Seeking and Creating Opportunity
Tiffany here! I was recently talking to a colleague about her path. She’s fascinating, creative and resourceful. Her name is Cheryl, and I think she has a lot to teach us all.
Cheryl has an undergraduate degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing. After she got out of school, she worked for Taco Bell, White Castle, and other corporate giants. Unfortunately one day she woke up and frantically thought, "Why the hell am I helping sell tacos?" She decided it was a good time to fulfill her long-time dream of going to acting school and got an MFA from The New School in NYC. She’d always loved theater and decided it was time to explore what this path could bring to her life. She loved it and has since written and produced plays and acted in commercials and short films.
But, I’m sure you won’t be shocked to hear that Cheryl also needed to pay the bills, and acting wasn’t quite fulfilling that need. She began to look for work that could combine her love of marketing and theater and worked as an independent contractor, in the marketing department at Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and did work for friends and colleagues that needed help building websites and advertising for their plays and events. She taught herself Google Analytics, Adobe Suite and just enough code to get by.
Eventually, Cheryl took a job at Cal Performances, the fabulous performing arts presenter at the University of California, Berkely. That’s where I met Cheryl, which is a story for another day or this email is going to turn into a novel.
Yesterday, Cheryl and I were talking about the fact that there are opportunities you seek and opportunities you create in life. Cheryl has been great at both. She has sought out steady, full-time jobs but she’s also created opportunities for herself by writing plays, acting, putting on productions and doing independent work that uses her unique skill sets.
Yet all of it aligns with one mission: help bring art into the world.
If you’ve heard of the Great Resignation, you know that more and more people are jumping corporate jobs and becoming independent contractors. There are now hundreds of millions of people in the US that work for themselves in knowledge-intensive industries and creative occupations. The majority of them are seeking freedom and fulfillment. But, this is a life musicians are already intimately familiar with. Even if you have a full time job, you likely do or will teach on the side and take additional gigs at the minimum.
But here's the thing. Instead of looking at a life as a musician as inevitably unstable or worse, impossible, where the odds are stacked against you, what if you looked at it as a rich and incredible opportunity to create independence and fulfillment using your skill sets?
How can you be a little more like Cheryl and explore opportunities to stack your interests and begin to create financial stability in your life while doing things you care about?
Let’s start with a few ideas:
- Know what you care about. Don’t think you know? Start to write things down and don’t label anything as insignificant.
- Take stock of your skills - or just jump in and start developing them! Start a podcast, learn Adobe, learn the ins and outs of recording, learn photography, learn to code. You can honestly do the majority of these things very well for free with YouTube — enough to get started at least. You will continue to learn as you go. And guess what? There will be always people that need your help that won’t be willing to spend a month this summer learning how to use Adobe even at a basic level. All the sudden, you’ve filled a need.
- Imagine all the ways you can monetize your skills. Yes, of course with your skills as a musician playing and teaching. But don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you. CREATE THEM! Call retirement homes and ask to perform for a fee, call band directors and ask them if they have students, or have a need for some coaching during school hours. And then, start a side hustle recording for people if that’s your thing, and become the pianist that also records. Yes it takes work to do this. But once you start realizing that you have more control to create stability and opportunities in your life, the world opens up to you.
- Know that there is no destination to this journey. We are all constantly redefining the balance of our careers. If we’re smart, we will embrace new opportunities and take chances. We will listen to ourselves like Cheryl did and say, “Why the hell am I helping sell tacos?” and be reflective enough to evaluate how we can morph that experience into one that serves a better purpose based on our own priorities.
Here’s a final bottom line: there are ways forward that music school doesn't put in front of us. There are also ample and important ways to contribute to the larger performing arts community in addition to playing or teaching your instrument. The performing arts needs you and it needs people that know how to resolve the seventh in a dominant seventh chord AND how to contribute with other skills. We don’t think we talk about all of this enough.
That’s why we created our Thrive membership. We help you see a different path. We help you build practical skills like writing a cover letter and understanding how to get into a better practice routine when you’re tired. And, we introduce you to the best artists, creatives, and thought leaders we can find so you can learn from those that have come before you. You get access to about five live events each month and an ever-growing video library of masterclasses, technique tips and lessons on mind/body/heart wellness, business skills and career. Currently, there are 80+ videos to dive into immediately. We open Thrive 3 times a year and our Summer Session is open for enrollment until May 5. Take a look and join us!
In the mean time, channel a little bit of Cheryl in your life. How can you seek and create opportunities right this very moment?