Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Artist Summit Continued: Breaking the Sound Barrier

Last we spoke I left off telling my account and experience of the Artist Summit in PTown back in the beginning of October. I specifically stressed the details of what I took away from my friend Charlie Wan's topic "Finding Your Everest".

I'd like to take a moment to delve deeper into the account of my "experience"... And how it applies to many of us in what we are currently experiencing: a seemingly full earthquake within the foundation of what we know and what we can count on when it comes to our careers.

As I had mentioned last time, Charlie's talk took us through several iterations of his career.

Charlie 1.0 was an Art Director of Digital Moving Imagery, Charlie 2.0 had a career in Fashion Photography, and Charlie 3.0 came about after a spiritual part of his journey brought him to his true calling, music. Unfortunately, as his presentation was limited to only 90 minutes, he did not get as in depth as he would have liked. However, for a few of us, we would not only get to hear the full story...we got to experience it.

On Thursday morning I sprung up from my bed with no alarm at exactly 6:30am. This was insanely miraculous being that I went to bed at 2am. Totally in a "happy place" from crooning for hours at Purgatory Karaoke with the gang, there was definitely a divine influence in my energy and purpose. My mind immediately remembered there was going to be a sunrise meditation on the breakwater rocks with Charlie. Luckily that was practically right outside the back door of my room. So I scrambled from bed, threw on whatever was lying on the floor including warm hoodie scarf and hat and ran outside. I tiptoed out to where the group was, about a dozen people including Stephanie Flor, Joe Dellude, Mahasin Phillips, Marlu Soria, Aga , Ahbi Nishman and a few others from the summit. I took a spot right next to Charlie and sat in silence as this beautiful euphoric music filled the air from his tiny bluetooth speaker. As I got present to my view, the sun was still hidden behind the horizon but the sky was already lit up with this open dreamy light that went from a cool violet to saturated pinks and corals. The highlight of fiery neon orange yellow began to rim the edge of of the clouds right above the sea.  What amazed me was the music was in perfect sync as though a soundtrack had been perfectly composed to evoke the feelings of the changing light. As the colors transformed, so did the music. The music seeped into my body, having my energy match that of the rising sun. As the sun finally broke and kissed our faces the music intuitively climaxed a resounding echo of strength and vulnerability.  I couldn't believe how well matched it was with what my eyes saw...but more importantly grounded and fused me with the message of a new day, new possibility through my heart and soul...such a deep vibration tears welled up in my eyes.

It was shortly after this moment Charlie began to tell us about the real call to his 3.0, his purpose, and how the Hilary Step of his journey was a pinnacle point where it almost didn't happen.  

He had been composing for a while, and knew there was a draw to creating music but wasn't connected to why, or what purpose it served other than he liked doing it and he could make music that sounded "cool".  After a while he began to feel disappointment in what he was created.  He didn't think it was "special" or "that good", and maybe this was not what he was supposed to be doing, and he should perhaps just go back to what he was good at and find fulfillment in that. So he made a decision to quit.  But he decided he would compose one more piece. This he would do on a Sunday, and after that, he would put it away forever. But this last time he decide to compose from a different place. Not from a place of what he thought sounded cool, but a deeper place. He decided to compose from his heart, and let the music tell the story of his feelings and emotions in this process.

It only took him 4 hours to finish the piece. The process had taken so much out of him, he decided to put it on an MP3, email it to his lyricist/vocalist Danielle for her feedback, and went straight to bed.  He arose the next morning at around 6 and opened his email. Danielle had wrote him back and attached another MP3. She was so taken and inspired by this music she stayed up to write and sing lyrics to the piece, recorded it and immediately sent it back to him.  When he opened the file and listened to it, his heart filled up with overwhelming emotion. It pulled on his heart in a way that he began to cry.

As he told us this part he began to get emotional and choked up. He said that he had almost given up on his calling and his "passion", but if he hadn't pushed himself through this Hilary Step, to battle the conversation in his head, he would have not created that piece and discovered his calling to create music from the heart. 

At this point I began to cry. Not just because I felt compassion and empathy for his experience, but because he was telling my story. To think that the music I just "experienced" might have never existed had Charlie given in to the conversation in his mind, and ignored the conversation of his heart. The fact that almost happened made me begin to recognize all the challenges and obstacles I have encountered in the last year, all the times I questioned myself and my ability of how big I could grow, how many people I could touch with my art, my mentor ship and my vision. How every time I took committed action on growing bigger some crazy thing would happen that would shake my foundation and set me back to the previous "base camp" on my Mt. Everest. And I'm not talking about little things... I'm talking about HUGE things (My family going through the hardest times we've ever encountered, a 10 year legal battle that keeps resurfacing that continually have to spend my savings on, turning a two man company into a global entity). I remember there was a moment last year in December I sat in the middle of the streets of Chicago right after I had done a training, crying my eyes out to my mentor/friend/coach on the phone that maybe I shouldn't have a Leadership Program, because it was just too damn hard, and too much is going on in my life to handle it. He assured me that things will undoubtedly fall apart a few times while you are creating something big...and if its not, then your are doing something wrong, or not working hard enough

But this my friends has been my Hilary Step. To keep my eye on what I love, and stay OBSESSED with it. If I give up when it gets hard, who knows what would never be. I need to remember hard times are a sign to work harder, look at discovering ways not only to move past obstacles, but adapt to changes, and find ways to excel.  You just need to change your mind about it,  educate yourself, find support, and listen to your heart with a dash of sensibilities from your head.

So those of you who are feeling the real impact of a changing the "makeup App takeover"...the Glamsquads, the GlamApps, BeGlammed (seriously, can't they come up with more original fucking names? LOL)... you need to take a deep breath and know that the first plane that broke the sound barrier shook VIOLENTLY and seemingly almost fell apart before it popped through to smooth sailing breaking every record of speed known to man. There were many tries before, that freaked out the pilot so much he landed the plane out of fear for the turbulence and losing control.  But the one flight that made it, the pilot held his seat, tried something different, and pushed through, not giving up.  (true story check it out:

So hold your seat friends, these times are a changing, and we need to become more educated in business and create intimate relationships with our clientele through excellent customer care, followups, gift, blogs (um HELLO), newsletters, smart social media with solid marketing and branding presence, and continuing to stay on point and on game with tools, techniques, trends and what problems a client needs you to solve as an artist. Such that someone will rather pay more to have you, then do a quick fix on an app.

Breathe deep my friends, the Hilary step is real, and happening to all of us now. The question is are you committed to reaching the top no matter what or how long it takes? Will you be looking for other ways to circumvent the obstacles, or will you take the long trek backwards because it gets too hard? And if you do that's ok. Just know the journey to your heart and fulfillment is a vulnerable journey, but we are all on it trust the process.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Looking Back on the Artist Summit: Your Hillary Step : Part 1

So it's been a few weeks since I got home from Provincetown...I had an amazing week being inspired and being a part of a collective of people who want to motivate and inspire others.

No matter how much time passes from that experience, the lessons I learned at the ARTIST Summit are more profound today than they were when I was there and I want to have the opportunity to share them with you.

First of all I'd like to acknowledge Michael DeVellis and James Vincent for continuing to elevate what the ARTIST Summit is and has been. I was at the Artist Summit in 2013 as an educator (not keynote), and although there were other events in the past called the "artist summit" provided to you by The Powder Group, in 2013 the event formed into was the first ARTIST Summit in its full capacity of what it was meant to be. THIS year however, the event got even deeper, and more rich with context, as each presenter though focusing on different topics, had this eery yet divine flow and connection within each other as to what we all intended to get out there. Here was influential industry leaders coming together to speak not on "how tos" or skill techniques, but on the personal experiences in our journeys that got us where we are and has informed who we were meant to be. This is followed by two days of hands-on education with some of these instructors. And all of this was in the magical location of Provincetown Massachusetts, one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Let me give you a very brief history of Provincetown and why this place is so special. If you look at Provincetown on a map it is actually the tip of Cape Cod, curving up to a point and facing the wide open ocean towards Europe. In fact some people say it looks like a middle finger as this would be the first place settlers called home after escaping the tyranny of monarchs. (You know me, give me a good F.U. any day, and I'm all about it). Provincetown has such rich and diverse history, known especially for the people who came to find refuge where in other places they were not accepted. For example, many slaves settled in the area after the Civil War. It has since become the leading artist colony in the United States. Artists dating back to the 1800's have come here to paint the amazing light that P town offers. The artist communities that formed went on to generate artistic movements. If you have seen any of the sunrise or sunset pictures I have posted you’ll understand that this place has light like no other, evoking artistic inspiration from deep within. I think it was Aly Haug who turned to me and said the light is like a permanent “perpetua” filter from Instagram. Every time I roll into P-Town down Commercial Street, and look to my left and see the light dancing on the harbor water, my heart wells up with overwhelming gratitude and inspiration for all the art that I have not yet created but have the blessing of every moment to begin. I try never to miss the sunrise while I'm in P-town.

Now getting back to the ARTIST Summit. It's vitally important to understand that just being there in P-Town starts to open your heart to creative possibilities. There is an unspoken spirit that moves you while you receive the information that the ARTIST Summit provides.
So what I love about the context James and Michael set up with each presenter when it comes to delivering at the ARTIST Summit is that they are to give a talk on a subject that has little to do with the techniques they use as a creative professional. They asked us all to speak on the subject matter of vital importance in our industry that we have embodied with the lessons we've acquired throughout our personal journeys. This already takes the context of the three days several levels deeper as it touches something in the heart and soul of every person in the room. In fact, in my experience of talking to others there is usually one or two presenters that have the exact perfect message that one person needs to hear in that moment. It hits them like a ton of bricks and starts to open their heart in ways that they never imagined.

Even though I came to the ARTIST Summit to present the importance of leadership and influence in our industry, I am always a student. The talk or the "experience " that hit me the most was Charlie Wan's Finding your Everest. Charlie Wan is a long time friend that I met through Mari Shten (fellow TPG Pro Member, Evolutioneer, amazing and creative woman and artist).

I met him as the fashion photographer which he would describe to you as “Charlie 2.0”. Charlie went on to describe the accounts of his life in the different phases that he journeyed through to get to the point where he is now. This journey consisted of poignant shifts in his career, changing from what he was really good at and made lots of money with to where his passion and his heart are. He refers to these versions of himself as phases Charlie 1.0, Charlie 2.0, and Charlie 3.0. You compare these phases of his life to the journey one must take if they decide they want to reach the top of Mount Everest. If you look it up it's not as straightforward as you think; In order to acclimate your physical and mental being to survive the high altitudes of the “summit” or top, you must do many trips forward, and many trips back before you can move ahead. But the most perilous part of the journey is the very last trek to the top. It's called the “Hillary Step”, aptly named after Sir Edmund Hillary. He was the first person, along with Tenzing Norgay, to scale it on the way to the summit. This leg of the trip is the most difficult because it is the highest elevation and it takes about 15 breaths to accomplish each step, and the pressure at that elevation is indescribably intense. People have died climbing Hillary Step, and some need to return to base camp several times before they make it to the top. Charlie Wan described the journey to his 3.0 as his Hillary Step.

Charlie’s calling to the passion in his heart is that takes someone from their head to their heart. Interestingly enough, Charlie’s talk at the summit was so rich with info he ran out of time before he could fully tell us about this “3.0” part of his journey. But what's so perfect and even better...two days later, as the sun rose on the breakwater rocks, a group of us gathered and watched the sunrise while we listened to Charlie’s music in silence...which was a perfect soundtrack in every he was composing it in that moment as the colors of the sky changes. As the sun broke the horizon, the music changed, filling our souls with light and breath and possibility. My whole body was buzzing with emotion. As the sun surpassed the horizon, Charlie began to tell us the story of how he transitioned into Charlie 3.0, and how during his Hillary Step, he almost gave up. To think that something that can so profoundly move someone from their soul with no words, and it almost didn't happen...

The thing is, we all have a Hillary Step. Each one of us will experience the most harshest challenges on the path to our dream and our calling, things that will make us question if this is really what we are supposed to do. I myself have had one of the most challenging years of my life. But when I experience these things, I know it's because I am on the precipice of something great, and I just need to travel that Hillary step to get to the summit. I have been hearing how so many people are afraid of losing work due to these APPs that keep popping up, seemingly taking work away from them…that it’s making their career too hard, and they may need to give up and take another job. But this is not a sign to give up! This is a sign to shift, change how you do things, to expand... to push yourself, even though everything around you says you should quit….

Next time I’ll tell you the story Charlie told us on the rocks, and my experience presenting and how it shifted me, and how all of it ties into who you get to be, and things you can do to push yourself through your Hillary Step. How you can take committed action on your career and your dream so that no one can threaten to take your work away….. Until next time folks...