Singularly Creative Individual

Photo copyright ©2019 David J Crone. All rights reserved. Taken at COSI exhibit: “Jim Henson: Imagination Unlimited”

Who inspires you?

Last week my daughter treated me to a day at COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, Columbus’ science museum. It was a belated Father’s Day gift and well worth the wait. The main attraction was a special exhibit: “Jim Henson: Imagination Unlimited”.

We both greatly enjoyed this exhibit, remembering fondly the many things brought to life by this singularly creative individual.

“Singularly Creative Individual”. That is exactly what struck me the most as we went through the exhibit. Yes, these creations all came from “The Jim Henson Company.” Clearly, Jim Henson was the driving force behind them. But the Muppets and all of the rest of these fantastical creations were not done by one singular individual. They were brought to life by a team.

If there is one thing that I took away from this exhibit it is the importance of colleagues, friends, and collaborative partners.

While the Muppets would not be what they are without Jim Henson, they also would not be what they are without Frank Oz and Jerry Juhl and Jane Henson.

It was through the collaborative genius of these colleagues that we have the Muppets as we know them today. “Sesame Street”, “The Muppet Show“, “The Muppet Movie“, and “Fraggle Rock” all exist because of the partnership and underlying friendship of these individuals.

During my time in corporate America, the best times were when I had that kind of collaborative, collegial working relationships. The kind of relationship where you eagerly celebrate your collective successes, while also being able to tell each other when they are full of crap.

I often find myself jealous of those who have been able to sustain that level of deep, connected partnership through decades.

Have you seen the biopic movie about Freddie Mercury, “Bohemian Rhapsody”? There is a scene where Freddie gets back with his “Queen” bandmates after a somewhat failed attempt at going solo. To paraphrase, Freddie says, “I had plenty of studio musicians who did exactly what I asked them to do. And that was the problem. I need you guys to tell me when I’m wrong.”

Like any partnership, I’m sure there were times at The Jim Henson Company when the team did not all agree. I’m sure there were spirited debates and challenging conversations. These were not well represented in the exhibit. But, put more than one creative person together in a room and there are bound to be disagreements.

And that’s OK.

True creative types thrive on different ideas.

Do you have a collaborative partner in your work or life? If so, celebrate!

Do you have the beginnings of such a relationship? Nurture it!

Find a friend. Find a person with whom you can give and take; push and be pushed.

To be a singularly creative individual takes more than one person.

Limits

A man’s got to know his limitations.

Harry Callahan, aka Dirty Harry, aka Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force

What are your limitations? Where do you draw the line?

Many years ago, when I was a low level executive with AOL, I had a conversation with my new boss where I laid out my limitations. I was based in Columbus, OH, with teams in both Columbus and Reston, VA. There had been increasing pressure for me to move to Reston. In my first meeting with a newly hired boss, I told him, “There’s something you need to know. I am not interested in moving. I will travel to the point of pain, but I’m not going to move.”

He reminded me of that conversation years later when I discussed taking a sabbatical (technically a leave of absence…). He asked, “What happened to traveling to the point of pain?” My response, “I’ve crossed the pain threshold.”

Side note: This second conversation is a great example of what made this particular boss one of the best I have had. He remembered things in great detail and did his best to accommodate his people’s needs, while still meeting the needs of the organization. The fact that he recalled my exact words from years before spoke volumes. Can your boss do that? Can you?

Business travel is one of those things I no longer enjoy. At least not if it involves airports. I’ll gladly drive 8 hours one way to avoid the hassles of air travel. This past January I drove to Olewein, IA, for a gig. That trip was 10 hours of drive time each way. Even in the middle of January, driving it was preferable to air travel.

That is my limitation. What’s yours?

It wasn’t always like this. I used to enjoy business travel. I enjoyed flying to San Jose’ every couple months to meet with the staff there who reported to me. I enjoyed the almost weekly trips to Virginia. It was exciting. I traveled so often I was on a first name basis with the woman in the Avis rental car booth at Dulles airport. (Hi, Marlena! How are you?)

Now? I get anxious just opening the airline ticketing web site. Ugh.

How about you? Is there something that you used to enjoy, but now dread? Has your line moved? Do you have different limitations than you once did?

Be aware of your limitations.

Feeling stressed? Maybe you’re bumping up against one of your limits. Maybe it’s a limit you didn’t know was there. Step back. Look around. Give it some thought.

If you’ve discovered a limitation, whether it is new or longstanding, what can you do to deal with it? Is there an alternative?

Sometimes all we need is a break. In my case, when I returned after my sabbatical, the pain of air travel had receded. It took years for it to return to its current level of abhorrence. And it is only when traveling for business. Vacation? Sure! Let’s go! Business? No thanks. I’d rather drive.

Take the time to look at your stress levels. Dig in. Look for the cause. It’s probably not what you think. You might think your boss is being a jerk. More likely they are asking you to cross one of your limit lines.

Know your limitations. Find a way to break through them, or a way around. Step one is the same: identification.

Resistance

Photo of a sign that reads "Please stop"
Photo copyright ©2019 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

How do you respond when things are not going your way?

Do you sit down and pout? Do you pick up your toys and go home? Do you actively throw a fit?

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, #RESIST.

Combined with the other stickers on that car, it was clear what they were resisting. Since this blog is not about politics, I won’t include the rest.

This blog is about making work fun.

#RESIST

I’ve seen this same approach at work. We don’t get the promotion we were seeking. We are part of an interview team to select our new manager, but our preferred candidate is not the one who gets the job. New policies go into place that we don’t like. There is a rearrangement of office space and we are not happy with the changes.

(Side note: I used to say that if the biggest complaint my staff had on a given day was their office, I was doing pretty well as a boss.)

Some people deal with disappointments by resisting. They do everything they can to try to subvert the decision. They go around every day as if they had the hashtag #RESIST tattooed on their forehead.

The Borg said it best: Resistance is futile.

So, what should we do instead? Allow me to suggest an alternate hashtag.

#PERSIST

Don’t like your new boss? Ask yourself, how long did the old one last? I don’t know about you, but in my career, I have outlasted a lot of bosses.

Don’t like a new policy? Why not? Is it just because it’s different? Or is it really going to be an issue for you?

Do you have a better idea? Perhaps you can suggest an alternative. Politely. Through proper channels. Start by understanding the reason for the change.

Work environments, like much in life, are often like a pendulum swinging. In order to fix something that isn’t working, it is sometimes necessary to swing the pendulum to the other side for a while. Eventually, it will come back again.

Ever tried a crash diet? Yeah. Like that.

I have yet to find a workplace that is a democracy. Good leaders do want to hear from the staff and create a good work environment. But most things are not decided by a vote. Input, yes. Vote, no. Get over it.

You do have a choice. Sure, you can sit down and pout. You can silently refuse to do your job, or decide you’re going to do it half-assed as a means of protest. I guarantee you, the only one who will feel the pain from that is YOU. If you choose this path, get your resume ready. You’ll need it.

Of course, getting your resume together is another option. If you really can’t stand the current situation, you do have the option to seek something else somewhere else.

(Side note: You should ALWAYS have your resume ready. Not just for the unexpected bad turn of events, but also for the unexpected once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that might present itself.)

Persistence isn’t about “sit down, shut up and put up”. It is about looking out for yourself in a positive way. Sometimes that does involve putting up with a situation you do not like. More often it means finding a way to adapt, either by making a change to yourself, your attitude, or the situation.

Persistence is about staying power.

In sports, it is doing the extra reps even when you are exhausted. As a software engineer, it was writing those extra lines of code before breaking for lunch. As a manager, it was communicating changes to my staff with a positive outlook even when I, personally, did not agree.

And some days, it is about simply making it through another day.

If you are feeling the urge to #RESIST, turn that energy around and apply it in a positive direction.

Resistance is futile. Persistence is rewarding.

#PERSIST

A Seat at the Table

Photo of a sign that reads "Golfers only beyond this point"
Photo copyright ©2019 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

“Whatever you do, do it well.”

Walt Disney

The full quote is, “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”

Walt Disney’s motivation for this quote was about business. Deliver a quality product and people will come back again and again.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with saying something along a similar vein.


“If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote has been simplified over the years to become the adage, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”

Both of these quotes speak to the value of doing good work. If we do good work, we will be rewarded – monetarily.

That’s fine. But is that the only thing that motivates you?

I have a different perspective.

To me, the highest reward we receive for being good at our craft is getting to hang around others who are good at theirs.

We earn a seat at the table.

It’s a whole lot more fun to hang around with people who are good at doing what they do.

Do you remember playing games on the elementary school playground? Do you recall how teams were determined?

Two team captains were appointed; usually by general consensus. Then those two captains would take turns selecting individuals to be on their teams.

When were you selected? First? Somewhere in the middle? Last?

It was never fun to be selected last. Believe me, I know.

Do you play a sport? If you are an avid golfer, do you enjoy playing with a horrible duffer?

Maybe tennis is your thing. Maybe you’re pretty good at it. Is it any fun at all to play with someone who isn’t?

While sports are an easy metaphor to help us understand the concept, this same thing plays out at work.

When we are truly excellent at our craft, we want to hang around with others who are excellent at theirs. Our crafts do not need to be the same. But our levels within our area do.

It is frustrating to be held back by people around us who are fumbling about.

Yes, we can expect to be better compensated when we “do it well”. But, even more important, it is more fun – because we earn the right to be with others who also do it well.

Be excellent at whatever it is that you do.

Earn your seat at the table.

Travel Day

Photo looking out the window of an airplane
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

How do you spend your time when traveling for business?

Do you frantically check, recheck, and respond to email? Are you constantly on the phone, coordinating the latest project, or averting the latest crisis?

I’ve seen all kinds of crazy behaviors at airports. People who are clearly caught up in their own self-importance, who can’t let go.

I’ve been all kinds of crazy at airports and continuing onto the flight.

Long before the days of iPhones, I had a PDA. A PalmPilot, with its nifty stylus and hand writing recognition. I even had a portable keyboard for my PalmPilot.

This keyboard allowed me to write documents while on cross-country airplane trips without needing to use the heavy laptops of the day.

I remember when iPods came along. The ability to carry your entire music library in your pocket! What a joy!

Somewhere along the way, I realized that the quality of work that resulted from my vain attempts to be productive even during travel time was so low that it was essentially pointless.

I switched to carrying a thin Moleskine notebook and a pen for those flashes of brilliance that came along during travel. Those flashes happened often enough to justify the price of official Moleskine notebooks, yet infrequently enough that a single notebook would last a couple months.

The big ah-ha that came along with this shift was that I am much happier. I arrive at my destination with far less stress. While I can’t say that I enjoy travel by air, letting go of this compulsion to “make the most of the time” has allowed me to at least tolerate the travel.

Ironically, letting go of a need to “work” while traveling has actually turned out to be a more effective use of the time.

Using the travel time to do nothing, while not quite recharging the batteries, has had the effect of allowing the batteries to not drain during that time.

Try it sometime. Maybe even on your next trip.

Give yourself a travel day (and one to get back). Do nothing other than transporting yourself from point A to point B.

See if you don’t arrive in better spirits, able to accomplish more overall than when you were frantically “working” the whole time.

Report back.

Share your results.

In the meantime, I have a book to read.

Lease vs Buy

Image of house for sale
Photo from Pixabay. Used per license.

In today’s rambling blog post, we’ll cover the following topics:

  • Leasing vs buying
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Streaming music
  • Ongoing employee education

Stick with me. They’re all related.

Lease vs Buy

Do you lease your cars, or buy them outright? I’ve never been a fan of leasing. I tend to keep my cars a long time; 10 years is about average. I buy them new, take good care of them (mechanically, anyway), and drive them until they no longer serve my needs.

I don’t completely drive them into the ground, but they are clearly a used car by the time I replace them. I love not having a car payment. Leasing simply doesn’t make sense to me from a financial perspective.

How about your home? Do you prefer to rent or buy?

I much prefer to own my home.

Maybe you own a condo? Maybe when I no longer enjoy mowing the lawn this will be attractive to me.

For now, I prefer as much physical separation between my house and the neighbor’s as possible. I also like to change things in my house to suit my tastes, without needing to negotiate with a landlord for permission. And I like the idea that what I put into the house I will likely get back.

As an owner, I feel I have more to gain from ongoing maintenance and improvements. When I rented apartments, anything I spent on improvements felt like throwing my money away.

Phil Mickelson.

Even if you don’t follow professional golf, you’ve probably heard the name Phil Mickelson.

I live in Dublin, OH, a Columbus suburb. Dublin is the home of the annual Memorial Tournament, a regular stop on the PGA tour. As you can imagine, this annual event is the topic of much of the local news media during the weeks leading up to the event, through a final recap once it has ended.

One of my favorite “interest” pieces from years ago was about Phil Mickelson and his propensity to drive his rental cars through the car wash, usually every day. In the article, Phil said it makes him feel better to drive a clean car.

I’ve rented many cars in my travels. I have never once driven one through the car wash. I’m not even that fastidious with my own vehicles.

Streaming music.

Rumors abound that Apple is moving to a model of streaming-only for music that it sells. According to these rumors, there will come a day when they will no longer allow you to download music, only stream it.

The idea, like Spotify, is that you don’t own the music. Rather, you pay for access to it. I’d call this leasing. If you stop paying, you lose access.

You’ve probably guessed that I am not a fan of this concept. While I enjoy listening to the music I’ve purchased on my phone, iPod, and other portable devices, I find comfort in knowing that the original CD is still available to me in a box buried in the basement.

There’s something about having the tangible media. Like many audiophiles of my generation, playing a record was a ritual involving meticulous care of the record, cleaning on every use, and careful storage.

Unlike many of my more persnickety music lovers, I eagerly embraced the transition from vinyl to CD. However, I am strongly resisting any effort to remove the ability to “own” a copy of the music I love.

I am warming to the idea of that copy being only in the digital domain, with no physical media to back it up. But, I do require a copy that I can manage. I am not OK with a leasing model that only provides access to the music, and that only works with an active Internet connection. Maybe someday.

Ongoing employee education

And now the fun part – relating all of that to work and ongoing employee education.

Do you lease or buy your employees?

(As an employee, how do you see yourself?)

As with a car, neither leased nor purchased vehicles are forever. Sure, some people drive their vehicles to the point where they have no useful life when they’re done with them. But, at some point, most vehicles need to be replaced.

Likewise, employees. Whether your employees leave to move on to other places, or retire, at some point that employee will no longer be there.

Most people I know tend to maintain their vehicles better if they purchase rather than lease them. Same goes for our homes. If we own it, we tend to take better care of the property.

If you lease your vehicle, do you still perform routine maintenance? I certainly hope so. Maybe you don’t worry so much about minor dings and scratches. But, surely you keep up with oil changes and new tires.

Most employers I have experience with do a far better job of training and providing ongoing education for their employees when they view them as “purchased” rather than “leased”.

In more typical business lingo:

  • Purchased = Full-time permanent. Long term.
  • Leased = Contractor. Consultant. Temporary. Short term.

Some employers I’ve encountered treat all their workers as if they are temporary, only guaranteed until the next paycheck. They rarely provide ongoing education that would move people ahead. They often resist doing even routine maintenance that would keep their employees’ skills at par.

Oddly enough, these same employers tend to be the ones who are baffled by high employee turnover. And they are the ones who struggle the most to find what they consider to be qualified employees.

Even if you view your employees as “rented”, do you drive them through the car wash on a regular basis?

My philosophy has always been to provide as much ongoing education as possible. I enjoy working with people who are up on their skills, engaged, pushing themselves and those around them. It’s more fun, like Phil driving a car that has been freshly washed.

Many of my corporate job peers have gotten upset when they made an investment in training, only to have that person leave for another opportunity. Certain employers I’ve worked for have suggested having employees repay the cost of education if they leave within some period of time after the training.

The reality is, changing jobs is a complicated equation.

It is the manager’s job to create an environment that is supportive yet challenging, that makes people want to stay. Ongoing education is simply one part of a supportive environment. It makes people better at their job. It makes them more fun to work with.

How do you treat your employees?

How does your employer treat you?

Rather than ask, “What if we invest money in employee training and they leave?”

Ask, “What if we don’t and they stay.”

Bulldozer Bosses

Image of bulldozer
Image source: Pixaby.com

In my previous post, I shared my view on the latest scandal around college admissions – bulldozer (or lawnmower, or snowplow…) parents.

This time I’m going to take on the issue of bulldozer bosses.

Have you ever experienced a bulldozer boss? Have you ever been one?

It is critical in the development of a child to allow them to experience failure – and to know the joy of pulling yourself out of it. Failure happens. Mistakes happen. We must develop our resilience and learn to recover.

This ability to learn from our mistakes, to deal with failure, doesn’t end when we leave school. Rather, when we stop allowing any possibility of failure, we stop learning.

In my experience, our greatest learning happens in the aftermath of things that go horribly wrong. I am not saying that we have to actually fail in order to learn. I am a huge fan of learning from the mistakes of others.

But, I am suggesting that allowing for at least the possibility of failure, by operating in a space where we accept that failure is a possibility, we do learn more.

Some bosses behave in a way that disallows any option of failure. They berate staff who make the most minor of mistakes, they fire people for making even single mistakes, etc.

My philosophy has always been that it is OK to make a mistake. Repeating them is not.

Some bosses act like bulldozer parents who attempt to clear all possible roadblocks. They cannot tolerate any possibility of failure.

Some of these bosses, in their attempts to avoid failures, become micromanagers. They not only tell their staff what to do, but exactly how to do it. And by “how to do it” I mean “the way I would do it.”

Like loading the dishwasher, there are many ways to accomplish the same objective. It really doesn’t matter whether the silverware gets loaded handle up or handle down. (I know, heresy, right?) We all develop our preferences for which is the right way, but in the end, they get clean either way.

The next level beyond micromanaging are the bosses who step in and do the work their staff should be doing. They don’t trust that their staff is capable of doing the task, so they do it themselves.

This is the worst of all. It sends a clear signal to the staff that they are seen as incompetent. It gives them no path to grow. It encourages them to do less, when all the time we are being surrounded by a message that we should be doing more.

If we want our staff to grow in confidence and capability, we must allow room for them to make mistakes. And in doing that, we also allow room for them to do things far better than we could have done ourselves.

Step out of the bulldozer. Point the way. Set the direction. Then stand back and watch the magic happen.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Photo of an Inn on a Lake.
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Where do you spend your time?

Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time working on our weaknesses, while downplaying, if not outright ignoring, where we are truly gifted. In many cases, we don’t recognize how special our particular strengths are.

This pattern of focusing on our weaknesses routinely plays out at work in the annual performance evaluations.

After your evaluation, where does your mind go? What do you spend all of your time stewing over when you walk out? Right. The stuff you were told you need to work on. Your weaknesses.

Here’s a thought. What if we focus more of our energy on what we are doing well? What if we simply do more of that and less of what we don’t do well?

When I was a manager in an office job, this was much easier for me to do. If there was something I didn’t enjoy doing, or was not particularly good at doing, but recognized the importance of it being done, I could delegate that task to someone on my staff.

By delegating, I do not mean dumping. Proper delegation involves assigning tasks to people who are best suited to do that task. Maybe they’re already good at it. Maybe they are looking for opportunities to become good at it. Either way, delegation done right is a gift you are giving, not a burden you are imposing.

Effective delegation tends to be one of the hardest lessons for new managers to learn.

As a homeowner, there is no end to the litany of ongoing maintenance. Many repairs are things I am able to handle and even enjoy. But, there are others I won’t touch. Electrical work? I’m all over it. Gas lines? No way. Plumbing? I’d rather not, but I’ll do it in a pinch.

As a manager, I became adept at delegating tasks for which I had no inclination, sometimes to a fault. I had one particular boss who did not appreciate my lack of interest in keeping statistics in my head. But, I had a person on my staff who loved that.

When it comes to home maintenance, I tend to work around things I can’t handle myself for as long as I can get away with it. In other words, until my wife gets angry.

Why is it so hard for us to accept that there are things we are simply not good at doing, or that we have no interest in becoming good at doing, and move on? Why do we constantly beat ourselves up over the areas where we struggle, while totally disregarding those areas where we excel?

We accept the idea of focusing on our strengths as a natural thing when it comes to sports teams. Let’s talk football.

Imagine listening in on the performance evaluation for the guy who plays center. His primary job is to hike the ball to the quarterback. During his review, he is criticized for not being able to kick a field goal. Sounds ludicrous, right? And yet, that is exactly how we treat ourselves.

We expect ourselves to be able to do everything. Sadly, I’ve experienced performance evaluations in the workplace that were equally ludicrous.

Sure, most of us work in jobs that have broader expectations than “hike the ball”, or “kick field goals”. And, truth be told, most of those guys actually can and do play multiple positions. But, for the most part, typical job descriptions have a fairly narrow focus.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in my business. I love having my own business. This was my desire since high school. OK, this particular business was not what I had in mind when I studied electrical engineering in college. But, the type of business doesn’t really matter.

There are aspects of my business that I love and some that I don’t. There are tasks I am good at, and and those I am not. In most cases, the “good at” and “enjoy” categories align. There are also the ones I enjoy, while not being particularly good at. But, hey, it’s my business. I can do them if I feel like it, even if I do them poorly.

Then there are those tasks I am capable of doing, but I detest doing them so much that they simply don’t get done, or get done so poorly they might as well not have been done at all. Unfortunately, some of these are tasks that do need to be done if I want the business to grow.

The challenge for me is determining which tasks I absolutely must do myself and which can (and should) be done by someone else. Some of these are obvious. Others are not. And some I have simply been too stubborn to let go of.

When you own your own business, the strong tendency is to assume that you have to do it all yourself. Michael Gerber writes about this extensively in the book, “The E-Myth”. He makes a strong case for working on your business, not in it.

What that boils down to is creating an actual job description for yourself. Assigning tasks to yourself, based on your job description – and even more importantly, NOT doing tasks that are not in your description.

There will always be tasks we must do ourselves that we don’t enjoy doing, or that we are not particularly skilled at doing. At work, at home, in life. But, if we can learn to pause, consider if that is a task that we absolutely must do ourselves, and NOT do it if the answer is “no”, we will be better off.

By handing off tasks we do not enjoy to those who DO enjoy doing them, we are giving them a gift. We are happier because we’re not doing something we hate. They are happier because they get to do more of what they love. It’s a win-win.

Play to your strengths.

Pause and Rewind

County Fair ride.
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Our family has never been huge TV watchers. But, we have had our share of favorite shows over the years.

Remember when you had to tune in at a specific time if you wanted to watch a particular show? (Yes, kids, that really used to be a thing.)

One of my favorite inventions is the VCR, and later the DVR. It made a big change in our family dynamic when we had the option of watching our favorite TV shows at a time that was convenient for us, rather than whatever time the broadcast network decided to air them.

Now, even the need for a DVR has largely gone by the wayside. Missed your show? That’s OK. You can probably find it on Hulu, YouTube, or even the broadcast network’s own on-demand streaming service.

We get spoiled by this power to watch things whenever we choose, and to pause, rewind, or rewatch bits as we desire

The other day, as I was driving down the road, I was listening to the local radio station as I often do. I was mostly concentrating on the road, only half listening, when I caught the end of something they were saying that struck me as interesting.

My first response? Reach over for the pause and rewind buttons.

Oops. You can’t do that on radio.

Then I started wondering, how many times do I drift off while being with people I love? How many times have I not been fully present, because in some part of my brain, I have been trained to think I can just hit pause, back up, and play it again?

Life has no pause or rewind buttons. We get one chance to experience what is happening around us.

Leave binge watching to episodes of your favorite series on Netflix. When you’re with those you love, be present, in the moment, tuned in. Experience the moment as it happens.

No Small Gigs

Photo of David Crone performing at Lakeside Chautauqua June 2018
Photo copyright ©2018 Jan Hudson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Have you ever said to yourself, “It doesn’t matter, it’s just … (fill in the blank)” ?

I perform at a wide range of events. In the past year alone I performed at a private party with 20 people, corporate events with hundreds, and a 2000 seat theater with huge projection screens (see photo above).

As you would expect, the budget for each of these events was significantly different. A friend of mine, a fellow entertainer, recently asked me, “What do you do differently?”

The answer? Nothing.

That’s not a complete answer. Sure, there are differences. They’re different audiences with different tastes. I custom tailor every show to the specific event. And, different levels of events require different amounts of behind the scenes efforts leading up to them, which is where most of the differentiation happens.

But, my overall commitment to the event? My delivery in the moment? The same.

It wasn’t always this way. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that.

I used to segment the events based on the fee. The most visible aspect to this segmentation was in what I would wear for the performance. I went from casual pants and shirt, to dress pants with dress shirt, to jacket. In my mind a script played out, “Well, for that much, you don’t get the suit,” as if the client would notice or care. Worse, I delivered a different level of performance.

My friend was incredulous. “Seriously? You do the same show?”

Yep.

I totally get where he was coming from. We have this sense of fairness. How can it be OK to deliver the same product for a client who pays $X as the one who pays $10X ? How is that fair?

That is a valid and interesting question. But, it is not what I am primarily writing about.

Without going too far down this rabbit hole, consider the pilots flying a commercial airline. Economy tickets and first-class business tickets are priced vastly differently. Both will get you from point A to point B. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to fly first-class, you know the experience can be quite different. But, from the pilots’ perspective, all passengers are the same once the cockpit doors are closed. They do they’re job the same way, regardless of how much each individual passenger paid for their ticket.

If you’d like to ponder the question of fairness on the pay side of things, look to the Bible. The parable of The Workers In The Vineyard will give you much to consider. I’ll leave that up to you.

The real point I am heading toward here is not the pay, or issue of fairness to the client, but rather our own attitude as we approach the task that is ahead of us.

What I have discovered is that it is better for ME to deliver my best possible performance each and every time, regardless of the previously agreed to paycheck. I am the worker in the field from the parable. Sometimes I am the one who went out first thing in the morning to work the whole day. Sometimes I am the one who was standing around idle until 5 in the afternoon.

When I show up at the end of the day and collect my pay with gratitude, having done what was agreed to up front, I am happier.

Naturally, by extension, it is better for the audience when I deliver the best performance I am capable of delivering. Ultimately, that is what it is all about.

When I mentally delivered a different product, begrudgingly holding back at events I knew were not paying as much, it affected ME. I became resentful. I’m sure that resentment showed through in the performance.

When I released that, separating the money from the event, and put all of my energy into delivering the best possible performance for that audience, feeling blessed to have the opportunity to share the gift of laughter with those people at that moment, it filled me with joy and gratitude to be able to do what I do for a living. I know for a fact that that joy shows through in the performance. It is the most frequent comment I hear after a show. “You look like you are having so much fun!” And I am. Every time.

The other interesting thing that I have discovered is that it is actually MORE work for me to deliver a lesser performance.

Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever noticed how much effort it takes to complain about a task and NOT do it, where simply doing the thing would have been so much easier?

How do you go about your daily work? Are there tasks that you begrudge having to do? Are there aspects of your job, or you life, where you feel resentment? Perhaps you feel that the task is below you, or you think, “I’m not being paid enough to do that.”

Catch yourself when you feel that resentment welling up inside. Change your thinking. Not for the benefit of whoever is asking you to do the task, but for yourself.

Act from a point of gratitude.

Is this a task at work that you dislike? Try being grateful for the big picture. You have a job. You’re being paid. It beats sitting in the unemployment line.

Is this a household chore you dread? Again, look at the bigger picture. You have a house.

There is a saying in the entertainment world, “There are no small gigs, only small performers.”

Treat every gig like a big one. Treat every audience like they deserve the best performance of your life.

Because they do.

And you will be happier for it.