This interview is featured in the book, "Clarity for your Creative Career". Available NOW!
Creative people usually have a hard time finding work-life balance. We keep going, going, going at it and tend to neglect our social life & relationships until we reach a certain goal. But then, when you reach that goal, now what?
Suzanne Paulinski is the founder of The Rock/Star Advocate. She helps artists with self-care, something very important in achieving success as a creative. She emphasizes listening to your body, and talks about how to work smarter, not harder.
In this episode, you’ll find some great nuggets on how creatives like you can embody the confidence of a rockstar! We discuss the importance of trying something new, and defining your own success. Also how to improve your teamwork skills VS when to go solo.
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Suz the Rockstar Advocate
Thanks for listening to LoudaVision, the podcast for all you creative people out there. I'm your host, filmmaker and artist, Laura Meoli. If you want to find out more about me and get creative tips and inspiration, you can visit LoudaVision.com or follow me on Instagram, Twitter or my Facebook page @LoudaVision. This show brings together creative people of all types so we can break the stereotype of the starving and struggling artists by sharing ways to make money without sacrificing happiness. Let's do that. Today's guest is Suzanne Paulinski, founder of The Rock/Star Advocate. She's a coach, consultant and author helping artists in the music industry and other creative fields find confidence, clarity and time for self-care. Don't we all need that? She also has great marketing tips and resources for artists on her website, TheRockstarAdvocate.com. Hi.
How are you, Suzanne?
I'm good. It's so good to be here. Thanks for having me.
To be here on Skype.
To be in this shared space on the internet.
I'm reading your first published book, The Rock/Star Life Planner. It's a really great workbook that I'm using. I've been doing it for about two weeks. Do you want to tell everyone about that?
Over these last two and a half, almost three years, I've been working with clients to get them better organized. To get them prioritizing their tasks a little bit better. I kept creating all these different templates for them. At the beginning of this year, I just thought to myself, "I have all these templates collected that I've created over the years, and they lend themselves well to a planner." I remember last December looking for hours at Barnes & Noble's for a planner that really suited my needs. Because there's a creative person that has their own business, we have social media to worry about and worrying about our finances each week and what we're bringing in, all these different things. I wanted to combine the templates I created that included tracking inventory and keeping track of your social media contacts, all of those things. I decided to put them in a book. A good friend of mine from back at my days at Drexel helped me design it and make it look pretty. It was a really fun project for us to work on together.
Awesome. It does look very pretty.
It's an interesting book because when I hear Rock/Star Life Planner, I'm like, "Oh, that sounds like the self-help book." You're a coach and so it would be natural for you to release a self-help book. This is definitely not that. It's more of a journal, more of a guided self-therapy, I would say.
The Rock/Star Life Planner: It’s 52 weeks in the book, but you can start it and stop it whenever you need to.
Absolutely. It's an undated planner. It's 52 weeks in the book, but you can start it and stop it whenever you need to. There are definitely exercises in there each week to guide you through overcoming hurdles. We don't reflect enough, at least that's what I've noticed with a lot of my clients. We're like on this path and then we do it to the very bloody end and then we're like, "Oh, did it work?" I think it's important to stop each week and be like, "What's working so far? What's not working?" Because you don't know what you don't know until you know it. Each week, we're learning new things. You have to constantly reassess your original plan.
Memory is a fickle thing. It just goes away. We forget things from a month ago. We might have learned a lesson, but if we don't write it down and we don't really reflect on it, then it's lost. I like that your book also forces us to write what we're grateful for. I like the gratitude section in every week, which I've been really enjoying because we don't do that enough. There's all these self-help books out there and they're like, "Be grateful. Have gratitude." It's like, "That's great." When you actually have to sit and write it down every week, I think that is the best practice and the best way to do it.
Absolutely. I'm glad that you brought that up because I've definitely, over the years, I've had so many side hustle jobs when I was in the music industry. One of them was a paralegal. I used to have to go to all these networking conferences. BNI, the Business Networking International, they always talked about giver's gain. I always thought that was such an interesting way to frame it. I've just learned over the years that it's not only just putting good karma out there, it's not just like, "Be a better person and help others." That's what we want to come out of it. It's also just shifting your mindset because when you get so involved in your own work and how it's going to help you and what you're going to get out of it, it really just makes it tunnel vision and you're not seeing the bigger picture. When you get out of your own head to help somebody else, you're actually opening yourself up to see what's more out there. It's really like a mindset exercise more than anything.
Definitely. While we're on this topic of all these self-help gurus who like to tell people what they should do, what was the WORST advice that you've ever read in a self-help book?
Let's see, the worst advice, "Be a part of the 5AM club."
Wow. What is that?
Screw that. I tried following that advice for so long and it never got me anywhere. A lot of self-help books or if you read on Entrepreneur.com or all those business sites, which I love, I don't like any advice that's set in stone and saying like, "This is the only way to do it." Because a coach of mine always reminded me to get rid of the word 'should'. When you say you should be a part of the 5AM club ... The 5AM club is basically all these big entrepreneurs and billionaires all say, "I get up at 5AM. It gives me a chance to start my day before the rest of the world wakes up. I do yoga and meditation." That's great. Those routines are wonderful if it works for them.
But some people's rhythms are different. Some people also have families that they're responsible for or other things. To put that pressure on somebody to be a part of the 5AM club and that's the only way you can really be successful, it's ridiculous. I'm a night person. My creativity and a lot of my great work comes at night. I would stay up until two, three in the morning so getting up at five doesn't work for me. When I would go to bed earlier and stifle that creative time just to wake up at 5AM ...
You'd be tired.
I'd be up and I'd be in a bad mood. I wouldn't start doing yoga, I would just stare at the wall for an hour. It wasn't working for me. I would say get rid of that advice that you'd have to be a part of the 5AM club in order to get the most out of your day.
I definitely agree with you. I think we have to read any these self-help books, and I've read a lot of them, but we have to read them with some skepticism because these people are telling you things that have worked for them but we're NOT them. We're all different and we have our different life, our different body, everything. It's hard to give advice and say that that should apply to everyone. I like self-help books that are more flexible and more like a work book. That's why I think The Rock/Star Life Planner is awesome.
Take some advice but then try to apply it and then see if it's working for you. If it's not, how can you tailor it so that it does work for you?
Thank you. I totally agree with you, when you read these books and they're important to read, a lot of them are really great books. That's why I setup the life planner the way I did so it's like take some advice but then try to apply it and then see if it's working for you. If it's not, how can you tailor it so that it does work for you?
You're a coach. I want to know a little bit about your background. You have a degree in psychology, and the music industry. Tell us about that.
I went to Drexel way back somewhere in the turn of the century. We were a part of their first class for their new program called The Music Industry degree. It was awesome. It was just me and 39 other students. We really shaped their curriculum. We started MAD Dragon Records, which is still there today. It's a student-ran record label with national distribution, with Ryko I believe. It was just such a great environment. We learned business and contract law and audio and all these different things. I did that and I went to work for Astralwerks because I had interned at Atlantic Records and then I followed my boss over to Astralwerks, which was under EMI. We had Sia and her band Zero 7 at the time. We had Fatboy Slim and all these other amazing bands.
I left that to do my own record label with my college roommate at the time. We quickly found out that starting your own record label and especially being so young, I think we were like 20, 21 at the time. This is a large undertaking and there's so much to get done. We didn't hire a coach and we didn't figure out what our systems or structures were before we got started. It definitely was a bit of an undertaking. We turned it into a consulting firm. We would write bios for artists, we would write EPKs or electronic press kits, press releases, whatever anybody needed that was written, a social media plan. We would just write, write, write but we also weren't fully aware of return on investment and what our profit should be. We really weren't paying attention to the money that was coming in versus going out. Again, it was just that business side of it really wasn't there.
We decided to part ways on that and put a pin in it. I went and got my master's in psychology because I feel like when you're doubtful about things, you should always just go learn more. Whether it's an official degree or reading a bunch of books, you should always just learn more so you can figure out what answers can come to you. I've always been interested in psychology. I figured that could work for anything, no matter what I decide to do.
When I was done with that, it just became clear to me that while a lot of my clients that I helped, I would write their bio but then I get an email at two in the morning that said, "I'm on tour and I miss my boyfriend. What do I do here? Hey, I'm working with a band in the studio and I'm confused about what to do about copyrights. How should I attack that?" Asking me all these things. There's a lot of feelings, it was a big emotional roller coaster when you're a creative person. Let me take the psychology that I've learned and the exercises I've learned on how to stay grounded and focused and mix that with the music business knowledge that I already have. Alas, The Rock/Star Advocate was born.
You were also a paralegal?
Yes. During my time going back to school and in that in between time with the consulting firm that I had with my former business partner, I really wanted to learn ... One of the wonderful things that she and I always said to one another was, "Whatever side job we were going to have while we tried to get our music business off the ground, it had to help the business in some way." We didn't take any job that couldn't lend itself to a skillset that we were going to need. She went off and worked for a social media company. She learned all about hashtags and all the different times to post and stuff like that. I wanted to learn about the contracts. That was really interesting to me. I became a paralegal and I learned a lot about contracts and what they should have in them and what all the different jargon meant and all that stuff. I got that job as I was in the midst of figuring out my business and going back to school. That was a good way to bring in money.
That's great. That's a great way to integrate everything you're doing into your main goal.
If we just take jobs for the sake of taking them and don't really try to be aware of what we can get out of them to help our dream job happen, then it's wasted time.
Absolutely. I think a lot of the times we feel as creatives, "Oh, I'll just go be a waiter or waitress because that's flexible enough, it's what I need to do." There's nothing wrong with that. There are definitely skillsets in the restaurant business that you can learn. I worked at Crate and Barrel as a merch manager. I was learning branding and all these different types of things and putting systems in place to make the best customer service possible. There's definitely things in there. But I think if we just take jobs for the sake of taking them and don't really try to be aware of what we can get out of them to help our dream job happen, then it's wasted time.
That's very true. Can you share some tips for work-life balance? For me, the past year has been nonstop, go, go, go. As you said, just having side jobs and all these different things. I've been trying out a few different goals of mine that have been on my five year plan for a very long time and finally getting to it and realizing that it's not really maybe for me. In the meanwhile, I feel like my social life might've suffered from that. Do you have any tips for work-life balance, something that has worked for you?
One of the things, like you had just said, when the social life hits the back burner, the funny thing is as I was growing up in the music industry, my first bosses that I had were all were just like, "This is your life now. So many people would love to be in your position." I think I was 20, I had my own office and I was in charge of the mid-west sales for Astralwerks. It was just like, first of all, who put me in charge of that? I don't know why. I'm glad they believed in me. I didn't really believe in me at the time. I quit that job five times. I just kept showing back up the next day. I don't know why.
The main reason was I would go in, I would quit and the last thing my boss would say to me is, "You're being foolish because people would kill to get their foot in the door right now and you're in. What are you doing?" I would let that pressure me into thinking like, because I wasn't sleeping, I was working sometimes fifteen hour days, I was trying to get my own business off the ground, I didn't see my friends and family, I had just graduated college, I had no idea what was going on. I wasn't reflecting at all. I was just going, going, going because this was the goal. The goal was to work in the music industry. I have this job, that's all that matters. I wasn't taking time, honestly, I was too afraid to stop and say, "Is this what I want? Because I just spent four years getting to this point, what if I found out it wasn't what I wanted?" Which ultimately, it wasn't.
We're either avoiding something out of fear or we're avoiding something because we no longer care about it.
That fear of stopping for a second, and like you said, maybe some of those goals on your five year plan aren't really for you anymore. I think we make these five year goals or annual goals or whatever they may be and we change and we learn and we grow and other things take our attention away. We don't stop to think, "Did I get distracted or did I stop getting passionate about what I was on?" We're either avoiding something out of fear or we're avoiding something because we no longer care about it. We have to always, whether it's weekly or monthly, to take that time to reflect on those things. That is part of self-care. Taking the time to be like, "I'm going to walk away from this and go see my friends and recharge," because when we socialize with the people we care about, we're ourselves.
When we're ourselves, all this stuff comes up. It's all about re-centering and part of that re-centering is being around people that we can be ourselves around and that's when it comes up and creeps up on us like, "Oh, I love my friends. This is great but I want to get back to what I was working on." That indicates a real passion for it. If we're hanging out with our friends, we're like, "Oh my God, I don't want this to end because if I go home, I'm going to have to work on this thing." Maybe that indicates either something's really eating at us that we're afraid of or this is not the thing that we want to be working on because clearly we don't care that much about it. I think we put a lot on our plate because we think we all have to get it done all at once.
I think if we, I like to say mono tasking, if we focus on one thing at the time and obviously, people might have families at home or other jobs. When I say the side jobs, let's be real, a lot of the time it's our full time job that we need to take care of in order to do this stuff. Yes, there are other responsibilities but then when you do have that free time set aside, work on finishing one thing and making that one thing great. Then get on to the next thing. It might feel like doing it that way will make it take forever, but it will actually make you more product and speed up the process because you're focused and motivated because you're getting it done. That's making you feel good, then you're on to the next thing. It's counterintuitive but it works when you trust the process.
Definitely there's a fear of not being able to do everything we want in a certain amount of time and feeling like time is limited. For me, I've learned that instead of just jumping, say, I want to do something for a career and it's a goal of mine. Instead of just jumping into that, going back to school for that thing and that's great to do, but for me I like to just test it out and see if I can get a job doing that or get an internship or do it for a day or two. Test it out, put yourself in the situation and see and then be able to reflect and say, "Is this something that I really can see myself doing every day?"
Before you just throw yourself four years of school or two years of school and then when you get out on the other end you're like, "Oh, I don't actually like the day to day of what this looks like." It's one thing to like how something looks and to see other people doing something and say, "Oh, they look happy. Maybe I should try that." It's different when you're doing it.
100%. I love that you said that. If you're not sure or if you haven't really had the experience in it, I couldn't agree more, go out and ask somebody, can you shadow them for a day or can you get involved in a project. Also too, I feel like when I say mono tasking, a lot of people feel like, "Oh, I can only do one thing and that's it." I just want to clarify too, the mono tasking is just one thing at a time. If you're a multi passionate person, I know I've seen your stuff online and you got a lot of different projects going.
It's awesome. I don't think you should stifle any of that. I think it's all about when you're doing your podcast, that's all you're focusing on and you don't have your podcast open while you’re emailing about another project or you're not doing an interview and sketching out ideas for something else at the same. It's just being in it while you're in it and then putting that down and then switching gears and doing something else. I think a lot of us are multi passionate and that shouldn't be stifled, it should just be prioritized a little bit and just being compartmentalized a little bit.
Also, knowing when something is over in a way. For me, I hate to say it, but I've been teaching (kids) for about a year and I'm not sure that it's what I really am passionate about and there's other things that are pulling my interest. I have to just say, "This is not for me right now. I'm going to maybe come back to it." For me, I just finish up my commitments of what's coming up and then move on and say no in a way because there's all this advice out there. I think Shonda Rhimes had a book last year or two years ago, Say Yes. I disagree because we're all so busy and there's all these requests and all these proposals coming from so many different places, especially when you put yourself out there or you go to networking events or you meet a lot of people. Everyone has ideas for things that they want and they want you to work with them. It's hard say no to that sometimes. If you just say yes to everyone else's projects, you're not saying yes to yourself.
That's another example of fun advice but maybe not always super practical. It's like looking at Shonda Rhimes, she's not tethered to a lot of things, she's got the power to change things on a whim. I haven't read the book but I looked into it a little bit and I've also seen some TED Talks about, there was one where this woman said yes for a year. That's great and it's a fun little self-reflective project to do. However, I don't think they explained the full picture of it where if you are tethered to other certain responsibilities or if you do know where you're headed, I think the whole say yes to everything thing happens when someone is just tumbling around and doesn't know what they want. They just figure, "I'll just say yes to everything and see what happens." I think it's a cool experiment. Like you were saying, it's not for everybody and it's not really something that I don't think people should follow to a T. That's another one of those examples where it's like, "What lesson did they get out of it? Can you apply that lesson in a different way?"
Is that some advice that works for you at this point in your life and in your career?
What was interesting was you said that at a very high point in your career, you didn't really believe in yourself. That's interesting. Also, on your website, I saw that you said, "I never felt accomplished." This was years ago. From an outsider perspective, you look very accomplished. You seem like you're doing amazing things. It's that internal voice saying, "I don't believe in myself. I don't feel accomplished." As a coach, how do you define success?
Define what success means to you because it's going to be different for everybody.
That's a great point. I think what happens is a lot of the times we do the whole comparison thing. That starts to eat at us. At least for me, that's when I tell myself, "I'm not accomplished and I'm not any of this stuff." When I teach it to my clients that are going through that, I say to them first off, "Define what success means to you because it's going to be different for everybody." Some artists might define success as for example, if they're musicians, it might be selling a certain amount of records or playing a certain venue or getting to collaborate with a certain tier of musician. What does that mean to you?
Once they figured that out, I ask them, "Why?" Because a lot of the times they might say, "Success means I get signed by a label." I say, "But why?" They've never really reflected on it because that's just what they're told, that's just what they know about the industry. You play music, you get a label to sign you and then all your problems are done with. All of the artists that I know that had been signed to labels, that's when their real problems start. It's actually not all that sunny and wonderful. I know plenty of artists that are making it their full time job and they're not signed to anything. There are other ways to do it but people, again, don't know what they don't know until they know it. If I ask them, "Why is that your goal?" They say, "I don't know. That's just always been the goal."
I think the same thing happened to me back then. Like I said, I had the office and I was feeling so important and I still didn't feel like I knew what I was doing. I think I cried literally like every day waking up when that alarm went off and I went, "Ugh, I can't believe I have to do this again." I think I made it ten months before I finally just up and quit. I was like, "This isn't healthy for me anymore." Because what took me to come to that realization, again, is like what I said before, about the fear. I didn't want to sit there and reassess my goals. I didn't want to sit there and define what success was for me because that was so scary because I knew in my gut it meant walking away from everything I had just worked for. That was so scary to be like, "How can I walk away from this? I finally got what I had been interning for and what I had been busting my butt at school for."
I had to be honest with myself and know that while I was in school, I was learning about all these other different things that I didn't know at sixteen and seventeen when I thought this is what I wanted to do. I had to take into account all these new lessons I have learned and figured out, "Working in the label isn't really what I wanted to do. I want to create my own thing, I want to create my own structure where artists can do it without a label." Since I was 21 and I made that decision, that's always been something that I've been passionate about, is teaching other ways to go about things rather than just being signed to a label. It's taken twists and turns. Sometimes it's been writing their bios and helping them in that way and being that support for them. It became helping them in other ways that's now shaped into helping them manage their time better and helping them get more self-care in their day so that they can reach this goal. That part's never changed, but the way that I go about doing it has changed. That's taken a lot of reflection.
Remember that you're in your own lane. Nobody else can get in your lane.
When that doubt comes in and that self-hatred of like, "What am I even doing? Why would anybody work with me?" When you stop and think about it, it's really, it creeps up. Being self-aware, I started the be more self-aware when those things would happen. It usually creeps up when I'm about to do something I've never done before or I'm about to do something really exciting that have worked a long time for. It's when a big shift is happening. We start comparing and we start looking at what everybody else is doing and thinking, "How can I even compare myself? I haven't done this, this or that." Hear all these other people doing amazing things. When that comes up, the advice I always give for that is, "Remember that you're in your own lane."
Nobody else can get in your lane. Imagine a highway with 1000 different lanes in it and you can't switch lanes. This is your lane, this is your path. You might look over to the other lane and see somebody else with a nicer car or whatever. They can't get to where you are. They might be looking over at you and finding things that you're doing that they wish they could do. When those things happen, start making a list of everything you've done, no matter how small it might be and just list everything. That's when the gratitude comes in, that's where the giver's gain attitude comes in. Get out of your own self-hatred and look around you and see who you can help, see how you can pay it forward because that gets us reenergize and that makes us feel like we attributed to somebody else's success. It reminds us of what we have to give.
That's so important. For a long time, aside from having goals of teaching, I had on my list I want to win an Emmy award. I did that last year. I have to tell you though, it didn't change anything.
Isn't that funny how that stuff happens?
I know. I don't know what I was thinking but for some reason, you think, "This is on my list. When I achieve this thing, everything is going to change." It doesn't. It does not change because winning an Emmy or winning an award or being recognized, it's just another form of comparison, it's a superficial kind of thing. It doesn't change who you really are and it doesn't mean anything.
I love what you said.
That's why it's important to not give up on that socializing and keeping those relationships alive because that's really what it's about. You might be a very driven individual and want to feel recognized in your field. If you get swallowed up by it and you don't spend time with the people around you and get fulfilled in that way, like you said, you get the award and then you're like, "Now what?" Because you're always growing and it's always going to be the next thing. It's never going to feel completely fulfilling. That's when it becomes important to have those relationships around you to fulfill that need inside of you. Because work is great and achieving things is amazing but, I'm a workaholic, I was for such a long time. Just going, going, going. I let a lot of my friendships fall to the way side. I didn't see my family for a while. It left me feeling very empty. It's not until I found that work life balance where I get more out of my accomplishments because I've got that other piece of the puzzle there.
Do you have tips for working smarter and not harder and not being a workaholic?
It's funny. I accidentally went camping one day and I ended up getting some tick bites. I did contract Lyme disease. It sucks, definitely. My friends always joke with me, "It took Lyme disease to get you to stop being a workaholic." So many people would tell me, "Slow down. Stop doing this. Eat better. Exercise more. Make time for your friends." Everybody told me. I kept saying, "That's great. I'll do that when I reach this point." Like you were saying, I'll do that, I have to get this much accomplished first.
When you get sick like that, your body just shuts down. You can't do certain things. There would be days where I had to rest all day and not do anything or it would hurt to look at the computer so I couldn't go on the computer. For the beginning of it, I had panic attacks. I'll be like, "Oh my God, this isn't getting done. I'm stuck here in bed." All that did was make me sick longer because I wasn't resting and then my body would still be exhausted. This was some deep reflection time for me. I really had to stop and focus and be like, "I'm going to trust this process. I'm going to rest now and I'm going to be energize and get the work done when I'm able to." I did and it worked. I was like, "I'm a believer. I'm on board."
That's when I really started teaching this whole work smarter, not harder thing. What that is, is it goes back to what I said about mono tasking, shutting off your devices when you’re working, clearing off your desk, not letting it be cluttered with a bunch of different things, really getting in a zone, whether it's setting classical music in the background or whatever it is that helps you work. Basically, getting in that zone where, whatever that takes for you, some people prefer going to a coffee house and hearing other people around them, it helps them focus, whatever that may be, getting in that zone. When you find yourself getting distracted or getting antsy or not focusing, even if you did 40 minutes of really focused work, it's okay to get up and walk away from it even if it's not done.
When you find yourself getting distracted or getting antsy or not focusing, it's okay to get up and walk away from it even if it's not done.
Listen to your body and say, "Now my mind is starting to race and go a million different places." I'm going to walk around the block or I'm going to go check Facebook and have fifteen of minutes of, and time yourself, have fifteen of minutes of just checking notifications and then moving on. Or I'm going to make myself a sandwich and use this as my lunch break and go watch my favorite TV show on Hulu or something like that. Whatever it may be, give yourself permission to just do that because if you keep fighting it, then that's when you're going to be working and that resentfulness is going to come out. You'd be like, "I don't want to do this. I can't believe I had to do this right now." Again, this is advice that can't always be taken whole heartedly because maybe you do have a strict deadline where you do have to just bite the bullet and do it or maybe you don't have time to go walk around the block and something else needs to be done.
Implementing this stuff as much as you can and being kind to yourself and saying, "Listen, this is what I'm going to do right now and maybe I don't want to do this but at the end of it I'm going to treat myself to an ice cream or I'm going to treat myself to seeing a friend that I haven't seen in a while or talking on the phone with family member." Whatever it is to reward yourself if you have to get through something you don't want to be doing.
Another work smarter, not harder thing that I always teach is micro tasking. When we have a lot to do, we always say, "There's not enough time in the day, there's not enough time." There's plenty of time that we maybe stare into space or we're on social media or we spend too much time in front of the TV or any of those things. You add them up and that is real time. If we take something like, I always say with musicians, a lot of the task they hate to do is saying like, "I have a YouTube video to put up."
If you just leave it on your task list as YouTube video, it's very vague and it could feel very heavy. If we break it down to, "I need to come up with a title for it. I need to write a script for it. I need to write social media captions for when I share it. I have to upload it. I have to edit it." All of that stuff. When we break it down like that, we have ten minutes where we're sitting at a doctor's office waiting for our appointment, "Oh, I can write my social media captions." When you see that on the list, if you just look at 'get YouTube video up' on your list and you're sitting at the doctor's office, you're like, "I can't do that." Then you just sit there for ten minutes reading a magazine.
Because it seems overwhelming. That's how I do my podcast, is writing every little thing down.
Exactly, because somebody like yourself that has to juggle a bunch of things all at once, using that time wisely is ... If you're sitting on the subway, "What can I do for my podcast that can get that done that I don't need Wi-Fi for or that I don't need a quiet environment for?" Absolutely. Just being aware of those little micro tasks hidden inside those larger projects, not only will it get things crossed off your list but again, it's that whole mindset where you're feeling like, "Wow, I just made use of sitting at the doctor's office." It makes you less resentful when the doctor runs late and you're stuck there and you can't be at home in your studio. "I was able to get a couple other things done while I was waiting here."
It's just using that time as best as you can, that's definitely what I would do. One of my clients had pointed out once when I told them that, like with video, you have to set up the lighting and the microphone or whatever. While you're doing that, batch it. That's another work smarter, not harder. If you have a bunch of videos that you want to do, even changing your shirt in between videos if that makes you feel better. Having a day, maybe a Saturday where you've already set up the lighting and you've done all that prep work, now do as many videos as you can do while you're in that zone so you don't have to set up the lighting and then take it down and then set it up, take it down.
Because it seems daunting. It seems like, "Oh, this is going to take a long time." That's what I advise my video clients, anyone who I work with to make videos is: as much as we can do in a day, let's do it. Let's plan for it. Write a script, write what are your different topics and we'll do as much as we can because setting up that lighting and doing the audio, takes a long time. You got to get people together. When anything has to do with getting people together, do it all in one day. You don't want to schedule more than one day for that.
Absolutely. You totally hit the nail in the head with planning. Just plan for it and just take a little bit of time before each week starts. Look at what you have on your plate. What can you batch? What can you break down? All that stuff just takes planning. That's why it's working smarter, not harder.
With all the possibilities out there as a creative person, it's sometimes hard to nail down that one thing that we want to do because there's so much pressure to do one thing, one thing that you're good at. What's your career? What is your one thing that you do? Especially music, there's a lot of pressure. You have to choose a genre. In film, we have the genre or the niche. If you're doing comedy, you can't do documentary all of a sudden. There's all these labels and all these categories. It seems like you have your own business and you have a lot of different experience that you bring all into that. As a business owner, there's a ton of things that you have to know how to do and different tasks that you end up doing each day. How do you stay focused and how do you find that one thing? Or, do we not even want to find that one thing?
That's a really great question. What you had mentioned with musicians with different genres, I get clients a lot of the times and they say, "I'm interesting in so much music. I've been writing songs. I've got some that are more bluesy and I've got others that are more pop." What I say to them is, "You do want to feed your creativity and you want to be a free flowing creative person. You don't want to stifle that." However, this is also a business. If you're looking to make this your career, if you're looking to grow this as an actual business where you're taking in an income from it and you want to get rid of your day job and all that stuff, if it's at that level that you want to work at, then you do have to abide by some rules and boundaries in order to be able to sell products to your consumer, to your fans.
If you're looking to make this your career, then you do have to abide by some rules to be able to sell products to your fans.
On one hand, you might have songs that are of all different genres and all that stuff. That's great, but maybe for your next album only choose songs that fit one particular genre or that at least fit together sonically, because you're going to have to market that. People don't like what they can't figure out and people don't like what they don't know. If you're going to put together, say an album of totally different music and it's something you've never heard before and it's amazing. That very well may be, you might've put together ten of your best songs that are going to blow people's mind. But nobody's going to listen to it because if they can't figure out where to put you, then that's very confusing to them.
That's might feel very stifling to you but what I say to them is, "Listen, focus on this album and focus on creating a theme and a brand around this album. Then on the next album, switch it up with other songs. Those songs are sonically in sync with one another, but maybe it's a departure from your last album." That's okay. Madonna's done it, Lady Gaga does it, plenty of other people have done it. You have to build trust with your fan base first, you have to build a reputation with them first that not only is it great, say, pop music but it's great music in general. They know that. You've wet their palette and you've given them a chance to listen to it and get to know you. That's all a process so don't be in such a rush. You put that album out and you're sick of it because you've been with it for a bunch of months. But you've given the public three weeks to listen to it. Now you're like, "Here's something completely different." People don't trust that. You have to build those relationships and give them a chance to get to know you as that.
Again, this is why it's so important on social media to share your process, let them in on why you're going to take a departure into another genre, whether it's film or music. Get on social media, explain to them. People that aren't creative don't get it. It's important that you explain to them, "Listen, I'm a creative person. I'm so glad you really liked my last project. I'm going to bring that same skillset with me to the next project but I want to try something a little bit different." Ask them, ask them for their support. Ask them to come on this journey with you, share the pieces of what this journey was about so that they can feel like it's not so scary, it's not so different because that's where the psych comes in.
That's where the marketing comes in where people, they're going to buy the Ziplock bag rather than the store brought brand because a commercial told them that Ziplock was trustworthy even if it's more expensive than the store brought brand. "Whatever. I know Ziplock, I trust Ziplock. I'm going to buy that." You just have to build that know, like, trust factor. Part of that takes some patience. Like I said, you don't want to stifle yourself but this is a business and sometimes you have to take the crap you don't want to take to get to where you want to go.
I totally agree with that. It's definitely not a bad thing to have more than one interest. I like your idea of keeping it, "Now I'm going to do this and then I'm going to move over to that." Transitioning. That's great advice. But then, there's also, we do need to let our creative juices flow and we do need to experiment. Not everything has to be something we share. For me, I find that having a hobby that is creative, that is a departure from your normal medium, I think that's helpful in getting that juice out. For me, that's painting because I do a lot of video and podcasting and it's all in the same world but painting is completely a different thing. I do it as a way to unwind on something that I don't really share too much of. I don't have to worry about selling it. I think that that's important for creative people, is to have a hobby that is not moneymaking, not worrying about marketing, just something you like doing.
I love that. I think that's unbelievable advice. I couldn't agree more. I've told a lot of musicians, "Maybe you don't want to make this a career." Just because you love what you do doesn't necessarily mean that that should be the way you make money because it is a job, it is work and it is sacrifice and compromise in order to make that happen. I love that you brought that up. If there's something that's so sacred to you that you don't want to compromise it for anything, then 100% I'd say, keep it a hobby and keep it your side passion that feeds you and only you. Maybe you share your art with other people or maybe you do like a free gallery night or something like that, but without the pressure of needing to make it something or having any expectations of it. Yes, I think that's so important to keep certain things like that sacred. Unfortunately, just the sheer word 'commercial, it comes with a price. I think that's wonderful advice to keep a side passion that's just yours.
Just because you love what you do doesn't necessarily mean that that should be the way you make money
It's also a good way to activate a different part of your brain. We're doing the same thing every day for our job and then to be doing something where you're trying something different, like I'm using my hands to paint, I don't do that all the time. Doing that gives me other ideas for videos and for projects that I'm doing. I don't know why, but it just works in that way. It's like you're taking your attention away from something and then it helps you go even more into that thing. It's very strange.
I know. It's so counter-intuitive. That's like taking that walk outside when you're feeling burnt out with the project, you're using different, like you said, muscles and senses and all this stuff. Seeing something in nature could spark an idea for the bio you were writing. You're like, "What does that have to do with the bio I was writing?" Like you said, using your body in a different way and stepping back, 100% it's a really healthy thing to do.
Another question I have is, how can creative people embody the confidence of a rockstar? Because I like that it's called Rock/Star Life Planner. It's not necessarily for musicians, it works for them, but it could really work for any creative person, just being able to embody that essence of a rockstar and that confidence that they have.
That's such a good question. Absolutely. I've had people purchase it and they're writer or actresses. They found it helpful. There aren't too many exercise, some of the templates in the back are for like going on tour and stuff like that, but they can be realigned for anything. In my logo, the way it is in the title, there is a forward slash between rock and star. The reason that it's like that is because my tagline for my business is, "Be the rock for your future star." It's all about staying grounded so you can reach your full potential. I used to never use the word rockstar ever. I know that's a word that gets thrown around a lot.
I was coming up with names for my business a couple years ago and I was thinking, "I don't know. The Music Advocate or The Tour Person Advocate. I don't know." I was thinking of ways. My coach was like, "The Rockstar Advocate." I'm like, "Oh, that's such an overused term. I hate that. No, I'm not going to call it The Rockstar Advocate." But then I was like, "No, if you split up the word, it's actually really cool." We think of the word, it's like, "Rockstar, blah. Up on stage and being a badass." That's so cool and it does mean that. But when you break up the word, you're able to be that confident because you're centered and because you've reflected and you're strong in what you believe in and why you're doing what you're doing. The star part is allowing yourself to rise to that occasion and to be at your full potential. That takes a lot of letting go and it takes a lot of letting go of the fear. One part of the word is like being tethered to something and the other part of the word is all about letting go.
I started to really dig in deep into that word. I was like, "There's a lot at play here." Really, that's the whole theme of the book, that's the whole theme of my company, is when you want that confidence and you feel shaky or you feel like you're not deserving of where you are or where you want to go, the first step is to write out, "Why?" Why is it going to be the most important thing. Why are you doing what you're doing? Why do you feel that you don't deserve this? Why do you feel like people are going to say these things or have this reaction to you that maybe you don't want them to have? Getting back to that whole why thing is really, really important because it directs us in everything that we do. Sometimes all it takes is getting back to the why you're doing what you're doing. When you know your why, sometimes that breeds enough confidence in us to keep going.
Sometimes all it takes is getting back to the why you're doing what you're doing. Sometimes that breeds enough confidence in us to keep going.
Other times, you have to dig a little deeper into why you're fearful of moving forward. What I like to do, and there's an exercise in the book called The Doubt Dump. The Doubt Dump is really putting all those why's out there. Like, "I don't feel good enough because of this or because of this or because of it." Then flipping that. I call it flipping the script. If you feel, "I'm going to create this film but I'm afraid that nobody's going to appreciate it." Flip that. "I'm going to make this film. At least one person is going to be touched by it and their lives could be changed by it. People are going to watch it and they're going to get such enjoyment out of it and escape their life for the next 90 minutes." However you want to flip it, because the future is 50/50. The future can suck or the future can be amazing. The reality is it's probably going to be somewhere in between. Why do we always focus on it being horrible? We're just programmed. I don't know why but we're going to be like, "Oh, here's an unknown. It's going to suck."
It's that prepare for the worst, hope for the best kind of thing.
Exactly. We might as well flip it and be like, "This is going to be amazing." The reality is, it's probably going to be somewhere in between those two. At least you can, if it's unknown, you might as well have some fun with it and think about it being amazing and hopefully you'll get somewhere in that ballpark.
We got to just make the best out of things. Sometimes things don't work out. We have to just find what are the positive things about it.
You got to look at it as an experiment. Instead of being like, "Oh my God, I failed at my business or I failed at my crafts," be like, "Oh, that experiment didn't work. What can I tweak in there?" Make a game out of it, it's like with Facebook ads, it's like, "I put this amount of money in and I targeted these people and that really didn't work. Who can I target for this one?" Looking at everything as tweaking, don't throw the baby out with the bath water, but what can you tweak to make it better next time? Just keep striving to improve rather than one's a failure and one's a total success.
You work with individuals definitely in overcoming their fear but then you also work with bands and groups. I know from experience, being in a band is very tough and there is a lot of egos and people that don't always agree, everyone has their own ideas. It's a lot to deal with. How do you help bands and groups get on the same page?
This actually went way back to when I started my own record label with my college roommate. We had signed a band and they were three guys. They grew up together. Like many bands, they had a huge past together and they had a friendship. That band is no longer together. It was definitely hard to have a record label but one of the things that we had to do most constantly was, a show would come up and they'd be in a fight or something would happen personally or they were mad at the other person's girlfriend and they didn't want the girlfriend coming to the show, whatever it may be. We were constantly mediating and constantly saying, "Guys, let's get back on that ..."
I always think of this scene from Full House where Stephanie and Kimmy can't get along and DJ puts them both in a chair. They had to agree about certain things in order to get closer in the chair. Such a stupid show. That always stuck out in my head about getting people back on the same page and the things that they disagree about really aren't that far apart when they stop and think about it. As much as it sucked trying to run my own record label, that was one aspect that I really did enjoy and that I thought I was really good at. I'm always the go to friend when people are having trouble.
I'm very good at putting myself in other people's shoes and trying to translate what they're feeling to somebody else that might not be getting it. I created this service for bands and teams, whether it's manager and client or a band, when you're in it and you're both so passionate and you both have your own goals and you have your own expectations, it can get really muddy. It's like group therapy, it's like family therapy. It's getting in there. What I do is I meet with each person separately because there might be things that they're not comfortable saying in front of the other people. I ask them, "No holds barred, what do you want out of this? What is really holding you back? What are you not feeling heard about?"
A lot of the times, things come up because people just don't feel heard, they don't feel like you're listening to them.
Really just people, a lot of the times, things come up because people just don't feel heard, they don't feel like you're listening to them, they don't feel like you're understanding where they're coming from. Sometimes it's because people have their own personal stuff going on that's bleeding into the work and they don't know how to keep it separate or to put both of those pieces appease. What I do is I meet with each of them individually, we go over their personal goals, we go over how they see the group working as a whole. After I'd met with each of them individually, I come up with a plan that makes as many people as possible happy and I bring them all together. I ask each of them beforehand, "What are you going to give me permission to talk about and bring up?" Because I'm going to do most of the talking in the group setting as copacetic as possible.
As long as they're comfortable with me bringing up certain things, I'm going to address things that maybe the other band members don't know about or maybe that they know but they're not understanding it fully. We just have a discussion and it's like a trust circle and a safe place to really talk and not feel like you're going to burn bridges. You don't have to get nasty with one another just to be heard. Then we come up with a plan. Sometimes the plan is, "Hey, you guys need to part ways." I did that with my business partner. We're still best friends. It came down to, "Let's be real honest about what we both want out of this. How can we part ways and not hate one another? How can we support one another moving forward?" Sometimes it's, "We're going to still work together but this needs to change or this needs to happen in order to do that." It's mediation and it's one of my favorite things to do because it's that immediate result that you see at the end where these people can now communicate better.
When is the time to give up on your partnership or your band and just be on your own?
When your goals are so incredibly different. When there is no compromise. For me and my business partner, it came to the point where we just had very different expectations about the direction of the company and what we wanted out of it. For her, I don't really want to speak for her, but what really came out was that she is an artist, she's a musician. It was too stifling for her to focus on working on other people's music. It just reminded her that she didn't have time to work on her own music. For me, I'm not a musician. It lent itself better for me because I loved living vicariously through other people. It wasn't something that we could work out. It really just came down to, "Oh, I don't want you to feel stifled. You have to go write your own music and you have to go write your own path for your own artistry."
Because, yes, I saw that if she stayed on, there was not going to come a point where she wasn't going to feel stifled. There were only so many hours in the day for her to dedicate to her job, to this business and to her music. Something had to give. I saw that the stifling was happening. That wasn't a healthy situation. We decided to end our professional relationship. Other people might just feel like, "I want to do this business but I need to feel like the tasks are being ..." I've had clients where their bands don't participate in the business aspect of it. They feel, "I need at least a few more of you participating in balancing our books or making phone calls to book shows or helping design the posters and all that stuff." A few people stepped up once they knew like, "Oh, you don't like doing all of that by yourself?"
It's hard for people who are multitaskers and who are driven to be in a partnership and then not feel like they're being taken advantage of. When I was a kid, what I hated about school was the group projects. You would join a group and then I would always end up doing more than they're doing or that's how I felt at least. You're always going to have someone that wants to slack off and let someone else do more of the work. As a type A type of person like me, it's like, "They're not doing it so I'm going to do it." Then you feel like, "Now I'm doing everything." It becomes resentment.
It's that weird thing because I'm totally that person too where it's, "Then if I ask for help, then it sounds like I can't do it. I don't want people thinking I can't do it so I'll just keep my mouth shut." Really, it's just about sharing the load and sharing the responsibility. Maybe it will never be 50/50 but if it can be like 40/60 and you don't feel like it's totally on you and the others are taking up that 60% and dividing it between them, at least it's a little bit more. Or at the very least, sometimes the situation is, "Guys, I'll do it. I just want to feel respected and I just want a thank you every now and then. I want acknowledgement that I'm doing this. Sometimes it's just about getting those things out there that when you don't have that outside person, it could feel so stifling and so pressured because maybe these are people you've grown up with or maybe these are people that you have really intimate ties too and you're like, "If I bring this up, it's not going to go well."
Really, it's just about sharing the load and sharing the responsibility.
Because of such a long history. We want to encourage people, try to work it out, but sometimes you got to go. If your goals don't align, my way of working with people is to always make a team where you're doing what you're good at. If someone is doing something that they're not good at, they're not going to like doing it or you might resent that they're getting to do the thing that you want to do. It's about delegating in a way that makes everyone happy as well.
Also, just being open to conversations. I like that you are able to mediate that.
It's the tough conversations. Again, making this a business. When you take it from passion to actual business, some of the fun does get sucked out of it. That's just how it goes. We're creative people, we're not accountants. We don't want to sit there and manage our finances. You have to be courageous enough to look at what you've got coming in and what you've got going out and understanding that. Even if you hire somebody to do it, you need to understand the very basic basics. Getting your feet wet in that situation, same thing like having the uncomfortable conversations and talking about copyrights and making sure you're getting contracts signed when they need to get signed. Those are all icky conversations that creative people don't really like to have. Sometimes you need somebody to make you have them and to guide you through those conversations.
Definitely. Thank you, Suzanne. You can found out more information about Suzanne at TheRockstarAdvocate.com. As for me, I'm filmmaker, artist and your host, Laura Meoli. You can connect with me getting creative tips and inspiration on social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @LoudaVision. You can listen to more of this podcast, read my blog, watch my videos and contact me, just go to LoudaVision.com. If you like what you've heard, please rate and review this podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or YouTube. Thanks for listening.