Tag Archives: Money

There is no Magic Bullet

I’ve spent my entire career looking for a magic bullet.  Yes, it’s true, I admit it.  It’s naive, it’s purposeless and the laws of physics pretty much don’t work that way. The kicker is that I know better.  Sorry, we all look for one, but there is no magic bullet.

bullet_5I’m not a behavioral PHD, but my personal feeling is that the reasoning mind works so diligently to find solutions to any problem put in front of it, that at any point, the mind feels that it will find a permanent solution and move on to solve something else.

Lets take something completely inane.  Say you have a coffee maker that you have to put water in every morning to make coffee.  You hate that. I know I do.  I just want coffee first thing, I don’t want any extra work to do.  Eventually, you’re in Starbucks and notice they never have to put water in their machine.  Why is that you ask?  simple answer: they have it hooked up to a water line.  You think, I can do that at home. So, you call a plummer, run a pipe from the main line (at great expense) to the coffee maker, problem solved permanently.  I will never have to put water in the coffee maker again.  You are totally satisfied, It’s a magic bullet. Until the coffee maker breaks. Then there’s a new problem. If I could only find a coffee maker that lasts forever and never breaks.  Good luck with that one, I’m happy if I find one that makes it to New Years from Christmas Day.

We look for the magic bullet everywhere.  The next project, the next relationship, the next business idea, the next job.  Nothing solves permanently.  At the risk of alienating my religious friends I’ll say that religion offers a magic bullet of permanent peace, permanent salvation, etc., etc.  But, as the saying goes: “Jesus Saves,” not “Jesus Solves.” No matter how committed you are, there is still a lot of work and adjustment to do while walking around earth.  Eternal life?  That sounds like a magic bullet.  I don’t know, I guess we’ll eventually find out.

images-1 Even the magic bullet in the movie JFK had a lot of work to do.  As Kevin Costner kept reminding us. “Back and to the left. Back and to the left.  That was one magic bullet.”  If the magic bullet itself has to work so hard to be magic, what makes you think there are any shortcuts for you.

Every project is another opportunity to advance your skill set.  It’s never a breakthrough in and of itself.  Your success is not just out of reach.  It’s happening right now.  Success is the never ending process of realizing there is no magic bullet. This project leads to the next project.  One challenge leads to another, so learn to take joy in the process of moving challenge to challenge. Do the best you can, find your way to the next one, and the next and the next.

Relationships are not any different.  You are finding the way to the next moment. But, what moment are you finding your way to?  Are you sculpting the moments or are you just watching them arrive and pass?

Since there is no such thing as a magic bullet, overnight success, perfect relationships, what are we to do to move things forward in our careers and life? The idea of creating conscious value.  If you ask yourself in any situation, job, task, relationship, am I creating value now?  The simple act of asking the question puts you much farther ahead than looking for a magic bullet.

You see, looking for the magic bullet is the act of looking for the world around you to bring something to you that will solve all your problems.  But remember, a bullet’s trajectory, no matter how magic, will eventually succumb to gravity and end up in the dirt.

Unknown-2Creating value is the act of bringing something to the world around you which is a far more powerful position. For to create value is to break through the challenges and the transience for one shining moment of clarity and success.  String together many moments of creating value and you will create a life well lived.

 

F#@$ The Status Quo

Steve-Jobs-Apple“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
― Apple Inc.

I love good advertising copy, and this is about the best there has ever been, with the possible exception of “That’s a some spicy spicy meat-a-ball.”  Apple built a whole brand on taking the assumptions of design, product lines and marketing and throwing it all out the window.  I don’t believe for a minute they were certain any of their ideas would work. But, they were certain that doing things everyone else’s way would be boring and unfulfilling. So, they were willing to take risks, and as they say: with great risk comes great reward.

More than this, they were unwilling to sit on their laurels.  They kept moving forward. For them, the status quo doesn’t exist. They continually stay out in front, finding new areas to compete in and developing products that people want.  What’s interesting is that the products are not even necessarily the best products out there, as other companies catch up and eclipse them. But, with a culture of constantly moving forward, of bucking the status quo, they are looking to eclipse themselves as a daily practice and many of us are willing to go along for that ride.

As I was contemplating this today, I received an email from Linked In asking if I wanted to follow Ari Emanuel, CEO of William Morris Endeavor. I found his philosophical statement so compelling I signed right up.  There was so much I wanted to say on this subject, but found that Ari just summed it all up.

timthumbFrom Ari Emanuel’s Linked In profile:

“Next” doesn’t sound like a motto to live by. It doesn’t make for an epic battle cry or moving political campaign slogan. But it was – and still is – an Emanuel family mantra that my father used every day when I was growing up. Sitting around the kitchen table after school, my brothers and I would spin our day’s success stories. Our father’s response? “Nu” (Hebrew for next).

So why am I telling you this?  Who gives a shit what my father said?  I’m sharing this with you because it’s a philosophy that has carried me from the family dinner table to where I am today.  While I acknowledge that you can learn a great deal from historical precedents, I think we all spend too much time and energy looking backward.  The successes or failures of your past don’t define you.  It’s the ability to turn the page to the next, better chapter.

Take my career as an example.  If I had paid attention to my “career indicators” – bad grades, dyslexia, ADD, non-Ivy League school (I could go on, but my parents would prefer I didn’t) – who knows where I would be.  Certainly not here, sharing my opinion on life.

And when a few of my colleagues and I decided to leave one of Hollywood’s most established talent agencies to start our own, above a burger restaurant, there were plenty of reasons (families, mortgages, expense accounts) to stay put.  But we weren’t satisfied.  We could see that the business was changing.  We knew that in order for our clients to play in this new landscape, we had to form an agency that fit our vision of the future. Even when Endeavor became a formidable competitor to the Big 4 talent agencies, my father’s voice once again rang in my ears.

What was going to be the next great leap forward for our clients and our company?  The answer was merging our startup with a 100+ year-old institution, a risk that many warned against, citing countless failed mergers.  Again, it was that same question: “What’s next?” It forced me to keep moving forward, and now WME is just getting started.

My point is, if you’re looking for an excuse to fail, you will always find one. Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem celebrating the wins.  They instill the confidence that propels us forward.  Just don’t trip on your victory lap.

To some, “next” may come off as a dismissal. To me, it’s the catalyst for endless possibilities.  As an agent, my job is not done when the deal is closed. It’s about constantly watching  the road ahead.

OK you’ve heard enough from me…..next.

– Ari Emanuel

That’s a pretty awesome statement. One can argue that perhaps Ari’s next with the William Morris merger actually propelled Endeavor backwards and made just made them into another iteration of the big 4.  But, that would be missing the point.  Wherever the “Next” took Ari, it took him in a direction that will spawn another “Next” and another and another….  Some will go forward, some backward.  But to have the opportunity to move forward, you have to risk going backwards sometimes.  To do nothing, to stay put is just maintaining a status quo.

What’s your status quo? How can you shake it? Can you gird your loins and take a step forward with the risk of taking two steps back?  If you can’t, maybe it’s time to ask yourself what you’re afraid of. And, if you’re afraid you’re not alone. Being afraid doesn’t make you weak, it makes you smart. But, move anyway….. and move now.

I’ve Seen London, I’ve Seen France…

Headed to Paris from London today. Rocking the Eurostar through the Chunnel. The English countryside has been flying by for the past half hour, looking vaguely like New England until a random castle pops onto the landscape out of nowhere. The train conductor is making an announcement through a squeaky speaker in an accent so thick and unintelligible that he sounds like inspector Clouseau taking your order at a Jack In The Box drive through. I hope it wasn’t something important like “the Chunnel ahead has sprung a leak, please proceed to the lifeboats.” I think if that’s the case we’re pretty well screwed anyway, but still.

People have been commenting on my American accent over the past few days!! Can you imagine? I keep telling them I’m not the one with the accent, but it hasn’t helped. When I realize that I am indeed the different one, I make a quick apology for the Bush administration and we move right along with the conversation.

Back to the train. Most of the seats on this train face each other and I’m opposite a rather large man. We are alternating our foot position to give us each enough leg room. The guy next to me is asleep with his fist against the side of his head, his propped elbow taking up the whole arm rest between us. Therefore, I am now typing in a contorted sideways position, my body twisted against the window and my feet headed in the opposite direction between the fat man’s feet. I would say something, but my accent would be discovered and I would have to start the Bush apology all over again.  However, It does remind me about the importance of positioning.

The view from my train!

Ah, we’ve come out of the dark tunnel and into France. I just got a text from the French cell provider that my per minute rates are one quarter of what they were in Great Britain. Imagine the joy of the troops coming ashore at Normandy when they realized their cell phone calls just got cheaper. And we wonder how they found the resolve to push on to Berlin…

Back to positioning. How is your career and indeed your life positioned? It’s a tricky question. Are you doing commercials, features, television? Are you at the top of the market, the middle of the market or are you just breaking in? Are you single with very little stuff and no debt or are you married with kids and a mortgage?

None of these scenarios are better or worse than another, but they all point to what your positioning is. You may wish to work at the high end of features but you are working in the middle market of tv commercials and you have a family. Not impossible by any means, but not as easy as the transition of someone without a family, as the financial foundation must be supported and risk is tougher. You have the talent, but the positioning is wrong. You may be single, just out of film school with a few student films under your belt and you are positioning for high end commercials. Your reel is pretty good but your set experience is light and you’ve never worked in the stressful environment of advertising where money changes hands fast.  And errors, well lets just say there isn’t much latitude for errors.

Positioning is a starting point at the beginning of a career.  Positioning is also choosing a NEW starting point at any time during a career.  So, how do you find the right positioning to have the career you want? How do you then move it forward? There is no right way to answer to this, but in my experience I would say slowly. Step by step, day by day get to where you want to go by moving in the direction you desire. If you have financial and family commitments, build up your savings so you can take a low paying feature as an intro to that world. If you are young, join a department at the bottom and work your way up so you are exposed to both the technical and political workings of the business.

If you are pointed one way and where you want to go is in the opposite direction, you first need to turn around. Assess where you really want to go and take the first small steps in getting there. There is a pressure in society to live your whole career in a month.  To be a millionaire before you are 30. That happens of course, but only in a minute percentage of careers.  Mostly, it’s the image we tend to see in the media, so it’s our own fault really.  But, you don’t have to buy into it.

The idea is to be calculating and make choices wisely over a period of time. If you can avoid it, don’t head in directions that are just lucrative and not artistically satisfying, unless of course you have to.  There is a point where money will no longer be enough. I heard a great quote by the speaker John C. Maxwell. “To go up you have to give up.”

It’s true. Many on my trip have been surprised and some even appalled that this is my first trip to Europe. I could have gone earlier of course, but I was working mostly office jobs, supporting a family, working my way up. The positioning and direction I had chosen for my life just hadn’t led to Europe until now.  It’s ironic of course that many of the clients I work with travel to Europe constantly. Some live there. However, I now realize my positioning has been changing slowly over the past several years and I’ve wanted it to. This sea change has culminated in the creation of WPA, The Worldwide Production Agency. With that name, of course there is going to be a bit more travel involved.

So, assess where you’ve positioned yourself and where you want to go. Remember, steering a career is like steering a big ship. To turn it in a new direction you turn the wheel slowly.  To try and spin it around quickly is to risk capsizing.

As Thoreau said: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” I’ll add: as you go, be aware of your course and make the small adjustments to keep you on your path.

I’ve always wanted to go to Europe and here I am.  It took a while, but now I am on a train, twisted against the window between a snoring arm rest hog and a fat man. Inspector Clouseau is muttering about his “Minkey” over the intercom and I’m loving every second. It’s funny, I chose this long ago and step by step, with some decent and often hard choices, I slowly got here.

Tonight I see the Eiffel Tower. Tomorrow, who knows?

It’s The Little Things

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the little things add up. Like plaque in your arteries.  I’ve seen that commercial with the little globules piling up in that guy’s heart.  Those globules are really tiny (they tell you the head of a pin tiny) but of course they go on to say the tiny gobs become a clog that can kill you, or you end up with a gurney following you around all day or any number of scary advertising metaphors.

Little things of course mean a lot. They say divorces start over small arguments over the toothpaste cap.  So much so that toothpaste manufacturers have been kind enough to attach the cap to the tube, an innovation that has saved millions in legal fees.  The point is that there becomes enough of anything (positive OR negative) and a critical mass will eventually arise. So, lately I’ve become obsessed with this concept.

I’ve also become a bit obsessed with cultivating a positive attitude. Now starting with heart attacks and divorce may not sound like an overtly positive person at the keyboard, but I think I’m becoming a pretty positive person. For instance, if you end up having a heart attack and it doesn’t kill you, you’ll probably begin to appreciate the important things in life with your second chance.  If you get a divorce, maybe there’s someone better out there for you. If you have a heart attack and get a divorce at the same time, maybe it’s time to realize that your attention to everything may need some work.

Our lives are a process and too often we bump along through that process letting the tide take us wherever it chooses to go.  It’s part of the American dream.

If you don’t believe me, just walk into any bar for Thursday night Karaoke and you will hear someone drunkenly singing ‘Rambling Man.’ But the other part of the dream is to have a successful, fulfilling career that showers upon us all the trappings of our achievement.  My assessment: the concept of American Dream lives at cross purposes and drives us crazy.

If you live and work in Hollywood as I do, you find yourself at the epicenter of this contradiction.  The media that we create tells us that life is easy, we’re supposed to be beautiful with not much effort and no matter the problem, it all works out in the end.  Even in Vampire movies for some reason.  Nothing more compelling than violent, brooding vampires finding true love, attacking helpless wildlife and living happily ever after.

So, our eyes and ears tell us yes, yes, yes, anything is possible and our brains assess our reality and tell us, no, no, no, all of this is BS.  The result:  paralysis.

So I want to talk about how to move past paralysis and a way to move forward.  I’ve talked in the past about the 1% solution.  The idea that making 1% progress in your career everyday compounds and reaches the tipping point that little heart globules can.  But how to exact that 1%?. I think I’ve found a way.

I recently read an article by Darren Hardy in Success magazine (yes, I’m one of the dorks that reads that publication) about an equation for building and maintaining your career network through doing little things.  It’s called the 3 – 15 – 5 – 1 equation.  It breaks down like this: each week commit to 3 – in person meetings, 15 written communications, 5 direct phone calls, 1 gift. The idea is to sit down at the beginning of each week and plan it out.  Then work your way through the plan over the next 5 days.

Here’s the paralysis that hit me with this strategy:  Do I know enough people to make this work week to week or will I just be hitting the same people over and over again?  It forced me to sit down and write a list of all my business contacts that I feel close enough to do this with.  I came up with about 120.  But, then I took it further, I wrote out a list of people and companies I’d like to get to know or that I have vague aquaintence with. Then I brought in the people I work closest with and reviewed the list, adding people they know well and want to get to know.  Now between us all the list is rather large and we can all do it.

It occurred to me as I was putting this together that these are all little things.  All doable if I write a weekly plan for it.  I haven’t figured it all out yet, the gift thing in particular because that seems a bit forward to me, but I am committed to trying it all out.

Instead of picturing globules piling up in arteries, I am looking at it as more of a turn of the flywheel with each communication.  If you want, you can go back and read that blog post also (Lord of the Flywheel).  See, I’ve been writing this blog for a year now and the material has compounded to a point where I can refer to previous posts!  This works the same way, only you’re compounding a network of relationships!  Do 1% daily, turn the flywheel and those relationships will begin to intertwine also.  When that happens you reach Hollywoods Holy Grail: BUZZ

Now isn’t this a better use of your time than sitting around waiting for plaque to build up in your heart?  As a matter of fact, I’m thinking the positive direction and actionable steps may prevent a heart attack. Oh, and lay off the nachos.

Don’t Panic!!

I have three dogs, Sophie, Dusty and Rambo.  Now this isn’t some stupid blog post created to show pictures of my stupid pets.  Though I will show pictures of my stupid pets in a few paragraphs.  Let me start again.  I have three dogs, Sophie, Dusty and Rambo.  They never panic.  They bark furiously from the windows at the Fed-x man, landscapers, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the dogs next door, but they never panic.

I’ve watched them a lot.  They react to stimuli sure, and they get very excited. But nearest I can tell, when they get used to a situation, they calm right down, forget about it and go about the business of sniffing each others butt’s and trying to drag off the counters things which may or may not be food.  Not once have I seen them brood or worry about a situation.

Sophie

If i’m a little late with dinner, they sit at attention, expectantly waiting.  They don’t become consumed with thoughts of never eating again. They just wait.  If I sleep in and don’t hear them scratching to go out, they may take care of business in the house, but they don’t worry that they’ll never see the backyard again.

Perhaps, it’s the size of their brain.  Let’s face it, not big. Not prone to reason, just fight or flight.  I believe it’s the reasoning mind that panics.  A dog will just run. Humans too will run in certain situations, but are more likely to stand there, staring at the danger and thinking ahead to all the various possibilities of how it will ruin their life ten or twenty years down the road.

Dusty

When it comes to my dogs and panic, The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a little different of course.  In those cases I actually let the dogs out.  They are in full flight. It’s interesting watching one Witness trying to run while pushing the other Witness’s wheelchair (there’s always one in a wheelchair) down my long gravel driveway, the wheels digging in, the dogs getting closer, the panic rising.  The attendant Witness suddenly turning the chair around and using his friend as a human shield against the on coming pack of canine killing machines.  Of course they don’t realize that with my dogs, the only goal they have is to bury their noses well into the crotch of a Jehovah’s Witness to get a whiff of God.

Weighing in at 6 lbs - Rambo

I’m kidding about all that of course, I would never sick my dogs on anyone (or would I?)  I’m just trying to make a point here.  If you don’t get that job or couple of jobs, if you are out of work for a month, don’t panic.

Stars explode, planets collide and free lancers sit around sometimes.  It’s merely the natural flow of things.  There is a beauty to working in the arts.  For your vision and to be your own boss is freedom. But, when it’s slow, remember: the lack of work today does not preclude a lack of work tomorrow or next week or next month or next year.

You can fight that “I’m never going to work again” angst by re-focusing your energy in a more positive way.  I’m not going to tell you to go make some calls or send some emails or start a personal development art project.  I say that all the time and by now you know that productivity begets work.  Instead, when the pangs of “I’m finished professionally” set in, I want you to do something simple: TRUST.  Trust that you are not at the sum total of your profession.  Trust that the work will come back around. Trust that your talent is your purpose, and purpose can’t be denied. Trust that just as stars explode and planets collide, freelancers go back to work.

I’m a big fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  For both of you who have never heard of this book series, movie, TV series, radio series, it is about a fictional Inter Galactic travel guide.  According to Wikipedia:  “DON’T PANIC (always upper-case) is a phrase written on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.[27] The novel explains that this was partly because the device “looked insanely complicated” to operate, and partly to keep intergalactic travelers from panicking.[28] It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words “Don’t Panic” in large, friendly letters on the cover.[27]

Wikipedia goes on to say that the author of 2001 A Space OdysseyArthur C. Clarke said Douglas Adams‘ use of “don’t panic” was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity.”

I have to agree.  See it doesn’t matter whether you are a freelancer, one of my dogs, a Jehovah’s Witness or an intergalactic traveler.  When you panic, you spend a lot of brain power making up imaginary disasters, when in fact you could be using your brain power to be productive and find some solutions.  But, to keep from panicking you have to TRUST.  So, trust me, it will all be fine.  At the very least, I won’t sick my dogs on you.

What’s It Going To Be?

Legend has it that the great Bluesman Robert Johnson made a deal with the Devil at The Crossroads. Up to that point, Johnson had been a musician of average skills, making his living going from Juke Joint to Juke Joint in the deep south.

According to Wikipedia “Around this time, the noted blues musician Son House moved to Robinsonville where his musical partner, Willie Brown, already lived. Late in life, House remembered Johnson as a boy who had followed him around and tried unsuccessfully to copy him. But when House moved to Robinsonville in 1930, Johnson was a young adult, already married and widowed. Johnson then left the Robinsonville area, reappearing after a few months with a miraculous guitar technique.”

The legend says that Johnson met the Devil in the guise of a large black man at the Crossroads. The man took Johnson’s guitar, tuned it, played a song and handed it back in return for the promise of Johnson’s soul. From that time on, Johnson had total mastery of the instrument and the blues.

Oh, wouldn’t that be nice? Not the selling your soul part, but instant mastery or one project that permanently changes your career for the better. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that.

I have had many clients who believe that winning an award, getting into a prestigious industry organization or having a film that does well will change everything and it will all become easy from here on out. And they’re right, it does change everything and everything does become easy!! For a few weeks or months anyway. Once the hype begins to die down, the big machine of Hollywood starts to ask it’s tiring and inevitable question again: what else you got? If there is any one reason that Hollywood has a cynical reputation this is it.

It’s a treadmill, there’s just no denying it. You put it all out there, your talent, your sweat, your heart and soul, yet achievement can feel fleeting. That’s the problem, achievement IS fleeting. However, mastery is another story altogether.

Mastery is excellence for the sake of excellence. It has nothing to do with achievement or money. It has to be about craft and passion.  There is a great idiom in motivational thought: money never leads, it follows.  Yes, I know your question is “yeah, and what am I supposed to do until the money follows?  There are bills to pay!”

No easy answers for this one.  If you don’t love your craft with all your soul, it’s time to buy a sausage and peppers cart and start working Central Park.  If you’ve determined that the life of an Artist is worth the pain, struggle and periods of suffering then get as immersed in craft as you can.  Really, it’s the only way. Especially if paying work is alluding you right now.  Trust in the fact that if you keep honing, studying and practicing your craft it will eventually pay off in ways that can be quantified as achievement.

Or, of course you can always sell your soul to the Devil.  Being the helpful person I am, Here’s my four point plan for doing so.  1. Find an intersection where two streets cross. Easy, they are everywhere. In rural areas foot traffic may not be constant so bring a lawn chair. 2. Wait until a large black man comes along. Doesn’t have to be black man, could be white, could be a woman, but very large,  I mean large, like 6’4″,  320 pounds large, don’t skimp here, size is important. 3. Hand him (or her) your instrument, screen play, camera, portfolio, whatever, and politely ask: “are you the Devil?”   4. As you recover in intensive care from the beating you got with whatever it was you handed him (or her), contemplate how less painful it would have been to just commit yourself to craft.

Art isn’t easy, even when you can successfully sell your soul to the Devil.  Robert Johnson only lived a few more years after his meeting at the Crossroads.  He was poisoned by whiskey laced with strychnine.  Though never proved, it was believed the murderer was a  Juke Joint owner who thought Johnson was flirting with his wife .  It took Johnson 3 painful days to die.

What’s it going to be?  Hard work or the fantasy of an easy way to mastery?  You can go with the fantasy and maybe someday long after you’re gone you too can be the subject of an urban myth. Or, maybe the hard work will be worth it. Perhaps art for art’s sake will pan out and sustain you.  You never know.

Turning The Corner

This past weekend I saw George Clooney in “The American.” Typical, hit man hiding out movie.  Clooney makes it pretty good I suppose, but we’ve seen it before. Something vaguely philosophical struck me about it though.  Clooney’s character is hiding out in this little French town waiting for some bad guys to come looking for him (which of course they do) and he spends a great deal of time peering around corners. You’ve never seen a town with more corners by the way. It seemed fairly obvious that if he went running around the corners he’d get shot, so he crept and peered and alternated with lots of peeks over his shoulder.

It strikes me, that’s what we do all the time when it comes to our lives and careers.  We creep, we peer, we peek as if when we round that corner we’ll get cut down in a hail of gun fire.  Most likely we won’t but that little voice inside says “ya never know!”

We encounter corners in life all the time.  Right now, Adrienne and I are struggling with being empty nesters.  Our youngest just moved 3000 miles away to go to school in New York, and well, here we are looking at each other asking “what now?”  As we turn this corner what will it mean?


Yeah, there's a few corners in this town.

Should we sell the big house now? It’s really not a good time but we could. It’s just two of us wandering around in this place yelling to each other from end to end.  What moves could I, should I make in business?  I’m not rushing out of work at odd times to the kids games and recitals anymore.  I could use the extra brain power to expand and at the same time be more efficient.

Here’s what really strikes me though:  not so much the big corners that we face, like the ones that I’ve been talking about, but the small corners that we avoid everyday.  What if I really let my feelings be known?  Will that create a big corner?  What if I take a small business risk?  Will that turn into a big one?

I’m beginning to believe that avoiding the small corners in daily life leads to great unavoidable big ones where the stakes get higher.  Ones with hails of gun fire. Avoidance really is the enemy here.  As in: don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today, for in one way or another avoided issues or tasks tend to grow into situations where our ability to control them evaporates.

So make the one call, send out the one promo piece, write out your goals for the next year.  Educate yourself by doing a little research on what practice could get you to the next level.  You can peer around the corner, sure, but then go forward. Make your move even as the bullets ricochet off the pavement.  Oh, and you’re right, there are only more corners ahead.  That’s life.  But, if you handle those small corners one at a time as they come, perhaps those big ones won’t seem so ominous and paralyzing.

And trust me, no matter how many corners you face, there won’t be as many as George faced in that freaky little town. It was ridiculous, the corners had corners, and then those corners had corners too.

Driven To Distraction

Yup, that's distracting

What was I saying? Yes that’s it, no wait, I’ve got it:  I’m distracted.  It’s not that I’m not motivated, I’m plenty motivated, it’s just that there’s plenty on TV, there’s Facebook and the hours that can be spent “Liking” pictures of our relatives pets and lets not forget we need to wring our hands a bit about Fox News’ slow ooze towards undermining Democracy.  Wait, what was I saying agin?  Oh yeah, distraction.

I have lots of ideas, some of them really good and it’s easy to think that any one of them are the solution to all my problems, financial, creative, interpersonal.  These ideas can be along the lines of those dreams we all have where during our sleep we have an earth shattering epiphany, only to wake up and realize that what we were dreaming about, while in the dream made perfect sense, in reality wasn’t even coherent, and you then realize in the dream you weren’t even wearing pants.

Ah well, here it is, the end of summer again.  The end of summer seems to bring more “I’ll knuckle down and start putting my better ideas into action”  than that champagne induced semi correction we call New Years Eve.  But, how is this year going to be different?

For me, I just read the best business book I have ever come across (and I’ve read quite a few) “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.  I highly recommend this book, especially for those artists and entrepreneurs with no formal business education. Simply put, it is an examination of the differences between merely good enterprises and great ones.

Now there are six main concepts in the book, but I only want to talk about one of them here.  All of the “great” companies had in common what Collins refers to “A Hedgehog Concept”  That is one idea that you pursue that has three attributes:

1.  Something, a product or service you are passionate about

2. You feel you have the potential to be the best in the world at the skill of.

3. Something that has a CLEAR economic engine to sustain you.

Why go all business book on us Steve?  What does this have to do with distraction?  We have a tendency to bounce from idea to idea that we think will be a silver bullet of growth, progress and quick reward.  The reality is you have to work on your hedgehog concept over a long period of time.  You have to commit to your concept and keep going especially when it gets rough, especially when there are obstacles, for in those obstacles lie the opportunity for the greatest growth.

Very successful companies have these concepts and stick to them.  Walgreens runs drugstores, they don’t get distracted by a momentary interest in making engine parts for the space shuttle.  Mainly because they aren’t passionate about it, can’t be the best at it, and funding it would destroy the economic engine they’ve established.

That sounds sort of abstract and duh, I know.  But don’t we as entrepreneurs do the same thing all the time?  I constantly have new opportunities put in front of me.  I am getting much better at staying in my “Hedgehog Concept.”  I love doing what I do, I try everyday to get better towards my goal of being best in the world at it, and the economics, while always striving to improve them, are clear and can sustain me.

What’s getting in the way of your “Hedgehog Concept?”  Are you unclear on what you’re passionate about?  passions change for sure, but there are differences between passions and being passionate about something.  Being passionate about something mens you have committed yourself lock, stock and barrel to the idea of immersing yourself as far as you can, the idea being a person, business or craft.  The “Hedgehog Concept” just keeps you focused on the process of making that successful.

Biggest de-railer is fear.  What if I fail? What if it turns out not to be my passion? What if it’s too much work?  What will my parents think because what I really want to do is  drive an ice cream truck? Unfortunately, if you stay in that head you will never get started, so get over it.  Look at the horizon, it’s not going to walk towards you, so you might as well walk towards it.  If you have faith in what your potential can be and can just start moving, you will be surprised how much ground you can cover.

Now, the elephant in the room is that thing we were told when we were kids, (this is America, you can be anything you want when you grow up, it’s the land of opportunity,) that conotes ease and entitlement  and personally, part of me is still waiting to grow up, so from time to time that’s what distracts me.  Have I picked the thing for my life that I’m most passionate about?  How the hell am I supposed to know?  I have many passions.  However, I committed to agenting and being a positive force in the livelyhood’s of others a long time ago, and I have found that my relationship with my craft has deepened.  At the time I picked it, did I recognize it as my dream job? NO!  I needed a damn job at the time, so I jumped in and I found after a while I really enjoyed it.  That caused me to want to get better, and that process made me passionate about it.  It’s not always passion first that gets you started. Sometimes it’s good old fashion necessity and discipline.

But, I still get distracted from my goals.  I wonder sometimes if this blog is another one of my distractions.  After much introspection, I’ve realized that giving business advice and helping people to have the best career the can IS my Hedgehog Concept, and this is a simple tool to support it further.

I encourage you to sit down and write out your concept, clearly and using those simple steps.  I’ll warn you upfront, you have to think about it a lot and one or another of the steps won’t have clear answers at first (some of the companies studied took many years to realize their concept), but once you realize what you want to do and decide to do JUST THAT THING without distraction, you will be surprised how many options and possibilities suddenly present themselves.

Enjoy, I’m gonna watch sports, maybe go to a movie… just kidding… I think.

An Ode To Sweet Lou

Lou Pinella, the coach of the Chicago Cubs has announced he’s retiring at the end of the baseball season.  That makes 40 years in the major leagues, first as a player and then a manager.  He won World Championships as both.  I’m old enough to have seen him play, first with the Royals and then with the Yankees.  When I was a kid in the late 60’s, my Dad would bring me to a few baseball games a season and I saw Lou play once.  I never forgot him.  Before the game he came over to the stands not far from where we were sitting and struck poses for some pretty girls there.  Flexing his muscles and looking sharp for a camera that wasn’t there.  That’s why they called him “Sweet Lou.”  It’s not that they thought Lou was sweet.  It’s that Lou thought Lou was sweet. Everyone sort of laughed at his arrogance.  I just thought he was an idiot.

But he did something during the game that I’m not sure I fully understood until recently. He was at bat early in the game with nobody on base. A ball was thrown knee high a little on the inside, and Lou did something surprising.  He didn’t jump back.  He stood his ground and pushed his leg out.  The ball hit him square on the side of his knee.  Do you have any idea how hard a major league pitcher throws?  He didn’t even flinch. He was so intent on being the tough guy that he just dropped his bat and ran (slowly) down to first base.

It wasn’t until today when my friend Gabriel told me that my last post ‘Possibility’ reminded him about the need to “lean into” his gifts.  That got me thinking about Sweet Lou again.  It also got me thinking that we spend a lot of time jumping back when things scare us a little.  You see, Lou’s gift was not running or catching or throwing,  though he was good at those things.  His gift was and still is being a competitor.  He saw an opportunity to get on base in that game and he went for it whether or not it scared him or hurt him a little. He didn’t think about the fear or the pain, he needed to stay true to his gift, so he just leaned in. Did he take one for the team?  I don’t know, maybe he hated everyone on the team.  I think he was just doing what came naturally to him. Making sure he capitalized on an opportunity to compete and win.

Is it lack of self confidence that keeps us from fully leaning into our gifts?  Could be, as Lou certainly seemed to have more than his share of confidence.  I think the real lesson is that it’s more important to embrace our gifts and lean into every opportunity to use them.  That can be scary for an Artist as every opportunity seems to come with a judgement about the work.  Well, what would happen if we took the fear and potential pain of that judgement off the table?  How about if we believed in ourselves and built a confident mind as opposed to concentrating on another’s beliefs about our talent which only erodes our confidence?  Think about yourself for a minute. How far could that mental shift take you?

I guess it all depends. Exactly how far are you willing to lean in?

Possibility


I’m really on the loose this week.  I’m in NYC with my son looking at colleges.  He’s 19 and ready to leave the confines of sunny LA (if you can believe that I’m talking about Hollywood like it’s a small town in Ohio) and move to Metropolis.
I lived in New York for a long time before moving west.  It’s nice to see it again through fresh eyes. His eyes.  The constant motion, the electricity and the all consuming energy. He can barely contain himself and it’s not just the novelty of the place.  He’s at the point in life where it’s all one great big possibility waiting to be realized, and I must say I’m jealous.  Not because I feel my possibilities have come and gone.  Believe me, that’s hardly the case.  I’ve got a lot of schemes left in me and I intend to use them all.  It’s much more about the excitement he feels being at this place in life.  He wants to study filmmaking, directing in particular.  He knows with certainty he wants to be here and nowhere else. He knows with certainty he wants to make movies and he knows  with certainty he’s going to make a mark on the world.
So, I thought, why can’t I feel that again?  That certainty, that artist’s “all in” mentality.  Then I realized, there’s no reason why I can’t.  I control my own feelings, right?  I can choose to feel that sense of endless possibility again. I can choose to push aside that voice of experience that says: we’ll see what happens. I can choose to wake each day with a fire in my belly ready to attack my ideas and see them come to life.  I mean really, where did it go? It’s still there, I just think the fire recedes over the years and is overtaken by concentration as you master the skill set of your craft.  It’s not that it isn’t there, it’s just a little covered over by the brine of a career.
So here’s my challenge: get excited about the possibilities ahead again.  Yes, that’s it.  The sum total of my lesson.  I can’t do it for you. Nor can I get you to change your thinking.  What I can tell you is that I’ve decided to do it for myself.  Just making that decision has me excited and motivated to try new things and push forward.  There are new deals and lots of financial possibility in this decision.  I’m thinking I’m going to need them, because I’m about to have a big fat tuition to pay.