Tag Archives: community

How To Avoid Being An Artistic Scrooge This Christmas

Michael Caine as Scrooge in A Muppet Christmas Carol, one of my favorite versions

Michael Caine as Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol
, one of my favorite versions

When you see the name Scrooge, do you instantly think of a crabby, bitter old man who not only hates Christmas but also hates people?

That’s the common interpretation of Scrooge. The other common thought about Scrooge is that someone with that reference only cares about money and is predominately greedy by nature.

I hope that none of these characteristics mark your artistry or humanity. Yet, the Scrooge aspect I want to highlight and talk about here doesn’t involve any of these criteria. There is something redeeming about Scrooge in the Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol that most of us aren’t always mindful of.

The Ebeneezer Scrooge who we first encounter in The Muppet Christmas Carol is not the Scrooge we are left with at the conclusion of the story. There is a transformation that takes place within the man’s heart over the course of the tale, marked in 3 stages as he is taken to memories of his past, realities of his present, and potential for his future. All of these stages have glimpses of hope and tragedy.

The Patrick Stewart version is also a favorite

The Patrick Stewart version is also a favorite

Scrooge is not who he really appears to be

These glimpses show us the real heart of Scrooge, despite how his life has transpired up to the visitation of the three spirits. We see a man who has allowed life to dictate his steps in a way that are counter to his true self. We see a man who, when we comes across boys he knew as a child, has fondness for the individuals. We see a man who experienced joy and love from a woman, but who mistakenly put a quest for wealth above his connection with her love and devotion. The loss of his love was the onset of his downward spiral into greed and hatred for people.

The warning in this tale is simple on the front end, but the real heart of Scrooge’s story is that if we aren’t careful we can easily become manipulated by seeking the wrong things for our happiness, and subsequently rob ourselves of true success. Scrooge was a man who made money by charging tenants for rent and had zero compassion for anyone who didn’t pay on time. He was easily the world’s worst landlord. Yet strangely he had one of the most compassionate and genuine people working for him. Could Bob Cratchet be as deserving of congratulations in turning around Scrooge’s attitude towards life and giving as the 3 spirits? I would argue that and even more.

Scrooge had allowed his loneliness to dictate how he approached other people, and for years that resentment, bitterness, and loss controlled his steps. The results were that, while he was more wealthy than most people in his town, he was also reviled and despised by nearly everyone. Cratchet, on the other hand, had much in the realm of wanting but his life was marked by joy and gratitude despite his low income or the ill health of his son, Tiny Tim.

As artists and entrepreneurs (or people in general), it’s easy for us to fall into the same traps that Scrooge did as a young person, when plans fail or the people closest to us drift away. When our dreams or intentions get off course, it’s common to not correct the ship but continue sailing in a direction that doesn’t take us to a land of opportunity, but instead one of regret. Have you experienced something like this?

We too run the risk of being so preoccupied with our own ambitions, or even allowing the losses we experience in life, to change our perspectives and attitudes towards others. This is human nature. We can spend years in frustration and anger at how our dreams were thrown off or our endeavors spoiled because of one thing or another. And we can build up resentment towards people in the process of just trying to deal with why life doesn’t always go our way.

Or

We can see things differently. We can allow the struggles and the obstacles to provide a new insight into how to change, shift, and pivot. We can look at those in our lives who seem to be constantly full of life and joy and find inspiration in moving forward. We can sit down with individuals, over a cup of coffee, a beer or over the phone and have conversations that build hope and perspective for the present and future.

We can change.

Strangely enough, another (sort of) Christmas story that I’m fond of leaves us with the notion that we can change, and change is one of the best gifts that we can give to ourselves and others. Rocky’s closing speech following the fight with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV not only inspired those who saw it, but ultimately ended the Cold War (want proof? See this video).

You can be a person who is uncommon and makes a difference in the lives of those around you, as well as your own. Don’t be an artistic (or business or startup or entrepreneurial or any other kind of) Scrooge this holiday and Christmas season. If something you have aspired to be hasn’t worked out like you wanted, or a dream you have has not gone as planned, it’s OK. Trust me, I’ve experienced these pains too (something I described briefly HERE). Allow your past to be released and your future to hold hope.

Change. Shift. Pivot. And have joy this season.

Want someone to sit down and talk with? I’d love to talk with you. Contact me and let’s chat.

*Are you surprised that I threw in Rocky Balboa in a post? You must not know me well. Let’s fix that. Reach out to me and we can have a good laugh together. Merry Christmas!

Learn Community Building From The Beach

Mrs Smith & I In BelizeMy wife and I returned from a much needed vacation recently that took us to the Caribbean. In our hustle-and-bustle of self-employment, we hadn’t taken much time to be with each other and had started to feel the connection that we’ve had lose some of its strength. So, after months of planning, Mrs. Smith and I spent a few days closer to the equator in a tropical paradise. During our stay, we both recharged and regained a connection that was needed. We also had an incredible experience from the people we encountered. That experience is what I want to share with you here, community building lessons from the beach.

Trips like this don’t happen often for us, and had it not been for a really cheap flight deal with Southwest Airlines, we might not have taken the leap. We settled on traveling to Belize on the recommendation of my close friend named Bird. My dream vacation has been Belize since this friend shared with me her stories on the people, the landscape, and the constant awesome temperatures. While the weather shifted into fall here in Texas, it was warm and sunny (for the most part) in Belize.

We booked 3 nights at Ramon’s Resort on the beach, which was the best part of the whole trip, and the people who taught me a lot about what it means to truly deliver an amazing experience that builds community. I talk about this dynamic with entrepreneurs and musicians often. For a business to foster the same principles in a tropical region was truly amazing. Here’s what they did:

Community Building With Customer Service You’ll Facebook, Email, and Write Home To Mom About

Hey Musicians, customer service is something you do too. It’s how you treat and interact with your fan base. For Ramon’s, their customer service came out in every interaction their staff and personnel had with us. We arrived in the evening as the sun was setting. We were met at the airport by a smiling, welcome man named Joe. His first words to us were “Welcome to Paradise.” The folks at the airport had said the same thing, so I assumed it was just a cliche phrase people used. It wasn’t for Joe, and it wasn’t for Ramon’s. It was their mantra.

Joe got us to our room and got us set up. We then went to the indoor/outdoor restaurant connected to the resort, Pineapples Grill. Our server was a funny guy named Jack. Jack sat us at our table and asked where we were from. Upon hearing that we’re from Texas, he went into this monologue about all the facets of Texas, stating our state bird, state tree, state flower, and what we’re known for. It was interesting. As he sat other guests and visitors to the restaurant, he did the same thing, and was brandishing facts and trivia about other states.

Jack (middle) was one of the best memories and teachers on our trip

Jack (middle) was one of the best memories and teachers on our trip

Here is a guy who has probably never been to America, reciting facets about the locations people are from as they come in that even they don’t know. He had the attention of everyone in the restaurant. Then he would tell us to look up Jack-o-pedia online to see more of his awesomeness. The problem, of course, is that he doesn’t really have a website. But his branding and the experience he provided was outstanding. We spent at least 4 of our meal times at Pineapple’s Grill because of Jack and the other wait staff were so courteous, friendly and attentive.

There are tons of hotels and restaurants on the island of San Pedro, where we stayed. Tourism is the #1 revenue stream for the business culture there. Yet in a town full of other hotels, resorts, and restaurants, Ramon’s has built a reputation for being the best. We were recommended staying there from Bird who had a similar experience years ago. Her recommendation proved truthful and consistent after years of time gone by.

Make Your Visitors Remember You By Delivering Beyond Comparison

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 5.12.54 PMWhen we first checked into our room, which was a cabanna-styled jungle-mini with a bed, linen closet, and bathroom with a hutch roof, we were welcomed with a letter written to us and placed on the bed in a creative fashion of linens and tropical flowers. The letter said that Ramon’s was honored to have us, and that their desire was for us to have a fulfilling and blessed stay. It said that despite the fact that they’re a business, making money isn’t their ultimate objective, but providing an experience unlike anything else is what they wished for us to have. There was a short prayer on the letter wishing us well and blessings.

I’ve traveled all over the US to big and small cities. I’ve stayed in 5-star hotels and small bed-and-breakfasts. I’ve experienced some great service all over the US but nothing that welcomed us like this. It set the mood and the atmosphere for the duration of our time there.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 12.39.55 PMAside from the great food and the tremendous staff who delivered their services, we also had the chance to go out and snorkel for the first time along the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world. It was an amazing experience that allowed us to meet a couple from Indiana and another couple from Denmark. We swam with nurse sharks, stingrays, and schools of fish that looked like special features on a National Geographic video.

On that snorkel trip, we learned that Ramon’s will allow their guests to check out snorkel gear from their shop for free to swim around their pier. We took advantage of that and went swimming/snorkeling another 3 or 4 times off the pier, discovering several types of fish and seeing a lot of aquatic life neither Mrs. Smith or I had ever seen in person before.

Follow The Golden Rule To Massive Success With Your Community Building

As you can see, we had a great trip and highly recommend Ramon’s as the dream destination for a vacation in Paradise. We also enjoyed the people of San Pedro, and some of the other eateries like Elvi’s, Blue Water Grill, and The Hurricane Ceviche Bar. Each of these places had great food and provided a unique experience in conversations from their staff. The thing that unified all of the restaurants and service of the entire San Pedro area is that people there practice the Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 12.44.26 PMWe sat along the beach during the day and took long walks on the beach in the morning and in the evening. There were several peddlers who would come by offering their wares. All of them were very friendly, and none of them were pushy. A simple shake of the head or a “no thank you” wasn’t met with bitterness or a bad attitude (like we’re so used to experiencing here in America) but instead was given a smile and a “ok thank you, have a good day.” That kind of uncommon attitude and behavior is so unique in a place that is surrounded by beauty and a constant stream of travelers. Yet in Paradise, people treat others with respect and love.

Action Steps To Make This Kind Of Community Building Work For You

You don’t have to go to the beach to discover community building secrets that really work, though I do recommend it (actually it’s not very expensive if you travel in the non-peak seasons). Aside from the warm weather and the sights, getting away from the day-in and day-out that occupies all of our time, energy and concentration can be incredibly rewarding. It also provides a way to recharge and gain new clarity.

Step One: Make sure you give yourself the time and space to recharge regularly, even if that means getting out and going for a walk.

Step Two: Community building core principles lie in how you value other people. Make practicing the Golden Rule, and choosing to value other people beyond what they may give you as the #1 priority in your outreach objectives. We’re naturally drawn to people who make us feel valued. We inherently want to support people who do this and be a part of what it is that they’re doing. That’s powerful building principles at work and it starts with valuing others.

Step Three: Make executing your unique experience the goal of every engagement you have with people. Since you’re focus and intention is on providing a great experience for people whom you highly value, operating out of the passion of what you do comes naturally, and it impacts the right people to support your work.

One other little note, we did this whole trip for less than $2000. Artists and entrepreneurs alike can take a great trip and not spend a fortune. My wife wrote a blog post today (ironically) on how we did this trip for so cheap and how you can do the same. Read it HERE.

Does this beach experience make you want to grow a more dynamic community around your work and passion? Good! Reach out to me in the comments and let’s talk about how you can have a more thriving connection of supporters of your work.

 

 

 

Community Is The #1 Key To Ongoing Success

communityWhen you begin something new, you’re always on the lookout for keys to make “the new” work better and grow. That’s inherent to the process of creating and building. Once you’ve been doing something for a while, you amend your processes to be more efficient and operate better. And after building something for a long period of time (let’s say over a decade), you’re able to reflect back and see some of the key elements to what made your work successful.

I’ve been working with musicians for over tenĀ  years (hence the time illustration), particularly through the medium of indie radio. In that time I’ve also built and grown The Appetizer Radio Show to international syndication, been a part of some great concerts, collaborated on music events, and worked closely with artists on establishing their unique brand.

Lindsay Katt and I before our concert at the Paramount Theater in Abilene in 2013

Lindsay Katt and I before our concert at the Paramount Theater in Abilene in 2013

I spent some time this week reflecting on what has made all of these endeavors successful over the years, not just for me as an individual, but also for the artists and bands I’ve been privileged to work with. What I found was what I believe to be the #1 key to ongoing success no matter who you are, where you live, how widespread your platform is, or the size of your following.

 

You know what that key is? It’s a cultivated and enriched community.

Public radio has been a great resource for me, as it has for many individuals both in the arts as well as other business. As a former station manager, I got to experience first hand the dynamic power of community members coming together in support of a platform that brought something powerful to our region every day. The impact that the station had on individuals was supported in immense ways through a group of very dedicated and loyal individuals.

Experiencing how community can come together when it’s responding to a need is what has fueled the rise of crowdfunding and social media. All it takes is having your best message presented clearly to the people who want and need to experience it. This is where the cultivation and enrichment part comes in.

Tools-for-Community-ManagersWe’re no strangers to the concept of community building. We do it everyday on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other online portals. We build community daily with people we have never met in person, nor spoken with on the phone. Our community members share a common passion, interest, belief, or other similarity that binds us together. Cultivating community is a different ballgame than simply being a part of community. Cultivation requires a mixture of listening and sharing, remembering what it is that people confide in you and a commitment to helping out when called upon.

Our social communities can be a great way to engage people. But cultivation is best exhibited when you can meet in person. This is why artists starting out and in the first few years of their careers need to focus on their local community and region. You decide how wide of a spread for your region you want to reach. I encourage musicians to extend their area up to a 50 mile radius if they don’t live close to a high populated area. This gives you more opportunity to grow your network with the right people who will follow and support you.

Cultivating these connections leads to more diverse interaction online through social channels, and makes communication a little easier. Enrichment opportunities happen in live performances where your music is experienced first-hand. House shows are one of the best places to start (and continue in a broader aspect).

Community enrichment comes from both the community you live in geographically, and the sub-community you build with your art. Supporting and collaborating with other artists in your area is one of the best ways to build and nurture these communities. Relationships are what create new opportunities in everything we do. The better you can get at cultivating relationships, the more success and longevity you will find yourself with, and the stronger connection you’ll have to the communities that matter most to you.