Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Staying Healthy in the (Financial) Storm

In Author: Linda Essig, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on October 31, 2009 at 12:32 am

weathering the storm

I’ve been doing some research lately on measures of the fiscal health of not-for-profit arts organizations, especially theatres. This got me thinking about the factors that support the fiscal health of individual artists and arts entrepreneurs. In a 2001 article, Mark Hager examines four measures of fiscal stability – of the ability of an organization to withstand the kinds of economic shocks we’ve experience over the last twelve months. (He adapted these from some earlier work by Tuckman and Chang.)

The four measures are: equity balance, revenue concentration, administrative cost, and operating margin.
How can we translate these four organizational measures into something useful for individual artists and arts entrepreneurs? Here is some of my preliminary thinking:

1. Equity balance. It’s always nice to have some money in the bank. From a practical standpoint, having a cushion in the bank can help support the artist in lean times. Building up that cushion during lean times is difficult but should be a priority during the fat times. I even think there’s a story about that somewhere regarding Joseph and a pharaoh’s dreams.

2. Revenue concentration. It’s much easier for an arts entrepreneur to withstand the sudden withdrawal of one client if they have more than one. So, if you’re counting on that one big commission, you may want to backstop that with several smaller commissions as well. Multiple revenue sources guard against permanent damage when any one of those streams dries up.

3. Administrative costs. Believe it or not, studies (Hager’s and others) indicate that it’s worth investing in the people and equipment necessary to run your arts-based business. Doing so has two positive effects on financial stability: 1) solid administrative capacity and 2) there’s somewhere to cut if the times get really really lean.

4. Operating margin. Pretty simple – don’t spend more than you earn. If you do, you’ll need to dip into that equity balance from item one, further diversify your revenue, or sell off the new copier/scanner you purchased to support your office operations.
It all sounds like common sense to me and I’ve been glad to find out that that common sense is actually backed up by empirical research!

Halloween Identity Instructions

In Author: Adam Shames on October 30, 2009 at 5:36 am

Sure, I loved the candy-accumulation of Halloween as a kid, but I think I love the holiday even more as an adult because it gives us rare permission to try out a new self, to experiment with who we think we are. In case you haven’t decided on (or whether to wear) a costume yet, here are my creative instructions:

1. Use the opportunity to truly explore an identity quite different from yours. Come on, time to initiate.
2. Consult your inside to figure out what you want to be on the outside. What do you feel like being? Whose identity would you like to check out? Look around your home for possible costume components that call to you to put them on.
3. Avoid the standard personas and come up with something that you’ve never been before or perhaps you are creating just this once.
4. Stay in character all night.

Taking on another identity is a great way to build the creativity competency of flexibility–your talent in appreciating different perspectives and experiencing the “other.” To be flexible means that you are willing and able to try on different coats and see from different lenses, to visit diverse neighborhoods in the city and in your mind.

It’s not easy to take on another, especially unusual, identity, even on Halloween. People want to figure out “who you are” and don’t have a lot of patience for something they can’t easily categorize. Here in Chicago I’ve found people are hesitant to stay in character even if well-costumed, preferring to meet you at a party with their real name and the literal “What do you do?” question. Screw ’em. This is Halloween. Commit to your identity, do what feels true to him/her/it, and forgive yourself later for any indiscretions.

Believe me, I know, as I was extremely unpopular last year as “Manimal,” the hair sprouting, woman-repelling hybrid man/animal; and almost entirely unknown the year before as the great Sufi poet Rumi (San Franciscans certainly would have known me and more actively welcomed my poetic proclamations). I did get some needs met, though, as “Mr. ExSqueezeMe” the year before (see shirt, minus a few squeezables, in photo above), where I used a glue gun to attach random touchable items, from a toilet paper role to stress balls, and encouraged interaction (and hugs).

You might get a kick out of an article I wrote a few years back when I was so taken by the colored leaves of the moment that I transformed into “Leaf Man”:
It’s Halloween and I find myself going down into the bowels of Excalibur, a downtown bar, to enter the Red Masque Ball. Dozens of Chicagoans are in disguise, and I quickly find myself chatting with a Martha Stewart here, a bloodied biker there, an assortment of devils and angels everywhere. I hang out with a large, green cylindrical walking bong, while Marilyn Monroe and several versions of felines purr nearby…” Click to read entire article.

 So Happy Halloween week to you, and may you use this opportunity to expand the confines of who you are and gain that special creative insight when you take on an identity that is not your own…

More from Adam, check out his Innovation on my Mind blog.

I Wanna Ride a Race Horse

In Author: Lisa Canning, Emotional Intelligence, Health & Wellness on October 30, 2009 at 4:11 am

dreamstime_5752927
I wanna ride a race horse
to see how fast she’ll go

I want an easy winner
to WIN, Place AND Show

The metaphor’s familiar
our dreams not too dissimilar

Work smart, live loud
feel the ground- come unwound

Be real, smile high, spring up, twitter, fly
Feet first, squarely planted on the ground

Were you expecting something more profound?

The Let it “B” Girl Clarinetist

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Marketing, Music, The Idea on October 29, 2009 at 6:53 am

I just LOVE this You tube video featuring one of my clarinet customers, Christy Banks. I just LOVE her informal commentary– it makes the video– and makes me not only want to listen to HER but learn MORE about classical music because of her delivery.

Who Gets to be an Artist or A Designer?

In Author: Tommy Dawin, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on October 28, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Recently re-reading Lisa Canning’s wonderful piece “Innovating through Artistry” I am reminded of a surprising challenge we face in promoting the value of art and artists. We work hard to demonstrate our value in a world that is hard skilled, bottom line, and ROI driven. We take the challenge to cross the border into the land of business, policy, and technology. And, yet, I wonder how hard we make it for ourselves in the ways we patrol our own borders and how easily we welcome others into our midst as fellow artists and designers.
One of the possibilities that inspires me most is teaching as many people as possible (and especially our kids) to be artistically and creatively adept, able to learn the skills and mindsets that characterize the “creative class.” Following the inspiration of local artists to democratize the arts and designers who promote the spread of “design thinking,” I have created curriculum and programs that teach the processes of art and design to “non” artists and designers, to give them a very powerful platform from which to change the world.
In the process I almost inevitably come against the question of who gets to be an artist or a designer. When I first started talking about teaching design to community members as a way to engage community challenges, some of the biggest resistance came not from business or community leaders but from some professional and academic artists and designers who I approached as potential partners. They expressed concern that I was trivializing or dumbing down their art and discipline by implying that anyone can be an artist or designer. Or, that if we share the knowledge too easily, it will be taken from us and that we will no longer be needed. Or, that one only becomes a “real” artist or designer after years of training and practice.
I struggle with this question, because there is an important distinction between someone with years of formal training and professional experience and someone who is an amateur. And, yet, we are all artists and designers by virtue of being human, and the more we cultivate and spread that capability and sense for the world, the better off we are.
So, who gets to be an artist or a designer?

Find Happiness Through Risk.

In Author: Jim Hart on October 27, 2009 at 1:57 am

All entrepreneurs, by definition, must engage with risk.

What is your risk tolerance?image of dice

Let me ask you a few questions.

Are you doing what you love for a living? If you aren’t already, would you like to?

What would you be willing to do to have the happiness that can come from doing what you love for a living?

Almost all businesses require money to begin. Thus begins our relationship with risk.

How much would you be willing to pay to potentially achieve your dream? How important are dreams to you?

Would you spend $1,000? How about $10,000?

Can you place a value on your career happiness and your feeling of work fulfillment?

How about $50,000? If you could make that investment, which would engage you in a process that may lead you to career fulfillment, would it not be worth $50,000? Is it worth more?

Many of us are forced into “survival jobs”, to do work that is not creatively fulfilling and is work we would not do in the first place, if we had another viable income.

If you were in such a place, what would it be worth to you to be able to leave that world behind and make a living from your creativity?

Would you be willing to risk your lifestyle?

If you like to eat out, would you be willing to sacrifice that part of your life? Would you be willing to eat in for almost all of your meals?

Would you be willing to eat less expensive food, if it might lead to your dreams?

Would you be willing to simplify almost all aspects of your life, to decrease your risk in pursuing your dream? Simple adjustments can have profound effects.

Almost all people feel a drive and need to work, to create, and do something productive. A lot of people feel very empowered and…dare I say…*happy* when they are doing the work they love. Then work is less work and more a joy.

If you had to sacrifice your lifestyle and finances for three years or longer, in order to achieve potential long term financial and career success, would you be willing to do that?

Here is the real crux…What if you invest all of that time, money and energy and do not succeed as you desire? What if you don’t fulfill your dream? That is a risk, too.

But what if you do?

Risking and sacrificing are, in some ways, like quitting smoking. For those who have smoked, you will know what I am talking about.

Those addicted to smoking, when they quit, will likely experience the following:

•    Your mind will play tricks on you, convincing you of why you REALLY NEED to smoke, why it is actually good for you.

•    You will profusely sweat and loose significant sleep

•    Your mind will fixate on cigarettes for nearly every thought of your day. One thought after another…hour after hour.

•    But, what one often finds too, is a feeling of empowerment.

These experiences are trying, exhausting and difficult to navigate.

For many ex smokers, 2 weeks was the magical point of gaining strength. If one can make it to the 2-week mark, without succumbing to withdrawal and all the temptation and mind games, they have a good chance of quitting successfully.

Engaged effort over a span of time, can give us a great sense momentum, of accomplishment and of purpose. Over time, we begin to see the fruit of our labors…or at least that the tree is in bloom and may fruit.

At this state, we gain perspective. We realize we would not have made it to even this point, had we not made the investments that were necessary. We are then that much closer to achieving our goal. The beginning risks, at this point, start to seem smaller and smaller, less and less significant.

Effort decreases entrepreneurial risk.

You can’t win the game, unless you play.

For greater happiness and creative fulfillment, what are you willing to risk?

Beginning a new endeavor, one, inevitably, has to sacrifice, has to risk. But, with time and continued effort, the enormity of the task, seems a little smaller.

For more information on Jim Hart and The Hart Technique, see http://www.harttechnique.com

I Care, How Can I Get You To?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, The Idea on October 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm

One of the challenges each of us faces when we contemplate the development of our ideas into a product or service, is just exactly “how do we generate interest from others in what each of us finds important”?

How do we know if what we see, believe, feel and think will “take root in the market”? What must we do so that others will care about and value our ideas, products and services as much as we do?

Well, if I knew the perfect answer to this, I would have an orchard filled with money trees in my backyard. But what I can share, based on personal experience, are three (less-than-reliable) assumptions about how to get people to care about our ideas and three rules-of-thumb for creating conditions that might actually get them to.

(Of course we never can be sure if people will care for sure– as we know, we all are free to choose….)

Assumption #1:
The House is Burning! Jump! FIRE!

dreamstime_4773820
The idea of a burning platform is actually a metaphor based on supposedly a true story: In the North Sea an oil platform had caught fire and was burning fast. On it was a lone worker. He had a decision to make: Probable death if he jumped, certain death if he stayed.

What we are talking about here is creating a condition where we instill fear and apply pressure– a fear of being unable to turn back- pressure for fast, decisive action or else everything goes up in smoke.

When any of one us is presented with a “must act now” if “you want to live” strategy, most of us will support the strategy and will act. People, after all, do want to survive. However it is hard to predict how we will act. Some will get on board, others will panic and freeze, some will try and make themselves look good at the expense of others, while some will hide from the bad news.

Moral of the story: When faced with a burning platform, people will choose self-preservation over the common good.

Assumption #2: Create Buy-In
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Similar to the burning platform, “buy-in” is also a rich metaphor. Creating “buy-in” is an old sales term. When we create buy-in we:
Present a strong case convincingly
Create a motivational presentation
Make sure everyone understands what’s in it for them
Close the deal by asking for a commitment

The problem is that creating “buy-in” is set up for only one kind of answer. Style and technique take the place of substance and purpose leaving us, “the audience,” not sure if we like, let alone feel good about, what we are suppose to be “buying in” to…..

Moral of the assumption: People see through the art of subtle manipulation. Care cannot be packaged to be bought.

Assumption #3 Create the Perfect Incentives
dreamstime_7453730
“If you want to teach a dog a new trick, give him a bone”… isn’t that how the saying goes? If you set up a scenario that rewards the behavior you seek, then you will get a treat.

The problem is that this system will only work if the rewards we are offering others are important to them. And while this system can certainly shape behavior, it does not produce care.

Take for example the customer service representative who is rewarded based on the number of completed orders they take in an hour. Predictably they will rush through each call and cut as many corners as possible so they can complete more orders and “earn” their treat. On one level the system is working because more calls are being handled per hour. On another, it is destroying the employees natural desire to provide quality service and show they care.

Moral of the story: Incentives don’t incent others to care.

Three Rules of Thumb
dreamstime_310577

Rule of Thumb #1:
Find Out What is Important to the Other Person and Act On It

We live in a world where, I don’t know about you, but I certainly walk around and wonder ” Does anyone really care about anyone anymore?” People are STARVED for attention- they crave being listened to and understood. starbucks cupWhen we ask questions and learn about others, we empower others through OUR listening and care. And when we ACT on their interests, concerns, wishes or hopes, and deliver something to them that they really care about, we find a much more receptive audience for our own ideas.

The days of mass marketing and appeal are over. We are in the age of “niching” to produce thriving. A grande skim latte with 2 equals, no foam, double cup it please, is the meal du jour and so we must learn to listen carefully to others needs to cater to those we wish most to serve.

Rule of Thumb #2: Support Others In Achieving Their Goals
How does your product or service help support others in achieving their goals? Products and services must offer real tangible benefits. Put the same time and energy into your clients to help them identify and achieve from your products and services something of real value to them. Designing (and redesign) your products and services to reach the right market where real benefit will be offered. By doing so you will find your clients really do care about what you have to deliver.

Rule of Thumb #3: Speak From Your Heart dreamstime_8018984
Stop telling people what you have to offer them. Start talking about what is important to you and speak from your heart when you do.

Story: Several recovering addicts were talking in an AA meeting about how to improve treatment services. The conversation began with the usual ideas– making the community a better place by helping people. And it wasn’t long before the conversation fell flat.

Then one person got up in the meeting and told his story– a story about how in his darkest hours as an addict, in his greatest need, people he did not know listened to him. Total strangers answered his plea for help and got him into treatment. They cared about him when there wasn’t much to care about.

Moral of the story: This recovering addicts goal was indeed simple and by sharing from his heart, the entire tone and energy of the meeting changed. While he really did want to “give back to the community and care for others”, the most important ingredient to getting others in the meeting to become more involved and care, came from his telling his story- his truth- from his heart.

So, tell us your story. (This is why I created the ETA competition by the way. And you still have time to enter or encourage others to do so.)

And if you’ve joined us here at ETA because you want to learn how to better lead “your tribe” forward, or begin to build a tribe of your very own– one that will come to care about what you find most important in life– then start by aligning your words and actions in a way that reflects your honesty and integrity. Even if you don’t know what products and services you would like to offer, this would be an excellent way to begin to figure out what you should offer.

After all consider this: If you are not willing to put your wholehearted-self behind what you care about and tell the truth to the world about what is in your heart, then why should anyone really care?

Having struggled to build, for over twenty years, profitable businesses, creating ETA (that is rising from nothing), written Build a Blue Bike, (a book that teaches how to develop entrepreneurial empathy and transform it into a creative venture), and now, embarking on the journey of launching The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™, I can tell you it is not for the faint of heart, the insecure or vulnerable. And this is also why we as artists need entrepreneurial training– so that every single one of us can learn how to wear our he(arts) on our sleeve and build our audiences for life from the ideas we care most about.

If there is only one thing in this post which I am certain is valuable to you–forgive me for it taking so much of your time to explain- it is this: Listening to others and speaking from your heart it is the only way to build a rock solid foundation of mutual trust in, and care for, the ideas you care most about. No Starving Artist 2010It also holds the key to opening the door to a sustainable artistic career: one that produces enough income for you to live happily-ever-after. Amen.

A Rose and A Thorn

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, Risk on October 26, 2009 at 9:00 am

Karma. Murphy’s Law. Tommyluck. There are lots of names for the concept of “When god closes the door he opens a window”. I’ve been experiencing this first hand this week and it has reminded me that no success can be earned without struggle.

The good news is, that Blue Damen Pictures’ film “The Visionary” recently won Best Experimental Short film at the Illinois International Film Festival! We couldn’t be more proud and are delighted to receive this recognition. I like to consider this my rose for the week- something special and rare and difficult to cultivate without investing a lot of work.

But like all gardeners know, you don’t get lovely roses without suffering some thorns and this week has been full of those as well. On Monday my apartment was broken into while I was at my day job, but nothing seemed to be stolen so while it was disruptive it wasn’t the end of the world. On Thursday, however, my apartment was broken into again and my computer, filmmaking tools, and emergency cash was taken. I’m trying very hard to avoid thinking that this was something personal- after all, it wasn’t ME they were after, just my stuff. On the other hand, they were very selective about what they took, and what they took were all my filmmaking tools, and it is hard to not take it personally when someone very carefully and specifically takes away the tools of your trade.

But this story does have a happy ending: everything was insured, after all, so now it’s just a matter of replacing the lost items with new and better ones. I was also able to save my data on an external hard drive which I had taken off the computer and taken into the office with me the day after the initial break in. So while I’ve lost my tools I haven’t lost my footage or the cuts of my previous two films or all of my archived artwork. I have never been so glad for my insurance until now. I have never been so grateful for all the tedious hours of backing up my work on a separate drive until now. My work has been disrupted but it hasn’t been stopped and while the thieves may have only been looking for a good score they have given me something much more valuable without even realizing it: the assurance that I am prepared even for this and the increased drive to now finish the work that was interrupted.

So the moral of the story is: pay for insurance even if it seems stupid because when you need it you’ll be glad you have it, and ALWAYS back up your work and records especially if they are digital. You may lose some of your work, but better to lose some of it than to lose all of it. Lastly, remember that roadblocks are a pain in the butt, but they will make your work better in the end, so don’t take them personally, just accept them and turn them into stepping stones and keep soldiering on.

CAEF: A**ess This!

In Author: Melissa Snoza, Authors, Creativity and Innovation, Current Events, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music, Theater/Film, Writing on October 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm


Yesterday, I attended the second in a series of events presented by the Chicago Arts Educators Forum, an initiative started by Merissa Shunk and Nicole Losurdo and sponsored by CAPE. This community of teachers, teaching artists, and organizations explores common challenges and opportunities in arts education in the Chicago area.

This day of discussions and workshops centered around assessment, everyone’s favorite part of the process when designing an educational program or residency. Confronting the negativity that surrounds this process head-on, the organizers created a parking garage for frustrations (participants wrote their biggest challenges on sheets of paper taped to toy cars and “parked” them for the day) and an anonymous confessional that also served as the event’s video documentation.

Why so negative? Many artists and organizations view assessment as something they must do for their funders and for the public. So many of us have found ourselves daunted by the task of evaluating the same programs several different ways using the specific criteria presented by those who have provided support. It begins to feel like the process of assessment is about teaching to the test – making sure that the outcome fit the objectives set forth by the organization and its funders.

But what other purposes can this process serve? A question that became a lightbulb moment for many participants was: “Who is this assessment for?” Of course, we’re responsible to those who provide support, but the assessment and evaluation process is also meaningful tools for students, teachers, teaching artists, and organizations if done in a way that captures the depth of the work. In this way, we begin to connect our larger objectives and the activities that accomplish them to our assessment tools, rather than putting the cart before the horse by using a standardized method.

Another theme that resurfaced multiple times was the question of how to quantify social and emotional progress, or literacy and cognitive skills that become evident in work samples more clearly than in a multiple-choice test. In the case studies we examined, many organizations found themselves asking students to take pre- and post-residency surveys, asking questions like “Do you feel a personal connection to these characters” on a scale from 1-5. Often, the difference in responses wasn’t meaningful.

A great start to the answer of this question was presented in Dennie Palmer Wolf’s keynote presentation. She displayed pre- and post-residency work samples from the same student, showing the difference in the vocabulary and depth after working with the teaching artist. One could feasibly assign a number scale to these factors to chart progress, in addition to having the samples available for review. Or, she showed diaries of a day in the life of two students, one of which was participating in an arts program, with yellow highlights on the parts of the day where the student felt personally and deeply engaged. Having five of those moments instead of one is a measurable and meaningful effect of the influence this program has.

The day really helped me and the rest of our staff think much differently about how we assess, evaluate, measure, and document our work, and how connected those tools must be to our own objectives rather than a pre-designed template. The funny part is, making these tools authentic in this way will result in data that can then be pulled to highlight the factors a funder will want to see, while telling a richer story that will be meaningful to our organization, the students, teachers, parents, and schools we serve.

Melissa is the flutist and Executive Director of the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble. Like what you read here? For more music entrepreneurship tidbits, visit www.playingclosetothebridge.wordpress.com, brought to you by members of 5HE.

Inspirado, My Sweet Muse

In Author: Jim Hart on October 24, 2009 at 3:17 am

A number of years ago, while at Yale, I had the good fortune to meet renowned playwright, Arthur Miller (author of The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and All My Sons). This was, for me, a truly magical encounter, as he is one of my favorite writers. I asked him if he, in his creative process, met inspiration at the door OR if he consciously sought it out. He responded that it is different with every occasion, but that sometimes one must look for it.

inspired eyeVision Seeking. What a romantic coupling of words. For me, it brings to my mind the mythic vision quest, where a hero strikes out with the express intent to have adventure, to experience new stimuli and to find inspiration.

Not all of us are blessed with a regular muse. Sometimes, we must make a conscious, concerted effort to hunt down the often elusive Inspirado.

For many artists, inspiration is a seductive, but fleeting lover. We bask in this lover’s affection and reap the reward of their presence. But, this lover is rarely around long enough and leaves you longing for another encounter.

Inspiration can come in many forms and ways. Sometimes, I feel that I am holding a very fine silk thread and am gently following it, hand over hand, hoping it does not break. At other times, I feel that I have been hit by lightning and vision unrolls before my like a long Persian rug.

Waiting for inspiration to arrive is a waste of time and creative energy. Why? Because waiting for inspiration is another form of giving away one’s power and most entrepreneurs and independent artists crave autonomy. It is marvelous to have inspiration. But, when it is not present, we must find other ways of moving forward.

Here are some tools I have found useful in luring Inspirado. I hope some of these may help you.

  1. Give yourself time. Dedicate time to actively look. Books, for me, often inspire. My wife and I have a large collection of books that focus on various painters´ works. Also, my wife, having been a professional dancer, has many books on choreographers, companies and dancers. I pour through these pages, seeking stimulation. Inevitably, it comes.

  2. Gardening. In myth, it is a symbol of the soul. For me, gardening is a constantly evolving, living canvas. Structuring a garden is always a temporary act. Nature takes it back so fast. Being in nature and engaging in creation, stimulates me greatly.

  3. Brainstorm. I love this word. A storm of the mind. Chat with a good brainstorming friend (someone with intelligence and their ego under some control). One idea can give birth to another (and often does). In this process, listen a lot, see the ideas in your mind and follow whatever impulse arises (without first judging it). You think it? Go with it. It does not matter whether you think it is a worthy impulse or not. Throw it out, as it may stimulate another person you are working with and may be a better idea than you initially thought. No self-censorship.

  4. Change your routine. We are all creatures of habit. Many of us have a structure to our lives that causes us to not see things around us. We take the typical for granted. Such eyesight can lead to a lack of “seeing”. Meditation can help. Bump up against stimuli you might not otherwise encounter. Walk around the block and go a way you do not normally go. Be open to conversations with others you do not typically communicate with. Go to the magazine rack and pick up a magazine that has nothing to do with your typical interests. Look for text that pops off of pages for you.

  5. Engage in dialog about what interests you with people of like interest. Such talk can serve to stimulate, inspire collaborations and cultivate energy.

  6. Be rested. An exhausted mind and body, often, do not yield inspiring results.

  7. Begin to make something. Create. Develop a sense of momentum. Doing so will help you to begin moving forward. Think of your own energy like that of rolling a stone down a hill. While the stone is fixed in space, it can be difficult to move it. But once it begins to roll, it develops more and more speed as it rolls down the hill.

  8. Find a sense of balance within your life. I have found that if I am not attending to all of my basic needs as a person, that inspiration is less likely to find me. Lack of attention to my needs, for me, creates a feeling of gap or lacking. I will then feel unsettled and unhealthy habits might begin. Such a feeling can slow my momentum and lead towards inertia. Sometimes, we are not able to fully attend to all of our needs. In such a case, try to find a “sense of balance”. Schedule time to commit some small energy towards the filling of your need gaps. In doing so, a greater sense of “wholeness” can arise and, consequently, happiness and better use of ones´ energy and mind.

  9. Go down a rabbit hole. My favorite rabbit hole is YouTube. I like to watch videos of something that fascinates me and then keep following the links.

  10. Play. Engaging in a playful state of mind will, invariably, get our imaginations firing. When I say, “play”, I truly mean just that. Engage in a ridiculous scenario or activity and play with as you did when you were a child. Don’t judge. Engage. Commit to your sense of play with wholly, with abandon and joy.

  11. Play with your imagination. Ask, “What if”? What if you had a million dollars? What if you were elected President. What would your first day of office look like? The more you use your imagination, the stronger it, as a muscle, becomes. The more you use it, the more you are able to use it. The imagination is one of the partners of the dance.
  12. Cultivate your emotional intelligence. Inspiration comes from the imagination (and emotions). When one is inspired, they are emotionally engaged. Emotional intelligence is one of the artists´ keystone tools. If you do not already have a good degree of sensitivity to your emotions, what you are regularly feeling, start. They are often not as scary as we believed they might be. Ride the wave of what you feel. Pay some attention to it. Name it. “I am feeling…excited or giddy”, for example. Name it to understand it. If you feel you are already too engaged with your emotions, try to channel them into activities or creations. Make something and let your emotion be the gasoline in the tank. Let your expression come out of that.

  13. Meditate. Willfully still your mind. Letting the constant clutter of our thoughts subside for a while, gives space to our imaginations. Present consciousness can enable us to see our world through a clearer lens.

Then…follow the silk thread, impulse after impulse. Keep following. Keep doing.

To learn more about author Jim Hart or The Hart Technique, see   http://www.harttechnique.com

Entrepreneurship and Collaboration

In Author: Linda Essig, Creativity and Innovation on October 23, 2009 at 3:06 am

teamworkThe literature on entrepreneurship often references the one “big idea;” the singular innovative vision for something new, often the invention of one singular talent.  But, as we know, it takes a team of many to actualize that one big idea.  I’ve been preparing to teach a unit next week on collaboration and the ways in which group work supports the process of entrepreneurship, especially the kind of creative thinking that often underlies arts entrepreneurship.  In my posting a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Warren Bennis and  Patricia Ward Biederman’s book ORGANIZING GENIUS: THE SECRETS OF CREATIVE COLLABORATION (Basic Books, 1998).  To prepare for my class next week, I’m using a selection from that text, as well as disciplinarily specific one, COLLABORATION IN THEATRE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR DEISGNERS AND DIRECTORS by Rob Roznowski and Kirk Domer (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). [In the interest of full disclosure, I note that Domer worked with me when he was a grad student at UW-Madison and I was on the faculty there.]  In reading and synthesizing these, I developed a list of actions we all can undertake to be more effective collaborators and entrepreneurial team members:

  1. Communicate
  2. Know your team members
  3. Ask questions
  4. Do your research
  5. Look for the “next thing,” not the last thing
  6. Look for relationships
  7. Be “deep generalists” rather than “narrow specialists” (Bennis)
  8. Work together toward a collective purpose
  9. Articulate the group’s mission
  10. Be optimistic
  11. Embrace the idea that groups are temporary and project-focused
  12. Find commonalities
  13. Listen, then adapt
  14. Listen, then participate
  15. Reach consensus
  16. Respect your team members

Finding Balance

In Author: Jim Hart on October 22, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Entrepreneurs are notorious for lacking balance in their lives. The initial volume of work one must accomplish in the process of building something can feel overwhelming and steal much of one’s time and energy. At least while developing, many find themselves engaged in seventy to eighty hour workweeks, working weekends and sacrificing time with family and friends. Due to job demands and responsibilities, they find their lives become imbalanced (There is always something that the entrepreneur in practice could or should be doing).

I have found that imbalance can lead to depression and burnout. Both states can be extremely difficult to work through or can cause some to surrender their pursuit and investment of time, energy and money.

Many entrepreneurs’ families struggle with this feeling of imbalance, as the new pursuit may demand priority over other aspects of life.

The thing driving most entrepreneurs forward, in spite of the inherent difficulties, is passion for the subject matter. Passion can alter the feeling of “work”, to be experienced as play and can enable one to potentially weather the storm of loosing money in the early development of the business.

But how do we find balance?

Each individual is, of course, unique and each person in their process of seeking balance, will choose techniques they feel work for them.

The beginning years of building a business are often the hardest. I like to compare the process of starting a business to putting a boulder into motion (once it is in motion, ideally, there is some momentum to help carry it forward).

True balance in one’s life is something many people (entrepreneur or not) struggle to find. Sometimes, we must settle for a sense of balance. To find a sense of balance, we must tend to our common human needs. For most, this includes dedicating time towards work, social life, spiritual expression or insight, family, and personal time.

Often, I speak about the need for discipline—like that of a marathon runner. I urge you to weave some of these steps into your own discipline or process.

1.    Thoroughly schedule your time and, as best you can, stick to your schedule. How much time can you dedicate to family? As mechanical as this sounds, it can be a great tool to make sure you are actively giving your family or lover time. Then follow through.
2.    Give yourself personal time. There are only so many hours in a day and we only have so much gas in our tanks. We all need time for ourselves now and then. If you find yourself longing for such time, schedule it in and if you absolutely need it, try to not let anything interfere.
3.    Create a space dedicated to stillness. Having a room dedicated is a luxury many cannot afford. You can have something as simple as a particular chair to sit in. Rest and silence are the goals. You needn’t sit for a long period of time. Fifteen minutes can help.
4.    Establish boundaries with individuals who might try to monopolize your time. Be assertive regarding boundaries.
5.    Let go of the vampires in your life. Be mindful of who is poisonous. Do you have friends who sabotage your interests, do not support you or drag your energy down? Get rid of those relationships and nurture those that are positive.
6.    Delegate. Few do quality work when they carry the entire weight of a business on their shoulders. Do too many things simultaneously and all of your efforts can slip to mediocrity. Learn to ask for help and to trust when sharing responsibility.
7.    Work efficiently. Try operating via the least effort principle—expend only the amount of energy necessary to get the job done. In doing so, you will have more energy to put towards other areas and can curb exhaustion.
8.    Have reasonable goals that you believe are achievable and can be done in the time you give yourself. Accomplishing goals builds confidence.
9.    Know when to stop. Tomorrow is another day. Cultivate the ability to set things down. When one is passionately engaged with a conflict, it is easy to perpetually ruminate on the problem. Sometimes thinking too much only adds gas to the flames. By letting your mind rest, your subconscious has the opportunity to do some computing.
10.    Take time to celebrate. Personal recognition of accomplishment is important. It will keep your spirit up.
11.    When you are with your family (or friends) be with them and allow the thoughts of work to subside.
12.    Engage in activity that gives you a sense of play, carefree-ness and joy– every week.
13.    Eat, Sleep, and Move. We all know that eating well, getting sleep and exercise help us stay fit; improve our mood, keep up our health and energy.
14.    Know your audience or whom you serve. Find your manner of service. You don’t have to be working in an orphanage to be serving others—nor does your audience have to be big. There are all levels and sizes of contribution and service. Finding your method will enable you to see past some of the difficulties you encounter, as you will be “fighting the good fight”.
15.    Synthesize your interests. If you are engaging in a process that utilizes many of your talents, interests and abilities, you will feel a greater feeling of wholeness.

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique  http://www.harttechnique.com

How Do You Find the Time?

In Author: David Cutler, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music on October 20, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Practice that technique.  Work on craft. Draft grant proposal. Begin passion project. Be a good friend. Go to concerts. Take kids to the ballgame. Leave a legacy. Develop website. Improve skills. Read blogs. Market CD. Rewrite bio. Pay bills. Build brand. Meet spouse. Teach. Study. Network. Sleep. Think. Eat. Compose. Gig.

 AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who has time to do all this stuff?

hourglass_redBy our very nature, entrepreneurial artists always have too much to do, with an eruption of great ideas and initiatives in the pipeline.  Finding time to address everything can be tough.  As a result, many artists make little forward progress on important life goals year after year, despite the reality that they’re constantly frantic with work. If this scenario sounds familiar, here are some tips that can help:

 1)      Write it down.  Study after study have shown that people who write down their “to do list” have an exponentially greater chance of getting things done than those who don’t.

2)      Prioritize by urgency.  Rate each activity on your list in order of urgency.

3)      Prioritize by importance. In a separate column, rate each activity in order of importance as they relate to overall life goals. 

4)      Compare ratings.  In all likeliness, these two hierarchies look quite different.  “Urgent tasks” may be taking over, preventing progress on truly important aspirations.

5)      Re-prioritize.  Find ways to reduce the number of urgent-but-less-meaningful tasks.  And re-think your priorities—there should always be at least 1-2 life goals in your urgent column!

6)      Get more done: do less. Most of us have about 80 pressing things that need attention at every moment.  Yet when overwhelmed with demands, little noticeable progress in any aspect often results. Pick periods of your life to focus primarily on one or two major goals, rather than trying to do everything at once.

7)      Map your activities.  Many artists have no idea where all the time goes.  To find out, keep tabs on everything you do during an average month. Then analyze the results, and make changes as needed. You will be enlightened by the results.

8)      Identify and eliminate distractions.  It may only be 2 minutes here and 5 minutes there, but little diversions add up.  See what kinds of inefficiencies corrode your schedule, and exterminate or minimize them. Some common time wasters:

  • Checking e-mail constantly
  • Answering phone calls throughout the day (which also interrupts momentum)
  • Surfing the web
  • Watching TV
  • Drinking coffee
  • Chatting about nothing

9)      Schedule your schedule.   Compose a detailed plan showing how your minutes will be allocated throughout the week.  Then stick to it. Though this requires a time investment upfront, the efficiency that results makes the investment extraordinarily valuable.  

10)  Be specific.  Sure, you scheduled an hour for “personal marketing.” But what does that mean?  Work on web design?  Network?  Write a news release?  Clearly specify which objectives should be accomplished during each window.  This way you’ll know just what to do, and can clearly observe whether you made adequate progress.

11)  Get into routines.  Make your schedule as consistent as possible.  Habits save time.

12)  Don’t procrastinate.  When it’s time, just do it. Don’t permit excuses, distractions, or delays.

13)  Just say “no.”  There may be hoards of people asking you to help with this and work with that.  But if you don’t have time, politely decline the offer. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re a bad person!  They will understand. 

14)  Delegate and outsource. There are undoubtedly time consuming, non-specialized tasks in your life that others could help accomplish.  Farm it out.  Find a local high school student to help for a small fee.  Have your niece do the work in exchange for flute lessons. Do you know about virtual assistants?  These workers are available for hire to do just about any kind of clerical work imaginable. 

15)  Take a break. Nobody can work 24-7.  Most of us wind up taking breaks periodically throughout the day, and then feel guilty about them.  Instead, schedule breaks into the master plan, and enjoy every moment. Work when you work, and play when you play!

16)  There is never enough time; there is always enough time.  Life may always seem busy, but if something is important enough, there is a way to get it done.

Keep it Simple, Stupid.

In Author: Jim Hart on October 19, 2009 at 10:51 pm

The first time I created an original work of theatre,  a production I wrote and directed at the Yale Cabaret called The 9th Annual World Weight Wrestling Blood Exxxtravaganza—a social commentary told through “professional wrestling”, I was given sage advice from renowned stage combat choreographer Rick Sordelet. “Keep it simple, stupid”, he often told me.

Most great works of art are simple. Sometimes, we as artists, attempt to say too much at once. Consequently, we muddle our work. Simplicity allows for depth. Here are a few examples that come to my mind:

The Beatles Yesterday
Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh
The Story of a Mother by H.C. Andersen
Any of the Brothers Grimm tales
The work of Ansel Adams
The Far Side comics by Gary Larson
Norman Rockwell’s paintings

I could go on and on, medium after medium.

Each of these works, it is interesting to note, has or will likely stand the test of time.

Keeping our created form simple allows for us focus on depth of expression. Advice for the day? Keep it simple, stupid.

Signs and Change

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, Emotional Intelligence on October 16, 2009 at 9:00 am

The other day, in a bad mood, I went for a walk and asked the universe for a sign. I didn’t really have a particular sign in mind. I didn’t even have a question in mind that I needed an answer for. I just needed to know that there was something bigger than myself at work in the world that I could have faith in.

When it comes to signs, in the absence of religion any statistical improbability will do. On an empty street near a parked car I found eleven dollars on the ground- a $10 wrapped around a $1 and I took it to mean that the universe was listening. Being rather literal minded I took it to mean that what I was really looking for was change and that when I was ready for that change it would become available.

I decided that since I had gotten the sign that I had asked for (and since I hadn’t really asked for money) that it wouldn’t be right to keep the cash. I decided I would give the $11 to the next person to ask me for change, which turned out to be one of the ladies that I work with who was promoting a fundraising drive for the Off The Street Club to help get youths off the street in Garfield Park. For a low, low donation of just $10 I could get a kid Off The Streets. It just so happened that I had $10.

I gave them $11- I hope they didn’t mind.

Speaking Coaches help entrepreneurs get their message across

In Author: Barbara Kite, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Marketing, Networking, Outside Your Comfort Zone, The Entrepreneurial Artist Competition on October 15, 2009 at 6:06 am

SPEAKING COACHES HELP ENTREPRENEURS GET THEIR MESSAGE ACROSS –

BUSINESS – INTERNATIONAL

HERALD TRIBUNE 

By Hillary Chura
Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007

NEW YORK — Whether to appear more confident, better organized or to stop the “ums,” entrepreneurs are realizing good voice and presentation skills can help them come into their own and even compete against larger competitors with big marketing budgets.

Michael Sipe, president of Private Equities, a small mergers and acquisition advisory firm in San Jose, California, worked with a presentation coach who helped him differentiate his business from competitors.

“If a customer can’t determine who is any better or different or worse, then they are left with a conversation about price. And as a business owner, if you’re only in a price conversation, that’s a losing conversation,” Sipe said. “It is really important to paint a picture of why someone should do business with them in a very compelling way.”

Even though business owners may be experts in their fields, that does not automatically translate into being able to market themselves verbally. Many agree that speaking concisely — and in a compelling way — lends credibility. While poor communication skills are not necessarily deadly, they can make it more challenging to win over potential investors, prospective clients, employees and business partners.

“Small business is leaving money on the table because it is overlooking one of the most powerful marketing skills: speech,” said Diane DiResta, a speech and communications coach in New York. “Speech is the way a small business builds its brand, establishes expertise, gets free publicity and gets in front of its market.”

R.W. Armstrong & Associates, a civil engineering project management company in Indianapolis, first hired a speaker trainer two years ago to help prepare it for a pitch worth millions of dollars. The company went in as the underdog but clinched the deal after working on timing, learning how to use descriptive words, introduce co-workers and present itself with poise and cohesion, said Donna Gadient, director for human resources. She said the company paid about $8,000 to $10,000 for a day of training for 25 people.

Tom Cole, a general partner at Trinity Ventures, a Menlo Park, California, venture capital firm, said good communicators had an easier time captivating investors with their verbal and nonverbal skills than do those with less polish.

“Some entrepreneurs are such poor communicators that they never get past the first meeting with us,” Cole said. “A good entrepreneur can give you a 30- second elevator pitch that describes his or her business. Sadly, many fail to do that in the course of an hour’s meeting.”

Coaches, who may charge $100 an hour for one-on-one guidance to more than $10,000 a day for groups, work with clients on content and delivery, tone, organization, diction, timing, how to enter a presentation confidently and refining a message around essential words. They draw attention to flaws like blitzing through presentations as well as rising inflections that make every statement sound like a question from, like, a Valley Girl. They encourage people to use short sentences, speak in sound bites and pause so listeners can digest what has been said.

A less expensive option is the public speaking organization Toastmasters International, where members critique one another’s presentations.

Being a good presenter is more of an acquired skill than a gift you’re born with, enthusiasts say. Techniques that work with a large audience are also effective one-on-one. Patricia Fripp, a sales presentation skills trainer based in San Francisco, said that connecting on an emotional level with the audience and telling people what they will gain, rather than what you will offer, is important.

Lawrence Dolph, managing partner of RFD Insight, a turnaround specialist and growth consultant in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said that in addition to being concerned with what they know and how they present it, speakers now must be telegenic thanks to videoconferencing.

“It causes you to be assessed as if you were a television actor,” Dolph said. “You need to have good body control so you don’t look like a stiff. And a lot of that requires coaching. Unless you have been brought through some sort of actual course, you are probably not aware of your body or speech patterns.”

David Freeman, director for client development at the San Francisco asset management company Ashfield, sought help to hone his firm’s message to pension funds, financial institutions and wealthy investors. The idea was to stop presenters from rambling and have them deliver only pertinent information.

“We may fly across the country to present for 45 minutes to a pension fund or consulting firm that can be worth $25 million, $50 million or $100 million in the amount of money we are being given to manage,” Freeman said. “You want to increase the probability that you are going to be remembered.”

When Rebeca Mojica, a Chicago jewelry designer, started her jewelry design business in Chicago three years ago, she found herself being taken advantage of by clients who did not respect her time or wanted free private lessons or discounts. For several months in 2004 and 2005, she hired a coach to help her take control of conversations. She said she learned to be matter of fact in dealing with unpleasant situations and even got tips on how to sit when talking on the phone, with feet planted on the ground and torso leaning slightly forward.

She said coaching taught her how to handle potentially uncomfortable situations, cut down on wasted time and reduce misunderstandings.

“I tended to be a people pleaser. I’m a very nice person, which is great for some aspects of customer service but not good for others,” Mojica said. “When you want results, you need to take conversations seriously.”

Sharon McRill, founder of Betty Brigade, a concierge company in Ann Arbor, hired a coach, Eleni Kelakos, after agreeing to deliver a Chamber of Commerce breakfast speech in 2005. McRill said that while she was comfortable one- on-one, she felt sick addressing a group. After learning breathing and relaxation techniques, her confidence rose.

“I needed to be comfortable speaking to 300 business leaders — leaders who I don’t normally get to speak to — so it was important to come across as competent and smooth,” said McRill, who paid $750 for the insight. “If you can make an impression by speaking in front of a group or by meeting someone at a networking event that helps you be remembered, then it’s going to continue to pay you back later.”

see my Great Speakers and Acting Blog – www.bmkite.wordpress.com for more in depth information regarding speaking using acting skills to help in your presentations.

Seeing Art in a Creative Light

In Author: Adam Shames on October 14, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Last Saturday night I found myself walking off the elevator into a dark room on the 24th floor of Chicago’s John Hancock building. The only thing lit in front of me was a rectangular portion of the floor where two miniature, white water towers stood. For about ten minutes I watched with other barely visible onlookers as a slowly moving light altered our perception of the scene. Shadows shifted and a narrative unfolded, all determined by a changing light source. This exhibit was the installation work of Jan Tichy, now on display for the Richard Gray Gallery (above is a snapshot of another room with a similar light experience). I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it, and I found myself grappling with a common reaction many of us have when experiencing modern art: Do I like this? Am I engaged by this? What makes this worthy of public acclaim? As other visitors–that night a rather exclusive group of museum directors and art collectors–later heaped praise and made occasionally inscrutable comments, I thought about the age-old question: When it comes to art, what distinguishes creativity?

Remember, creativity does have a clear and consensual (by researchers) definition: something that both is different and has value. As I explain in my talks and workshops, it’s not enough just to be unusual or strange. Being creative requires integrating two fundamentally different forces: one that opens to the never-quite-imagined-before (divergence) and one that narrows to what is appropriate for the challenge or what “works” (convergence).

What makes art so difficult to evaluate is that the convergence is much more dependent on your reaction. We are unlikely to agree that Tichy’s light installations “solves a problem” or “works,” as we may be able to for products or other solutions. The convergence piece for artistic creativity has to do with meaning: Does it evoke something meaningful for you? It could just be a feeling, a sense of pleasure, or an intuitive resonance. If you can derive some kind of meaning, then the art is indeed creative for you. The people next to you might not see or feel anything meaningful and therefore the same installation cannot be deemed creative. For them.

Particularly for art, but really for many creative endeavors or insights, the claim of creativity depends on the interpreter. The eye of the beholder determines whether there is convergence and therefore whether the act or idea is creative.

Personally, I found Tichy’s work to satisfy my own creative lens. I particularly appreciated the story of the moving light–which though sometimes puzzling was evocative enough to stir meaning for me. Here’s more information about the exhibit in case you’re in Chicago and want to see whether it lights you:
Jan Tichy: Installations (October 9 – November 24, 2009) consists of nine works made over the past three years and is the artist’s largest solo show to date. Tichy works at the intersection of video, sculpture, architecture, and photography. Richard Gray Gallery · John Hancock Center · 875 N. Michigan Avenue · Chicago · IL · 60611.(312) 642.8877. Please contact gallery for specific hours.

Cultural Capital

In Author: Linda Essig, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on October 13, 2009 at 1:42 am

I’m participating in a symposium this week entitled PARTNERSHIPS FOR PURPOSE: INNOVATION, CULTURAL CAPITAL, AND RESILIENCE. The panel I’ve been asked to facilitate is organized around the question “How should the university contribute to the development of cultural capital/talent in the region?” “Cultural Captial” isn’t a phrase that I use very often, so of course I looked it up. I was surprised to find that it’s a common sociological term, taken to mean (and I’m broadly paraphrasing from multiple sources), the non-economic “worth” of a family, an institution, or a society, often associated with educational attainment and socialization. This, of course, is not how the conference organizers are using the term or they wouldn’t have invited a museum director, a public art director, me, and others to be on this panel.
Cultural capital as I envision it for the purposes of my panel is a two part infrastructure made up of people and institutions. And, these people and institutions have BOTH economic and intrinsic non-economic worth. In a city such as Phoenix with only one large (public) university and several community colleges, the cultural capital of the city is inexorably intertwined with the university.
It is a fact not widely recognized that universities, especially public research universities, indirectly support arts and culture nationally by providing institutional homes — and the salaries and benefits attendant to them — for creative artists. Cultural institutions such as Actors Theatre of Phoenix, for example, draw regularly from the “human” capital of my school. Because the faculty ranks at universities include the artists, designers, directors, etc who create the work we see at the museums and performing arts venues throughout a region, the region is richer for the presence of the university (and, I would add, the faculty have an outlet for their creative work).
To build cultural capital, existing institutions need to be supported and new ones created. That’s why I’m so proud of our p.a.v.e. program in arts entrepreneurship. Through that program we’ve seed funding and mentorship to students with great ideas for arts-based ventures. Some of these, like the Phoenix Fringe Festival and the Sustainable Symphony are already making their marks on the regional cultural landscape in Phoenix.

What Does Your Blue Bike Look Like?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, The Idea on October 12, 2009 at 11:40 am

balloon_bike_transpBG_50%Bite-Size Arts Ensemble Member, Dharmesh Bhagat, built this blue bike out of balloons for me. Isn’t it cute? What does your blue bike look like? Do you know? And what does it mean to build a blue bike anyway?

To me, the journey of learning how to take the pain in your heart and transform it into an entrepreneurial vision that is so strong and robust it produces an economic engine in your life- financial transportation- is what I call building a blue bike. It is impossibly difficult to do alone and requires an undying amount of support from others to accomplish. And I want you each to know how grateful I am, that you have been here for me on my own blue bike building journey.

Ever since I wrote my book, Build a Blue Bike, the pain in my heart has only grown. While I was very lucky to land a big agent, Susan Schulman, who represented Economist, Richard Florida’s Rise of The Creative Class, my timing could not have been worse. As we entered into a Big Big Recession I was trying to sell this book…..

I still hold out hope that someday I will hear back from Tarcher- my dream publisher. Julia Cameron: Artist Way- continues to be a big hit for The Tarcher Publishing company. So currently my manuscript resides in the back of my sock drawer, while my deep desire to help artists transform from the inside-out continues to grow.

My pain comes from a lifetime of artistic experiences that one-by-one drove me to become incredibly cautious and careful around artists because of the dysfunction I experienced trying to share the music in my heart with them. It was the drama, self-destruction, withdrawal, denial, arrogance, insecurity, back stabbing and anger I saw in others that made me take the joyful music inside my heart and lock it away. This was not what tickled my funny bone and called my artistic name to the clarinet and it is not where artistic entrepreneurial vision comes from. As a child, it was a love for exploring my own artistry and sharing my creativity with others that seeded my entrepreneurial abilities.

And it broke my heart to pull away from my deepest desires to play the clarinet for my life’s work when I was at the top of my musical game, at the end of my days as a college student at Northwestern. I truly wanted then and still want to share my creativity intimately with others. And while I went on to build creative ventures over the past twenty- years, creatively finding a way to put my need to play my clarinet each time at the center of my ventures, my heart continued to feel pain.

So after twenty years of living with my pain it grew so strong and loud, I wrote Build A Blue Bike hoping if I did something positive about it- by writing a book to share with others what only my artistry and unique vision blended together can see- it would help others heal and the pain I felt would finally subside. But the pain did not stop. So when Build A Blue Bike did not sell to a major publisher, my dream and hope for it still, I created Entrepreneur The Arts®. But it was still not enough.

From there came The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble™ and somehow, as this ensemble has struggled to take flight, I realized that while the pain inside of me was duller and throbbed less, as my vision for what I could do with it was growing stronger and clearer, it was still inside of me. I know that our show What is Your Imagination Worth? A New Kind of ROI is going to really help those who experience it learn about how they can change, evolve and grow. But I need what my audiences learn about developing their imaginations, to become something real: something that nourish their hearts and others souls. Something made to last. Maybe even forever- or for at least a lifetime on this earth.

And now, finally, last night, at Flourish Studios, with Stanley Drucker in the house, The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™ has been born. Finally, after three and a half years of struggling, I feel like I have found the ignition key for my vision and a turning point for my heart to begin its work of healing.

You see, I want so badly to help you to discover your own vision, like I have. I want your deepest pain in life to become a vision of what you can positively change in the world that will help you create an artistic life filled with meaningful opportunities for you, and others, to learn from and endlessly grow. I know you will be happier and emotionally healthier the moment you decide to. I know when more of you are living a LIFE YOU DREAM that the dysfunction I see in the arts will slowly, but surely, change. I still so want to experience what our shared positive creativity and artistry can do for this world. Don’t you?

So what does it take to build your very own blue bike? One that will last forever, and ever, or as long as your vision can see, and until the pain in your heart has been nourished into health?

OK. If you are brave enough to consider trying to, here are a few things you have got to know:

#1 However long you think it is going to take to transform the pain in your heart into entrepreneurial vision– know that building a meaningful creative venture- one that is built to last- requires a large investment of time– at least a couple of years if not more.

#2 You need to be willing to set aside your need for clarity and perfection and be able to live with a tangled web of ideas at first- a mess- in the development stage of your personal transformation. Turning pain into vision is a process that is not neat and tidy. And you need excellent role models to help you navigate through so you find the most expeditious way. Nothing short will do. The bigger the pain the greater the vision can be and the longer it can take for your artistic vision to become clear and focused and financially able to take flight.

#3 You must be willing to continuously attempt to launch your ideas into the world knowing that you will need repeatedly to rebound from many failed attempts until you finally find some traction for them. You will be laughed at, ignored, disrespected, ridiculed, slighted and humbled by this process every single time it happens– until your vision is perfectly aligned with the pain in your heart and it ignites the transmission of your creative venture. And then… you will be celebrated like the hero everyone always knew you would become. (It is the hero’s journey we are talking about here. It is what has to happen for your artistry to take economic flight.)

#4 You need tenacity to fuel ideas. Consistent effort that is unwilling to stop–What is it that your heart needs most to not be in pain? Whatever that is, there lies the endless source of your tenacity.

#5 You need to be or become a great collaborative communicator. When we share our vision and receive feedback from others about it, we learn how we are being perceived. When we get it right, our vision will manifest itself into economic opportunities that seemingly will pop right up out of nowhere– and become our transportation into our future.

#6 And lastly, you need to have excellent ethical judgement. What goes around comes around. If you do what’s right every single time, eventually you will be rewarded. And if you do what is right and true for you, eventually your heart will feel whole and your ideas will roll and the money will flow…

#7 Remember–Where there is money, there is energy and where there is energy there is a lifetime of economic opportunity…

And politics aside- Isn’t this really what Obama keeps telling us? This IS our moment. WE are the future of history. OUR time has come. It is Now. Are you Ready?

The Artist-Blogger: Finding Your Niche

In Author: David Cutler, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Marketing on October 10, 2009 at 11:56 pm

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Of course! You don’t have time to blog.  You don’t even have enough time to breathe, with all your practicing, art making, career promotion, life responsibilities, and the occasional social engagement.  If there’s one thing you simply can’t squeeze into the schedule, it’s maintaining a blog! Don’t be ridiculous.

That’s what I used to think as well.  Yet this week, as I unveiled a new and improved blog for my site THE SAVVY MUSICIAN  (and with it, a commitment to keep up the posts), an important realization struck me—blogging is one of the most effective ways to build credibility, loyalty, and an international fan base.  If you are an entrepreneurial artist hoping to increase your success and opportunities, a killer blog may prove to be one of the most important and cost effective marketing tools at your disposal.

As was argued in The Savvy Musician, without web presence, you don’t exist. You’re invisible, at least in the eyes of most of the world. And while a well constructed but static website can do a lot to advance your cause, a relevant and up-to-date blog shows that you are active, productive, and a reliable source of information. The best blogs give viewers a reason to visit your website on a regular basis, and attract new visitors because of the valuable content. Better yet, a great blog will establish you as a leading and active voice in your field. As a result, you will probably get more gigs, media attention, invitations to speak publically on your topic, and a host of additional opportunities.

Now, the act of simply having a blog won’t necessarily help you.  Thousands upon thousands of bloggers spend obscene amounts of time writing articles that are viewed by almost no one. For success, it is imperative to find a topic that resonates with readers:

  1. No blogger diaries!  Far too many blogs are simply recaps of people’s lives. But here’s the problem—nobody cares (except perhaps family members and close friends)!  So you heard a great performance of Mahler, or your stand partner had cheese stuck between her teeth during rehearsal…snooze.  People are much more concerned with themselves.  Unless your existence is extraordinarily interesting, reject this approach or count on a miniscule readership. Be careful of overusing the word “I.”
  2. Focus on your reader. A far better approach is to write about your readers. What do they care about? What are their concerns? Embrace the word “you,” and choose topics interesting to them.
  3. Be Different. Find a blogging topic or angle that isn’t oversaturated with competition.  For example, there are already great blogs dealing specifically with some instruments. But others have almost no quality sites, and that represents a huge opportunity for some savvy musicians in the near future.  (Maybe you?) If there are already good sources available that deal with your general area of interest, find a specific angle that distinguishes your work.
  4. Find your niche. In my post The Best in the World, it was argued that savvy musicians should discover the one thing they can do better than anyone else in the world. A blog is the perfect platform for establishing yourself as a leading expert in a specific area.
  5. Stick with it. Once you have an angle, don’t deviate too far from it. Readers expect consistency. If your focus is instrument repair, a post on that great concert you attended last night may appear irrelevant and confusing.
  6. Solve problems. The most widely read blogs often solve problems for their audience. For example, musician bloggers could focus on how to throw a better wedding reception, how to practice more effectively, how to address the psychological stresses of being a musician, etc.
  7. Provide resources. Blogs that offer helpful resources—from links to manuscript paper to fonts to practicing exercises –will be visited again and again.    
  8. Influence taste. Thanks largely to the Internet, there are millions of products, experiences, and messages competing for attention.  Ironically, in a time when everybody has access to just about everything, digging through the clutter can be a nightmare.  Bloggers who point people towards the good stuff (great recordings, great concerts to check out, great woodwind quintets, etc.) provide a valuable service to both consumers and vendors. Rather than being comprehensive, focus on highlighting quality gems.

The Savvy Musician Resource Center maintains a library of fantastic blogs that we feel are helpful to musicians.  To view our blogroll, click here.  Please contact us if you’d like to propose an invaluable site that follows the guidelines above and should be added to our collection.

 

Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success with your musical career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, information about the most important music career book in print, and more.