Friday, February 22, 2013

Don't Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Productive

How many of you out there consider yourselves a "perfectionist"?

It's not a bad trait. There's a lot of value in making whatever you're working on the best that it can be. But do you find that you have difficulty with completing projects on time? Do you find that the "perfectionist" in you causes you to obsess over minor issues, or that you're constantly second guessing yourself.

Do, I select Blue, Light Blue, Aqua? I understand that in certain situations a choice like that may be considered make or break. But in many others that particular decision won't represent the end of the world if it's not the most perfect.

Some of us may be guilty of using the "perfectionist" in us as an excuse or as a crutch and it can prevent us from moving forward and being productive. Look around and check to see how many unfinished projects you have laying around. How many bits and pieces of ideas which have never been molded to completion all because you didn't have the "perfect" whatever to make them just right.

The thing we have to come to grips with, is that no matter how "perfect" we make something, there will always be someone, somewhere to find fault with the effort. And I suppose if we're honest with ourselves we can accept that there's always room for improvement.

Often times the "perfectionist" has difficulty accepting constructive criticism and so the defense mechanism becomes - well if I'm always perfecting it - and I don't release it or publish it, then no one can say anything critical about my work.

But then, when you take that path, you wind up with not a lot of visible production for your efforts. It's always, "oh, I'm working on this idea"; or "I'm just about to finish" something else. But you have to ask yourself, where's your completed project which has been published for the "world" or your peers to see?

Well, it's over there on the shelf... waiting for perfection. I've become of fan of the continuous improvement approach. And it's great to strive for perfection, but you also need to understand that you are where you are at a particular point in time. Make your best effort and then make it available and be willing to accept whatever the critique may be from others. You may very well learn something that helps you to improve on your next outing.

This is not an argument for "just throwing anything out there". You always want to do the best you can, and make whatever you're working on the best that it can be. Just try to avoid becoming paralyzed waiting for something that may never come... the mythical "perfection".

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Did We The People Vote For Austerity?

Hooray! President Obama has been re-elected. We all breathed a sigh of relief. (well not all of us, after all the other guy did get 47% of the popular vote)

So, now Social Security, and Medicare and Medicaid are all safe and our safety net will remain intact.


If that's true, why is there still talk of President Obama seeking a "Grand Bargain"?

I read about polls that indicate the US public is against cuts to so called entitlement programs.
Yet, cuts are what's being offered as serious solutions to our problems.

OK, let's say that we all agree that we need to get our fiscal house in order. Why are the solutions offered always designed to take from those most in need and least able to bear the burden?
Why do we hear talk of "strengthening a program", when the actual proposals serve to weaken it?
How is it that with a straight face, our leadership will tell us that a cut in benefits is actually not a cut.

And what makes this worse is that many of us will tend to accept these solutions offered to us, because we've been conditioned to believe that whatever the "other team" is suggesting has to be worse by default.

Austerity is a nice fancy word which basically means that we all should "make do" with less.
Now, maybe you're thinking, "hey times are tough, and we all need to tighten our belts".
And maybe that works if you're already doing pretty well. But what about the folks that aren't already doing pretty well? What about seniors on fixed incomes, the working poor, the plain old poor, and those who have slipped in the cracks.

If your attitude is "hey, those are the breaks" then I sincerely hope that you never find yourself in their situation.
I was talking with a friend the other day and they expressed concern about the direction of the country and they felt like we're over burdened with taxes. And I mentioned the quote attributed to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, that taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society. And perhaps the real issue is what we use the taxes for.

My issue is that the same "leadership" that comes to us speaking of austerity, at the same time has absolutely no problem, throwing tax payer money at "too big to fail" banks. They will seek cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - but we must under no circumstances reduce any of the dollars that we feed to our war machine.

So, tell me please, did you vote for austerity?

Stay Peaceful & Positive!

Take A Chance On The Independent Singer/Songwriter

I'm an independent Singer/Songwriter. What does that mean and why should you care?

The "independent" part means that I'm not signed to a record label "large" or otherwise. It typically means that I don't have a support team or significant financial backing.

In my case it means that it's mostly just me with a few loyal friends working hard to create music and make it available.

Sometimes "independent" means that you're the producer, arranger, engineer, photographer, videographer, graphic artist, advertising executive, marketing executive, social media consultant and roadie.

Being "independent" means that my single biggest challenge is finding a way to convince you that I'm worth a few moments of your time.

Now, why should you care? There's millions of people just like me vying for your attention, and thousands more that have all of the things which I don't - so you'll already know their names and what they sound like and all you'll have to do is decide whether or not it moves you.
You've got a million other things to occupy your time, from Sports, to Movies, to Video Games, to hanging out with your buddies - so why should you spend any of your time with someone that's not even on your radar.

The answer has to do with whether you're content to follow the path blazed by others or whether you want to make your own discoveries. Are you willing to be a trendsetter or a you locked into being a trend follower.

I'm not saying that all the other music that's available is "noise". But how much of what you listen to goes beyond "let's party" or "baby I love you?" Now, there's nothing wrong with those types of songs. Obviously those two subjects have produced many HIT songs and countless hours of enjoyment. And most people don't want to experience "kill joy" in their music, most of us want to be "entertained" and not bummed out.

I happen to believe that you can still get your boogie on while dealing with subjects that go beyond "let's party" and "baby I love you". I think you can still be entertained while listening to subjects that cover other aspects of the human condition.

If a song can provide you a "moment of pause" to reflect on an issue while still allowing you to groove, I would have to call that a major WIN.
So, I think I've answered the question I posed at the top, and I hope that the next time you see an offering from an "independent" that maybe you'll give them a chance to impress you.

Stay Peaceful & Positive!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why I Write Songs

At the most basic level, the reason is that I enjoy pairing words with melodies and music.

However a time did come where that was no longer enough.  Where the frustration of seeking the ever elusive "deal" overpowered the joy of creating.
It was a dark time and I felt like I had to walk away.  So for a long time there was no music, no creativity, and no words.

Music didn't appear to be providing any rewards, and it seemed time to put energy toward pursuits which might reciprocate the energy and effort I was putting forward.  Or at least not leave me feeling empty and disappointed.
So, I was working longer hours. And trying to make home life better for my wife and I. We eventually decided to have children.

And this was all great.  I had convinced myself that I had "retired" from music and that it was time to move on.
Then one day, my songwriting partner James showed up.  And he said to me - "do you really want to go out like this?"  "Don't you want your kids to know about your talent?"

After that conversation, I began to feel a bit of the tug to re-engage with creative pursuits.
But I told myself that this time around, I wouldn't let the business end of things get in the way.  That the pursuit of "the deal" wouldn't be the driving factor, as I had allowed it to eventually become.  I would return to basics, and create for the joy of creating.

As I began to write again, I discovered that I needed to have something to say.  Now, don't take this as some effort on my part to be "high faluting" or superior somehow to others.  But it felt to me, like the "let's party", "ooh Baby, Baby" space was pretty well covered.  And there just wasn't much motivation for me there.  This doesn't mean that I don't write songs in that orbit.

It does mean that I'll tend to write more about issues that resonate with me and that I hope will give people that listen to me something to think a bit about.  Social justice, environment, war, peace and poverty are some of the subjects that you might hear about from me.  And of course there’s always a “love song” or two which make their way into the mix.
So, this time around I believe that I’ll keep writing, as long as I feel that I have something to say.

Stay Peaceful & Positive