Tag Archives: purpose

The Journey Continues: Music Success in Nine Weeks – Week 9

Look how far…

Here I am at the end of this particular leg of my journey: the Blog Challenge. I have come a long way when I consider where I started. Even though I have spent the past eight weeks working through Music Success in Nine Weeks, I consider the starting point to be several months before that. Allow me to backtrack a little.

Almost a year ago I met with a friend who works in movie and video production. He started explaning to me all the different aspects of social media and what I needed to have in place in order be truly visible in the modern marketplace. I took notes, which upon later review, looked like a crazed rodent had run amok with a pen. I was thankful that I had consumed enough coffee to at least smile and nod. Later, I paid a life coach to help me start my new music career. His plan for my life made me absolutely miserable (have you ever heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals?) and I started to doubt if I had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Instead of mortally wounding myself with sharp objects, I fired him and ventured out on my own, occasionally redrawing the diagrams of my master plan,(with the rodents safely locked away). But due to total lack of traction I realized I was still spinning my wheels.

So that’s where I started and that’s where I stayed for months: overwhelmed, confused, and slightly discouraged. I barely had enough confidence (or perhaps faith?) to sign up for the annual ASCAP Music Expo, but I screwed up the courage to go.

The rest as they say is history. (If you want more, you can go back to my first blog post.) I could best depict the progress of the past year with the following graph:

The curve can represent many things: the growth in fan base, CD/download sales, gigs, the activity on Twitter or blogs, etc. It’s not scientific; it’s just an illustration. I am very, very encouraged with my progress. Now I’m heading into fall. “What does the question mark represent?”, one may ask. And now we get to the gist of this blog post.

Rhythm of the Road

It’s one thing to go to boot camp, which is one way to think about these past two months, but where do I go from here and how do I get there? The “where” part has been established by this crash course. I want to develop a significant fan base and continue to grow my business. The “how” part is now up to me. I no longer have the “fire under me arse” that I had while participating in this blog challenge. And, although I’ve come a long way, growth is not going to happen by itself, so I have to put in place a “continuum” program.

Part of the continuum program is keeping a discipline around daily/weekly activities that will slowly but consistently turn the “flywheel” (a term from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great). Here is a list of those things:

  • Daily social media engagement (Facebook, MySpace, etc.)
  • Twitter posts at least 3x a day, make one about my business, one about my day, and one retweeting or quoting something inspirational. (I’m into positive and inspirational sayings.)
  • Blog reading, writing and commenting, at least 3x a week
  • Mailing list development, once a week. This includes consolidating emails into my FanBridge account as well as sending out invites, inviting people to “like” my FB fan page, etc.
  • Weekly artistic content development. By “content”, I mean bits of music I can use for freebies, video blogs, and songwriting.
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Monthly review of my analytics including visits to FB fan page, my website, my blog sites, etc.
  • Live networking events, at least monthly. There is a monthly “wine walk” at the local winery district, so this is an excellent opportunity to continue to get to know winemakers, gallery owners, and other local businesspeople.
  • Monthly goal-setting and resynchronization

Wow! That seems like a lot. It is, especially for someone with ADD like me. How do I keep myself accountable? I will add one more thing to the list that should be part of my daily discipline:

  • List my 5 successes of the day

The Continuum Funnel

With a regular work rhythm established, it is time to consider what sort of continuum funnel I should develop. Part of that process is coming up with ideas about what sort of premium content to provide. One idea I am toying with is creating a small book that would accompany the CD to form a “special edition”. My music is meant to soothe and I am quite fond of quotes and affirmations which inspire. What if I put out a small booklet with cool art, pictures, and inspirational sayings? There is a wealth of inspirational language from self-help programs and books (like for instance, Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way). Someone could turn on the music and reflect on a saying or two from the book with their morning coffee or tea. It is getting easier these days to publish books, so this could be a cool project.

Here is what a possible continuum funnel could look like:

  1. Free exclusive download in exchange for email address
  2. $2 a month club including two exclusive free songs a month as well as discounts on CDs and other merchandise
  3. Short-run EP’s ($8) and full-blown CD’s ($14) released frequently
  4. T-shirts, sweatshirts, or hats with the logo “Songs for the Silence” (the name of my CD series) $18 and up
  5. Premium edition of CD including accompanying book ($35)
  6. Private house concerts ($200)

I am very encouraged and hopeful! It is fun to dream in a way that isn’t just fantasy. I have the engine in place and the bus is in motion. We’ll see who wants to come for a ride…

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Out On the Limb: Music Success in Nine Weeks – Week 6

For some reason, and I am starting to understand why, this particular week’s assignment has been difficult for me. I was on such a roll for awhile, getting excited about chirping away on the twitterator and engaging with the blogosphere. When it came time to develop a newsletter, I thought, “Hey, this will be a piece of cake. I know how to write. I should be able to crank this out in a day.” I believed it would be no big deal to do this and I would be closer to getting caught up on this blog challenge.

My plan was to crank out the newsletter on Wednesday of last week, blog about it that same day or Thursday, and then move on to the Week 7. Wednesday rolled around and instead of diving into authoring my newsletter content, I got lost in a quagmire of checking out the various providers, rolling my own layout with HTML and CSS, and figuring out which service would best deliver that HTML, and generally doing everything but writing my newsletter.

I did get the thing done and sent out and it looks nice and I am happy with it. Sigh of relief! But boy did I get bogged down doing it!

Reflecting on this process reveals what I have been reluctant to admit: I was scared. I got stuck. I had been stalling on completing this task simply because I was scared to complete it. And this is why: This was truly the first task in this crash course where I had to PUT MYSELF OUT THERE and it scared me to death.

It has been quite fun and rewarding to work on my 15-second pitch, revise my website, get active in tweeting and blogging. But these are all low-risk activities. I get to stick my toes in the water and wade in as far as I want to go but no more. But presenting ME in the form of a newsletter? This is ME? Do you care to read about ME? This is high-risk territory.

Putting out my newsletter–my very first–put me on a head-on collision with my biggest gremlin: Self-doubt. Why would anyone be interested in reading about me? Okay, now that I figured out what the hangup was, I could move on. Get over yourself! Tis’ human to have self-doubt. It’s just a newsletter, after all. But an important lesson was learned: Don’t get stuck by self-doubt. Push through it.

Another lesson I learned was that focusing on content is way more important than presentation. Yes, it is important for things to look nice, professional, and artsy. But more than slick production, people want to connect with your STORY. It is through telling and hearing stories that people connect with each other and experience community.

A third lesson I learned is that I’m cheap in ways that don’t serve me well. I wound up using FanBridge as my platform after trying ReverbNation. I spent hours comparing the services and testing whether handcrafted HTML can get mailed out correctly without getting mangled. FanBridge costs $9/month for managing a small to medium mail list. But how much time did I spend working on the presentation of the newsletter?  What is that time worth? If I had it to do over again, I would have seen the wisdom in choosing a service like Band Letter. Yes it’s comparatively expensive–$99 startup fee and $60 per month–but they do everything for you: design the newsletter, manage the list, send the thing out, and analyze the responses. I think the time I save in having someone else do the heavy lifting is well worth the price. This is no time to be cheap.

So three lessons learned:

  1. Don’t get stuck by self-doubt.
  2. Focus on your story, not the presentation.
  3. Don’t be cheap. Your time is more valuable.

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Twitterpated – Music Success in Nine Weeks, Week 4

I must start out by saying that I really did not get Twitter at first. It’s as if “Twitter for Dummies” was a 100-level course and I needed to take the 099 version which would be called “Twitter for People Who Aspire to Be Dummies”. I have already been on Twitter for at least a year and have been in the habit of tweeting a few times a day. But to really make it mean something? And have it mean something to somebody else?

BirdI am discovering that much of this Music Success in Nine Weeks program is about overcoming the mental and emotional obstacles I have created for myself, so it is somewhat embarrassing but necessary to drag my insecurities out into light, and perhaps by doing so I may help others on their journey. So it with chagrin that I admit how much my insecurities get triggered when I see how many Twitter followers or Facebook friends other people have, people that I have known well and have become quite famous. This sort of thinking is horribly toxic, of course, and I have to do a 180 on my mindset. Social networking is not about how many people follow my every move. It is first and foremost about building community.

We had the assignment to follow at least 100 people. We were even provided a starter list of sorts, and I started following many on these lists, and then waited to see what sort of stuff showed up. I discovered, frankly, that most of it didn’t really mean a lot to me. Hmm… this is going to be harder than I thought.

I tried searching on some different things, such as “songwriters in Seattle” or “Seattle music” or “healing music” or “relaxation music”. I found a few references here or there and I went to the tweeter’s profiles to see if there was anything else interesting they had to say. Perhaps interesting to somebody, but not to me.

But then I decided to search on “creativity” and noticed that there were a few people who showed up in the search results more than once. They seemed to have something interesting to say about creativity. And then the light bulb started to come on. I can follow some of these people; I can comment back or even retweet things they say to the community I’m building. And when I say “follow”, I mean doing more than just casually reading their tweets but actually entering into the life that they are sharing. Actually listening.

Okay, now I’ve found one bread crumb on this trail: Creativity. So along those lines I tried to find a community that is interested in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”. I haven’t had a lot of luck here, a few random references. But then it occurred to me that I could start a community. I could even do some quotes out of her book and hash it with #theartistsway. And I can also retweet her tweets.

And maybe I will find more kindred spirits, one bread crumb at a time. And truly listen.

I have spent the past week on Vashon Island near Seattle, holed away in this rustic cabin which overlooks the Puget Sound. It is absolutely beautiful here. I have had no internet connectivity other than through my smart phone and have been forced to relax. While here I have been reading this book that is blowing my mind, “A
Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. The premise of the book is that we can make the story of our life meaningful by living a life that is meaningful rather than living only inside our heads. To put it into contemporary vernacular: Live Out Loud. (I could write a whole blog post about what this means to me, but I’ll save that for another time.) For now, all to say that it occurred to me that I can start following—as in listening– to the author, Donald Miller, on Twitter.

Once you find your
community, you
find your voice.

I am starting to get it now. Twitter is about life and community. It’s not just about my career. But career can be a part of it once I find community and listen to what others have to say. Then I will have something interesting to say too, other than “Buy my record”.

So if you are like me, somewhat Twitterpated, here are a few starter-kit questions:

  • What are some books you have read in the last year that have been transformational?
  • Are there things that are worth quoting and passing along to your friends?
  • If you blog, what tags have you used for your posts?
  • What movies have you seen lately that has moved you?
  • What type of music moves you? (Not just stuff you want to emulate because you want it to sell.)
  • What moods does your music inspire? Search with those descriptors.
  • How about causes that you believe in?
  • How about one or more successes of the day that you want to share about? What about people who are doing the same sorts of things?

I believe these sorts of questions lead us on a search to find a community of kindred spirits. And once you find your community, you find your voice. And people will not just follow, but listen too.


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Balance

I have been rereading Stephen R. Lawhead’s “Empyrion” series. (It’s a two-book series, not sure how to refer to that, probably not a “dilogy”.) Lawhead is best known for writing fantasies and historical fiction, all laced through with Celtic lore. He also wrote a little science fiction.

Empyrion is the story of a planet colonized by Earth. The main protagonist of the story, Orion Treet, sets out from Earth to visit the colony that was established a few years before the story begins. When he arrives, he discovers that he is 3,000 years into the future. (Due no doubt to the crazy things that happen when you travel via wormholes–you know what I’m talking about.)

He discovers two societies have developed over the millenia. One, referred to as Dome, is an agoraphobic, paranoid and evil place of darkness, a society that has developed inside an immense dome (think “Truman Show”), shutting out the rest of the planet, using fear and violence to subjugate the population.

The other society, Fierra, is just the opposite. People at peace with themselves, their creator, and all of the riches of the planet. No poverty, war, disease. Complete freedom. Pain? Of course. In, fact their society at one time had been obliterated by the inhabitants of Dome. But they rebuilt their society, responding to pain with grace, a refusal to make war, rejecting the concept of retaliation, no longer “an eye for an eye”. A wonderful vision of what life could be if we let go of our fear, our aggression. I see it as a picture of what some of us refer to as the kingdom of God.

All of this is backstory to what I am blogging about…

In the story, one of the protagonists is being instructed in the arts. Her instructor explains the importance of balance:

Do you see it? Balance! As in life, all elements are equally important. It is self-evident: Exclude one and the work is flawed. Without the physical, there is no substance; without the emotional, it has no heart; without the mind, it has no direction; and without the spiritual, the work has no soul. All elements are necessary. All must be maintained in balance.

I love how this sets the tone for this new season in my life, my new venture.

There are things that I have to do. Practical things. Physical. I need to use the computer, play my instruments, attend to physical self-care by taking walks. I have mentioned before that a mantra for me is “Do what you love.” to which I have added: “And love doing it.” The former is my intention, but the latter must be what puts the wind in my sails. It has to come from the heart. I also need to work my art with skill and intelligence. Songs must have form. Melody and harmony must have pitch, rhythm and orchestration.

Body, heart, mind, and finally: soul. What I have to give is a gift given to me by the Creator. In order to touch others, to serve, to bless, to love, I simply need to let go my own agenda and take the creative gifts given to me and make something beautiful and inspired. I must sculpt using only heavenly clay. I can’t do this out of my own strength, emotion, and intellect–well I suppose I could, but it wouldn’t be of any lasting value; it wouldn’t transcend.

To create from the Center, in perfect balance, in love: that is how I want to live. As a good friend of mine says: “Let the kingdom come!”

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More on Ecuador

Wrapping up my thoughts on this memorable trip… I had a few more observations about the country and the culture that I was going to share, but decided instead to give a more personal reflection.

First, I love serving others in this way, so I was grateful for the opportunity to serve and felt enriched by the experience. As mentioned before, I have the tendency to not think of it in terms of sacrificial giving when I simply do that which I have gifting and talent for, which is of course, music. So when I do music, I tell myself that I’m not really serving, compared to something like living in a hut in the sweltering heat somewhere helping to build a dam or something. I am realizing that this type of thinking is utter nonsense! I have been given certain gifts to give away, and when I use them I am living according to my purpose, and it should be enjoyable, fun, rewarding. And it is!

It was cool to see God do his thing. We just show up and serve and create a space for people to take time out of their hectic lives and give their full attention to God.

I have been going through the past several years deconstructing my belief systems. What this means is that I have discarded professing to believe certain things that I used to “believe” because I thought I had to believe them if I were to call myself a Christian. Instead, I have become honest about what I really believe and have suspended the rest for further analysis.

Lately I have read things that have given language to my journey. The idea that faith in Jesus is more a “way of life” than a “system of beliefs”. Jesus taught that he only did what he saw the Father doing. Likewise, I am only interested in learning what it means to follow Jesus and pursue that as a way of life.

In an effort to keeps things really simple, I have put a lot of the Christian stuff on hold. I have been generally suspicious and non-interested in the excesses of charismatic and pentecostal spiritualism. I have seen so much weird stuff over the years that I have lost all taste for it while I’m trying to just sort out the basics.

But after the experiences of this trip, and also because of recent experiences of good friends, I realize that I have thrown the baby out with bathwater, the “baby” being the supernatural work of God, the “bathwater” being the aforementioned charismatic craziness that has sent me packing. I realize that my self-proclaimed “open” mind has been pretty closed in some ways, and I tend to file some things under the “I am not sure what I believe about this anymore” file.

We participated in a conference called “Naturally Supernatural”, which is a phrase coined by the late John Wimber. The idea is this: The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed has been a reality here and now ever since his arrival and is not some far off thing that only kicks in after we die, or in some new-heavens/new-earth dimension. The whole point about the Kingdom of God is that he wants to use us to make this world a better place: here and now. Part of that work involves the ongoing supernatural work of God which we get to participate in, what John Wimber described as “doing the stuff”.

It was very cool to see people “doing the stuff” once again. People’s lives were changed. Some were healed physically and emotionally. People overall were touched and blessed and left feeling a greater sense of God’s presence in their lives.

Prayer Ministry Time at Naturalmente Sobrenatural

Prayer Ministry Time at Naturalmente Sobrenatural Conference

So, I still don’t have a lot of stuff figured out, and perhaps I never will. What I do know is that I had a refreshing reminder of God’s love and power in the here and now. And I am very thankful.

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Simply Human?

I just picked up a copy of Thomas Merton’s “No Man Is an Island”. Right off the first page of the Prologue, I am intrigued:

No matter how ruined man and his world may seem to be, and no matter how terrible man’s despair may become, as long as he continues to be a man his very humanity continues to tell him that life has meaning. That, indeed, is one reason why man tends to rebel against himself. If he could without effort see what the meaning of life is, and if he could fulfill his ultimate purpose without trouble, he would never question the fact that life is worth living. Or if he saw at once that life had no purpose and no meaning, the question would never arise. [Italics mine.]

Now my apologies on behalf of the late Mr. Merton for his insensitivity to gender equality, but he wrote this in 1955.

The sentence I put in italics is quite intriguing. If only we could see without effort what the meaning of life is. Is he suggesting that this is possible, or is this strictly rhetorical? And what if we could fulfill our ultimate purpose without trouble?

Without effort and without trouble. If only.

We humans have quite the inner struggle that the “lower” forms of life are not burdened with. A bird, for example, fulfills its ultimate purpose by simply being a bird. Same with a fish or a horse or a tree.

I doubt that my dogs wrestle with the meaning of life. They seem most interested in food, walks, treats, and a little love and attention. They also stand guard against that which threatens us all, namely squirrels, bunnies, and the occasional trespasser.

To the contrary, our waking days are filled with the more complex questions of existence. Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with my life? What makes life worth living?

I love to quote from the Westminster Confessional: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Love it; love it.

But what exactly does that mean?

Do squirrels and dogs and  birds and azaleas and centipedes glorify God? I most definitely believe they do. How? By simply and un-self-consciously being squirrels and dogs and  birds and azaleas and centipedes. No more and no less. A bird really doesn’t know how or pretend to be anything other than a bird, now does it?

What about us humans? Can we be simply human, no posing required? Clearly we have not and never have been content with the notion of being simply human.

You see, I think that is how the whole mess started. Humankind was not content with being simply human. Instead, we wanted something more. We overreached ourselves. We wanted to be more like gods.

Did it work? You tell me. Do you think that humankind, wanting to become gods through the abuse of money, sex, and power, has become more godlike? Or less human? I think we did ourselves in. History is filled with examples of people wanting to become gods only to become less human.

So the question in front of me today is this: What would it take to be simply human? No more; no less; no posing. Just one day at a time.

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