Chris Boardman Music Blog: June 2015

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?

Friday, June 5, 2015

What do you REALLY have to offer?

One of the basic tenets of starting a business is determining your USP (unique selling proposition). What makes you different? Why should a customer/client choose you rather than the competition? What value do you offer?

Most artists’ think: “why do I have to worry about this? Doesn’t everyone know how great I am? Can’t they just tell? “I don’t want to worry or even think about marketing/selling myself. I’d rather just do what I do.” And on and on.

It seems as though we’ve been conditioned to think that self-promotion is something that an artist can’t/shouldn’t do. We have been lead to believe we are a pawn in someone else’s game.


All of the industry’s middlemen (those who profit from and who’s jobs are dependent on the artist) need to justify their existence. And, while it is fair to say that many of the people in these roles (managers, labels, public relations, marketing etc.) are effective and earn their living: why do artists feel the need and pressure to give away control of their careers…and life?

I believe that self-promotion or selling of one’s self is a fact of life and need not be abhorrent or make you feel uncomfortable. All that is required is a shift in your point of view. If you think about it: aren’t you just telling a story? And, wouldn’t you like to ensure that your story is told accurately?

Branding is often a misused word. The goal of branding is to manage expectations and create a connection between the user and the brand. My view is that it is the power of the story you are telling that is the connective tissue between you and your clients/customers/fans.

(For a more about learning how to tell your story consistently: click here)

If your goal is to earn a living being a creative then you first have to own the fact that you are indeed a service provider. Your ability to create is your service (your unique selling proposition). If you don’t believe it then why should anyone else? If you stumble when talking about yourself perhaps your service, role, value is not well defined?

If your first reaction is discount the above then it is entirely possible that you will advance no further than you currently are. Ultimately it is all up to you. No one else is responsible.

The cold hard truth is: most people don’t care.

Think of it like dancing. 

The reason people don't dance is because they think that everyone will be watching them when in fact: everyone is preoccupied with themselves! If you want to get ahead in your career and life get over it. Get out on the dance floor. Like anything else: the more you practice the better you will become.

Take the time to learn how to tell your story effectively and the world will begin to react to you differently…because you will judged/valued by what you present rather than hoping/expecting others to “magically” discover how cool you really are.

As one of the most successful brands in history says: "Just Do It".

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Looking Through A Different Lens

Why is it that some people seem to be able to see solutions quicker? Find answers faster? Comprehend complex issues easier?

You can make a compelling argument that this has to do with genetics. True, to an extent. However, the value in this skill is not that you can do it. It’s what you do with it. And, like anything else, with work and dedication you can improve your abilities.

My experience has been that those who see the world differently than others are the ones who put their egos and conditioned responses aside and see life as it is…rather than what they want it to be…or think it should be. This trait is common among highly creative people. Everyone is capable of this…but it requires work…and not the work that you might expect.

We are conditioned to react in specific ways to specific events, people or things. How often do we actually look at our life objectively? How much do we take for granted? How often do we miss the obvious signs and markers that may point us in a different direction?

More importantly: how often do we act upon these seemingly random events?

What I’m trying to say here is that we all judge our current situation by what we have learned and experienced in the past. A good thing when it comes to fire. But, have you ever thought about how your preconditioned responses and prejudices affect the creative risks you take?

To be sure- experience saves time and potential embarrassment. You avoid doing things that don’t work in favor of what you know works. But, if we do not practice objectivity in your creative decision-making process then we all run the risk of taking for granted that only a few correct answers exist to any question or problem(2+2 does not always equal 4 in creative endeavors). Perhaps true…but what about all the other choices that you have ignored?

Objectivity and the ability to measure your results is essential for any creative person. With millions upon millions of people entering the creative class just doing what feels good is no longer good enough nor is there only one answer to any creative problem.

Personally I feel that maintaining my objectivity keeps me fresh and enables me to see new solutions…to seemingly insurmountable obstacles (career, health, personal relationships). Being objective takes longer but if you practice the process speeds up and you will quickly develop confidence in attacking any part of your life that isn’t working.

This is where the creative person has a huge advantage…one worth exploiting to the best of your ability.

For more about creative tips and tricks:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Why Me?

Why is it that in the past creativity has been designated as a mysterious, ephemeral act able to be practiced by the few? Aren’t we all born with curiosity that pushes us to understand the world around us…and the ability to create our own reality?

The Industrial Age business model decided that individual creativity not to be profitable nor did it fit into their “one to many” distribution model. As a result, creative individuals became outliers of society.

The cultural result of Moore’s Law is that the individual now has control over what information they want to consume and where they get that information. (Of course, those who control the pipes control access but that is another story). 

With the advent of PC’s, smartphones, tablets, cloud computing and search, the institutionalized “one to many” model has been disrupted in favor of the individual now being in control of their media world thus promoting a “one to one” distribution model. 

This seismic shift in cultural activity has brought the act of creativity back into the mainstream. We have seen any number of seemingly insignificant types of content gain massive viral popularity on the web. Random videos grab a slice of the attention pie without any clear-cut methodology as to why that happened. The medium was too young to have any established rules or conventions.

Now, 10 years after the launch of Youtube we are beginning to see business models emerge that embrace this new medium utilizing new methods and ideas that were not possible in a broadcast world.

We are witnessing outliers becoming the majority.

You might wonder: what does this mean to me?


If you hold on to the notion that the creator is the outlier you will be left behind. If you think “I’m not creative” you will be lost in the sea of content without the ability to discern for yourself what is good or bad and who to trust.

We are all born with creative instincts. We have been conditioned to believe we don’t. Our challenge is reigniting and developing our individual creative instincts so we can thrive in our non-linear information environment. Our challenge as a  culture is to organize this new found creative freedom in our society lest we descend into anarchy.

Uncertainty is now a common thread in our life and times. We can no longer depend upon mass media or dogma to shape our culture. The changes we have seen, and will continue to see in the world dictates that we have to approach our lives and careers differently – with new ideas that reflect our changing environment. We have been empowered to dictate the norms not just follow the ideas of others.

We now live in the age of independent consumer….to an extent.

Survivability and prosperity require us to embrace uncertain and become better decision makers by improving our ability to better understand our needs, wants, and desires. It is then and only then we can make informed, qualified and inspired choices.

What I’ve described is the basis of life as a creative individual as I’ve experienced through the years: define your purpose, analyze the situation, make the commitment to an idea, execute on your idea, get to the end and complete your project and then measure your results.

These steps are intrinsic to the creative individual.

Unfortunately, we can get stuck thinking that this process only applies to the creative “arts” and not life. I’m bullish on the opportunities around us…and how the highly functioning creative person can flourish. All it takes is the courage to acknowledge and accept that what has worked in the last century will not work in the 21st century. Then, apply your creative skills to find a niche that works for you.

For more about creative tips and tricks: