We are all in the same boat. We all are being forced to adapt to the blistering pace of change we see in the world. It’s unsettling, it’s scary, and, worst of all, nobody knows what will happen next. Alvin Toffler predicted that we would live in a state of “cultural anxiety” in Future Shock. Who would have known that what he predicted in 1970 would come true?
For many, death is something to be feared…hence the massive pain we see in the world as we witness the end of the Industrial Age. And why is it that death is promoted as the ultimate “dark” experience? Are we even aware of what is dying?
It appears that the 300 lb. gorilla in the room is that what we have known to be true is not only being questioned, it’s dying. (Kubler-Ross talked about grief in her famous book: “On Death and Dying” ).
Fear not…what is dying is what we are conditioned to believe…not life itself.
Life constantly moves forward regardless whether we like it or not. Engaging fully with life is the hard part…especially when we are desperately holding on to the past to make sense out of our future.
Accepting is to let go. It is impossible to truly accept and be fearful.
If you understand the process of grieving you will be on your way to accepting your current circumstance.
The fascinating thing is if you let go, you won’t break. You will be set free.
If you are a business owner, a marketer, a concerned individual or all of the above it probably occurred to you that “community” is a buzz word that is generally misunderstood depending on where you stand.
Building a community is hard work. And, like any endeavor, without clear goals the chances of success are slim to none.
When defining a goal there are usually more questions than answers. What can easily be missed is in this process is the underlying intent behind the action.
Are you honest with yourself about why you want to build a community? Is it for money? Is it to satisfy your ego? Is it altruistic? Is it to amass power?
It can be all or none of the above.
Beyond understanding the building blocks needed to create a community (barrier to entry, influence, shared emotional values etc), it is important to be clear about your underlying motivation as well. Clarity of purpose (intent) and motivation will guide your every move going forward. Success will require following a predetermined road map along with enough gas in the tank to get you there. Intent and motivation provides the fuel needed to make the journey.
It’s a funny thing about human beings: we all perceive information differently and to a large degree will spin information so that it falls in line with existing beliefs (confirmation bias).
In “Blink” Malcolm Gladwell talks about our innate ability to determine truth from fiction based upon facial muscles, instinct, context etc. No longer is “do as I say, not as I do” a valid strategy. This falseness will be apparent to everyone. Like “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, let’s hope you are not the last to know.
Building a sustainable community requires being clear about your intent and motivation. The quickest way to discover that is to look inward with honesty. Your audience/community will then be able to determine if the value you offer warrants their attention. If they choose to participate it will because they perceive that membership is of higher value than the real or implied “barrier to entry”.
What is community? How do we define it? Do we actually know what it is? Ever thought about why we as humans think it is important? With a big h/t to Greg Lexiphanic here are a few thoughts to consider. I will try to paraphrase this great ebook. For more detail please go here
Key criteria to establish a “sense of community” (as defined by David McMillan & David Chavis- “sense of community: a theory and definition”) are:
1. Membership 2. Influence 3. Fulfilment of needs 4. Shared emotional connection.
For a community to exist members must experience a sense of community.
How can you create a community around who you are, your business, your interests? Take the time to understand how these 4 elements relate to each other and what they mean individually.
Membership implies exclusivity (a barrier to entry or boundary). Either you are in or you are out. Implied in membership is a trust that you will be safe and taken care of within the boundaries and definitions of the group.
Influence is gained by having an affecting change on the group. Influence is only achieved by listening as well as expressing your beliefs.
“People who acknowledge that others’ needs, values, and opinions matter to them are often the most influential group members, while those who always push to influence, try to dominate others, and ignore the wishes and opinions of others are often the least powerful members.” —McMillan & Chavis, 1986
The fuel to drive a community is reinforcement. To receive reinforcement requires participation by the members. If participation focuses on the betterment of the group then reinforcement and a “sense of community” can be achieved. it is a two way street of give and take within the boundaries created by the group. No matter which side of the coin you are on (giving or receiving), if you feel fulfilled by taking part, the group will fill satisfy your need to belong and a bond will develop.
Shared Emotional Connection. There is a great line from the film Local Color that talks about art: “A shared experience is more meaningful than one experienced alone.”
Why is it we seek out group experience rather than isolation?
Intimacy, acknowledgement, sharing of views in a defined format, reward for your investment of time and energy and spiritual bonding ties us together in groups creating a more powerfulexperience than trying to do it alone. Its why we identify with an join groups in the first place. We are tribal animals…it is intrinsic to our nature.
Attempting to create an online or offline community is difficult and time consuming. However, the rewards can be far outweigh the investment. The pot of gold will come from the bonds you create in your community.
Look at your business and personal relationships. Question the drivers and quality of the interactions, what value you derive from feeling connected and reward you receive in return.. Most of us blithely stumble into situations that are driven by habit and conditioning rather than conscious thought.
The opportunity for all of us who are interested in creating community is not only to succeed but also the learn more about ourselves.
Your manager? Your agent? Your publisher? Your friends? Sales happen organically…I’m a musician….not a salesperson.
Let me ask you a couple questions: Do you want to be paid for your services? Do you want to make a living by making music? Do you want to be respected for the work you do? Do you believe that you are worth the money you are asking for?
Like it or not if you want to make money at making music you will be much better off if you accept that you are running a business. And, like playing an instrument, the more you practice, the better you will become.
Here is a dirty little secret:
You have to value yourself before anyone will value you.
What is your elevator pitch?
One of the hardest thing for the creative individual to do is to succinctly describe and express who they are and what they want. If I were to ask you: “who are you? what do you want? “how can I help you?” can you answer in 25 words or less?
My attention is the most valuable resource I have. I don’t like to waste it. Neither does a potential boss. When you find yourself in a networking situation have your elevator pitch rehearsed and ready to go. It’s a sign of respect and competence. It will give you confidence too.
Much like a first date it will be apparent in a couple of minutes whether or not there is any possibility of a good fit. The thing to remember is that timing is everything. Nothing may happen at first…but- if you are successful at making a connection you leave the door open for something in the future. And, you never know, a chance encounter may be the beginning of a lifelong relationship. Be Prepared. Be respectful. Interpersonal skills are a must. I’m sure you know people who seem to effortlessly schmooze with anyone. Let me tell you- it is a skill that can be learned. I’ve found that listening, paying attention, being attentive are great skills to nurture. Remember: it’s not about you. It’s about the relationship.
“People work with people they know….who they feel they can have a relationship with.
There are the rare instances when someone will hire you because they “have” to have what you do….but that is the exception. And, even if they did hire you….they still have to get along with you.
How do I improve my networking skills?
Think of it this way- you would never dream of performing in public without practicing first? This holds true with networking too.
- Practice your elevator pitch.
- Ask questions….about them! Most everyone likes to talk about themselves.
- Pay attention- make eye contact, have a firm handsake. Pay them a compliment.
- Focus on how you can help them….not how they can help you.
- Be authentic.
…it’s all about making the connection.
How does this get me a job?
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There a lot of people out there. If you stay within those people you know your opportunities will be limited. And, you just never know where potential opportunities will come from.
Besides- you may not want to work with just anybody.
A successful collaboration requires intimacy and trust. It is next to impossible to share those amazing moments of discovery and invention without it.
“I have the artist’s disease- I want everyone to love me.”
Truth be told I hear “no” more often than I hear “yes”. It took me a long time to realize that my self-worth didn’t depend on what others thought of me. This is so important let me say it again: my self-worth doesn’t depend on what others think.
This gave me the freedom to be myself and just go for it…and risk rejection. And, if someone says “no” then I just remind myself that “I must be talking to the wrong person”.
I don’t need to be concerned about the business of music-
You can call me “Schroeder”. I spent my youth playing the piano incessantly. I started writing songs when I was about 9. Most every waking hour I had a radio blaring in my head. I couldn’t stop it. So, I spent all my time pursuing that which I could not ignore…making music.
Because I had developed skills as a musician and was gifted with talent, opportunities presented themselves and I started working as a musician at 14. By the time I reached college I was a “working musician”. Even so, my goal was not to make money. My interest was always to find a way to stay immersed in the art of making music. This desire to led me to leave college the first chance I had to go on the road. I didn’t really care how much they paid me- I probably would have done it for free!
Setting myself up…for disaster.
Fast forward to years later. I had been working steadily for years…not because I had a great business acumen but actually in spite of it. I had an employable skill, was dependable and, for the most part, easy to work with. Things were great- until there was a problem with the business side of things. Because I had not paid attention to “the business of music” I found myself in numerous situations I was totally unprepared for.
The constant dilemma for the artistic person is to “balance”their need for expression with the pragmatism required to make a living.
In a perfect world I would wake up every morning and joyfully make music all day. “Oh… what a wonderful world it would be.”
Unfortunately the business or “your” business has to be taken care of just like any chore. If you have support staff: business managers, agents, managers, copyists, programmers, tech support, musicians, accountants, they have to be managed. You must maintain and be in control of yourself in the relationships with those you work with.
A few things to consider:
- Not everyone is a “friend”.
- Confide only in those you trust
- Be clear and focused about the job you are asked to do- if you don’t understand…ask questions.
- If you are going to subcontract or look for help be “specific” about what you expect from them.
- Use the golden rule with everyone you work with. This is terribly important. Your reputation precedes you. If you rip someone off, sooner or later it will come back to you. Conversely if you treat everyone with respect and integrity you will have more time to spend on music rather then wondering what people are saying about you. This is now more important than ever due to the transparency of the internet.
To manage your team effectively you need to be comfortable with basic business principles such as:
- read your contracts- fine print too!
- understand the “actual” roles of all those involved (agents, managers, copyists, etc) and how they relate to one another
- knowing how to budget your time and money.
- understand the “market value” of the services you provide.
You may be wondering about why business acumen is important? Today not only are we required to be expert musicians- we have to also create and manage a personal “brand”. I’ll go into branding in a future post.
The takeaway from today’s blog should be: understand business to the extent that you can operate effectively with those you work with and take care of yourself in the process.
Don’t kid yourself: this is difficult for everyone!
But- it is not insurmountable.