Once again, it’s a new year. OK, a little past New Years. I’ve been kind of busy lately (I’ll get to that in a blog post next week). Anyway, Is it going to be a fresh beginning? Is it going to be more of the same? Well, that’s always the question isn’t it? Maybe not for some people, but I think that if you can’t point to lessons you’ve learned and acknowledge that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you’re learning. If you are paying attention, you can avoid making the mistakes of the past. If it seems like you’re not learning, you’re just not paying attention.
Over the holidays, I take time to reflect. Not just on the last year, but I think about what I’ve done over a course of many years to get where I am (wherever that is). It’s a process and there have been victories and mistakes. Every once in a while you have to take stock and hone things down to a few concepts you know have worked for you. In that spirit, here’s what I’ve been thinking about that has worked for me.
Invest in Yourself. Here’s why: no one else is going to do it. At least not in the long term. People will invest in you so long as their short term needs are being met and so long they maintain their profit margin. So, be an owner, and if that’s not possible yet work towards being an owner. How do you do that? Invent your job and when you’re done inventing your job, reinvent it. You do that by doing way more than your job description. Own your position and commit to your evolution within it. I’m not just talking about business. Invest in your physical well being, your mental well being, your spiritual well being. Own it all. If you are not doing the investments, own it and change it. If you are doing the investments, own the process, own the failures and successes equally.
If you’re already an owner, a freelance entrepreneur, an Artist: Examine your investment. Are you constantly making it more valuable with everything you do? Or are you undermining it with time wasters, vamping, avoiding issues or excuses? Be honest and make sure you are on track.
Study and Be Curious. When the world famous cellist Pablo Casals was 90 years old, someone asked him “why do you still practice 4 hours a day?” he replied: “because I think I’m making progress.”
When I’m not studying I notice. When I’m not studying I have the nagging feeling I am falling behind. Why do I care so much? Because this isn’t a frickin dress rehearsal. I’m on stage right now. My career is happening right now. I’m mentoring those around me right now. I’m building a business right now.
What are you trying to accomplish? Are you seeking out the best information to accomplish it? Are you stretching your mind and your skill set? People who know me well, know that I am a big fan of listening to business books on my commute. I am always looking for new ideas. If I could do it all over again, I would have started and maintained my discipline of studying whatever endeavor I was involved in a lot sooner than I did. If you are not constantly bringing new ideas into your life, if you are not practicing what you choose to master, you run the run the risk of maintaining your own status quo. Essentially, status quo doesn’t exist. It’s against the laws of physics to stand completely still. You’re always moving in one direction or the other. Make sure it’s forward.
Trust Your Gut – When people say “my gut is telling me…” they are usually right. You’re gut is the outward extension of your subconscious. Our subconscious is much more in tune with how we are really feeling, because it’s not susceptible to the constant brain chatter we engage in. The key with gut feelings is to separate them from excitement and fear. After you work through your reasoning on a decision, take a moment to breathe and be silent and let your gut weigh in.
Feel Like an Imposter – I am driven by fear, I admit it. I’ve also found that it’s a good place to be. So long as fear doesn’t paralyze you, it’s good to worry that you might be “found out.” It’s good to feel not as smart or talented as people think you are. It’s the trait I find most prevalent in successful artists. It makes you humble and focused. Fear handled correctly will make you study harder, practice harder and be more driven. Confidence is great, over confidence breeds mistakes.
Take Risks “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky. Usually attributed to Michael Jordan, but indeed he stole it from Gretzky. This one is very tough, especially if you have a lot of responsibility. It’s easy to stay where you’re at, do the things that got you to where you are now and maintain. You have to force yourself to step out of your comfort zone and try things that just might not work. We have two parts of the brain, our modern brain, which reasons and our primitive brain which controls our fight or flight response. Our primitive brain hates taking risks, because back when we were living in caves, if you took a risk that didn’t work out, you usually died. Our primitive brain doesn’t know the difference between a lion and making a cold call. You have to push through the physiology and risk failure. You also have to fail a lot to succeed.
In my youth I knew the theater impresario Hal Prince quite well. He once told me that only one third of the shows he produced over his career made money. It wasn’t lost on me that he he had to produce 9 shows to get 3 successful ones. He had to work on every one for years to find out if it was a success or a failure. That is commitment to process. That is knowing the math and accepting it. So, accept the math, get out there, take some risks, fail a lot and start realizing some successes.
Look to the Horizon – When I was learning to drive, I remember the instructor teaching us the concept of looking as far down the road as you can see and let your peripheral vision handle what is directly in front of you. That way you can see problems as they develop long before they reach you. This also pertains to opportunities. I’ve always been interested and excited in the future. The excitement of what’s coming. I’ve always looked down the road, it’s just now that I’m realizing how well it’s served me.
Have Some Things in the Pipeline – This is the game of what’s next? In the music industry, you can have a song, an album, a tour, but you’ll never get a record deal if you can’t tell the label what else they can sell after they’re finished selling what you have now. For every deal I’ve got, I have two more that are gestating in the background. For every move I make, I have two more long range ones that I’m working on. Some will work out in the long run, some won’t, but that’s not the point. Things worth the trouble take a long time to develop. You have to put in time on a variety of options and that’s hard when you’d like to have some instant gratification.
The truth never lives in what you say, the truth is always found in what you do – This is the most important one of all. People say a lot of things. I say a lot of things. Sometimes I’m thinking or fantasizing out loud. I do a lot less of that now, because as a leader, people tend to believe me when I say something and they expect it to happen. So, when I say something I have to back it up with action or lose my credibility. I’ve found it’s very powerful to put yourself in that position. The need to act based on my words will eat at me until I throw down and do something about it. Declarations may set a standard to be held to, but what you take action on is how you will be judged. What you take action on will determine your success. What you take action on tells the world your values, your standards and your true intent.
Good luck out there this year. Make some magic!