Tag Archives: keys to success

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.

How Having Your Back Leads You Forward

My high school graduation pic. People thought I was 16 until about 4 years ago (I'm in my 30s now)

My high school graduation pic. People thought I was 16 until about 4 years ago (I’m in my 30s now)

Let me shoot you straight-when it comes to height and weight I’m a little dude. I might be taller than Bruno Mars or Prince (who is apparently 5’2″) but body size and weight are actually big deals to guys as much as girls.

This can lead to confidence issues in those beloved teenage years where all of your friends, who are also going through changes in their height, weight, and other body factors, are always the most encouraging people on earth. Wait, our peers are always the most encouraging people, right?

Of course I’m being facetious there. In high school I was a little over 5 feet tall and maybe weighed 100 lbs. That is a scrawny little dude. But that was me. And some other physical attributes helped me to be the brunt of a lot of jokes and a bit of bullying in school. I hated it, as most kids do. I also didn’t know really what to do about it, so I used sarcasm as a means of deflecting pointed remarks. And I hid/avoided the 2 people I knew would give me the most hell.

What made the difference for me in that era of time wasn’t a self-help book or taking a kung-fu class. Though I really did want to take kung-fu. Bruce Lee was only 5’4″ in his day and he kicked everyone’s ass. That gave me some hope. But it wasn’t the path for me. Instead, I found some love in an unexpected place that changed everything.

As you know, I’m a radio guy and have been since the late 1990s. How and where I got my start plays a role in this story of overcoming bullying because often our work or ambition experiences play larger roles in the things that we are and who we become. While in 10th grade I was given the opportunity to work on-air at a community college radio station about 30 miles from my hometown.

The station (89.7 KACC) was in Alvin, Tx. I lived in Sugar Land. One or two times a week I would drive down to Alvin and do my radio shift. It was a ton of fun and some of the best work experience I could have ever had. That experience on-air and doing radio stuff is what opened the door for me to start my freshman year of college working on-air in Abilene (ironically on 89.7 KACU).

The professional ground isn’t the focus of my story this time, but that gives context to where I’m going. There were two main guys who took me under their wing at KACC, Eddie and Shannon. Two room-mates who made me one of their buddies. I got to hang out with them off the air, camp out on weekends and essentially be a college guy 2 years before I should have.

In school I spent a lot of time feeling intimidated and picked on, though there was only one or two people who went to great lengths to do that to me and to others. Those instances of bullying, being picked on, belittled, and chastised still had terrible consequences on my self-esteem. Being embarrassed and bullied by someone who is physically bigger and stronger doesn’t do much to make you want to show up in class. There’s a reason why most TV shows and movies that involve high school portray bullies as jocks and athletes. The aggression they have has to be channeled, but realistically they feel as fearful as anyone else. Yet their pride makes them take that fear out on others. What do fearful people with physical power do? They prey on the smaller, physically weaker people. History tells us this repeatedly.

Hanging out with big Hispanic dudes who are 22 or 23 years old while you’re a short, skinny 16 year old white kid is empowering. It was to me. And they loved me, for whatever reason. One day while we were hanging out, one of my college friends, Shannon, could tell something was on my mind. It had been a rough week and I’d been austricized at school. Shannon asked what was wrong and I said a dude was messing with me, and he was much bigger than I so what could I do about it.

“Where does he live?” Shannon asked with a straight face. I knew what his thought process was. These weren’t guys who looked for fights, but they weren’t ones who ran from them either. And they were stout enough to hold their own and then some. Shannon was also a black belt in Tae Kwan Do.

“Don’t worry about it man,” I said. “I do appreciate it though.”

“No seriously, where does he live? I used to be a little guy like you and I got picked on a lot. It sucked. I remember what it feels like to be bullied. I will gladly show this punk what it feels like for a bigger, stronger person to put him in his place,” Shannon replied.

And that changed everything.

What followed wasn’t a scene out of a revenge film where we loaded up in a car, all 4 of us and drove the 30 miles back to my hometown, knocked on a door and then made mince-meat out of a teenage bully. What changed was my attitude and confidence.

Why didn’t I give the address to Eddie and Shannon to go take care of my bullying issue? Because even then I knew it would only make things worse, especially for them as young adults. The bully folks weren’t the kids of people who wouldn’t do anything about the 20-somethings who beat up their son. There were political and social elements that would make this situation much worse. So I thanked my friends for their love and said if it ever got to a place where I couldn’t handle it, I’d call them. Fortunately it never did.

Here’s what changed that made the difference.

When someone you trust and respect tells you that they have your back, will go out of their way to tackle a problem you have so that you don’t have to worry about it anymore, you should feel empowered.

IMG_1333My confidence took a steroid shot that day, and I didn’t even know it. Looking back now it all seems so clear. I didn’t cower or hide from people (or at least the same people I’d hidden from for the past few years when this happened). There was no reason to hide. If things got bad, I had a number to call who would come to my aid. That kind of support isn’t common, but it’s highly empowering.

Knowing we’re loved gives us confidence.

When you’re a kid, and sometimes even in adulthood, when we think of love we think romance or family bonds. Love isn’t just those things. Love is valuing someone else and doing whatever is necessary to make sure they are safe and taken care of. Love is looking at someone else’s best interest and putting them before you, even if it costs you something.

“I’ve got your back” is love in its purest sense. Nothing asked in return, no favors required to be put into effect. It’s just straight “You matter to me and I won’t let anyone or anything hurt you.”

As a followup to some of the life experiences described earlier, I’ve moved on and done a good bit of forgiveness, most of which the individuals involved know nothing about. That’s the thing about forgiveness, it’s really more about you than the people who caused you pain. Holding on to past pain and grudges only stymies your growth and ability to move forward. It also keeps those same fears in place, instead of releasing them to have the freedom you want.

Every single one of us struggles with fear in some form or fashion. For me it was fears regarding self-image and body size stuff. With friends who had my back, I was able to overcome a lot of these issues at that crossroad in time and move on to pursuing my dreams. I later returned to facing those fears head on in my 20s, which I talk about and describe in this blog post.

Do you struggle with fears and want to know that someone has your back? Let’s talk about what fears are keeping you from pursuing the goals and dreams that you have. Reach out to me below and let’s tackle them together. I have your back.