Season 2 – epiBLOG 5:

AUGUST THEME – “BACK TO SCHOOL”

In light of most schools in the United States beginning their new academic year, I figured the “Back to School” theme for this month is one that would be the most fitting.

Even as an educator myself, I believe we learn the most in life through our personal experiences in the real world, as well as through the experiences of those whom we admire and respect as mentors, parents, older siblings, coaches, etc. There isn’t a better teacher than experience itself.

My experiences of failure in the film industry have taught me how to create a stronger business plan. My experiences with lecturing my son and not having him open up as much to me have taught me to listen to him more and to put myself in his shoes for accurate perspective.

Again, experience teaches us so many things that we need to know. We simply just need to pay attention just as we would within a classroom listening to the professor impart her knowledge into our minds.

With that said, we can still be open-minded enough to consider pulling on some of the awesome lessons learned when we were surrounded by a sea of desks as we stared at the sometimes friendly — sometimes intimidating — figure that stood before us holding a piece of chalk or dry erase marker.

A lot of the times, we [artists] were daydreaming when we were supposed to be listening to content being delivered from the front of the classroom. Oftentimes those that loved to draw would spend countless class time minutes doodling on notebook paper. Some students had a little mini notebook where they wrote lyrics to songs and poems that they thought of on the spot. Some just stared out of the window, dreaming about the day they can act on the stage or be captured on film to be magnified on the silver screen.

Artists dream… we visualize. That’s what we do. Dreaming and visualizing are great abilities to embrace.

One of the most valuable lessons that I learned in school was teamwork. Sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true. Teamwork is what this week’s blog is about.

I’m not sure how anyone can be successful without the help of one or more people alongside helping them to make it happen.

For me, this journey onto learning about working with people began in 8th grade. Now I’m sure I did group activities and projects with fellow students before I was 13 years old, but it was in 8th grade that I began to see the world from a different perspective because of working as a team. Although I’m sure that the teamwork carried into group activities in the classroom, I feel that I learned the most about teamwork on the wooden court.

I tried out for the Middle School Girls Basketball team, and made it. Yes, it was an extracurricular activity and not actually in the classroom, but had I not been in school, I wouldn’t have been able to play. Don’t take my defining moment away from me on a technicality. 🙂

You all know basketball, I’m sure. Five people were on the court for each team; all there because they each had some sort of unique skill they brought to the table. We all couldn’t be good at the same skills because the other team would find our weaknesses, and beat us. Basketball is a fast-paced game of coordination, skills, and trust in teammates. We all had to figure out a way to work together in order to win.

Jumping ridiculously high was an ability that I was given. Shooting and dribbling the ball were skills that I learned. Understanding when to pass the ball to a teammate or to call for it were definitely aquired skills, but they were also based on rhythm and instinct of having worked with my team so often during practices and in games.

Working alongside others with whom you trust, takes a lot of the pressure off of you. You can focus on what you’re good at, while your teammates focus on their strengths. Together you can make great things happen because you eliminate the weakness that would have been present had you been alone in the journey.

So how does this relate to art? Artists can be so independent that they fail to see the value in what others can bring to their lives. However, the artists of today need a team in order to experience the success that they desire.

Find a mentor – someone who is already successful (the way YOU define success) at what you would like to be successful in. A mentor is not just someone who is going to tell you what to do. More than likely, their time is limited, and therefore extremely valuable. If you’re looking for a mentor, be sure to know exactly what you want to learn from them and be upfront and honest with that request when approaching them. You can simply ask them for 10-20 minutes of their time once a week or 30 minutes of their time once a month. It depends on what you need, their availability and willingness to help you, and your commitment to moving forward.

Find a coach – someone who can hold you accountable for the career goals that you’ve set and one who will ensure that you will see them through. Remember not to get what a “coach” is and what a “mentor” is mixed up. A coach does NOT have to have industry experience in your field, although that would be helpful. A coach is there for the sake of accountability, focus, defining concrete (achievable) goals, and for helping define the plan to reach those goals; whereas the mentor is there for specific industry guidance unique to what it is that you desire to do. I was confused about the function of both for a while. I just contracted a coach recently, and will begin working with my assigned coach later on this month. I’m super excited!

Find a teacher/professor to learn a specific skill and/or craft from, but make sure that person has experienced the level of success that you’re looking for. Someone who has failed and quit, and plans to teach you what they couldn’t even work through and accomplish themselves, will lead you nowhere.

Network like crazy! The only way to surround yourself with awesome people is to go out and meet them. Google networking groups in your area. Find the ones that you feel would benefit what you do. Visit them and see which ones fit you, your industry, and what you’re looking to accomplish. Networking groups were created so that people can connect and move their business forward. Please don’t get intimidated by attending. Networking groups give you the opportunity to build relationships, to help others, as well as to get the help that you need.

Additionally, attend networking mixers in your industry and those that are just general business mixers. You will be surprised at the number of people that you meet. You will expand your network and have the potential to have some of the greatest business relationships ever! Again, this all depends on what you want, what works for you, and what fits in with your art.

I’m doing the activities that I’m suggesting that you do, and I’m experiencing successes along the way. I’m still looking for an awesome mentor, but I’m moving forward no matter what. The people who I need to be surrounded by become my “teammates,” just like on my Middle School Girls Basketball team. After all, everyone needs someone to pass the ball to and someone who is willing to pass the ball to them.

Today’s LESSON is that you have to surround yourself with the “right” team of people that fits you so that you may move forward as an artist.

FUN ASSIGNMENT: Google networking groups and/or upcoming event mixers in your area. Find at least 3 that you feel fit with your art/business and with you. Make sure they are legitimate groups. Do your research. Be safe.

Attend the networking groups and/or mixers and make it a point to meet at least 2 people at EACH group, get to know them as much as naturally possible within the setting, remain professional, and ask for their business card. Follow up with them (via email) within 2-4 days and let them know where you met them and that it was nice to meet them – ONLY if you genuinely mean it. NEVER LIE in business.

Remind them of a part of the conversation that you originally had with them at the venue. If you’re interested in meeting up with them one-on-one, tell them so and why (be brief).  Choose a casual and public place like a Starbucks in the afternoon or in the early evening. I wish you the best with building YOUR team!

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