Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘Risk’

Smiling as Loudly as We Can

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on November 14, 2009 at 2:50 am

“Don’t worry if you don’t hear the audience laughing during dress rehearsal. They’re old. They’re smiling as loudly as they can.”

-Tim Frawley,Theatre Director, Libertyville High School

The high school I attended had an ongoing tradition of inviting elderly citizens from the community to come see dress rehearsals so that they didn’t have to pay full price for tickets on performance nights. The laughter and applause of an elderly audience was never as loud or as enthusiastic as an audience full of our families and peers, but at least the house was full. As students and as artists, it was very easy to feel doubtful. Here we were in dress rehearsal on the verge of a production that we’d worked very hard on in front of an audience and the first time. We were projecting ourselves out into a darkened auditorium and hoping for some kind of response. We had no way of knowing whether all our hard work resulted in something we could be proud of unless we could hear the audience laugh at the jokes. And sometimes we didn’t even get that satisfaction.

In such unforgiving economic times it is easy to feel that dress-rehearsal doubt. We cross our fingers and tell ourselves to “break a leg” because we don’t even want to risk frightening away good luck. When we take risks, whether as an artist or as an entrepreneur, we put ourselves out on stage under bright lights staring out into a vast darkened empty space with no way of knowing whether anyone is watching. We have no way of knowing whether we are succeeding or failing except by the responses that we get from other people. And like in theatre, sometimes that response never comes.

If we’re wise, we carry on even in the face of apparent apathy. At times like this, when the auditorium in which we perform seems to be dark and empty and vast we may not be able to see our audience but we need to remember they are there. The audience is seeing us because we are there to be seen. And they are smiling as loudly as they can.

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

The Arc of the Story: At the Threshold

In Author: Amy Frazier, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Theater/Film, Writing on October 6, 2009 at 9:55 am

What’s up with the resistance?

You know the one. The resistance that comes shortly after you decide to launch a new creative endeavor. The resistance that whispers in your ear that maybe the idea isn’t that great, or you really don’t have the time, or you’re really not so good after all.

Maybe it doesn’t affect you. If not, I’m willing to bet you’re in the minority. For a lot of artists, the initiatory phase of a project can be a very painful back-and-forth play of initiative and doubt.

When I’m acting, for example, it usually shows up at the first blocking rehearsal. When asked to actually get the character “up on its feet,” I often balk. In the course of the entire rehearsal period and even through opening night, I will never feel as awkward and disembodied as I will on the first blocking rehearsal. I’d rather be anywhere else then right there.

Then there’s writing. Every writer knows that big blank page. Now, a computer screen. I wonder if the relative effortlessness of tapping and deleting with no crumpled paper overflowing the wastebasket as evidence doesn’t somehow cover for the fact that we’re stuck. No. We still know. We might not have the physical evidence of every crappy opening line–it may have vanished into electronic ether–but we get it: our writing sucks.

I suspect painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians have their own issues.

Right now, I’m working on a program I’ll be delivering at the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation in Brussels at the end of the month, called “Riding the Arc of the Story.” I’ve had my own deal getting it pulled together, but what I wanted to share in this post was something I’ve learned while working on the program, about narrative structure and the Hero’s Journey.

Evidently, as soon as the hero begins her journey, she is met at the threshold by beings whose purpose it is to provide initial resistance in the form of a test: is the hero up for the challenge? They’re called “threshold guardians,” and they can show up as friends, family, foes…or even part of our own psyche, our shadow. (I know this one!)

The concept of the Threshold Guardian has given me a new way of looking at my internal resistance to the early phases of a project. Now, instead of either giving in to the temptation to pull away, or feeling like I have to muscle through and pretend the resistance isn’t there, I remind myself that I might be on the threshold, and this might be only a test. Of the emergency threshold guardian system. And it’s ok.

The next time you find yourself hitting that resistance wall, ask yourself: is this a wall? or might it actually be an opening. Might you actually be on the threshold of something entirely new?

An Entrepreneurial Lesson and a Little Bit of Magic

In Author: Lisa Canning, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Leadership, Legal, Money, Networking, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea on July 30, 2009 at 9:03 am

Lisa 2009Today I drove into Chicago to meet two women who run and own a two-year-old-child- development center. For the purposes of this post, they and their business will remain nameless, but the jist of their story I will share because it holds a few really important entrepreneurial lessons…. and a little bit of magic.

First- a little bit of background: My meeting with these women was my first. I was referred to them by another client. They expressed interest in finding a business coach, so I made the trip to meet with them.

What I learned while I was there: These two women have created a center that over the past two years has grown from an idea, into a business plan, to a real physical location that now 100 families 3-5 times a week use weekly for their children to play and learn through arts based experiences.

These ladies are extremely intelligent, well educated, hold advanced degrees, and have had very successful careers. They were inspired to start a business together based of their common interests and past lives where they realized the importance of arts education and what it could bring to a child’s developmental learning through play. Childs Play Touring Theater, which I have written about before, has a similiar focus through theater- another extraordinary business in its own right.

But my point in sharing their story with you, is to reveal how close they are to failing in their business. While they bravely and fearlessly invested their time and money for the past two years, and risked their futures while passionately embracing their mission, they are finding themselves feeling uncertain about their future in business mostly because they did not plan for change in their business plan.

Every business plan changes. We start with one on paper and then need to keep revising it as we go. These women wrote their plan and then when it no longer made sense to follow it, stopped using it as a measuring stick.

What I mean by this is that a business plan is written with both intellectual mastery of your venture and emotional mastery of your understanding of what it will take to accomplish. It is written with a certain level of profitability to achieve, sales and specific offerings in mind. When any one of these elements is not being achieved, as a result of economic conditions, clients needs and desires or for any other reason, it is extremely important to revisit both your thinking and emotional understanding of what has changed and why.

This allows you to not only figure out how to get “back on track,” or find an equally new parallel track, but it also educates your “gut” –increasing your awareness– about what it looks and feels like when the sand under your feet is shifting and you need to zig or zag, right then. This awareness becomes critical as your venture grows, and remains critical through out the life of your entire venture.

So, as a result of having distanced themselves emotionally from their plan, and not continuing to revise their course, NOW they have a real problem- their business might not survive.

What created their problem? Where was the zig they missed acting on?

With an extraordinary economic downturn looming unannounced before they opened, plain and simply- their passion lead them to open in a large location and spend more on space than they now can afford. The business did not grow as quickly as they had projected. While they have retained customers through this downturn, they have not added them, as predicted in their plan. Having not taken a salary in two years, they are now weary, their planned savings has run out and their landlord wants his money for rent past due and frankly wants them evicted.

So what would you tell them to do? Pray? Close their doors and run?

Sometimes, in key moments in a venture- when everything can turn to dust ( and everyone has these moments) the chemistry is perfectly ripe for magic to happen. Let me explain.

You see when I was driving down to meet them, I was following the directions my GPS was giving me. As I left the expressway and turned on a major road that intersected with their street, I looked to my left and saw a business that sold kids furniture that had a name that was extremely similar to theirs. At first I thought maybe it was their location. But then I realized, while the name of this business complimented theirs nicely, it was an entirely different business.

Thinking nothing more about it I drove to my meeting. Well, as their stress filled tale unfolded before my eyes, and we began to brainstorm about how they could avoid bankruptcy and closing their doors, I remembered the building with the sign I saw around the corner from them. I quickly asked them if they knew the owner and the business and they said yes. In fact the owner of that business had made a point, on several occasions, of coming to visit and offering advice and encouragement. In turn, they had referred business to him.

It was right then it popped into my head that their business was an excellent marketing opportunity for the owner of this childrens furniture business. His store would benefit from having a play center inside of it. Why? Because nothing but parents walk in and out to pick up their kids. Parents could browse while they wait for classes to finish or as they come and go with their kids.

By pitching the idea of moving their business into his store- which by the way is a huge store with lots of extra space- not only could their synergy help each of them, but potentially these women could negotiate a free place, or almost free place, to run their business because of their ability to bring in clients to the furniture store daily and build traffic and interest for his products. Not to mention the fact that currently the owner is not open Monday through Friday- but only by appointment- and by allowing these woman to run their business in his space, he would have built in store hours and be open for business as these women easily could allow people to browse and set up the owners appointments.

It turns out that this owner is a furniture manufacturer first, and a retail store owner second. He also runs large print advertisement in major publications–the same ones that would help these two women and their business. By encouraging him to include in his advertising that he hosts a learning development/play center for children inside his store, it will only add to the communities positive impression of his business and interest in it.

Seems as though, magically, we might have stumbled into not only a clever marketing proposition for both businesses but also a way for these two women to not close their doors. And the most magical part about it was that for the most part, the idea that held the most promise and quickest fix for them was right there for the taking– if they could have been a little more able to zig and zag.

It just took them inviting a total stranger in to speak with them, with a good mind for out of the box ideas, and a lot of experience “zigging and zagging,” to let them see the connections they already had and could leverage.

Next week these two ladies have asked me to take the lead in negotiating this vision over lunch with the owner of the furniture store. I hope the cosmos keeps the fairy dust sprinkler on until then–when your parched enough to die, a little goes a long way to restoring you to life.

On Apologies

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Risk on May 12, 2009 at 7:21 pm

The second most important thing that I have learned in life is how to apologize, and it’s the kind of thing that is so important that I wish they taught it in schools. Life is a risky business, and with all risk there is as much potential for mistakes as there is for success and sometimes more. The greater the possible success, the correspondingly huge the potential failure. So for this blog I am offering a quick “how to” on apologizing.

The first part to apologizing is recognizing when one is needed and being clear about what you are apologizing for. Sometimes this is easy, especially when I realize that I have done something wrong, and sometimes it is difficult, as when I can see that someone feels they have been wronged, but I am unable to take the steps to make that wrong right. To my mind, it is always appropriate to apologize to someone who feels they have been wronged, whether or not you agree with them. Now I’ve been told that a simple “how-to” isn’t effective unless I can show a personal example of how it actually applies, so by way of example: I once was working with a woman on a project when we had a misunderstanding about a contract and when payment was due. It turns out that she expected payment at the time we were working together instead of as a deferred payment which was written in the contract. She felt wronged because she wasn’t able to get money in hand and I felt badly, but couldn’t legally offer her payment sooner than was written in the contract. It was one of those times when an apology needed to be made even though I couldn’t make right what had gone wrong.

The second part to apologizing is to recognize the wronged party’s feelings without getting your own feelings involved. An apology is not the time to lash out or to point fingers. It is not the time to make excuses. It is not the time to make accusations. An apology is not about you it is all about them. An apology is a way of saying that even though things did not go well that you still respect and care about the other person and their feelings and that you are sacrificing a portion of your own pride to say so. So back to the story of my coworker and I and the contract misunderstanding; she felt she had been wronged because her expectations were broken. I could have written “Well, if you’d read the contract thoroughly then you’d know the payment was deferred”, but that would have been counter productive. The last thing I wanted to do was to add insult to injury. She’d made a mistake by not reading carefully and I’d made a mistake by not emphasizing that payment was deferred and while we were both upset, neither of us needed to hear that we were to blame.

The third part to apologizing is doing it. This is the hardest part because invariably it needs to happen during or after a moment of conflict, when the only thing that you want to do is to run away from the problem and to hope it will go away on its own. For myself, I find it is best to apologize as quickly and early and sincerely as possible. In the co-worker incident I sat down and wrote an email to her that very night. Conflict makes me agitated and anxious and the only thing that reliably calms me down is taking action even if that action is just typing an email to say what needs to be said.

The last part to apologizing is up to the recipient: whether or not to accept the apology and whether or not to forgive the person who is doing the apologizing. Some people accept apologies with supreme grace and move on quickly. Some people refuse to accept the apology until they feel they are “even” with the other person. Some people never accept the apology at all. This is up to the wronged party in the situation. When you are receiving an apology it is important to remember that someday you will be the one apologizing to someone else and it is important to respond in the way that you would want your own apology responded to. It turns out the episode with my coworker ended up with her leaving and us letting her go. It wasn’t an ideal situation but we both preferred to part company rather try to work with that kind of tension between us.

Once you’ve apologized, all you can do is wait, but you can wait knowing that you’ve done everything possible. The proverbial ball is now in their court and they will either accept the apology or they won’t. Apologizing is a humbling experience, but it is so for a reason: to remind both yourself and the person to whom you are apologizing that with risks comes mistakes and that no one is perfect. It is a way to recognize that other people are human beings even though you differ from them. And it is a way to work through differences in order to build a stronger whole.