much, and be unwilling to delegate work when necessary.
 I am known to have a hearty sense of humor, but also the subtlety (and strength) of a Mack truck.
 Blunt, forceful, and with an unflinching knack to say it like it is, I lack the subtlety to be an accomplished diplomat -- or even a good liar. But I'll fight for any cause that defends strong principles and justice.
 "What's the bottom line?" might very well be my mantra. I'm quick to cut through the fat of any situation and assess its merits.
 I love a good challenge, but can sometimes waste valuable energy fighting too many windmills, thus losing the ability to discriminate between what's important.  A copy of the bestseller, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff," might be a good book to read.
 I'm unabashedly physical -- with a strong, muscular body, or at the very least, a solid one -- and thoroughly enjoy the pleasures of earthly existence, having a strong appetite for sex, food, sports, and meeting the challenges associated with success. When I play, I play hard, and in physical interactions with others, I must be mindful of my strength and be careful not to accidentally injure those around me. 
 I'm surprisingly maternal, a good provider, and will draw my sword, if necessary, to protect my loved ones.
 Friends and family might describe me as loyal, productive, focused, down to earth, competitive, brave, honorable, tough, principled, duty-bound, hot-tempered, masculine, a lover of challenges, and a good protector.
 My profession of choice might be as businessman, entrepreneur, foreman, manager, police officer, fireman, lawyer, soldier, prison guard, athlete, construction worker, bouncer.



 I am knowledgeable, detail oriented, and innately curious about the world.
 The first thing people notice about me is my neutrality. I do feel emotions -- even passionately -- but I keep things in check.
 I see the world around me as an object of study, and regard life as a giant classroom to learn in.
 I love to accumulate knowledge and make it available for the benefit of others. Not surprisingly I'm often surrounded by a pile of books, but unlike the average booklover, I can become a packrat and collect books beyond reasonable storage capacity.
 I sometimes feel like a librarian of the Universe: a vigilant observer, recorder, and chronicler of important information.
 The word that describes me best is "research." I completely absorb myself in my studies, and relentlessly pursue forbidden fruits of knowledge till I have metaphorically tasted everything they have to offer.
 At times I'm so bookish that I don't speak from hands on experience, but from theory.
 I sometimes get obsessed with useless facts and trivia.
 In my desire for knowledge and experience, I will try almost anything at least once. This may lead to unpleasant circumstances, but gaining experience is my modus operandi. Regardless of the outcome, there's always something new to learn, and just having the experience is considered mission accomplished.
 I possess the necessary detachment to be an excellent mediator, a natural neutrality that helps me relate well with all kinds of people. I'm generally non-confrontational, grounded, and reliable.
 With a mind that's sponge-like in absorbing facts, figures, and pertinent information, I can be an invaluable resource for others. 
 If I run out of things to study I'll create new knowledge by playing the game of "What would happen next if...?" 
 I'm at my worst when I tend to speculate and make up hypotheses to cover gaps in my knowledge.
 Friends and family might describe me as neutral, a researcher, someone who organizes information, an avid student of philosophy, science, and history.
 My profession of choice might be as a scientist, writer, college professor, historian, philosopher. I am naturally attracted to the information professions, and the information highway via the Internet is something I soak up like a sponge.



 I seek to communicate insights.
 The medium of speech is my personal playground and the world is my audience.
 People say I have a natural affinity for humor.
 I am a gifted disseminator of the truth, and share my insights with a clarity that's both informative and entertaining. I love to play with words and express myself in unique and colorful ways.
 The word that describes me best: expression. Lets face it, I stand out in a crowd! But whether or not my expression is outrageous or informative, I can be an insightful emissary of the human condition, bridging playfulness with wisdom.
 One of my greatest fears is to be misunderstood. Clarity in communication is absolutely imperative to me.
 There's often a running commentary in my head that never stops. Apparently if I'm not a chatterbox around others, I'm perfectly willing to have long conversations with myself. In other words, generally speaking, I'm generally speaking.
 I'm at my best when I have something insightful to say, which is often. I have a natural talent for collecting and disseminating unique information that can make a difference in people's lives. 
 A natural performer, I have the ability to capture people's attention and simultaneously entertain them while tickling their minds with valuable knowledge. That makes me a great teacher.
 I'm at my worst when I not only get in the last word, but the last five-thousand. I can easily pummel my victims with an endless barrage of tornado-like verbiage, and it's best if people just don't argue with me.
 At my darkest hour, I can manipulate and distort facts to suit my own self interests -- think of used car salesmen, or those oily $500 an hour lawyers we just love to hate. 
 I like to be center stage and the life of the party, but I hate to be ignored.
 I'm overly emotional at times and in extreme cases, a "drama queen." In short, I get too wrapped up in my own soap operas.  
 Friends and family might describe me as funny, full of insights, a great communicator, a natural teacher, someone who likes to make play out of work, a person that lightens up the crowd.
 My choice of profession might be as actor (especially on stage), teacher, writer, salesperson, politician, TV announcer, public spokesman, psychic, comedian.
 I regard life as a theatrical production -- I only hope I've got the lead part.



 I seek to serve the highest goodand metaphorically, see the world as my congregation.
 The word that describes me best is "compassion."
  I help people face their fears with optimism and a greater resolve so that they are unafraid of the things that once scared them.
 I am a source of inspiration to those around me andinstinctively know what's best for others.
 I am not averse to the use of politics as a tool to advance my personal vision, either behind the scenes or in the arena.
 I have an overwhelming need to raise consciousness.
 I inspire people to reach their potential.
 I'm emotional, high spirited, and brimming with energy, and approach life with determination and purpose. I often feel like I'm on a mission, and rarely does a day go by when I don't find a way to either improve the spiritual path of myself or the people around me.
 While I try to inspire others through my indefatigable reserves of compassion and vision, I sometimes get carried away and take too much on faith or try to force my beliefs on others.
 I'm at my worst when I crusade fervently, even fanatically, to provoke reforms. I sometimes evangelize inappropriately and without solicitation.
 I've occasionally annoyed others due to the high level of moral conduct I expect from them. Righteous indignation has been an occasional occupational hazard, and I've had to learn that displays of superiority are not conducive towards raising consciousness.
Friends and family might describe me as inspired, compassionate, a visionary, a natural healer, a leader of the congregation, someone that could inspire global healing.
 I am adept at healing others, both psychologically and spiritually.
 My choice of profession might be as a political or religious spokesperson, psychologist, spiritual teacher, founder of nonprofit organization, caretaker, someone who wants to save the world.
 Genuinely warm and nurturing by default, I'm passionately interested in the spiritual growth of my "flock," and inspire people to step beyond their own self-imposed limitations to embrace life more fully. 



 I seek to guide, lead, and delegate. I see the world as my realm, and if given a mandate will lead people to where they want to go.
 The word that describes me best is "mastery." I want things done perfectly the first time and rarely accept second-best. I seek excellence in all things and have exacting standards.
 I rarely stop till I've mastered something and will focus all of my attention on a task till it is complete.
 I am a perfectionist but it has its drawbacks, and I can be too hard on myself and others. 
I have an instinctive ability to balance opposing energies.
 Being a natural leader I expect to step into leadership positions wherever I go. Even in subordinate positions, I quickly move up the ranks.
 I command attention without trying. People typically defer to me as a voice of authority. They seek out my counsel and often become loyal friends and associates, but I only allow a select few into my inner circle.
 I'm a skilled troubleshooter and can quickly assess a situation, toss out what doesn't work, and lead people to action.
 It's important to respect the dignity of others when resolving conflicts or finding solutions. When I collaborate or negotiate, I  prefer to create scenarios where everyone wins.
 As a leader I'm adept at seeing the big picture and this guides me in delegating work to the person with the talent and skills necessary to get the job done right.
 I don't like to ask for help or appear vulnerable and weak.
 I'm at my best when I lead to serve the will of the people.
 I'm at my worst when I'm tyrannical: one who is intolerant, arrogant, and ruthless.
 Friends and family might describe me as competent, grounded, masterful, a natural leader, a powerful presence, a problem solver, someone who keeps their emotions in check, someone with an expansive vision that's able to see the bigger picture.
 My choice of profession might be as head of country; CEO of corporation; film producer; military commander; entrepreneur; investor; economist; bank manager; symphony conductor; football coach; bartender; or anything else that requires a supervisory or problem-solving role.

Key to the Roles:
1. Server (Service)
2. Artisan (Creativity)
3. Warrior (Persuasion)
4. Scholar (Knowledge)
5. Sage (Expression)
6. Priest (Compassion)
7. King  (Mastery)
  Read more about roles.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Open Apology to Musicians, Artists, Writers, and Other Creatives

Let me give you a little background before I plunge into the meat of this story.

I've been playing the flute professionally for 20-some-odd years. I've performed in ensembles like Santa Fe Pro Musica and the Santa Fe Opera. 

In short, I'm good. I'm a pro. And it's taken me almost 40 years to get here.

So, that said, on Saturday afternoon, I posted the following on Facebook:

Inspired by conversions with some of my colleagues, I hereby announce that I am no longer performing in public for free. 
For the last 25 years, my playing for free has taken food out of the mouths of other musicians who are trying to make a living at their art, because when they ask to be paid a reasonable rate for their skill, what they hear is, "Why should we pay you when we can get Catharine to play for free?"
My dear colleagues, I apologize; I have done you a huge disservice. While I can't change the past, I can now stop enabling the de-valuing and exploitation of creative artists.
And let the record show that I am quite content to play music with my friends in our living rooms. I don't need to perform in order to be happy.
If people want free live music, I'm sure there is an abundance of fifth and sixth graders who would be happy to oblige.

The charities weigh in:

This post promptly resulted in a flurry of hateful comments on how selfish I was for not agreeing to play for charity events for free. In the words of one commenter:

I've been lucky enough to have many musical friends and acquaintances who will gladly play for free to help out...If it gets to the point where musicians will no longer do that, I guess we fund-raisers will find someone else to donate their time and talent to help us out. If it gets to the point where nobody cares enough to help, then I'll do something else with my time, and let the community fend for itself...
...I'll continue to try to help, and you can continue to be selfish.
I'm sorry, but wouldn't paying everyone a fair wage for their services result in less need for charity?

But all that aside, the whole charity thing puts musicians and other creatives in a very difficult position.

On the one hand, if we donate our services to charities, it supports the perception that music and other artistic creations should be available for free. This hurts us and our fellow creatives.

On the other hand, if we say "no" to charity events, then we are labeled as "selfish" and lose "nice points" in the community.

In the case of plumbers and lawyers who donate to charities, this isn't an issue. People EXPECT to pay plumbers and lawyers, so if they donate their time or services, it's not that big a deal.

I, too, would probably be feeling a bit more philanthropic if my annual income were in the six-digit range and people didn't feel entitled to free music.

Personally, I'm done being "nice". 

Working for "exposure" or "experience":

Charity and fundraisers aside, the work that artists and musicians put into their craft is vastly undervalued compared to other, 'non-creative' professionals. I really appreciate your statement, Catharine, as I often feel conflicted and frustrated at being asked to offer my services for free. Often the argument is that it will be 'good exposure' or a 'valuable experience'. The older I get the less that argument works for me. I have experience and I am educated in my field. I think setting appropriate boundaries, like you have done in this post, is the only way we creatives can be taken seriously. And of course, donating our time and efforts when the cause and situation fits, but overall committing to a standard for yourself that you expect others to respect as well.

We shouldn't have to feel conflicted and frustrated. Would a plumber feel conflicted and frustrated? I think not.

We creatives need to stop allowing others to manipulate and shame us into compliance when we choose to say "no" to working for free.

Can we stop this train?

I've chosen to step in front of a speeding train full of people who feel entitled to free art. 

In the engine car of this train are millions of artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, and other creatives who are willing to give away their services. They're all in there, shovels in hand, piling on the coal. 

Perhaps if enough of us stepped in front of this train, we'd have a prayer of slowing it down a little bit.

I'm afraid, however, that it's far more likely that the few of us who are selfish enough to say "No" will just end up get squashed.

Wanna join me anyway?

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

When Your Self-Confidence Is Lying Bleeding on the Floor...

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc 
This has not been a very good couple of weeks.

After a year and a half of bringing in only $100 - $300 per month with dog walking and pet sitting, I have given up on the pet care thing. It's simply never going to fly here.

I fell for the myth that says "Hey, if nobody else is doing it, then if I do it, I'll have a monopoly!"


And then I realized with bitterness that the whole social media marketing thing?

Nobody else is doing that around here, either.

Great, I'm on a roll.

When I'm not walking my one dog client or making the occasional pet sitting visit, I plan Google Plus classes, hoping to gain some credibility with local business owners. I stare at the computer screen 5-6 hours a day, honing my blogging and social media skills for five free accounts. Four of them are my own and Ralph's businesses; one is a nonprofit for which we're on the board of directors.

Oh yeah, and I go for walks, runs, and bike rides with the dogs and watch people ignore the big, beautiful sign on my bike that reads "Alamosa Dog Walking Services, 719-937...".

Meanwhile, Ralph puts in 28-hour days, 10 days a week, running his coffee shop, doing catering, and cleaning windows.

We do business debt-free, without credit cards or loans, so every penny of  our income goes into buying business supplies, gas for the car, and the phone bill.

I sold my piccolo last month and paid forward a couple months' rent.

We've dropped every expense we can. No Netflix, no health insurance, no food, no car insurance (I have a perfect driving record; please don't tell the cops.)

Sometimes, idealism sucks.

I can't even get a job at Safeway. Guess their online personality quiz thingy makes me look like some kind of psychopath.

Right now, I'm holding the following inner dialog with the self-development and business gurus:

"Tailor your blog and social media posts around the questions your clients are asking you." 

Well, I have no clients to ask me questions, so...?

"What do people ask your advice about? Use that to help you choose your business direction." 

Nobody asks for my advice about anything except what kind of dog food I feed my dogs (and to save you the trouble, my answer is, "whatever's cheap and doesn't look like multicolored Christmas lights.")

"Work on your personal brand. Be authentic. You'll stand out in the crowd and people will like and trust you."

Really? Someone's going to hire me because I'm nice?

"Do what you love, do what you're good at, and eventually you'll get paid for it."

Once a week, people come up to me and tell me what a good musician I am, or how much they miss my voice on the radio.

Once a week, if I'm lucky, I might make $20 in tips playing music at a local pizza restaurant. Usually it's more like $5.

And then here's my favorite (with all apologies to Regina, whom I actually adore. It is her blog post that has inspired mine):
"...after you spend enough time caring for the needs of the other person (your reader), that person eventually will be “into you” and wonder what they can do to support you. If you keep creating content that really inspires, entertains, or helps people, they will WANT to share it. It will become an honor and a pleasure to spread your blog around."
I take care of other people. I like other people. I want to help them. I know I'm a good writer. I know I can create good content. The few people who actually stop by and read my stuff say it's good, it's inspiring, it's entertaining, it's powerful...

I even wrote a book, to help other people. And now I can say I'm a published author.

Sold two.

Whoop-de-do. Nobody cares.

Yeah, I'm good at stuff. I'm accomplished. I'm hardworking. I'm creative. I'm focused. I'm smart. I'm even nice most of the time.

How is this going to pay my bills?

How is getting a whole bunch of blog subscribers going to pay my bills?

How is getting a whole bunch of fans on Facebook going to pay my bills?

How is playing beautiful music that people appreciate going to pay my bills?

How is having an FM radio voice like Margot Adler going to pay my bills?

To say that my self-confidence has been beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat and left to bleed to death would be the understatement of the century.

At this moment, there are three things that are keeping me going: 

1. The story that Napoleon Hill told about the miner who stopped digging three feet before he hit the vein of gold.

2. Remembering that the toughest part on the Emotional Cycle of Change -- where most people bail out -- comes right before things start getting easier.

3. The following paragraph from Regina's blog post, How I Started Making a Full-Time Blogging Income (Story Time Y’all):

Realize you are not a fraud. You are a fighter.
When I was finishing my first book (on how to start a business), I was sleeping on an air mattress with a slow leak. I’d start off the evening all comfy, and I’d end up the next morning sleeping on the floor. Also, my business income was at an all-time low with all the changes I was making. And I almost never slept. It was the first time in my life I drank coffee. I felt like the biggest fraud finishing a book on how to start a business while my own business was suffering. You may feel like you don’t have the place to blog about your chosen topics, or that you don’t have the right to charge $XYZ for your services. Listen to me please: You are not a fraud. You are simply fighting for who you know you are. You are fighting for what you’re worth. You are fighting to make a difference in the world while other people are sitting around laughing. They wish they could have your courage. And maybe one day you will help them get it, but for now, YOU MUST FIGHT. Please, you must continue to fight.
Deep down, it's about more than money. It's about value. We all want to be valued for who we are, for being our own individual, beautiful contribution to the world, for being ourselves, for having our own dreams ... not for what we contribute as a cog in someone else's dream. 

At our very cores, we know we are valuable, that we really ARE gifts,

Just as we are,

Just because we are alive.

If we weren't, we wouldn't BE alive.

Why? Because God doesn't create junk.

Saying that someone isn't worth much, that WE'RE not worth much, is an insult to God.

Fortunately, God is all-loving and doesn't mind.

When the world doesn't reflect the truth of our dazzling beauty and brilliance back to us, when society DE-VALUES our humanity, when we let other people try to stuff us into little boxes into which we don't fit,..

It hurts.

This pain we feel?

It's because we KNOW, with every fiber of our beings, that we ARE valuable, just as we are, and we're temporarily letting a fucked-up society try to tell us otherwise.

THIS is what we're fighting for. We KNOW that we are valuable, and that it IS possible to be valued, because GOD, the ALL-THAT-IS, the CREATOR of ALL MANIFEST THINGS VALUES US! Otherwise, we wouldn't even exist.

I am NOT going to back down from my dreams!

I will STARVE before I go back to being a cog in a sick machine!

I am GOING to figure this out!

And if you want to come with me, we can figure this out together.

Let's start a revolution!

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