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Transform Your Belief – The Key To Success

Artists MBA, Professional ProgramJust get into action, right? That’s the way to succeed.

Then why does it feel so hard all the time?  Dig a little and I bet you’ll discover that you have beliefs that work against you, undermine you, and even stop you dead in your tracks. Those beliefs can be very strong and they can be very subtle.

I can’t say this strongly enough: your beliefs determine your level of success.

Just as strong muscles help you win a ball game, strong empowering beliefs boost your energy and confidence, create opportunities, attract powerful partners, clear obstacles from your path, and propel you effortlessly into action and results.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.
– Henry Ford

So how do you move forward, easily and joyously?  Create beliefs that give you buoyancy, that clear the tangle of weeds from your path and that fuel your energy and excitement.  And once you’ve created those beliefs, you have to strengthen and reinforce them.

In this Workshop you will discover:

  • How your beliefs are working for and against you
  • 3 Steps to build beliefs that work for you
  • Actual practice building some new beliefs

In this call, you’ll learn tools to create and maintain beliefs that will give you any results you choose to believe in!

I was blown away by Debra Russell’s “Transform Your Beliefs – the Key to Success” workshop at the TAXI Road Rally. It set the stage for the rest of the conference and created a powerful focus for both me and my husband throughout the conference. Since the Rally, working privately with Debra and in the Artists Marketing & Business Academy has given me the confidence to follow through on my goals.”
Tina Claxton, Artist Manager, Barnville Music Productions
Despite a certain old, dark resistance, I caught Debra Russell’s “Transform Your Beliefs” seminar at the TAXI Road Rally. I remained a bit uncomfortable and squirmy throughout the talk, actually staying to the end because what she was saying seemed so true, clear and right. It helped that Debra is an exceptionally relaxed, focused, well-prepared speaker. I left feeling that a light had shone onto some areas that have plagued me for most of my forty years as a musician.
Bill Gordon, Pianist, Composer, Teacher

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An Act of Willpower – the Process of Perseverance

Artists MBA, Professional Program“How do I get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice. Practice. Practice.”
Saadi

We’ve all heard this quote as a tribute to consistent action and perseverance, right?  And some people make it look so easy.  They just do it.  But for many of us, the ability to choose consistent right action, particularly in the face of disappointment and rejection, is a real struggle.

So, how do you develop this ability, if it doesn’t come naturally to you?  The good news is that Will can be developed and built like a muscle.  In this class, we explore:

  • Will, Perseverance, Commitment – Oh My!
  • The biggest obstacles to will power
  • 3 keys to developing will power and perseverance in your life
  • Specific exercises you can do to strengthen your will power

The skill of applying your will to your choices consistently is critical to making your systems work (including, time management, organization, marketing) and creating consistent and sustainable success.  Start developing your will power today!

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2 Lessons from American Idol – Top 12

The format of American Idol requires artists to create cover versions of other people’s music. This is only slightly artificial as many independent artists perform songs written by someone else. And so, the ability to take a song written by someone else and make it your own is a critical skill for your success in the music industry.

And this is certainly true across the Arts & Entertainment industry. If you’re an actor, you’re going to be speaking words, not your own. If you’re writing, even if it’s fiction – your story is probably similar to a million other stories out there – so finding a way to make yours unique is a requirement. As a visual artist, your subject matter has likely been covered by a Master, so how do you make your treatment unique?

Lesson One: Focus on a Positive Intended Outcome in all of your efforts.

Getting back to American Idol, in last week’s episode, the contestants were covering the Rolling Stones. We saw some artists do renditions of songs that were pretty close to the Rolling Stone’s version and they were showing how well they could sing that song as written. And then there were a few artists who really changed the style and arrangement of the song – which seems to be what the judges ask for, week after week.

Some of those arrangements really worked – like Siobhan‘s version of Painted Black. And some of those arrangements really didn’t work – like Tim’s version of Under My Thumb. And I have a theory about why Tim’s version didn’t work. Tim said that he decided that he couldn’t do a Stone’s song justice. This is a negative assumption. He started out from a place of failure and he could only try to do something better. This assumption, I believe, colored his whole approach to the song. So, he tried to find a way to match his limitations.

Siobhan, on the other hand, looked at the song and explored a way to both serve where she wanted to grow as an artist and what would really serve the song. She wanted to get a bit darker and more dramatic and show off her vocal range and power. And so she picked a song that was dark to begin with and created an arrangement that really allowed her to explore the dramatic depths of the song and her own instrument.

So, the difference was that Siobhan focused on a positive intended outcome. And Tim focused on doing the best he could within an assumed failure and limitation. I wonder what would have happened if Tim had looked for a song he truly connected with and explored ways to arrange the song to suit his vocal instrument. I believe that’s what Aaron did incredibly well with Angie.

Lesson Two: Learn your instrument/craft, so you can make the most of your talent

In Simon’s critique of Aaron – he said that the song, “allowed you to stay within the limits of your voice.” Now that’s not the same as Tim’s self-imposed limitations. You need to know your instrument. If you’re playing a cello, you just aren’t going to be able to hit a high C – it’s not within the range of the instrument. Your voice is also an instrument, and understanding and being able to exploit the range and quality of your instrument will allow you to use your instrument to truly serve your art.

And that’s really the point –

  1. It’s important to start with a positively focused context.
  2. Look for a way to use your instrument to both serve you as an artist and serve the art and what you want to communicate with that art.

How are you assuming failure in your approach to your music career?  What would change if you assumed success?  How would that change your approach to your music/art?  How would that change your approach to your business?

The Shy Singer an Interview with Vikki Flawith

artists-marketing-business-academy-interview-with-expertsDebra was thrilled to interview singer/songwriter Vikki Flawith, former student at the Artists Marketing & Business Academy, Champion of the Creatively Introverted & Socially Terrified, opera-howling Blogger, procrastinating Painter, housework-hating Vocalist, power-napping Composer and Aquarian Cyber-Geek.

Vikki is a well-respected vocal teacher.  And she has signed multi-track deals with several music publishers.

 

Vikki says:
“My definition of success used to be pleasing everyone else and living my life according to what I thought they wanted so that they’d be pleased with me. Now I live my own life and my own dream.  In order to do this, I had to look deep inside, figure out my goal, and work steadily at the process of achieving it, over time. I had to understand my own operating system.  Being introverted isn’t a crime.  You just have to be more creative in marketing yourself and your art.”

In this interview, we explored:

  • How to make your introversion work for you
  • How to find your unique voice both in your art and in your marketing
  • Criticism vs critique, and how we talk to ourselves

And much more!  It was an enlightening and enjoyable conversation.

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Creator’s Block

Here it is a rainy March morning and as I sit down to write to you, I realize that I’ve been avoiding doing this writing for some time.  Would you call this writer’s block?  Perhaps.  And it occurs to me, that writer’s block – or creator’s block for the purpose of this conversation, can look different for different people.

But if you endeavor to live a creative life, and even more so, make a prosperous living from your creative endeavors, feeling blocked around creating can be an unpleasant, even painful place to be.  And of course, it just may get in the way of pursuing your dreams.

What Causes Writer’s Block or Creator’s Block?

Whether you are writing words, writing songs, painting, taking photographs, sculpting, designing jewelry or in any way creating on a regular basis, creator’s block can happen.  Perhaps it shows up by being “too busy” with other things.  Perhaps, you sit down and nothing comes – just blank.  Or you get “distracted” by email, the phone, the dishes….

In my experience, most creative blocks are caused by one of three obstacles:

  • Your inner critic,
  • Your outer critics,
  • And/or a lack of creative space – physically, temporally or emotionally (which leads back to the first two).

I’ve often heard from clients that they got blocked because they got a bad review or what they perceived as negative feedback and found they couldn’t create for months after.  Has this ever happened to you?  I’ve found that the artists most vulnerable to this are already fighting an inner critic and that external voice, especially from a mentor or someone you really respect, can just amplify the inner critic to the point where all creative juices stop flowing.  For artist’s who have a strong internal supportive voice, external feedback becomes just that – feedback.  Take what you can use, leave the rest.

When it comes to your environment blocking your creative endeavors, this can be tricky.  There are so many ways in which your environment can act as a block –  whether it’s your physical space (like the gardener who is right now outside with his leaf blower!), your temporal or time management, or your tendency to give other people’s requests for your time and energy more importance than your own creative priorities.

Learning to set up your environment to support your creativity is a key skill for any creative entrepreneur.

All of these issues can be summed up into one: the inability or unwillingness to prioritize yourself – prioritize your needs, your values, your beliefs, your own inner voices and muses.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be open to other people’s needs or constructive criticism, but if their needs and voices are drowning out your own, then you have a problem.  And I’m betting a creative block isn’t the only way that issue is turning up in your life.

In the Artists Marketing & Business Academy, I have several classes designed to address these issues.  I also will be writing more about them in my blog.

How Can I Move Past My Block?

For this issue of the Newsletter, I’m going to focus on a method that has helped me tremendously and that my clients have used with great results.  When you are creating, whatever you are creating, use the following steps:

Step 1 – ideas, brainstorming, brain dump – no editing
Step 2 – sort through the ideas and brainstorming and develop an idea into a first draft
Step 3 – edit that idea into a first public draft and send it out for feedback
Step 4 – take the feedback and polish and hone the work
Step 5 – repeat step 3 and 4 until you are truly happy with the result!

Step 1 – The brain dump

The first step is to put all your ideas down on paper.  Good ideas, bad ideas, bits and pieces of ideas, unformed ideas – everything.  You want to have absolutely no filters here.  You may work this step in a structured way – you sit down to the page for 1 hour every day.  Or you may just carry around a notepad or tape recorder with you, every where you go.  The key here is to capture the ideas – good, bad and ugly – all the ideas down on paper.

This step can show up in many forms, depending on the medium in which you’re creating.  For a visual artist, it may be doodling in your sketchbook, jotting down ideas of themes or concepts.  For the songwriter, it may be bits of melody, lyric phrases, or even just a book of song titles.  For the novelist or screen writer, it could be bits of dialogue, scene ideas.

I was working with a novelist awhile back, and she was blocked.  My assignment to her was to write 1000 words a day – badly.  She was to write as badly as she could.  We were going for her writing to really suck!

The point is to just put the perfectionist on hold here.  This isn’t about creating a final product or even a good first draft.  It’s just to allow the creative juices to flow.

Step 2 – Creating the first draft

This step should be scheduled and given a decent chunk of time several days a week.  What you want to do with this time is to sit down and look through your ideas, your bits and pieces and starting with the pieces you feel most drawn to, flesh them out into a first draft.

You may work on more than one project at a time during this stage.  But what’s most important is that you set up this time as completely separate from either Step 1 or Steps 3, 4, or 5.  Again, we aren’t going for a final product here and you want to continue having the perfectionist on hold.

During this stage work on your projects enough to find out if there’s a solid idea.  Flesh it out enough to be ready to show to some people for feedback.  Get to a first draft.  And then put it aside for at least 3 days.

Step 3 – First round of edits on your first draft

After you’ve left this project alone for several days, come back to it and give it a read through.  Edit it, play with the language, the order.  Try different things with it, perhaps change the rhythm or the key it’s in.  Try using a different size brush or color scheme.

Again, do not mix this step with either Step 1 or 2.  The part of your brain that you use during editing and adjusting is not appropriate during the initial stages of creation – it only tends to block things.  Because this is when you begin to use your critical facilities.  This is when the voice that tells you that you can do better becomes useful.

But beware of spending too much time here.  Again, we’re not going for the finished product yet.  We’re looking to create a version that’s good enough to get feedback on, which leads me to Steps 4 and 5.

Step 4 – Get constructive critique and create a second draft

There are two critical factors for this step.  You must choose your people very carefully.  You want someone who is going to be ruthlessly honest with you.  You want someone who really knows your medium and your genre (and if they know your niche, it’s even better).  And you want someone who can communicate feedback in a voice you are willing to hear.

Some successful artists use family – although this can be tricky.  Most successful artists use experts in their field (which includes editors for the written word).  Some even use their loyal fan base.  Many songwriters use the TAXI submissions to get feedback to improve their music or the TAXI forums to get feedback from fellow songwriters.  Some writers will go to a writer’s group or their editor and agent for feedback.

Whoever you choose, remember to stay open to the pieces of the feedback that you can use.  Not all of their suggestions will be immediately useful – that’s ok.  Sometimes they may make a suggestion which you don’t want to use – but if you stay open, it may trigger you to discover the exact right change you need to make.

Sit with the feedback and go back to your project and edit it.

Step 5 – Rinse and Repeat until finished

You may go through Steps 3 and 4 several times.  Probably the hardest part is to know when you’re done, to know when more editing ends up doing more harm than good.  Be wary of ironing out all the ripples in the fabric of your creation.  There’s no such thing as perfection.  And if there were – it would bore us to tears.

If you listen to your inner quiet voice – you will know when you’re done.  And use your discipline to stop, declare the project done, and start marketing it!

One last note:  Your voice is the voice that matters.  When being open to feedback, trust yourself.  Stay open to their opinions, reactions, and suggestions.  But don’t sell out on yourself.  It’s a fine line and one that takes practice.  This isn’t about creating by committee.  It’s about always growing, developing and honing your craft.  No matter how talented you are, truly powerful art is always a marriage between talent and craft.  This method allows you to use the best of both.

Attitude of Gratitude or How to Handle the Hard Stuff

In general, when bad things happen or when the good stuff doesn’t happen fast enough, many people have one of two reactions – avoidance or blame.  And neither of those responses will make you feel better or create a different outcome in your future.

What will shift things for you is to consciously, intentionally choose your response. This is called response-ability (pun completely intended).  When something happens that is different than what you believe you want – the only proactive and empowering choice is to own it – this is my result.

Blame is NOT the Same as Responsibility

As long as you’re avoiding it (if I don’t look at it, maybe it will go away) or blaming someone or something for it (it’s the business, it’s the economy, it’s my childhood, it’s my parents, blah, blah, blah) or even if you’re blaming yourself (it’s all my fault for not doing/saying/thinking the right thing) – you are not taking responsibility and you are powerless.

So, I recommend looking at all circumstances with an attitude of gratitude.  Now, that may sound all new-agey woo-woo to you.  I mean, when you’re drowning under the flood of bad stuff, how the heck are you supposed to feel grateful, right?

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  Viktor E. Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl explores his horrible experiences in a Nazi Death-Camp.  If he could find meaning in the suffering of a Concentration Camp, don’t you think you might be able to look for a glimmer of light and gratitude in the midst of your own human drama?

There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for

When I was very ill with CFS, I practiced being grateful for the days I could stand long enough to brush my teeth.  And if you practice looking for what there is to be grateful for, that will expand – there will be more and more blessings in your life.  Because what we focus on expands.

But maybe that’s too much to start with.  What if you just start with curiosity?  What if you look at your circumstances, and ask – “Huh, isn’t that interesting – I wonder what this is about?  What’s the lesson here?  How do I grow, expand and develop from this place?”  And choose to respond with gratitude for the experience, the learning, the challenge that asks you to overcome – to be bigger than you’re used to.

All of our experiences, in each moment are our teachers, but only if we actually look for the learning.

By the way, if you’re doing this just so the bad feelings will go away and the bad stuff will stop happening – that’s another form of avoidance.  So, acceptance-of-what-is is an important piece of this puzzle.

There is no failure, only feedback

So, your job is to respond with the question – what’s the positive, constructive feedback in this experience?

So much of our experience is determined by what questions we ask about our situation.  So, let me suggest a few alternative questions:

Instead of – why does this always happen to me?  How about – What’s the payoff for me in creating this experience over and over?  What benefit am I getting?

Instead of – Why can’t I get what I want?  How about – What can I learn from what I am getting and how can I experiment with different responses to achieve different outcomes?

Instead of – What am I doing wrong?  How about – what am I doing right?  And how are my expectations creating this result?

Instead of – Why do I have to work so hard (or why is life so hard)?  How about – how am I creating my own suffering?  How could I think about these circumstances differently so I can move out of suffering and begin to enjoy this process?

Instead of – Why are there always these obstacles in front of me?  How about – what are some new and different (out-of-the-box) ways to get around these obstacles?  Who can help me with this?  What are the most outrageous possible solutions to this problem?

If your questions focus on the value, the learning, the opportunities and the joy of the process and the experience, your attitude will organically shift into gratitude.

So start asking good questions, empowering questions, humorous questions and questions focused on solutions.  And always, always, always, be looking for what the blessings are in each experience.

I am truly grateful that you take your precious time to read my words.