Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Consequences of Constant Timidity.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt "Citizenship in a Republic," Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910.

I saw the quote below on the Leader Business blog (blog link is to the right) of my friend, U.S. Army Colonel Tom Magness, and thought it was appropriate to point it out here, as well. Tom's message is as applicable to all settings of our lives. Too many of us find ourselves as just timid souls. Being willing to fly definitely means you are risking a fall; however, none of the great ones remained timid.

One thing that few know about Winston Churchill unless they are military history buffs is that he had a huge failure in WWI. Churchill thought up the plan that led to Allied losses at Gallipoli, and was viewed by many at the time as a terrible failure for him. About 480,000 Allied troops took part in the Gallipoli campaign. The British had 205,000 casualties (43,000 killed). There were more than 33,600 Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) losses (over one-third killed) and 47,000 French casualties (5,000 killed). Turkish casualties are estimated at 250,000 (65,000 killed). Churchill was devastated politically by the battle's failure, and it took almost two decades for him to be reborn as the leader who helped lead Great Britain in WWII against Hitler. However, likely the loss at Gallipoli may well have taught him invaluable lessons that he and FDR used in the landing at Normandy on D-Day.

This lesson is equally applicable to all "critics." Before you are too critical of the ones in the game, you might ask yourself whether you could have done better actually in their shoes, and be measured in any resulting criticism. Often the kindest critics have themselves been in similar lines of fire, and can appreciate that "answers" are often more readily available when the stress of limited time and real consequences are not facing you down.

Be willing to be daring in some measure, and you will often gain lessons that will help you find your own time of greatness, and the greatness for those around you.


The Benefits of Being Open to Life!

I have had some neat opportunities this week, in part because of my willingness to embrace life. For those that wonder "why should I network or connect" or "what is in it for me - now!," life often requires that you simply wander into its waters and see what the tides bring you. For those who have not seen the benefit of connecting to life richly, I hope these stories will encourage you that - yes, you too can add a lot of great opportunities to your life - if you are open to them.

Earlier this week, I had a great conversation with John Pointer, a local musician, who was kind enough to perform for the Catalyst 8 and Austin Music Foundation "Band Together" event that occurred on Tuesday.

While I have had some prior conversations with John, I saw his whole performance and he impressed everyone at Catalyst 8. John is such a great performer and very smart guy. I was also able to get a better sense of him, and took some great photos at his show for his use. For those interested, please note that he has a show at Momo's in Austin this Saturday, March 1st, so consider checking him out. John's future is definitely bright and you only get the full since of his skill when you see him live.

But in addition to that, I met his friend Erin Ivey. Erin does the awesome vocals for a new group called Grand Hotel, which has a 20's/30's jazz piano sound. The song I would strongly suggest you check out (it will take a few minutes of your time) is "SportinLife" which is the first to pop up on their website. Erin is definitely a talent who is going to break out at some point soon - in a big way - trust me on this. I want to try to work with my contacts in the art community here in Austin to make sure local filmmakers know about her. If their music were to be included in the right movie, it will dramatically increase the likelihood the movie would also break out.
Finally, at the mixer for the Network Austin Mixer, I was able to meet more really neat people. One was Joe Morton, whom many of you know as "Miles Dyson" from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Joe is in Austin, where his new movie will be released soon, called "Badlands," so consider checking it out. While I took some photos of him and the others associated with the movie, I tried to make sure the Hollywood people were ok with my photographing them since we don't want to get that much like LA. Other than this blog, I will be only providing the photos to the Network Ausitn Mixer for their website.

If you are at all into art, any kind of art, consider coming to a future mixer since the people there really are some of the most generous people around, - in town or otherwise.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why artist can particularly benefit from networking!

Many of my current efforts with the Long Center for the Performing Arts and its emerging leadership group, Catalyst 8, involve my efforts to collaborate with other parts of the arts/creative community here in Austin. While part of this effort is with Catalyst 8 under Boost and Boostcamp, part is independent of my leadership role in Catalyst 8.

There are several very outgoing arts groups in Austin, who are really finding great ways to both engage their own constituencies and members, but also find ways to reach out to other groups. At the top of the pile are several stellar groups, which I name in no particular order: the Austin Music Foundation, Bootstrap, Reel Women, and the Network Austin Mixer (which is run by Steve Barcik and others). From the efforts of these groups, along with Catalyst 8, I believe that the Austin art scene is making great strides to network across all the creative community. However, those efforts definitely can and should be increased.

Why is this a very appropriate post for this Blog?

I think that many artists/creative personalities are less inclined to see the importance of networking - particularly in areas outside their own media, - often because artists are introverted and sensitive. Social networking often is much easier for extroverts, and those that are not too sensitive to rejection. Networking is all about a number's game - and part of that process is knowing for certain that there will be those that do not appreciate you. While sometimes the rejection in fact is very personal, it cannot be taken as such - and you have to focus on those who will be receptive to your efforts. For artists, such rejection is often hard to take - given that their lives have little protection from the world's wind and tides ... which is why they are so capable of expressing such raw emotions.

Even with those "performing" artists who might seem extroverted, often they are only playing a role of an extrovert, helped in part by the stage lights that make the crowds much less visible to its stage performer. While there are definitely extroverted artists, the nature of art often pulls people inside themselves at the highest points of creativity - making them very exposed. Some artist cope with the anxieties of such raw connections to people with drugs or alcohol, or some simply retreat from the public world.

Similarly, much of what extroverts must do is contrary to an artistic bent. Extroverts tend to limit their intimate connections to the people around them at any one moment, to any one person, and rather connect in a more limited state to more people. As an artist myself, I have found that my own muse and inspiration have quieted as I have become more extroverted. Some of that can be, in part, that I am no longer the "tortured" artist. When one's life is filled with contentment, rather than strong poignant glee, surrounded by misery and agony, some of extremes of the artistic view of life is lost.

It is true that artist are not always required to connect to the outside world for their art; artist often can live in solitude. The difficulty for artists and others in the creative community, however, is that often connections are either required for one's own emotional needs, or even absent that, often are required to be able to leave behind the proverbial "day job." Often the term "starving artist" is all too true, and for an artist to develop fans, customers, and success in their own life-time, they must develop the business side of their art. For these, collaborative efforts may increase their ability to achieve financial success.

Here is a basic example of how collaboration can occur.

Often live musicians may believe that they would have no need to connect to visual artists for the sake of their own art. Live musicians' ability to be noticed is, however, often impacted by their cover art. Also, many live musicians are not as artistically skilled in the visual media as they are with music. For such artists, they might be wise to partner with visual artists or photographers who can do their covers and other publicity art. Similarly, by partnering, the live musicians and the visual artists increase their likelihood of each becoming recognized, since if one breaks out, the other might also. Each artist's base of supporters can be used to support and spread the awareness of the other. Their contacts can be pooled into an alliance.

Another good example. Live musicians and filmmakers might collaborate more.

Local emerging filmmakers might consider finding local bands that had a good regional following, and approach them about putting one of their songs in their movie, or even have the band assist with the score. If the band has a good sound, that matches well with the tone of the movie, both the filmmaker (along with all others associated with making the film) and the band can pool their contacts into an alliance to promote the movie. If the film breaks out, it may well break the band out nationally, along with its director, producers, actors, etc. Similarly, a filmmaker can team up to make a music video for a band, which is essentially a film short. If the video breaks the band out to the next level, then the director may have new opportunities for his work.

While some of this happens now in Austin, many in the various art media agree that it doesn't happen as much as it should. Tom Schatz, the Executive Director of Burnt Orange Productions at the University of Texas, and Lance Keltner, an internationally known blues guitarist, agreed that much more can be done in Austin on this front at a recent Boostcamp event by Catalyst 8.

[Photo of panelists from Boostcamp No. 1: Launching your Art or Film Career to the Next Level, including panelists (from right to left) Tom Schatz, Amparo Garcia-Crow, Andrew Long, Lance Keltner, and John Bush. Feb. 6, 2008 at Mother Egan's in Austin.]

Why does this not happen more?

I think several things prevent more collaboration. As noted above, often because artists are introverted, they would rather work in silos than connect with people at all. Also, ironically enough, the creative community might not be as creative with ideas outside their own paint or script, such as with tools and vision of networking and business problem solving. Additionally, some artist might have ego and control issues associated with "teaming" up with others to find success. Some artists would rather maintain only their own sole "vision" of the art, rather than see that they are stronger with a team of artists producing something as a whole. While it is fine for any artist to be true to their art, such tendencies might prevent their ability to have a larger following and to be financially successful.

These same issues are equally true even within a particular media.

While some live musicians might be great singers, guitarists, pianists, songwriters and producers, many of them are not good at all these roles, let alone being good visual artists. I have seen cover art done by local musicians which is far less polished then their music. While some filmmakers may be great cinematographers, sound engineers, acting coaches, producers, and directors, many of them are not, and might also resist letting other artists participate in that vision, out of concern that it will some how corrupt it. As often with successful filmmakers, the final product is made by large team of professionals, from the actors, the producers, the sound engineers, the score composer, the live musicians making original songs, and all the others who win in separate categories at the Oscars. Yet, how many emerging filmmakers are conscientiously looking for professional sound engineers and other teammates to manage a portion of the film? Most likely not all. The well-known film professionals and up-and-coming filmmakers understand that teams win. Because of this, these artists will find success. Rarely does an artist find success truly as a solo act.

Another limitation for such collaboration might be that "I don't have the money to pay someone to do so I have to do it myself?" That may be true if the artist is not actively networking the remainder of the creative community in his area and elsewhere. However, often the emerging artists in various areas are equally wanting to find their own path to success. If the artists will network, find those contacts, cultivate the relationships and friendship from them, the artist might well find willing co-conspirators to a team vision. What is more, through a number's game, the artist might find those collaborators who share a strikingly similar view, and in fact such artists might not have to compromise their own vision much at all in doing their craft.

Finally, such collaboration is as much true of those parts of the art world that involve the "business" of art: legal and contract issues, accounting issues, marketing, the practical follow-through of various sorts. Many of those business people who are in close proximity to the art world, such as myself, are also artistically driven. Such individuals may have decided not to go the "artist" route, and only dabble in art as a hobby. Such individuals, however, may be great allies in managing the business of the art and may also be looking for that one great collaboration that will help them break their own professional careers out, as well.

The message I would leave artists is this: be as creative about how you view those areas outside your immediate art form, and look collaboratively at the world around you. To the extent that you know you have weak areas, find those people who will round them out and be a member of a successful team. While the final vision may not be only your vision, it might help you find the successful art career that will give you more freedom later on to explore that vision. It is probably not by accident that the band, Genesis, has had repeated successful albums at the same time that Mike Rutherford (Mike and the Mechanics) and Phil Collins have had successful solo efforts, as well. Compromise and collaboration is not automatically selling out your art - but can provide you the freedom to find it.


Monday, February 25, 2008


At the current time, I am just establishing this Blog. As more content is created, I would suggest also checking out the links that I have provided to the right of this Blog. Tom Magness, Thom Singer and the others provide great opportunities to develop your leadership and confidence in networking.

For now, I am posting this photo that I took last summer at the top of Whiteface Mountain in upstate New York. Lake Placid is in the foreground, as viewed from 4,800 feet high. While this photo is inspiring, it does not do complete justice to the view from the top of that mountain. However, to get to this spot, I had to walk probably a 1/2 mile across a thin mesa that had 1000+ foot drops on either side, and raised in elevation about 800 feet total. While the walkway had some minor handrails and was about 6-8 feet wide, for many the pathway is too intimidating and they can't make the journey. For those people, hopefully this photo will show the view! Awesome!

In life generally, many of the great opportunities we find only exist because we made the venture outside of our normal lives. We can't simply hide away in a confined life, and hope that these great opportunities and views of life will find us in our hidden corners. While often venturing out can be scary, in most instances any falls that might occur will not be fatal. As I recently heard from another, the falls of life only give us the opportunity to learn to pick ourselves back up.

While networking is often not as inspiring as this Mountain view, it can be as, if not more, rewarding. It can also be as, if not more, scary for those unused to being socially outgoing. My suggest is to find those people around you who will help you along your pathway, and make sure you don't fall, or can at least help you get back up if you do. A poem that often inspires me in such circumstances by Ranier Rilke states in translation, "Life has not forgotten you, but that it holds you in its hands. It will not let you fall."

The following were also photos we took from the same vacation. This photo is of High Falls Gorge near Whiteface Mountain. The falls drop a total of 80 feet, but it seems much higher. You can actually walk along a metal walkway (barely visible in this photo to the right) from where you can get right up on the falls. I have also posted below a photo of Texas Falls in Vermont. Obviously attracted to the name of the falls, it was probably the best falls that we found in Vermont.

Now with that, I do have to admit even I have my limits. We all have to determine to what limits we will push ourselves, and also the boundary within which our happiness resides. If you have a boundary, you are happy with being within it, and never will need to go beyond it, well ... maybe you just stand at that boundary, enjoy the view, and be comforted that your passions and intellect are defining your boundaries, not your fears.

This last picture, however, shows the daring nature of some people and animals. The dog, "Hydro," had no fear of the water and demonstrated it. In talking to one of the swimmers, he said that it had been a few years since anyone was seriously injured by swimming at "Devils' Potholes" outside of Waterbury, Vermont. Comforting! Even without that knowledge, I was good just standing at a distance and trying to get some neat pictures. I was glad the timing of it turned out.