Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Derailed" by Tim Irwin

“Derailed” by Tim Irwin, is a great read for anyone interested in business and leadership and shines a bright light on the pride and greed that seems to have defined much of Corporate America. Irwin takes a microscope to several recent CEO catastrophes as well as their glaring causes and his insight is very valuable, especially for those pursuing leadership. One of the more poignant profiles for me was that of Carly Fiorina and her epic failure at HP, especially considering her current bid for a seat on the Senate. While the book is not political in nature, I couldn’t help but laugh a little harder at her recent on-camera gaffe not to mention question how effective she may be in Government.

The CEOs who Irwin profiled were all very talented, intelligent, and charismatic people, but the book proves that without the proper motivation, morals, and focus, even those with the strongest outward characteristics can fail miserably.

In summary, the lessons taught in “Derailed” can be applied not only in our pursuit of personal betterment and leadership but also in guiding us in the selection of those who we put in leadership.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Get Over It

Have you ever taken a look at the comments people post below news articles or videos online? I do every once in a while, and it blows my mind. I could be looking at a youtube video of a puppy playing with a kitten and there could very easily be the following comments.

"Oh, this is so cute! I love puppies! LOL"

"Ferrets are cuter. This was a waste of time."

"I'm going to come to your house and decapitate both your puppy and your kitten."

"This is the stupidest f#$%ing video on the internet. You should kill yourself."

"oooooh look at the kitteh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you're so lucky!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Now these aren’t actual comments I’ve seen, but they very well could be, and this is on a stupid little video of a puppy playing with a kitten! God forbid it be a song, poem, article, or piece of artwork that you’ve put out there for people to see. If enough people take notice, you’ll easily get torn to shreds.

There’s a statistic out there that says something like 75% of people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. Now that statistic is probably high (as I didn’t actually look it up) but it makes me wonder why? After only a little self-reflection I think I’ve come up with the answer. The answer is that 99% of people are more afraid of embarrassment than death, and this statistic is probably low.

So what does it mean to embarrass? According to dictionary.com it is

“to cause confusion and shame to; make uncomfortably self-conscious; disconcert; abash.”

If anything can cause “uncomfortable self consciousness” it would be bearing your soul to someone, who after seeing a video of a puppy and a kitty playing could say "This is the stupidest f#$%ing video on the internet. You should kill yourself."

If you’re an artist of any kind, or really anyone with something to say, one thing you need to be prepared for is that most people will not like your work, but while haters are never welcome, they can also easily be overcome if you keep a couple things in mind.

1. The internet adds 100 lbs of muscle and a cloak of invisibility.

What super villain wouldn’t want these powers? But the thing to remember is that we’re not usually dealing with super villains. We’re dealing with regular people, who are probably sitting alone in their home, too scared to go outside (for fear of embarrassment) and they want the share that fear with others who are bolder than themselves (and who they usually envy) in order to bring them down to their level.

Ok, so this might not always be the case, but that’s how I like to picture it and it helps to cope with the nastiness. One time, after a show we played a long time ago, a kid wrote the band on myspace to tell us how terrible we were. He picked out a certain feature of everyone in the band and made fun of it (he made fun of me because I was balding). It wasn’t pleasant to read and obviously I remember it, but the point is, the kid was at the show. He could have come up and said it to our face, but he didn’t. He chose to do so over the internet, because it was a lot safer for the big tough bully to talk trash when he was a thousand miles away as compared to face to face.

2. Even if 99.9% of the world hates you, you can still be wildly successful.

Have you ever done the math? There are roughly 6 billion people in the world (easily more at this point.) So what’s .1% of that number? 6 million. 99.9% of the world could hate what you do and you still have the chance of making 6 million people like it. “There’s no way I’m going to reach the world with what I’m doing,” you might say. “I’ll never get further than the United States.” Well there were about 310 million people in the US in 2009, so .1% of that would be 310,000 people. Many record labels these days would be ecstatic to find an artist that could sell 310,000 units.

Now I suppose these numbers could have the opposite effect on a person. “How could I ever possibly reach 310,000 people?” you might say and then you decide to give up. This is absolutely not the point. The point is, even if 100 people have already told you that you suck, there are still plenty out there who might not think so. Your goal should be finding the people who will like your art, rather than focusing on the people who don’t.

3. Even if nobody likes it, it’s probably still important.

So many people base their decisions on what other people will think of them. I knew a girl once who was afraid to go to Subway and order a different kind of sandwich than she usually got because she was afraid she would look stupid in front of the sandwich makers and not know what to put on it. Seriously!?! Life is far too short to worry about these things. When you are lying on your deathbed, your last thought will not be “Man I’m glad I didn’t look like an idiot in front of the sandwich artist.” On the other hand, it could be, “I really wish I would have spent my life doing something I cared about and not let all that other stuff get in the way.”

If you’re art is important to you, you should do it whether millions of people like it or not, whether a troll on the internet makes fun of it or not or whether it’ll sell and make you money or not. None of these things should matter if what you’re doing matters to you. Of course, we as artists like our validation and to be told that what we’re doing is relevant and good, but that shouldn’t be our focus. We should make art because it is worth being made. A lot of people didn’t like what Jesus had to say, but I’m glad he wasn’t afraid to say it (of course he was God though, and knew in the back of his mind that he could explode his detractors if he really wanted to, or turn them to toads, which I think would be a nice skill to possess in overcoming haters, but I digress…).

Like everything else I write about, I don’t have this all figured out, but I think it’s a good start. A big reason I wrote this is to psych myself up for something I will be doing in the near future that might have a lot of people saying I suck, and I can be as self conscious as they come. I’m not going to let it get in the way as much anymore though, and I hope you will think about doing the same for yourself.