Thursday, May 19, 2016

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Blank Sheet of Graph Paper

A friend asked the other day about my affinity for graph paper. I hadn't thought too much about it before, but the question gave me some inspiration to explore. Sometime back in my school days a teacher handed out sheets of graph paper in a class. I don't recall much about that day except for that it was the first time I'd ever seen graph paper. The only kind of paper I'd ever seen before was the kind that was either a blank page, or with horizontal lines. This grid of squares was fascinating at first sight.

I'm sure the context was some kind of graphing for a science experiment or math assignment; it doesn't really matter now except to say that since then, a blank sheet of graph paper has been a preferred starting place for me to get my creativity motor started. The grid makes it easy to draw diagrams, maps, flow charts, sketches, even graphs, not to mention regular writing structures like sentences and paragraphs. Those little squares give more dimension to my thinking than a blank page or horizontal lines. They help me to see more about the relationships between the objects I throw onto the page. This multidimensional view makes it easy to find direction where there isn't any past experience to project forward.

I've been doing a lot of observing of the connection between word and will. It seems to me that speaking, writing, and sketching are all powerful ways to engage and express our will. Will is the aspect of our mind that manages the direction and flow of our energy. It's interesting to me that when I draw or write or speak from the world of my imagination, that my will begins to direct my focus and energy into the action of creating what I've imagined.

The will is the link between idea and action. At any given time our energy is in various states of flow. Like a spigot and a garden hose allows water to flow and be directed where it's needed, our will directs our energy through its ability to focus, and it controls the flow of energy through opening, which allows energy to move, or closing into a state of resistance.

Bringing your imagination to a page through writing is a great way to open the tap on your energy. My blank sheet of graph paper is the bridge between my mind and the world. It's the first place that my imagination can move from my internal space to an external space.

If you are feeling stuck it's most likely that your will is in a high resistance state. Your will gets its walking orders from your imagination. When you're stuck, any momentum you can build is helpful. Filling up a notebook, a sketchpad, or a blank sheet of graph paper is an easy way to gain momentum and move from a state of resistance to a high flow state of allowing. Try it and see...

Friday, May 13, 2016

Moving Furniture

Monica loves it when we move furniture around in the house. It makes us feel like we are living in a new space. Still the same walls and the same furniture, but the shift from one place to another, and the sliding tile puzzle that results, make for a welcome change.

I've been changing the look, feel and basic content of the website. With the shift in my professional life to more coaching and not as much music, I wanted to move things around to reflect the changes. It's like living a new life.

I love music. It's been my companion since I was small. The music profession hasn't often been an easy journey. Last summer I played more gigs in a few months than I had in quite a long time. The last time I had performed that much in a short time was back in college. At the end of the summer I began to know that my interest in the music profession was waning.

I've been a professional coach for many years in one form or another. I started in this business in the mid 90s, and have mostly treated it as a day job that allowed me the flexibility to have an almost full time music career. There have been periods where I've been highly involved in coaching, and other times where I've let it take a back seat to music.

I've always been a touch uncomfortable with the term 'coaching'. There's an implication that goes along with it that I know something about being successful that I can somehow teach others. That's not exactly been my experience. Anyone who knows me well knows that my life hasn't been a consistent example of raging success. I've had an ongoing wrestling match with life that reflects a few more bouts in the 'L' column than the 'W', but my experience with coaching is about something more than winning and losing.

I know what it is like to struggle. I've had more years of struggle than ease. What I've learned about struggle is that it's not a necessary part of creative work. It doesn't enhance my output. Songs about struggle are a dime a dozen. And the struggle that I've experienced has been 100 percent generated by my own beliefs and habits. As I've adopted new beliefs and habits over the past few years, my experience has begun to become something more easy and enjoyable. I feel better, I feel more engaged in my life, and my interests and productivity have expanded in all directions with very little effort. My coaching is all about helping people with the same transition.

Do you want to know a secret? It takes less energy to thrive than it does to struggle. Struggle by definition means that our core state of mind is one that generates stress. It's a constant reckoning with whatever challenger shows up in the ring. My thinking about things like making enough money, paying off debts, considering bankruptcy, worrying about where I'll find my next gig, and all of the myriad ways that I focus on hardship create what? Hardship.

In a clear and centered state of mind, I'm present to what is happening in this moment, I'm open to the insight and direction of the deep wisdom that I'm beginning to discover within my own being, and I'm free to respond to circumstances in new ways that defy old habits, and create new pathways that are easier and more fulfilling. This core state requires no effort. It is our natural way of being when our thoughts are still and our consciousness is open.

While I still have the same body, and the same history, and some of the same reactions that I've always had, this shift in my core state has changed my life. The house is the same house, but the new arrangement makes it feel like a brand new place. This is what my coaching is all about. People want more wisdom, freedom and creativity. I know that they've always had it, they just didn't know that it was so close by.

See the tab up top that says Schedule Now? It's an opportunity to have a free consultation to see if the coaching that I offer is the right thing at the right time for where you are. You have nothing to lose. Let's see where it takes us...


My friend George's grandfather was fond of saying that the hardest part of exercising was putting on your sneakers. I'm still working on the exercise bit, but I'm also aware that the same principle goes for any kind of work.

If I just sit down and start something it amazes me how easy it is to get into a flow state within a matter of minutes. Then minutes become hours, and those hours become satisfying in ways that otherwise don't happen. I don't care if you ever read what I wrote. I just had the best time writing it. The process was it's own reward.

I'd like to cultivate a habit of starting. I know that sometimes it's good to finish things, but you can't finish what you don't start, and if you keep at it, some of the things that you start get finished. I remember when my first CD came out. It had taken 18 months from start to finish, and most of the songs had been written years before production even started. But I had put off beginning the production for a variety of reasons and for a long time. Once it was begun it took on a life and momentum of its own. While it took a long time to finish, those hours, days and months didn't pass slowly.

Just start. Anything. See where it takes you...

One of the services that I offer is called Get Started. Get Started includes four individual consultations in which I help you identify a creative project that you've wanted to try, but for whatever reason you haven't. When you've decided what project that you want to get started we then create a strategy that allows you to make the project happen, even in the course of a busy life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I Work For Courageous People

When I look at the list of clients that I have worked with over the years, the most remarkable thing to see that they all have in common is that they all possess tremendous courage. Whether they are teachers, authors, artists, poets, designers, musicians, dancers, entrepreneurs, or any others of the hundreds of people I've worked with, their lives are shaped by the courage within them that won't settle for anything less than a path that they carve out for themselves. It is humbling to be in their presence.

To them it doesn't feel all that significant; it's just something they are doing. They get embarrassed if I imply at all that they are in the least bit courageous. Courage in their minds is reserved for firefighters and skydivers, extreme skiers and daredevils. What they don't realize is that their courage sets them apart from a large majority of the rest of the world. The author who writes every day despite not knowing in the least whether what he's writing will be of any insightful use to anyone, or the filmmaker who presses on through the middle of her project after the initial adrenaline has been spent three times, or the artist who knows that the very act of making art can transform the lives of the women that she teaches. Every one of my clients is a courageous person.

If there's anything more valuable than courage, I don't know what it is. Without courage an idea is just a vapor of thought, an action is guaranteed to fall short of it's greatest potential, and will stays frozen in a state of limbo. A courageous will turns idea into action, imagination into reality, thought into behavior. Courage is the conscious choice to create, no matter what resistance may show up. It's opening your will to a greater possibility than you've experienced so far. It's the bridge between the world you imagine and the world that you create. It's courage that puts pen to page, brush to canvas, fingers to strings, story on film.

Without courage the best that can be generated is mediocrity. Mediocrity is the embodiment of lesser emotions like jealousy, insecurity, and fear. Courage is expansive, constructive, life giving, and vital. Just the experience of being in a state of courage makes any related activity worth the while. My clients know this, show this and inspire this. I am deeply grateful.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why Most Online Marketing Leaves Me Flat

  1. Facebook Ad: 6 Steps to Thriving in _____________
  2. Click on the ad, website opens
  3. Pop up comes up before you can watch or read asking for your email address
  4. Enter email address
  5. Get redirected to confirm the subscription in your inbox
  6. Confirm the subscription
  7. Get redirected back to the page that you originally linked to from the ad
  8. Sometimes there’s a video, sometimes an article, sometimes a webinar link
  9. Consume whatever “content” you see
  10. After a few minutes, check in with myself to see if I’m still interested
  11. Not interested, close the page; interested, stay a little longer
  12. After giving the marketer an hour or so of time, wait for the pitch
  13. 99 times out of 100 find reasons not to purchase or continue down the funnel

The above has become a pretty standard routine for online marketers to engage with potential customers. It got to the point for me that I opened a new email account just to use for online marketers, so that I could check out their premiums without filling my regular email inbox with increasingly desperate pleas for my attention and action. For the first few years of this strategy, it may have been golden, but I think that it’s starting to lose it’s effectiveness for a handful of reasons.

It’s Too Predictable

I know that if I attend the free webinar that it’s usually going to be at least a partially pre-recorded Power Point presentation that is often not very visually compelling nor aesthetically interesting or pleasing. There will be slides, and bullet points, and more often than not I won’t see more than just a picture of the person who is speaking. Early on in the presentation I’m no longer able to concentrate on either the screen or the voice because my mind has started to wander. Most of the time I leave at this point. If all your slide deck is white background with the printed text of what you’re saying, you’ve missed an opportunity. The format isn’t enough to hold me. I know, in precise order what’s coming down the road. There are NO surprises. Sorry, I’m gone.

It’s Not Compelling

The original ad was interesting enough for me to click. I even gave you my email address in order to be included in the webinar, and yet three minutes in I’m wondering why I’m here. The meaningfulness of what’s ahead has not been made plain, and I have no idea why this matters. From your first sentence I want to know why it’s important for me to stay. I want to know specifically the difference that this is going to make in my life, otherwise I’m wasting my time. I like video and animation because movement is a powerful communicator. Prezi presentation software gives you the ability to make one point at a time, move from point to point with meaningful motion, and make details fit into a bigger picture. Giving your presentation these qualities engages your viewer  in more deep and meaningful ways, which builds a great foundation for a later transaction.

It’s Too Long

Does your presentation need to be 7 steps, or can you get it done in 3? Can you say in a half hour what you are using an hour to run into the ground? I know that conventional marketing wisdom suggests that the longer you keep the potential customer engaged, the more likely they’ll purchase. I’m less inclined to buy if you’ve had my attention for an hour, and I’m still looking for the reason I need to make the purchase. My favorite online marketing tools that I’ve seen recently are the short form videos that give one piece of extremely valuable information. StoryBrand has a three video series that gave me three solid ideas for how I could improve my message. While I’m in the process of making as much money as I need to attend their workshop in Nashville, I have no doubt that the workshop will be a powerful changemaker for me because the quality of these five minute videos has already given me great tools to change my business for the better.

It’s Impersonal

If I’ve listened to you speak even for just a few minutes and I don’t get a sense of what kind of person you are, you are probably going to lose me. So many articles, videos and webinars have become long lists of things you can do to accomplish something. While that can be interesting enough to get a little bit of traffic, the title itself leads to impersonality in the delivery. I’m much more inclined to join and stay with you if you make it your personal story, or include success stories of people you’ve helped with your product or service. If you talk about personal experience, I begin to have the experience for myself as you’re telling me about it. Those who do this well usually find a customer in me. Mirasee is a business education company that does this in an exemplary fashion. If there are specific steps you’re trying to get across put them in the context of a personal experience story.

The Presentation Is Poorly Prepared

I’ve given some pretty terrible presentations. The most frequent reason that they didn’t work was that I rushed to put them together, or I wasn’t adequately prepared, or both. Recently I watched a webinar that was put together for a couple of authors by a “professional” online marketing company. The company representative served as both the producer of the show and the interviewer. The webinar was riddled with technical difficulties related to one of the authors’ internet service being intermittently interrupted. He went back and forth between his phone and computer several times in the course of the interview. While internet service can be unreliable, the presenter could have discovered the problems prior to the webinar and opted to have the author just use the phone. Additionally, the interviewer hadn’t prepared questions that moved the webinar to the pitch, which was an offer to get the new book. The irony was that the book was on successful social media marketing. Good preparation doesn’t have to be difficult. Even working with a script and doing a couple of dry runs helps to tighten up both the message and the delivery.

Online marketing will continue to be a viable and reliable resource for creating customer relationships, but the model that I described above is wearing thin. We need to bring as much meaning, creativity and value to our marketing efforts as we do to our products and services. With all of the technological tools and techniques that are available to us it's become easy to forget that the person on the receiving end is another human. Marketing to humans means that you create a relationship that will support the type of transaction that you’re looking to make. Even for a commodity like toothpaste, I’m inclined to buy from the producer who respects and reflects my humanity.

I’d also encourage everyone to keep it simple. Make your message easy to understand and respond to, make it easy to make the transaction, and make it easy to receive the product or service. It’s also more important than ever to invite our customers to be ever more involved in the community that we create around our work. That means that every exchange we have with them be a fulfilling experience that leads them to desire more interaction leading to more and deeper opportunities to serve them.

More to come, I’m sure...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Making Your Own Way

Yesterday, My friend Jeff Finlin and I gave the pilot session of a new workshop called Making Your Own Way. In the last year my focus in coaching has largely become helping creative people to find direction, get things started and finished, and mostly to identify the real impact they are making with their work. Creative professionals frequently wonder to themselves and out loud just what the value of their work is. I know that's been a regular inner dialog for me. Some great discussions in yesterday's workshop helped to bring some clarity to the subject, and a comment in a message at church this morning also brought it home to me. Creative work matters for two huge reasons; it connects us on deeper levels and it feeds our soul.

A big part of the workshop is about the distinction that I see between a person's gift and their talents. We talk about that often we lump the two into the same definition. I don't think that quite captures the essence of your gift. I've written about gifts and talents before, so for some of you this may seem familiar. Your talents are the capabilities that you've practiced to the point of mastery. They've captured your time, energy and devotion for years of your life, and sometimes just the very practice is enough to satisfy your creative yearnings. But I'm now becoming more sure that they are about delivering something bigger into the world. That's where we need to make the distinction between talent and gift.

I define your gift as the qualitative difference that you make in the world. Your talents are the modalities through which this difference is made. Anyone who creates knows that when you get into an extended time of practice that you enter into a space within yourself that is vast; deeper and wider even than your imagination. This inner space  is where your gift emerges from and it wants to find it's way through you and into the world. In fact, on an unconscious level this is probably being invoked in you all the time.

Now, the funny thing about your gift is that it's probably so much a part of who you are so as not to be immediately obvious. When I finally landed on mine, which is emotional healing through creativity, it was not as much an aha moment as it was an "Oh yeah, that" moment. The amazing thing is that inherent gift of mine is something that I take for granted as being pretty uninteresting and normal, and yet that is the one thing in all of my work that seems to most frequently be looking for a way out. And it changes lives often with me not having any idea. Your gift is what makes your work inherently valuable.

Crippling self doubt seems to be a hallmark for many people who devote their lives to creative pursuits. Much of this self doubt is a mirror of the projections that we receive from the people around us. Here's the conversation:

What do you do?

I'm a professional musician.

Really? What's your day job?

I'm a professional musician.

But, how do you make money?

I'm a professional musician.

This kind of conversation happens with such frequency that ultimately some of the projected disbelief gets internalized into our own thinking and we ourselves begin to wonder "what the hell do I do?"

Understanding and naming your gift sounds like this:

What do you do?

I help people heal emotionally through music, coaching and deep listening.

Get the picture?

I want every artist, musician, author, dancer, actor, teacher, potter, sculptor, and anyone else who will hear me to know: Your talents are amazing and wonderful, but your gift is what you need to be telling people about. Some among them will have been waiting for you to show up.

Next insight. My friend Liz Barnez posted a link on Facebook recently to an article that put forth the idea that artists shouldn't even try to be entrepreneurs. I found some things to disagree with in that article, but one nugget started to take shape in my own thinking. There's been a good bit of thinking in recent years that artists should adopt entrepreneurial concepts and practices in order to be more successful in a business sense. I've bought into that line of thought quite a bit, until yesterday. I still think that creative people can be successful in a business sense, but it's not about entrepreneurship.

I realize that entrepreneurs base their business model primarily on solving problems, ultimately for profit. While we could look at art in that light, I now see that as misguided. Rather than solving a problem, art continues to be a way that we meet some important human needs. Needs that coincidentally have been thrown under the bus of life in recent years. Art has always and forever been a way for us to connect with each other on deeper emotional and spiritual levels. Art is soul food.

I believe that one of the primary reasons that we live in such polarized and fractious times is that we've been routinely disconnecting with each other rather than connecting. It's no coincidence that we are also seeing artistic creativity being pulled from school curricula, devalued in the marketplace, seen as worthy of only being a hobby instead of a profession, and the subject of derision in other professional circles. All this time we're not seeing the injury that this disconnection is bringing into our collective presence.

Our gifts don't solve problems. Our gifts heal and restore our relationships with each other, which ultimately prevents many problems from taking form. One of my favorite books of all time is The Space Between Us, by Ruthellen Josselson. This groundbreaking book deserves a lot more attention and praise than it ever received. Josselson developed a survey that asked people to identify the different kinds of connection that they found in their relationships and the qualities that they found in those connections. For the first time that I was ever aware of, the author gave us a language of relationship that helps us to see the multi-dimensionality of our human connections. It's a very powerful read.

Artistic creativity makes these connections between us and for us. These connections make up what we might call a collective soul. We can begin to see that humanity itself is an organism that lives and breathes as one thing. ARTISTRY OF EVERY KIND SERVES THAT! It is the stuff of community. That's all that real community is made of, connections.

This morning in her message at Unity of Fort Collins, my beloved friend and co worker Peggy Christiansen was speaking about flowers. In her talk she was telling the story of planting her flower garden and she made the comment that she felt some sense of guilt that she wasn't planting the more practical vegetable garden. Her statement sums up exactly what I think is going on. We don't see feeding the soul with the same level of importance as feeding the body. That needs to change, or we will all perish.

Creatives, you are here to make a difference in the world on the soul level. Never forget that.

Thanks to Jeff Finlin, the wonderful folks at Artspace who participated in the pilot, Peggy and my Unity community, and every one of you who has the courage to create.

If you'd like more information about Making Your Own Way, or if you'd like to host a workshop or invite me to speak for your organization, please get in touch.