Category Archives: Organization

2013 – A Statistics Odyssey

Once again we come to the arbitrary demarcation of the beginning/end of the year.  This may sound like some sort of zealously charged statement about how humans overly segment time, but really I just was looking for a more interesting way to say “happy new year!”  Maybe I should have just said it.

What a year it has been for me!  I started out in January using extra vacation time to experiment with doing music full time.  Now in December, every day is an experiment-in-progress of doing music full time, and I can’t even remember what “vacation time” is.  I’ve had the pleasure (and the requirement) of developing my business skills as a musician, a band leader, a promoter, and a booking agent.  I played with a variety of bands I never played with before, and made a few new bands of my own.  And I fell short in a number of ways that I continue to attempt to remedy.  Such is everything.

So without further ado, here are my accomplishments for the year, broken down by category.

Musical

111 gigs
23 distinct music groups
11 new groups
2 groups I formed or co-formed
19 days of busking in the train station
1 incredibly lucrative October (thanks Polkadelphia!)
5 Sound Decisions podcasts

Unmusical

1 job I left
2 websites designed and built (here and here!)
2 CD layouts designed

Blog

2104 views (minus anyone reading this post)
37 posts
Most popular post: Connecting the Dots (La la la la)
Least popular post: A Curious Mind
Favorite post: Everyone Maeks Mistakes

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to cook some Serbian food for my upcoming New Years Eve show with the West Philadelphia Orchestra.  I hate to cut it short, but there are only so many hours in the day (that I’m devoting to blogging).  Stay tuned for next year when:

A new Neon and Shy cd gets released!

A new band gets formed!

A new kind of cookie gets baked!

I get off the computer and start my day!

Happy New Year everyone.  Onward and upward.  Up and at them!

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Pining for Novemberfest

The other day, I posted to Polkadelphia’s Facebook page:

Well, our first Oktoberfest season has come and gone. We had a blast playing from Philly to northern Jersey to the Polkanos. We had so much fun that I've decided to continue the party into... NOVEMBERFEST! Break out the insulated lederhosen, the polka Thanksgiving tunes, and beer beer BEER! We're coming for ya!

It was a kind of tongue in cheek way for me to both take pride in what I had accomplished over the previous month, as well as express some anxiety about the holes in my working schedule.

October was a very good month for me.  Polkadelphia was playing at least once a week, often much more.  While 2 or 3 shows per week for a polka band during Oktoberfest season seems a little low, I’m really proud of how much we accomplished as a band that hasn’t been around a whole lot.  I also had great gigs with 5 other groups across the month some of which were bands I had never played with before.  I got to play accordion in the West Philadelphia Orchestra, giving me the opportunity to expand my role in the group and learn new repertoire on that instrument.  I also got to write new songs as Neon and Shy and perform in one of my favorite venues (shoutout to the Zen Den).

Novemberfest!Last month I got to amp up my business acumen as well.  Booking Polkadelphia repeatedly taught me some new skills for finding work and negotiating.  I actually began to look forward to calling clients, instead of cringing any time the phone rang.  I had the opportunity to teach sousaphone lessons to a colleague, jumping back into the teaching world.  I was hired to build a new website for a client, and I got a few graphic design projects thrown my way as well.  And of course I got the brilliant idea for Novemberfest which, while not a full-fledged idea yet, has great potential for the future.

In October, I managed to meet my financial goals, meaning I earned enough to pay my monthly expenses.  This is an accomplishment of which I am especially proud, as it gives me the confidence and reassurance to continue working hard to make music my primary source of income.  It’s yet another reason I pine for Novemberfest, since I know running a polka band during Oktoberfest contributed greatly to my financial security for the month.

That last sentence there is the insecurity in me talking, and it has been nagging quite a bit lately.  The real trigger for it was the end of October, when I got my car inspected and found I needed major repairs.  The bill made a massive dent in the earnings I had worked so hard for, and I started second guessing myself.  Talking with a few other freelancers who assured me this sort of thing is always happening has made it a bit easier, but I still feel like I’m not accomplishing enough.

It’s an odd pattern.  There’s a very small sweet spot between when I start a project (book a show, write a song, arrange a new piece for a band) and see it to fruition (play the booked show, perform the written song, showcase the new arrangement) in which I’m feeling like all is well in the world and I’m being productive. After that, it’s easy to start to panic that I’m not doing enough.  While it’s important to have a strong work ethic, it’s far too easy to be, as David Bowie says in Rock ‘n Roll Suicide, “religiously unkind” to myself.*

Looking back over October, I can see why I might feel this way.  I’m still finding ways to be physically comfortable after my back injuries.  It’s cutting into my productivity, as one of the few places where it doesn’t hurt to work for over an hour is in bed (where I’m currently typing this).  And as business-like as my bed is, there’s no escaping the fact that I go there every night to rest.  Also, as I learned in 9th grade, you can’t really practice the tuba (or any other instrument) in bed.  It just doesn’t work.

I’m also a little gun shy about performing too much.  It’s hard to feel the correlation between the pain I feel and the performances, so I don’t always know what specifically to stop doing.  While performing is sometimes about landing those big lucrative gigs, I am finding that it’s also about just getting out and being present.  So I’m trying to do that without overdoing it.  As a whole, I’m trying to continue my experiments in productivity without damaging the future of my productivity.

So I’ll continue to find new approaches, develop new ideas, and create new opportunities.  Now that I’ve seen it happen for one month, I know financial solubility can be a reality.  I’ll keep on pushing through the thin veneer of terror and impossibility that can cling like a film to see what’s on the other side.  Onward to Novemberfest, Decemberfest, and beyond!

*

I’ve been really loving this song lately.  While it’s ostensibly part of the Ziggy Stardust story at a point in which he is washed up and depressed, I find it a timeless inspiration.  We as creators feel that timeless drag towards self-destruction, the clock ticking away our time left to say something, anything, and the solitary confinement of the path less traveled.  And in one soaring ride, David Bowie offers consolation and respite.  It’s really such a gorgeous journey.

Sofa Searching

I have two couches in my living room that have taught me much about the process of discovering want I want and how to achieve it.  A bold statement to be sure, but I find myself returning over and over again to the lessons I’ve learned from them.  Allow me to introduce the fiendish duo.

There is the futon:

futon

It has a spring mattress, a sturdy wooden frame, and a hideous pair of throw pillows I found at Big Lots.

Then there is the purple monstrosity:

purple sofa

It is pretty massive, deep, and both scratched (from my cat) and stained (not from my cat).  Backpack sold separately.

So how have these sofas started me on the journey to finding the things in life that I want?  Well, it’s simple.

They’re terrible sofas.

Both are so large and tall that anyone not me-sized sits with their legs dangling over the edge as if they were a small child.  As mentioned before, they’re also a bit beat up, and old purpley here was never especially pretty in the first place (quick shoutout to Samantha for providing this freebie for me; please don’t take my dramatic license as a lack of gratitude).  But the single most heinous crime defies the very tenants of sofasity and is punishable by couch banishment: they aren’t really comfortable.  And if your sofa isn’t comfortable, what is it really doing besides acting as a scratching post for the cat and a backpack shelf?

A while back I finally got up the momentum to start looking for replacements.  The first lesson I learned: couches are expensive.  If you’re looking for something beyond IKEA furniture, you need to be prepared to have some savings stashed away.

And for Swedish furniture aficionados out there, look deep into your souls and answer me this: have you ever sat on a luxuriously comfortable IKEA sofa you build yourself?  I didn’t think so.

So suddenly I found myself on a budget for a purchase with a slew of variables: color, size, hardness, support, material, texture.  It was time to start looking into the alternative providers of comfortable living room furniture.

Only, that wasn’t the tack I took.  Instead of poring through the bargain basements, perusing the thrift stores, and aiming for the Targets, I instead went and found the most expensive furniture store I could find.  My idea was that until I had a clear idea of what the top of the line was, I wouldn’t have a frame of reference for my options.

If I tried the best, highest end sofa, I would know just how comfortable I could be, or at least the options of comfort I would have.  With all the variables at my fingertips, I could then isolate the features of a good sofa.  At that point, I wouldn’t even necessarily have to buy that expensive sofa that met all my needs.  I could experiment with lesser models and see if there was a tipping point between quality and price.

I don’t mean to get dramatic here (Dan, look deep into your soul… you know that’s a lie).  However, I was suddenly reminded of a pithy homily:  “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail” (shoutout to Andrea who has that on the wall of her office).

Yes, I tend to stretch far in my analogies, but the heart of the message is actually quite similar to my quest for the ideal couch: If you knew the infinite possibilities available at your fingertips, what would you do to make what you desire a reality?  In my case, I just replaced the soul search with a sofa search.

Let’s just split the difference and call it a soulfa search.  I’ve been dying to type that this entire time.

I was thinking of how I looked for a new sofa when a friend of mine called last week to discuss relationship issues she was having.  In that situation, most times it’s not acceptable to go out and test the best available models for some comparison shopping.  Instead, it’s more a matter of taking a step back and considering what an ideal relationship would look like.  How would your partner treat you, and how would you treat your partner?  What would you be getting out of the relationship?

Once you have that mental picture in your head, you need to do some analysis of whether the envisioned relationship is both realistic and sustainable. If the answer is no, you have to step back into your desires and find why it is you want something that is unsustainable.  If the answer is yes, you have to ask yourself why you’re accepting something different from what you want.  That’s not a leading question either; there are plenty of reasons one might stay when they have envisioned a reality that more directly addresses their desires.  It could be a dread of dating, the malleability of our satisfaction, or the idiosyncrasies of the situation.  Regardless of the reason, it’s important that you know it.

I came across another sofa-searching moment when I recently left my full-time job.  I knew I was dissatisfied with what I was doing, but I wasn’t sure of what type of full-time job would satisfy me.  I needed to explore my options and expand my palate.  So rather than hopping into another full-time job out of fear of the inability to sustain myself without one, I rented a rather expensive “couch” in the hopes that I’d find it both comfortable and affordable.  Without the empirical experience of the huge amount of options available, I wouldn’t be able to know for sure whether this was the type of life I wanted to lead.

There’s an epilogue to the sofa search that may seem to disprove my entire point: I ended up hating all the really expensive sofas.  They were uncomfortable, over-stuffed, rather hideous-looking, and homogenized.  None of them approached what my ideal sofa would be, and I still have ol’ purple and the futon today.  However, all this said to me was that I might be looking in the wrong places.  I’ve begun to expand my quest for the ideal to other places, such as thrift stores with huge varieties and friends’ sofas.  I know that the key to finding comfort is first finding what it is I actually want, and the key to finding what I want is to tear down to barriers of shoulds, coulds, and preconceived notions.  Once they are out of the way, I can focus in on what I’m desiring and why.  Only then will I have a clear picture of whether the effort to incorporate it into my life is a worthwhile endeavor.

Maybe it’s for the best that I haven’t replaced my pariah sofas.  Haven’t they done enough for me to warrant the slightest consideration for clemency?

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