A few weeks ago, whilst in beautiful San Francisco (ok, it was raining), I wrote a post about the flood of ideas that I get while on vacation and how I want to capitalize upon them. The logical progression would be to follow up on that post and write about what I’ve done with those ideas so far. But this is my blog, and tangents in strange and exotic directions are commonplace. Today, I’d like to talk about the idea of putting those ideas out there in the first place and making them known in their half-baked state.
See, I am usually very secretive about the projects I’m cultivating. Once they get to a certain point, I’m all about letting as many people know as possible, but until that point, I keep everything under wraps. I have multiple reasons for keeping my (Magic) cards close to my chest. I often want to let the idea stew and take on more form before I let anyone know about it. I want to make sure it’s a good idea that I can follow through with; otherwise I fear coming across as flaky. We all know that person who has read one too many books on business success and has decided that every idea they come up with is pure genius. I don’t want to be “that guy.” Finally, I want to make sure it’s a good idea in the abstract; does it pass my arbitrary quality test?
To some extent, these are all important considerations, but they can really slow the process of coming up with and unveiling new ideas, which brings me to where I am today. I have a lot of projects that are in the works that I am really scared to let anyone know about, because I’m not sure where they’ll lead, I’m not sure if I can follow through with them, and I’m not sure if they’re “good enough.” The worst part is, part of the reason I’m uncertain of these things is because I won’t let the ideas see the light of day. Perhaps if I let it be known what I’m working on, I could quickly assess the interest in what I’m planning, and let it flourish or let it die.
So enough abstract; let me give you an example. For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been working with Mike Ketner from Departure Consulting to work on my entrepreneurial skills. Quite a few of the ideas I have showcased since last May (including this here blog) have come from sessions with Mike. In coming up with ways to utilize my talents, Mike suggested I offer songwriting classes. After all, education is a big part of what I do. So is music. And I have a songwriting style that tries to be different. So combining them is a potential income stream that occupies a niche market, while being something I am passionate about.
Each time after Mike would mention it, I would be flooded with self-doubt. On Facebook, I’m friends with a slew of songwriters at various stages of success. The idea of letting them know that I was offering to teach people how to approach songwriting struck me as arrogant. What makes me any more qualified than anyone else to tell someone how to write songs? If I offered these classes/lessons and they went nowhere, I thought that would prove to my contemporaries that I am not good enough to accomplish this project. In turn, that might mean that I’m actually not that good of a songwriter. Better that I should keep it quiet until I had some success with it.
I’m sure you can see the issue with this approach. If I kept it quiet, I was guaranteed failure, since it would be significantly harder to let people know what I was offering when I didn’t tell anyone about it. Under the light of reason, I can see that these self-doubts were filled with false dichotomies (either I’m a good songwriter and can be successful teaching songwriting, or I’m a bad songwriter and cannot run these classes). As with any good idea, I have to expose it to the world and see where it goes. If I wait for it to crystallize perfectly, it will never happen. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Even when we’re not talking about direct promotion, it’s important to put what you’re doing out there. My policy for promoting my shows at this point has been to post the shows where I’m playing solo and usually not to bother when I’m just playing as a part of the band. In addition to being potentially disrespectful the the bands I’m playing with, this also doesn’t always serve me best. I constantly see musicians I know posting their projects on Facebook. If someone were to call me and ask if I knew a reggae trumpet player, a harpist who doubles on piano, or a killer pastry chef in Mt. Airy, names instantly spring to mind. By letting people know about my projects, I will similarly place myself on the end of people’s tongues. Oh, I, er… you know what I mean.
So for those reasons, I will be endeavoring to make my goals and projects better known. It’s true, I do run the risk of becoming the aforementioned “that guy,” who posts all these crazy ideas that don’t necessarily go anywhere. But more significantly, I might become the “that guy” who takes risks and is proud of his achievements. It’s totally fine for me to be that guy, because for better and worse, “that guy” is really me.