Tell People When They Are Not Meeting Expectations

If someone is failing you in some way, you should not expect them to acknowledge it – they may have no idea. If that person isn’t meeting your expectations, it’s your responsibility to help him or her understand. Overcome your fear of confrontation. Face the person directly and as humbly as possible. Don’t give him or her nasty looks from afar. Don’t talk behind backs. Don’t gossip. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that passive aggressive crap will get you nowhere. If he or she isn’t taking a hint from all of your side-talking or back-talking, it’s your fault for not communicating pointedly. Pull him aside, sit him down and tell him what’s up. You will be surprised how lightly he will take it – if of course you approach him with a genuine respect and understanding. He will give you excuses and you may believe them, but at least he should understand now what you expect. If he doesn’t listen, if you continue to confront him, and if he continues to fail, then the failure will no longer for yours as a manager.

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Do Not Be Afraid To Lose

Contemporary academia leaves little to no room for error. With grades and tuition on the line, failure is not acceptable. We were all raised to think this way, perhaps the single greatest fault of contemporary education. Individuals deeply ingrained in the academic world have even less tolerance for failure. You cannot genuinely innovate when you need to ask permission for everything or need to meet a rubric. We need to have freedom – permission to make mistakes – before we can truly change the world.

Seth Godin calls this ‘guts’ – a trait far more admirable than perfectionism or a no-tolerance policy. We can all respect high batting averages; we cannot always respect the methods behind high batting averages. At the end of the day, we pay more attention to home runs than high batting averages anyway. To hit home runs? Swing with everything you’ve got – even at the risk of missing the ball. You may lose the game if you miss, but you cannot win unless you swing.

Singing In the Shower

English: Shower

How many places can you sing aloud without fear or hesitation? The shower? Home alone? The car maybe? Where are you allowed to speak your mind, scream or share ideas? How many places can you truly be yourself?

Venues where you can let loose and be honest are rare and extremely important. Most environments are filled with people around whom you naturally curtail your speech and behavior to go with the flow. If nothing else, we keep quiet in consideration of others.

It is healthy – necessary, even – to control the podium on a regular basis. As much as we consume, we must create. And we must create honestly – from the heart and without censorship. To do that, nothing or no one can stand in our way. Some artists and public figures build the confidence to live honestly with little friction from the world around them. Most of us have no forum to build that confidence on our own. Nevertheless, we need that release. Audience or no audience, we must be honest with ourselves.

More than just a meditation space, we each need a cone of solitude where no one can stifle us, our voice or our ideas. Where we can express ourselves without constraint. I do my best thinking in the shower and best speaking in the car (in fact, I dictated most of my recent posts to my smartphone while driving to work).

Where can you be yourself? Where do you dream the loudest? How can you optimize that space to capture your voice – and sing louder?

The Camera Will Not Let You Fake Honesty

For most people, you cannot script honesty. Actors get paid the big bucks to bring someone else’s words to life. Most people can’t do that. Most people stale up when forced to read a script. If you mean to be honest with your audience, words must come from the heart and without censorship. If you cannot deliver a genuine message from a page, throw the page away. Skip the expensive production value if you need to. Keep it simple: one shot, one take. Nothing between you and absolute truth.

The Stakes of Live Performance

In a world showered with readily accessible recorded content, the cost and inconvenience of a live show leave many audiences at home. We often forget that live shows open a far greater threshold for surprise and magnetic energy than the recorded medium. Why? Because something might go wrong. The risk of failure is much greater on stage than in a recording. You cannot edit a live performance. If something breaks, thousands of people will be there to see it. As a live audience participant, you share in an exclusive opportunity to witness this single autonomous performance – never to be experienced the same way again. The pride in exclusivity, tension behind the stakes at hand, and energy through sharing it all with others make live performance more engaging, valuable, and expensive. More often than not, it’s worth it. And it may be the only thing that can keep the arts lucrative. But that’s another story.

Iterate Your Voice

The most successful comedians usually come from stand-up. On small stages in trashy dive bars, aspiring entertainers have a relatively consequence-free opportunity to put their act and endurance to the test. With enough 5-minute open mic opportunities, the smartest performers learn what works and what does not. Over time and through plenty of failure, artists refine an authentic routine and stand out against the noise. They find their voice. When it comes to successful entertainment, original voice is everything.

If you dream of entertaining, embrace the small venue. Find a small stage through which you can practice and refine your voice. The Internet counts.

Live Performance

If you want to connect with your audience, you must share a room with your audience. You must get up on stage and entertain. Campaigning politicians and rock stars learned this a long time ago. Beyond entertainment alone, a successful live performance can communitize the audience around your personal brand. Everyone sharing a room together will feel apart of a big family, a family with your surname. Audience applause and energy are contagious; spread adoration for you and your product by collecting or streaming as many fans as possible into one room.

Unlike Netflix’s Reed Hastings, Steve Jobs never hid behind the veil of a press release or blog post. He stood on stage, fielded questions without fear, and put on a live show. I am convinced Apple succeeded on the foundations of its audience’s oohs and aahs at these keynote events. I am convinced Apple advanced forward because Steve Jobs knew how to put on a show. The collective power of audience intrigue spreads like a virus, and that intrigue can only be fostered in person and en masse.

If you want to build a brand, learn to overcome stage fright and put on a great show. This goes for anyone trying to make an impression on the market or on the world. You must show your face to the crowd.

Side note: one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen in person happens every Sunday night in Santa Monica. If you haven’t already, all Angelinos you must check out The Toledo Show – a “Cabaret Funk” band that performs every Sunday night 9pm at the classic Harvelle’s. $10 cover, two-part set until around 1am, totally worth every minute. The new definition of “cool.” Thank you, Adam Speas, for introducing it to me.