Chris Boardman Music Blog: 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Power Of Thank You

Our lives are jam-packed with massive “to do” lists. Each and every moment of every day we get bombarded with text messages, social media and emails. We are forced to determine the relative importance of each interaction. It is all too easy to glance over each prompt and then, without meaning any disrespect forget to reply.

Our lives our full.

As an independent artist/composer, one of the biggest struggles is figuring out how to stand apart from the crowd, how to rise above the noise.

Creative Collaboration is a Relationship Business.

Relationships are built one at a time. And, like a seedling, each requires engagement to grow.

Neglect a relationship and what happens?

It will wither and die. It may not happen tomorrow. Without the necessary nurturing the results will always be the same. It is next to impossible to rekindle a relationship that has lost its connection.

A way forward:

When I was young, I was always taught to say thank-you. It is a simple gesture that carries enormous weight. The value obtained vs. the effort spent cannot be overstated.

When you say thank-you, you are acknowledging the other person and keeping the door open for future interaction.

If you want to be known, to stand out from the crowd: take a few minutes to send a thank you note (preferably handwritten) whenever possible. Make it a habit.

The result:

There is no way to calculate the goodwill (and potential opportunities) you will create.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Do you have an exit strategy?

What to do when things don’t work out.

Safe to say that we spend a lot of energy trying to get ahead, trying to figure out how to get that next gig, create and take advantage of that one opportunity that is going to airlift us to our vision of nirvana.

Let’s assume you got the call for the gig of a lifetime! You’re elated. Your client loves your work and you’re ecstatic. After all of your struggles you breathe a sigh of relief thinking that you are on your way.

Then there is a problem. Something has happened to upset the apple cart and it’s not working.  Have you spent the same amount of time figuring out an exit strategy as you have trying to get the gig?

Knowing how to successfully end a gig that isn’t working is every bit as important, if not more so, than learning how to get the gig.

A couple of things to think about:

If you are feeling uncomfortable and think the end is near chances are your client is way ahead of you., that you are both feeling the same way.

Once you hit that threshold it is important to remember that you have a choice:
You can continue to try to solve the problem. Or, you can acknowledge the problem and accept the fact that you may never be able to satisfy your client.

What do you do then?

A career is not created in one job or opportunity. A career is fashioned as a result of many opportunities over a period of time. So what’s really at stake?

Let’s say you burn bridges by reacting defensively to criticism or a change of direction. Your client will probably walk away with a sour taste in their mouth.

Let’s think about that for a second.

If you go negative then the potential exists for your client to consciously or unconsciously transfer that feeling to someone who may be in a position of hiring you someday in the future. In this case you might get considered for a gig and then lose it without your even knowing that this conversation took place.

Pretty high stakes when you look at it from the perspective of career vs. gig.

Now that you’ve accepted the fact that the end is in sight what’s next?

Your feelings and expectations are no one’s responsibility but your own. Not your client, your significant other or your friends and family.

Take the high road. Admit that the situation isn’t working and be courageous enough to bring the question up (there are many, many ways of doing this).

Many times we are in relationships that aren’t working and our fear prevents us from acknowledging the problem.

When this happens professionally it’s time to take the high road and be the adult by addressing the issue head on. The fact is: no matter how hard you try to deny it, the problem will still be in the room.

How to do THAT?

If it comes time to bail out then deal with your emotions first before you address the issue with your client. This type of conversation has to take place from a neutral, unemotional place. If you process your emotions first you can let the sting and disappointment pass right through you. This will enable you to be emotionally detached (by removing your ego) during a difficult conversation.

This is hugely important.

If you are emotionally detached then you can focus your energy on being empathetic, even sympathetic, to the emotions of your client thus, solving their problem while solving your own at the same time.

And what is the benefit of this?

If you are gracious and classy about ending a relationship you don’t have to worry about the inadvertent, damning glance or being slammed by your client to anyone else in the future.

At the end of the day the media business is very, very small. 

And, even if you are right is the need to be right worth more than setting yourself up for a career.

What have you lost in the end?

We are all humans. We all make mistakes. We all have problems we struggle to deal with.  A little compassion, empathy and understanding goes a long, long way.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

From certainty to ambiguity?

Using music to move from certainty to being comfortable with ambiguity- is it possible?

Reading between the lines.

Thinking on your feet, creative problem solving, connecting the dots. Whatever the label, it all comes down to the same thing: finding patterns and connectivity between seemingly disparate objects, situations and people.

Jeff Selingo writes convincingly in “The Hottest Job Skill Isn’t A Technical” that the seemingly mysterious quality of being able to “connect the dots” is of high value to employers…much more so than accepting that perfectionism is the surest path to success.

Life is an organism…the quintessential zoetrope. Nothing is perfect.

As composers, songwriters, producers (any creative individual) we are called upon to find unique solutions. Be it the turn of a musical phrase, a lyric, capturing a performance or deliberately choosing a oboe or English horn to play a passage, we constantly make decisions.

How do we make decisions anyway?

We can either be aware of our choices or, we can unconsciously stumble through relying on fear and/or habit. This too is a choice. So, which path is more valuable?

We are conditioned to follow rules. Conformity and common purpose provides the glue that holds us together as a society. But, at what point does compliance become a liability?  

Conformity isn’t necessarily bad. But, unconsciously following rules stifles individual thought, creativity and innovation. 

And, in our pursuit for perfection, adherence to the status quo can lead us away from contemplating and questioning whether or not the status quo is relevant for us… or not.

The older you get the more you see that life is messy, there are no easy answers and, regardless of what you’ve been taught to believe we spend the majority of our time making it up as we go along. We constantly live our lives making choices.

If this is true then why not spend our time improving our decision-making skills?
Why not focus your attention on how to make good choices rather than get swept up in competency being the determining factor of self-worth?

What does any of this have to do with studying music and music creation?

Those of us who have been trained in the arts hold a distinct and powerful advantage over those trained as specialists in a trade.

We are trained to make decisions and to judge the relative value of our choices. We are not exclusively constrained by rules of the status quo.

We continually make it up as we go along…self-determining how far to stretch the “box”.  

For me, the key to making good choices and consistently being able to connect the dots is to be aware and conscious of the choices I make.

And, if you are a creative individual never forget you have the power to choose, the ability to measure the consequences and the inherent courage to make good choices.

It is precisely your connection to creativity that gives you ability to connect the dots…in any situation.

It’s that something special about you that creates value… the unique way you approach problem solving and decision making. 

Step One: the road to better decision-making 

Spend your time listening to your inner voice. Don’t be afraid to dig deep to find out what is special about you…that something you do better than anyone else.

I suspect you will be surprised at what you find.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Stress management: a natural or acquired skill?

A creative person spends a good deal of their time managing their stress level. On the surface they appear to have mastered their fears.  But have they really? What’s their secret? Why does it seem so easy for some?

In the act of creation we operate in a state of bliss, unencumbered by our thoughts. This is not where the problem occurs. Before and after we commit to executing an idea is when our rational mind takes over…and the stress begins.

Will I be able to finish on time? Will the creative well run dry? I'm stressed because_______.

Whatever they may be, our insecurities come marching out to taunt us like monsters in the closet or irrational fears of the dark.

Some of us naturally go to a place of presence awareness when fearful.  Some of us let our fears overwhelm us.

Learning how to deal with your insecurities will determine the success or failure of your efforts.

It is important to know that you have the ability to choose.

Making this choice is an acquired skill and can be developed…if you embrace the process rather than avoid it.

For me the key is to be aware of my breathing. If I am holding my breath I know I’m letting the irrational fears overtake me. Being at peace (with natural breathing) allows inspiration to flow.

Conscious vs. Unconscious Decision-making.

It has been said that the quality of a response is directly related to the quality of the question asked. This is also true with respect to being aware if you are consciously making decision or not.

Moving past patterned responses requires us to learn what our triggers are and knowing what to do to get back to a more natural physiological state. 

Being at ease paves the way for your natural creative thoughts to emerge. Slipping into unconsciousness, habitual behavior will pull you away from your authentic self. The further away you drift from your authentic self the less unique you become.

The choice is yours to make.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Perfectionism in the creative process

Shooting for the stars and having high standards will make you work hard. 

But, have you ever considered the positive and negative of being a perfectionist?

The good news is that having high standards can push you forward.

The bad news is that perfect is not possible.

If you set your standards beyond your reach you will get frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong. This kind of frustration is to be expected if you are trying to stretch yourself.

However, if you let your frustrations get the best of you your work will be affected.

Perfection vs. Results 

Standards are arbitrary and have very little to do with actual outcomes.

All to easily we will drift into action unconsciously relying on our mood and experience to guide our way.

But what if you are in a new situation and you have no personal experience to draw upon?

What has helped me is making sure I understand specifically why I am doing a project and what I hope to achieve. This becomes my “mission statement” to guide me from beginning to end.

You might think that the why and what are self-explanatory and why should you go to the trouble to identify the issue?

If you are confused about your motivation you run the risk of being vulnerable to any number of emotional roadblocks (conscious and unconscious) that will prevent you from doing your best work. 

Pragmatism and Art

There is a phrase in the art world: “you have to know when the painting is done and when to take your brush off the canvas”.

If you rely solely on how you feel about something you are working on to act as your judge of good/bad then you may end up failing and never know why.

Conversely, if you take a moment to come to a decision about motivations you will most likely have a better time. Your ideas will come more naturally. Chances are you will stay on target and finish on time.

The key here is to take the time to articulate where you want to go, what you are trying to achieve and why you want to do it.

This will give you the confidence and freedom to charge ahead towards your goal.

Remember: perfection is impossible. All we can hope for is incremental gains over time. And, if you strive for perfection and are pragmatic about what is possible you will unconsciously make progress.

Life is short.

Can we really afford to not get the most out of our efforts?

For more about “Mastering Your Creative Process” click here

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pulling a Homer

How often do we react before thinking about the potential consequences? How often do we say something and then think: Oh what a fool I was?

It’s so easy to fool our selves. Our inner voice is very convincing.

We are creatures of habit and for the most part we react unconsciously.  If we feel threatened we can lapse into defensiveness in a heartbeat. Or, if we’re preoccupied we can easily respond inappropriately.

For anyone who creates there is another wrinkle: we all invest so much of our emotions into the process that we can unconsciously take ownership of the result.

We forget that (as a work for hire) we are providing a service, not creating a product. We are hired for our uniqueness with the understanding that the customer is always right.

And, when you get emotionally invested it is difficult to see past your own point of view. This is when our patterned responses can take over especially when questioned or confronted (defensiveness, frustration, contempt).

This is the make/break point. We can subconsciously shoot ourselves in the foot…and not even know it.

Rules Of Engagement:

To keep from making inappropriate comments the most advantageous policy is to listen without fishing for approval, expecting a specific response or worse yet...waiting to speak.

If there is a problem, step back from your ego and try to understand where you missed the boat.

Our job (as a service provider) is to satisfy our client by applying our expertise to the task at hand. Our satisfaction must come not from approval but from the satisfaction of the client. 

Clarity of purpose, well defined and organized will provide the thread that keeps you on track and your emotions in check.

The challenge is to be present and solely focused on the task at hand. This will allow you to listen objectively.

The good news is that this is not impossible. It’s a skill you can learn and develop with enough practice and commitment.  

Are you up to the challenge?