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February 2011 archive

Be Demanding

It was a lovely, noisy dinner party we had last night, and then after our guests had gone I went out to the office and wrote songs until about midnight.

So unsurprisingly, it was bloody hard to get out of bed this morning.

But that was ok because I am my own boss!

So I eventually rolled out of bed at about 8:45am and then took my own sweet time getting ready because I didn’t have to pretend that I was at my best. It wouldn’t work if I did this every day, my business would soon fail, but today it was so damn nice to be able to just sit at the table, glowering at my coffee and groaning until I was able to get out to office and get on with work, without worrying that “the boss” was going to give me a hard time.

It wasn’t easy to work at first either; I was too tired to be highly creative or effective. So I did some admin type stuff that you can do when your brain doesn’t work. This was actually a good thing because usually I avoid this stuff because I would rather do something inspired and creative. But, hey, I was being inspired and creative at 11pm last night writing songs and I can’t be “on” all the time.

So I got some administrative chores done, and did some work for some clients, stuff a robot monkey could have done, and then as the day wore on I felt better and things started to tick along nicely.

The other really good thing about being my own boss is that when I feel all antsy and need to go for a jog, I can do so at the drop of a hat, like I did today. There’s no bloody boss to beg permission to go do that or to drop the kid off at kindergarten or whatever.

The Trade Off

I’ve worked long and hard to get to a point where I do not have a boss and I’m sure as hell am not going back now. So this means that tonight after dinner and after the kid is in bed, I will be firing up the computer again and working on and into the night. That’s the trade off, you have to work hard but if you don’t manage it at 9am, well it doesn’t matter – just as long as the work gets done in the end.

Working from home as a marketing consultant is not my dream, by the way, but it’s a pretty comfortable way-station.

It allows me to plant seeds and nurture the real career – which is of course writing and music and cool stuff like that.

To make this happen, to get paid full time to make music and to write and generally do and make cool stuff, may take some luck, but I believe you make your own luck by rocking up to do the work and also by being demanding. By “being demanding” I mean just saying “I am going to do this. I am going to make that movie. I am going to work from home for myself.” Or whatever it is you want.

You demand it upfront. Surprisingly the universe is very responsive to demanding. If you think about it, the people who really get what they want in this world are actually very demanding. They say I am going to do this – so move, mountain, move!

That was what I did with working from home. I demanded of my old boss that she let me work from home and she just rolled over and said yes.

Then I wanted to work for myself instead of a boss, so I got on the phone and did cold-call after cold-call, for months, until I had clients.

I demanded clients and then I did the work.

That’s the trade off, it’s all very well demanding things of the universe, but you need to realise that in return the universe demands that you work your butt off.

If you don’t ask you don’t get.

But if you don’t work hard, you don’t get, even though you asked.

The Universe is Massive and I’m a Professional Bogan

At home resting after a busy few days and watching some good old Saturday night TV, I saw a guy mention on a talk show something about how small we are compared to all the billions of stars and galaxies and whatever – and the question that popped into my mind was – “so if we are all so small and insignificant, why do all the details of my life feel so big to me?”

I don’t really have an answer to that.

boganThen I got to thinking about what I do with my time, and how I tend to go off on tangents and be all over-extended, doing and starting things that aren’t really part of the “plan”. And how I habitually do things that in some way, even if mostly just imagined, put me in a vulnerable position.

Most people, especially those pushing forty like me (Aggh!) play it safe. They don’t put themselves out there, but I do. That’s what it means to be an artist.

I still gig and while on stage I bare my soul both through my music and through the rambling in-between songs, the jokes and the swearing and ranting and stories and Kramer-esque unsubtle honesty that people love. The saying of the things they play it too safe to say. (I don’t mean that as a criticism – safe makes sense.)

I write blogs like this, instead of just keeping my head down.

Then I do things like I did today. Things that barely make any sense, yet I kind of get off on it.

How I Get Off

Hmmm? get off? Sound interesting?

Well it’s nothing sexy, ok? Unless this photo is your particular cup of bourbon.

This is what I did today that to me is the equivalent of being an adrenalin junkie. I drove one hour to a complete stranger’s hens party in the Melbourne inner-suburb of Brunswick and dressed up as a bogan for money, as you do.

For all overseas readers, a bogan is an Australian thing, kind of equivalent to a trailer-trash redneck in the US but quintessentially Aussie. Refer to the photo – taken today. I am the brunette. Gizz a kiss.

I didn’t just randomly rock up to a party uninvited and dressed up as a bogan, although that would be a funny thing to do.

I was hired as part of an act called Bogan Bingo. And the scary thing was I hadn’t done it before and I only had half an hour’s practice before I did the gig, and I didn’t know the guy I did the gig with (I do now, his name is Josh, a consummate professional), and I had to operate a DJ mixer in tandem with a laptop to play music and cue grabs of songs that formed the punchlines to a set of jokes set up by the MC – and there was a very real chance that I could screw everything right up. It was all very nerve wracking…

…and I loved it.

Why?

That’s where I thrive. I actually thrive on uncertainty. A handy skill in an uncertain world.

That’s why I love playing my music on stage – because no matter how many gigs I do or how many times I have played a song before, every gig is a tight-wire act that could conceivably fall apart at any moment. Every gig is different. A brand new, living, breathing organism that will only exist in time for a single tiny window of time before dissolving back into the ether.

I don’t want to jump out of planes. I don’t need to. I have two ways of getting my kicks, my adrenalin rush. Put myself into a new situation (job, a new type of stage performance, a foreign country) or do yet another gig playing my music. That’s where my buzz lies.

A Funny Thing Happened As I Was Walking the Dog  Today

By the way – it’s an interesting story how I scored this ridiculous gig (which is just a laugh for me really, one that happens to pay), I went to the park with my daughter and my dog. And, this summer being what it is, it started to rain. There was only one other guy there, with his dog. He happened to be pretty friendly, and skilled enough at starting conversation that he got around my usual reluctance to engage in small talk (when sober anyway). Kept asking me about what I did, my work. At the time (how quickly things change) the year had not gotten underway with gusto and I was genuinely wondering if my online marketing business was going to survive or if it was time to find something new.

Then I asked what he did. “Bogan Bingo”, he says, with a shrug.

“Oh yeah, I see your van with the logo painted on the side up the road. “Balls On Fire Tour”, right?”

“Yeah, that’s my business”, he says. Goes on to explain it all and how he employs people to run the shows for him; how it’s a gas.

I go home, do some Googling. It looks like a stupid, silly, idiotic thing for a respectable father-figure type such as I to get involved with.

Perfect. Count me in!

I email the man, Darren is his name, enquire if he needs anyone new. He does. Voila. I’m a professional bogan.

Life is weird, the Universe is massive and I’m a professional Bogan.

It’s all about hitting your mid-thirties and not just giving up. Back in the 90s all of us Gen X’ers were going to DO something. Something awesome.

OK it wasn’t dressing up as a bogan, but it wasn’t rotting in a dead-end job and slowly dieing of boredom either…

Finding My Audience

Played a gig last night, a “Songwriters in the Round” gig as put on the by legends who are Melting Pot.

It was a lovely evening, although as usual I only managed to bring all of three people to come see me. Bit depressing really, especially after all the buzz during the week in print and (more so) online, but the wicked thing about the gig is that I get to perform (seal that I am) to the other performer’s audience. That’s why I love the SITR gigs so much. I get to borrow other people’s audiences.

I was thinking last night as I made the long, thirsty drive back home at about 1am, that what I am doing is searching for my audience. They are out there, and eventually I am again going to see some kind of tipping point, like I did years and years ago in my old band reckoning.

Back then, in the early 90s, we worked hard for 2 years to find our audience, and eventually we found them. Turns out they were schoolkids and uni students mainly. So once a few key Influencers decided to start coming to our gigs, things started snowballing. These key Influencers (or Sneezers as Seth Godin calls them) started to tell all their mates about us. They were social leaders, so their mates, and their younger siblings and their mates, started coming to see us too. Then they got us a gig at their school, then that got us a gig at another school. And suddenly, whammo! We had found our audience, and they started to rock up to our gigs in droves.

Of course many, many things have changed now. For starters I am not expecting high school kids to get into my work necessarily. Well, you know, it’s cool if they do, but I doubt I’ll be lining up any lunchtime gigs at the local High! That would be a bit creepy!

But somewhere out there are some key Sneezers, and when they get into my stuff, they are going to influence other people to get into it, and then all my hard work will start to pay off again.

That’s the plan anyway!

I also have a theory that over the years a heck of a lot of people have seen me play and apparently really appreciated it. So if I can get myself in the right places, get my ugly mug on Spicks n Specks or whatever, then a lot of these people will go – “oh yeah – that guy – I saw him play once. Y’know,  he was alright!”

Not that fame is the thing I want. Not really, just success, and they are not necessarily the same thing. If I ask myself the following question:

“If just 10 patrons offered to pay me enough money to prosper making music, would I accept that and be stoked with that?”

Answer: yep.