Scene: A 14-year-old, promising young cellist named Kate is told by her teacher that she really needs to attend her first big summer festival that year. The festival in question was 6 weeks long, and cost a lot of money. Money that we simply didn’t have, according to my mom. Her answer was quick and clear:
My dad, however, had a different take. I mean, we still didn’t have that money just lying around, but his attitude was:
And he looked in the paper for a part-time job. He found one driving a newspaper delivery truck and did that for a few months until he had made enough to cover the fees. (thanks, dad!)
That festival changed everything for me–the teachers I got to work with, the friends I made, and having that “brand name” on my resume work their magic to this day, and I will always be grateful that he made the sacrifice of his time and energy. Mostly, I’m grateful that he taught me that there is always a solution to be found when it matters.
And now that I’m on the OTHER side of it. The side that my teacher was on when she knew that going to a big summer festival would be the catalyst I needed to reach conservatory-level playing, I know the heartbreak she must have felt for me when at first, we said “No. We can’t afford it.”
The heartbreak for me comes when I meet someone in a discovery call, and they’re desperate to do a program of mine like Creatives Leadership Academy or 1:1 work because they know it’s the exact thing they need to move the needle forward, but they can’t afford the fee.
Sometimes the money truly isn’t there. Sometimes the person just feels guilty spending it “on themselves” (forgetting that eventually, they’ll be bringing in MORE money for the whole family.)
And I get it! The price tag on live coaching programs can be steep. I was recently asked to join one that costs $75,000 for a year! Yes–you read that correctly.
I said no, but not because of the money. I said no because the coach’s area of expertise, though AMAZING, is not where I need or want to focus my growth this year. If they HAD been exactly what I needed right now? I would have found a way. I would have found a solution. Hell, I would have driven a delivery truck for a few months.
But I’d love to take a moment to show you how you can create a fairly significant sum of cash in a relatively short period of time, without having to resort to such extreme measures as my dad.
You see, artists and creatives are actually at an advantage. For us, more money doesn’t always have to come from more time. People are willing to pay for our expertise; for the value we can bring to them–not the hours we spend giving it to them. Think about it– If you pay top dollar for the best hair stylist in town, do you really care if it takes them 2 hours or 20 minutes? As long as your hair looks great, right?
Put together a show and shop it around. Churches, Community Centers, House shows, Anything within driving distance. You’ll need to sell 250 $20 tickets to make $5000. If you can do 8 shows, and get around 30 people to come to each one. You’ve got it. Raise the ticket price to $25, and you only need to sell 200.
Put together a workshop geared toward an upcoming event. Are all-state band and orchestra auditions on the horizon? Teach a workshop that goes over the piece, scales, and sight-reading, with mock auditions at the end. $150 per person for a half-day workshop? You’ll need 34 people to sign up. Or is there an upcoming art show? Teach a framing workshop or an open studio day where you help people finish their pieces. Nutcracker auditions for the kiddos? You get the idea.
The simplest method, but slightly less exciting, is to take on another student or two. No matter what you teach–it can be a private piano student or someone you tutor AP Art History to after school. Where you live, and who you teach goes into what you can charge for each lesson, but for many of my clients, taking on 90 minutes more teaching per week brings in around $5000 over the 10-month school year.
I’m not going to take away your avocado toast or your coffee. (Believe me, I would NEVER take away someone’s coffee!) But we can “put” an extra $5000 by NOT spending it on certain things as well. When my husband and I cut out drinking for a month–which we do a couple of times a year, we end up saving about $1000 each time. That’s just one thing. I remember when I was early in my freelance life, a group of us always went out for dinner between the dress rehearsal and the concert. One time, though, a couple in that group whipped out a couple of sandwiches and some carrots and celery sticks. And said they’d meet up with us for a coffee later. They were saving up for a down payment on their first home and decided they would cut out eating out for a few months. It totally worked–they were able to add an extra $5000 to their down payment when they found their dream house.
Look into grants and professional development funds. The school where I taught in Boston helped pay the expenses of my CD recording project. Several clients have had PD funds awarded for their coaching work with me, and there are grants available for all sorts of projects. Every year, crazy amounts of money is left on the table at these schools and organizations. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.
Bonus: Go old school, and have fun with it. How many money-making activities can you think of? It all adds up.
What happens if you:
Which one of these would work best for you? Have you tried any of them? Leave a comment and let me know!
Because if there is something you want or need– if it’s calling to you and your gut is telling you that this is something that can really turn everything around for you. Then I’m here to say there are ways to come up with the money you need. There’s always a solution.
So whatever it is that is sitting there in front of you–waiting to change your life for the better, please don’t let it pass you by!
And if that perfect, career or life-changing thing is Creatives Leadership Academy, remember that the program is designed to help you make MORE money as a result of the work. So if you’re able to figure it out short term, it’s going to be SO worth it in the long term.
P.S. This is the LAST WEEK to enroll in this year’s Creatives Leadership Academy. if you’re wondering if this is the right program for you, book a call SOON so we can chat about it! I’d love to help you reach those goals this year, and CLA might just be the thing for you.
Last week I had the pleasure of hosting my four-day mini-event, Thrive Fest ‘23: Planning for Optimal Impact, and we talked a lot about you can use this year to FINALLY launch some of your dream projects. A few of the things I kept hearing over and over were “I don’t know where to start. I’m terrified. I’m scared. I’ve been wanting to do this for so long, and I just keep putting it off. It’s never the right time. It’s been a dream for so long, it’s gathering dust.”
And it occurred to me how we often have these big goals and dream projects that on the one hand are so obviously brilliant and life-changing, and on the other hand, just get pushed off over and over until they eventually get filed away under “someday” in the shadow of our lives.
This was me 7 years ago. Freelancing in Boston. I had great work, great friends, a great condo. I was very happy with my life. BUT…..I also felt like there were things left undone. I felt like I had more to give, and I felt like I couldn’t give it from my current circumstances.
As cheesy as it is, I’ve always loved the analogy that change is like the bud of a flower. First, all is well. The bud forms, and there is magic brewing underneath, safe and sound–protected from the outside world. At some point, the pain and tightness of it all is too much, and the petals burst out for all the world to see. Rain be damned. And what a show it puts on when it opens! Color, beauty, a wonderful scent, providing pollen for the insects that allow food to grow, and enjoyment for everyone who witnesses it.
It’s exactly how I felt 7 years ago. In August of 2016. I had quit my full(ish) time job at a school and cut back my freelancing work to just 2 ensembles that I loved working with. I then spent FOUR years trying to figure things out on my own. I read every book, listened to every podcast, and tried to soak up as much information as I could. I worked with musician coaches who didn’t know much about business skills, and I worked with business coaches who didn’t know anything about the Arts. I spent countless hours and energy attempting to translate one to the other.
I did quite a lot over those four years–started this blog, learned how to book concerts and network a bit, got onto a few podcasts (mostly podcasts that my friends had started), and built a website.
It wasn’t until the late fall of 2019 that I found a coach who was equally at home talking about the arts and business skills. Finally! Someone who understood me. In that environment, with peers who were also musicians, I was able to really grow. No more having to translate everything. The program was more money than I had ever spent on anything but my wedding. In fact, it was almost as much as my wedding was (don’t worry, it was a small wedding!)
As difficult as it was for me to decide to spend that kind of money on myself for something that wasn’t even guaranteed, I took a deep breath, signed the contract, and sent in my deposit.
Most importantly though, the combination of pride in my work, my inner competitiveness, and the accountability of the group was what sped up the process.
Imagine if you had tried to learn your craft by yourself. Maybe you’re a writer and you decide you want to write a novel. You work, slowly, bit by bit. Maybe you intend to write the next chapter this week. Maybe you sketch out a few paragraphs of it and then put it off another week.
Now imagine you’re in a writing circle, and if you committed to reading the next chapter at next week’s meeting? You’re going to write the chapter.
For my musician friends here, remember studio class? You wouldn’t DARE show up unprepared in front of your peers. You’d practice a ton so that you could play your best.
But if you had just tried to learn an instrument on your own. Maybe you’ll practice this week, maybe you won’t. Who cares? No one is listening to you anyway.
So 2020 is when I hit my stride. I started the Virtual Summer Cello Festival. Then the Bridge Online Cello Studio started, and I also started taking on 1:1 clients. Then I started my 10-week “business for musicians” course, Profit Pivot, and it all took off from there.
I’ve rarely talked about the financial implications of all of this. Back in 2021, while most of my colleagues and friends had been out of work for months and were struggling. REALLY struggling–both financially and emotionally, it would have been completely tone-deaf of me to flaunt the fact that I had just had my highest earning year ever. And by a lot.
But I also wanted to get the message out that I could help them create projects that would do the same for them.
The courage it took to step out of my same-old, same-old routine brought the confidence I had been waiting for, the projects I took on brought more fulfillment and satisfaction than I had ever known, and slowly I began to shed the work that wasn’t bringing me as much satisfaction.
My life this year looks wildly different than it did in 2016 when I started on this road. For me, it so happens that I decided to leave my performance career behind, and now I have decided to leave my cello teaching behind. Both of those in order to focus on my writing and on my coaching. Helping my clients navigate that process of opening up and blossoming into their true potential means that new projects and programs are being created. New generations of artists, dancers, musicians, and writers are getting new opportunities to grow because of the work my clients are doing.
And I am able to create new projects of my own, I even have time to do the kind of volunteer work I’ve always wanted to do! I have been able to create the exact life I’ve always wanted for myself. Living in a warm, beautiful place on the water (Hello, Bermuda!) I have evenings and weekends free (because that’s what I want–not because that way is better!) and I have the flexibility to work from anywhere.
We are able to buy what we need, travel when and how we want, and take very good care of ourselves. No more stopping at a McDonald’s drive-through at 11 pm on my way home from a concert because I hadn’t had time to eat between the gazillion freelance jobs and teaching I had that day.
So I’m not here saying, Look at me! You, too, can quit your art, move to an island, start coaching, and become a bestselling author!
But what I am saying is: Look at me! I followed my gut. Put myself in the right environment with the right mentor and the right kind of support. Found some courage to actually start doing the things I had always wanted to do, and am now living my dream life.
Follow your gut. if your ideas keep coming back to you, keep tapping you on your shoulder, whispering in your ear “Hi there, are we doing this or what?” then that means they are GOOD IDEAS. Trust them.
Find the right environment. Maybe that’s my Creatives Leadership Academy, or maybe it’s a different program. Only you know. (psst. It’s probably CLA though 😉 Find it, and make the investment in yourself––you’ll soon be laughing at how quickly you recouped the money.
Flex your courage muscle. It feels just like diving off the high dive did the first time, I know, but it’ll be just as rewarding, and like that diving board, it gets easier (and more fun) every time you do it.
Start living your dream life.
Don’t leave it there in that dusty file cabinet of “Someday.”
P.S. Do you have an idea for a creative project, program, or large-scale event, that you’d love to get out into the world, but need some guidance, support, and accountability in order to make it actually happen? Let’s hop on a call and see if Creatives Leadership Academy would be a good fit for you. You can book a free, casual, 30-minute chat with me right here–but don’t delay, the doors to this year’s CLA enrollment will be ending soon!
About 6 months ago, I was invited to be a contributing author for a book about female entrepreneurs. Although my own full-length book was already in the works, Business on Purpose would be fast-tracked and would mark my debut as an Author (capital “A” and everything). I’ve been writing this blog since 2016, but I always felt that made me a “writer.” It would take the process of having my work raked through the coals by a professional editor, and chosen by an actual publisher in order for me to be deemed a proper Author.
It’s something I’ve always wanted.
And it’s something I never thought I would do.
You know the ones. They’re the lies that we’ve been sold our entire lives. Either by design or by default, they’ve been handed down, generation after generation to each and every one of us, but it seems they hit artists and creatives hardest of all.
These are the 3 Big Myths that hold us back from moving forward with our ideas. Keep us doing the same old thing, year after year, and they are the myths that stop us from having the careers we dream of, mute our voices, and make our lives feel “stuck”.
They stem from imposter syndrome: negative internal thoughts we make up ourselves to protect us from risk but are also reinforced externally; we hear them repeated by those around us. They can be especially brutal in the Arts world, spoken by our teachers and mentors who are so inextricably linked to us that if we make a career faux pas, it reflects poorly on them.
Nevertheless, it is in everybody’s interest that we see them for the lies they are and break free of their intense hold on us, so here they are, in all their bastardly glory:
Sound familiar? I think one of these 3 (or a variation of them) has been uttered in every call I have ever had with a prospective client. It’s my job to help them bust through them.
Let’s do a little myth-busting today, shall we?
Maybe they have! Joseph Campbell’s idea of the Hero’s Journey was an iconically good idea, and guess what? EVERY STORY USES IT. (Even the ones before he started talking about it)
Maybe they haven’t! When I started the Virtual Summer Cello Festival, it was the first of its kind! Were the powers that be at the big conservatories sitting around their Zoom rooms having similar ideas? Maybe—but they didn’t do it, did they? Not until much later.
Myth-Busting Statement: It doesn’t matter if someone else has already tried your idea because you will bring a unique voice to it, and YOUR version just might become the iconic one. And it’s not necessarily the case that someone would have “done it” already. Maybe all of the people who had the same idea chickened out—just like you’re in danger of doing? I’m so proud that VSCF became a “proof of concept” for so many awesome virtual music festivals to come. And it wouldn’t have happened at all if I had succumbed to Myth #1.
This is a lesson I had to learn a couple of times over. The first time was when I was starting to break out of the freelance scene and concertize more. After months of staring at my phone wondering WHEN people were going to start booking me, I realized that most presenters don’t take it upon themselves to seek out artists for their upcoming season. They’re sent pitches and they choose from what they get. Podcasts run a similar way, and that was the 2nd time I learned this lesson. I remember listening to guest interviews on my favorite podcasts, dreaming of a day when they would seek ME out—desperate to introduce me to their audience! That’s how I’ll know I’m making a difference, I thought!
HA! Numerous pitch emails, and numerous guest spots later, I can assure you. You just have to find the right fit, raise your hand, and say “I think I could bring an interesting conversation to your audience.”
Myth-Busting Statement: More often than not, the decision-makers of the world are choosing from amongst the people who have raised their hands. If you never raise your hand, you will never be chosen–no matter how good you are. So raise your hand. Start the concert series. Create that community initiative. Write the post. Whatever it is you want to do, just raise your hand by doing it!
It’s easy to see why this one is so prevalent in the Arts. From a young age, we are used to being told which doors are open to us. Our teacher told us when we were ready for the next level dance class. We successfully auditioned for the next youth orchestra, our teacher chose our essay to represent the school in the regional contest. And, I hear this A LOT: If your teacher didn’t choose you, then it meant you weren’t good enough. As an adult, we see the holes in that argument. Just because a teacher had to choose 1 student, it doesn’t mean there weren’t many they could have chosen. When we’re growing up, sometimes life really is a Zero-sum game. There can only be one and if it’s someone else, it’s not going to be you.
We spend the first 20+ years as artists being ranked, and it’s really hard to understand that after a certain point, assuming you have amassed a certain level of professional skill, you get to choose for yourself. Sure, we might have mentors who pass our names along, and that’s wonderful! But it’s not the only way things are done. It’s not like you’re not allowed to set your eyes on the prize and go for it.
As far as the “people will laugh at me” bit? Yeah, maybe some will. But when people around you criticize your intentions, it has more to do with their own fears and doubts about themselves and nothing to do with you. It’s the classic tale of the drinking buddies who don’t want you to get sober because they don’t think they can, or the crabs in a bucket who instinctively pull a would-be escapee near the rim back to the bottom of the bucket.
Myth-Busting Statement: There is only one person in the world who can decide the kind of career you should have, and it’s YOU. No one else gets a say. Not an external tribunal of higher-ups, not your colleagues, not your friends, no one. In other words, if you don’t have the kind of career you want to have? It’s no one’s fault but your own.
I often talk about the “Jealousy Scroll” as a good way to help you get out of a rut. And I stand by it—just open up the social media app of your choice, and take note of which accounts make you jealous. What are they doing that you want to be doing? What do they have that you would like to see in your life?
If you can start there, and then get through those 3 BIG Myths to believe that you COULD try out your idea–even if someone has just done something similar. If you can find the courage to raise your hand, and the boldness within you to decide for yourself what you want, and ignore any negativity around you, then you will be on your way.
Want a little hand-holding through the process? If you’re reading this in real-time, Come to my annual Thrive Fest event happening next week-September 12-15th .“Planning For Optimal Impact” is a 4-day mini-workshop that will help you answer those questions, clarify what it is you want, and where and how to start raising your hand.
Oh! And that book I was asked to contribute to? It was released today! If you want to check it out, you can find it right here! All profits from the Kindle version of Business On Purpose Vol 2 will be donated to Convoy of Hope. They provide humanitarian and disaster relief aid around the world, and more than 90% of donated funds go directly to support communities in need.
I’d be so grateful if you could give it a like on my socials, and if you read it, take a couple of minutes to leave a review–it helps so much! Thanks!
September starts this week, and with it, a brand new season. Whether you are a musician, an actor, an artist, a student, or a parent, September is the beginning of a new year for us–almost more so than January 1st.
I remember, as a young girl who didn’t always have the easiest time of things socially, I would dream of having a brand new fall wardrobe that would match that of my schoolmates. Cute jeans and cozy fall sweaters, and those clothes would guarantee that THAT year would be different. I would be a whole new person.
And yet, I continued to bring that sense of possibility and excitement with me into each new September––through high school, music school, and the early years of my career. Would this be the season that my big break came? That I’d be asked to play with the group? The chamber ensemble? Invited to go on that tour? Etc.
And each year I would wait by the proverbial (and often literal) phone waiting for those opportunities to arrive.
It wasn’t until the fall of 2015 that I figured out that if we want our lives to look any different than they do, it’s up to us to instigate those changes. Sure…life will throw the random unexpected opportunity our way now and again, but if we depend on those moments to shape our lives, we’re giving up any and all sense of autonomy in our lives.
Ever since that fateful autumn, I have taken a moment at the end of each summer to ask myself this one question:
This year, it looks like me as a writer, a coach, and a businesswoman. For the first time, I am not a cellist, nor am I a cello teacher. I don’t have to carve out time to practice, or cut my nails, nor do I have to watch the clock and wrap up my coaching and writing work in time to start teaching each afternoon.
And as this new version of me is emerging, a week from tomorrow, my first book is being released! It’s not my BOOK, book, but it still feels like a big deal to me. It’s a book called Business on Purpose, and I was asked to contribute a chapter to it. My chapter is titled “Permission to Pivot“.
And whether you’re feeling the need to pivot ever-so-slightly in your career, or change course entirely, this is a great time to check in about that and make a plan.
Asses what you love about what you’re doing, and what you don’t love so much. What things would you like to change if you could? What would you add? subtract? etc.
Are you in a season of hibernating and feeling cozy as you figure out your next best steps? Do you want to feel powerful and visible as you rise higher in your field, gaining recognition for the brilliant work you’ve been doing? Who do you want to be, and how do you want to be seen?
This includes all work commitments, personal commitments, vacations, and family obligations.
How much preparation time do you need to put in? do you need to order gifts for upcoming birthdays, weddings, or showers? do you need to book venues? Just because something is happening in October, doesn’t mean you don’t need to be working on it in September!
A better instrument? A space of your own? Certain connections or collaborators? Skills that you don’t yet have? Knowledge that you don’t yet have?
Date nights with your partner? A daily yoga practice? A new wardrobe?
It could be an outward change like a new haircut, a new way of dressing, or like me, the manicured nails of a non-musician. Or they could be more subtle and only known to you. A meaningful piece of jewelry, a beautiful pen or a leather-bound journal.
Whether you are looking to do a big reinvention of yourself or your career, or you just want to prepare yourself to have the most incredible year ever, I’m hosting a free 4-day online event September 12th-15th Called Thrive Fest! Planning for Optimal Impact.
If you register, (it’s free, as these Thrive Fests always are) you’ll get an email each morning with the day’s mini-lesson and 1-3 short exercises to complete that day. At 1:00 pm ET, I’ll be live in the Tales From The Lane FB group for a discussion, and my own take on the day’s prompts (Yep! I’ll be doing it right along with you, and you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at my own process!). And on the last day, Friday, we’ll come together for a live, interactive training with me to put it all together.
It’s going to be a blast, it’s going to be transformative, and it’s going to set you up to have the best year you’ve ever had. On your terms, doing the things YOU want to do, and making room for the things that are important to you.
You’ll come away with a crystal clear plan for moving through these next 12 months, and you’ll feel like you’ve gotten back in the driver’s seat of your career.
You can register HERE for free!
See you there. Cheers!
P.S. Are you on The List yet? If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy. Click Here to Get the Weekend List!
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Kate. I just can’t do it.”
I didn’t panic. I’d heard this many times before. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve said it myself in the past. I knew what to do.
In my coaching work with creative high-performers, I have noticed this phenomenon happen time and again. And, in observing it in my clients, I have also recognized the pattern in myself, and in most people around me.
It’s a pattern of thoughts and behavior that gets in our way of pursuing a project. Of leaving it there on the table, gathering dust.
You know the drill. You have this great idea–it’s the perfect thing, and you cannot wait to get started. You plan everything about it, maybe even tell a few close friends about it, and then…you stop.
There are reasons, of course. EXTREMELY VALID ONES (you tell yourself)
This is where I call B.S. Because let’s be honest. We’re all adults here. It is never the right time. Life constantly throws things in our way. Sick kids, sick parents, sick ourselves. It’s a busy time with work, or it’s not a busy time with work, so you want to take a vacation. Any number of things can (and will, I promise) come up.
And no–it’s not quite the right thing…yet. That’s why we need to do it the first time, to the best of our ability. The 2nd time you’ll keep what worked, and tweak the rest. And the third time gets even better. You can’t improve on something that doesn’t exist.
And about that other “better” idea? Great! Isn’t it awesome to have multiple great ideas coming at you? But I’ve seen people get caught in this trap. Always chasing the shiny new object, but never getting anything off the ground. A year goes by and all they have are a bunch of dusty ideas sitting on the table in front of them. No cool project that they can add to their resume, no added income, and no opportunities given to the people they mean to be serving.
The hardest part is not getting started, and it’s not executing and implementing the work once it’s out there. The hardest part by far, is the act of pressing that proverbial “Go” button and letting the idea out from the comfort and safety of your own little private world, into the inbox of the first person to need to contact about it.
If I look at just the last 10 clients I’ve worked on projects with. The ideation? Easy. crafting the offer? I mean, rife with mental pitfalls, but it gets done, making it all nice and shiny, figuring out details, and loading it up into a perfectly written email? Sure, there are conversations about compelling copy, word choice, there’s some discussion about best length, etc. But overall, not a problem.
And when things have been put into motion, and they have their team, collaborators, students, or they’re in launch mode, having calls, enrolling people into their programs, or setting up concerts; Whatever the doing of their project requires, that part is all fine. But between that first well-crafted email and the project itself lies one seemingly impossible task.
Starting a new workout plan:
Buying new exercise gear—easy! fun!
Working out–feels great. We’re full of pride, endorphins are pumping
But getting yourself out the door and to the gym?—-utter anguish.
Making a big decision:
Laying options out on the table–exciting! inspiring!
Moving forward with your chosen idea–feeling focused, productive, and content
But deciding which one to go with? Absolute torture.
The beginning phase–the ideation phase is full of internal validation. We know it’s a good idea and that feels good. Imagining it all coming to light is exciting.
The end phase–the doing phase is full of external validation. When people sign up for the program, enroll in your festival, purchase tickets for your event, etc. We get that dopamine hit every time someone else says “Yes! I love it”
That all-important middle phase–the act of pressing “Go”, however, is full of question marks.
Like at the starting line of a race. There is no going back. Like playing the very first note of a performance. Once you make that first sound, you just keep going until the last.
We put so much pressure on what people will think. Worried that the internal validation we have given our idea won’t be matched by the big, bad, outside world.
Your idea is the most important thing in the world. If you don’t do it, humanity will never be as great as it could have been. The world needs you to do this.
And, at the same time…
Your idea is the least important thing in the world. If no one likes it, or wants it, no big deal, you’ll just move on to the next thing. No one will even remember your email an hour from now.
Important enough that you MUST send it. Unimportant enough that if they’re not interested, there will be zero repercussions to you, your reputation, or your life.
The 2nd solution is the one I use with my clients until they have mastered the first one. I literally (okay, virtually) sit there until they hit send.
And that’s what I did with my client the other day.
“I’m right here, at my desk, literally waiting for you to hit send. Voxer me when you’ve done it.”
A few seconds passed.
“DAMN YOU!” appeared in a text from my client.
And then, after a few minutes…
“OMG, DONE!!!!!!!!!” and so many emojis of happy faces, trophies, check marks, and tiaras.
And I smiled. Because their project is SO GOOD, and I knew the recipients of those emails were going to read it, and think the same thing. And I knew that in a matter of weeks, she would be deep into the “doing” of the project. Basking in the satisfaction of having pulled it together, and the awe that something this life-changing can come from just one tiny, seemingly harmless little idea.
Friends, what are you waiting on? What great things are sitting there gathering dust, waiting for you to muster the strength and fortitude to hit “Go!”?
Because I’m sitting here, waiting for you to hit “send”. Let me know when you’ve done it, or if you need a little boost.
P.S. If you need help pressing “Go” on your best ideas, or if you want some support and guidance on how to get those ideas out into the world, let’s chat. I offer a free, no-pressure 30-minute call to any of my readers. I love hearing about what you guys are up to, and I’m happy to give you any thoughts and guidance I can–whether or not that includes a future coaching partnership. Book a call by clicking here.
Richard Koch, who wrote The 80/20 Principal (great book, btw!) about how 80% of one’s results in both business and life come from 20% of their efforts, is about to come out with a new one called 80/20 Beliefs. Similar concept: That 80% of your actions in life come from 20% of your beliefs. So you’d better make sure you truly believe those beliefs.
In it, he asks the question: Have you ever held a strong belief about something that you have since decided was not serving you? The answer for me was yes. Absolutely. Many. and then I realized that most of those beliefs were about my life in relation to the cello:
I love classical music, so I should become a professional musician.
If I don’t practice my craft every single day, I am a worthless piece of shit who doesn’t deserve to perform.
We have the career that other people give us.
Making art at the highest level possible is more important than anything—certainly money, and relationships too–because if a person doesn’t care about the music as much as you do, they aren’t worth your time.
If you’re not depressed, difficult, or tortured in some way, you will never be a great artist.
Only important people at important institutions can create industry-changing projects and initiatives. Not your standard freelancing musician.
And the kicker:
These beliefs were held by everyone around me. We grew up with them. They were passed down from one generation of musicians to the next. These beliefs were handed down to us from J.S. Bach himself, people!
But at some point, somehow (and I credit my classic Gen X upbringing. A Latch Key Kid with babysitting income–basically had to raise myself. Hell, I even had to *gasp* do my own homework!–I’m looking at you Gen Z 😉
Anyway, I guess some of that independence found its way into my belief systems, and they started to crack. The first to go was that I began to refuse to be “tortured” I wanted to be happy, and I was pretty sure that being happy wouldn’t REALLY get in the way of my being a good cellist.
Then I decided that having a healthy relationship, paying my mortgage, and being a happy and satisfied human being WERE important parts of life.
Then I started to understand that maybe taking some time away from the instrument not only didn’t get in my way but actually made me a BETTER musician. Whoa. mindblown. I took a month off and went to Morocco to work in an orphanage. No one knew I was a musician. It was glorious.
We don’t necessarily have to do this forever. You might want to–and that’s great! I have had many mentors throughout my career who were as passionate and dedicated to their craft on the day they died as they were when they were just starting out. That’s wonderful…for them. But what I have never heard spoken of is the idea that a career as a professional musician could be merely 1 chapter in a long book.
Koch refers to them as toxic beliefs. It’s not that the belief itself is toxic, it’s that holding onto that belief NO MATTER WHAT can hold you back.
I’ll be honest. When I decided to stop performing in order to write and coach more, I figured I just wasn’t as dedicated as my colleagues. I didn’t love it as much as they did (and I loved it a lot!) but the number of people who have emailed, DM’d called, and texted me to say something along the lines of “Holy cow! I didn’t know we were allowed to just STOP!” told me that I wasn’t alone in that toxic belief.
There’s an unspoken message about how much we have sacrificed to get here, and that it was a life-long calling. Something more valid and important than just some “job.” And of course, because it’s such a competitive field, if you’ve made it, why would you just give it up?
Thankfully, I was able to override that belief, and instead took on a new belief “It’s my life, and I only have one, so I should spend it doing the things I want to.”
Obviously, you’re not all musicians here, and obviously, there are all sorts of Toxic Beliefs that could be holding you back. Why, I bet you could think of 6 Toxic Beliefs before breakfast!
Why do I make my bed every day? Why do I belong to this club? Why do I have a glass of wine at the end of a long day? Just ask, and explore your own answers.
We can see the toxic beliefs that are holding other people back far more easily than we can see our own. (While you’re at it, ask them what they think you’re really good at, too. You might be surprised.)
Why? What belief do you have that they are going against? It might be a perfectly good value-based belief that serves you well. But it might not be. I know someone who always criticized others for going on fancy vacations. She felt they were throwing their money away instead of spending it on more important things. It wasn’t until later in her life that she discovered the joy (and importance) of creating new memories and experiences through travel.
You can start in small ways–no need to set fire to your life! Always hit the gym in the morning? What happens if you go in the evening? Take a different route to work. Do your hair differently. Pick something different on the menu next time. In other words, practice flexing the muscle that questions what you do and why you do it.
To stick with my main example, above, if my original belief was “Classical music is a lifetime career. We don’t retire. We will do this until the day we die.” Then the opposite belief would be “Classical Music can be a temporary or part-time career. You can stop whenever you like and choose to do something different.”
Is that true? As bizarre as it sounds to anyone raised in the classical music world, yes– technically, the latter belief IS true, isn’t it? And if your brain came up with the follow-up thought: “Yeah, but nobody DOES…” You, my friend, are not alone.
When you start to question why you do the things you do, you will likely find very good and true answers to many, if not most of them. You go to the gym in the morning because that’s when it fits in best in your current schedule, or because you really love that 6 am yoga teacher’s class.
But you might find some surprising things popping up as well. Values and Beliefs can be wonderful compass points for us, and can lead us down a path of a joyful life well-lived. Sometimes, though, a rigidly held belief can hold us back from that joyful, well-lived life, and I don’t want that for any of us.
Happy detoxing, my friend!
P.S. If this post struck a chord, and you’ve been trying to figure out how to step things up in your life or career (or both!), I’ve created a short but super helpful worksheet that has helped dozens of my clients find that much-needed clarity so that they can move forward toward their goals and begin to realize their true potential. You can grab it here for free today.
Think of something you have been doing since you were a kid. Maybe that’s performing, writing, telling stories. Maybe it’s a sport.
Do you remember the very first time you did it?
Me neither. I played and performed on stage as a cellist so many times in my life that any memories of my First Time got washed away years ago. Knowing myself, I’m sure I was both excited and terrified. Even as a 5-year-old, I was concerned with “getting it wrong.”
Later, when I started touring and concertizing more, I made tons of rookie mistakes: Leaving things like water, rosin, and other things with my cello case downstairs in the green room. Have rosin caked on your strings between pieces? Too bad. Not enough time to head down then and grab that rag to wipe it off. So I learned to have a small bag that I could hold those essentials in and keep just off stage with me.
I learned how much sleep I needed, what kind of day I should have, how much I should (or shouldn’t!) practice, and how much food to eat to not feel full and tired, but not be hungry and lightheaded either.
My most recent cello performance day felt completely in my wheelhouse. I knew where to go, and where to park. I knew my level of preparation and that my pianist and I had rehearsed thoroughly over the week. There weren’t a lot of unknowns, and there weren’t many moving parts. Show up, play, bow, go home.
No, this one was a big First Time and involved a giant tent and a crew of people to put it up and take it down. There’s the stage build with risers and platforms that we *hoped* we’d measured correctly but wouldn’t find out until the morning of the show. The food trucks, the ferries, THE WEATHER!
If your name is Cindy, you were not my friend that week. Just saying. Cindy (as in, the tropical storm that was threatening to pay a visit) needed to stay far, far away.
I wasn’t nervous about the performance part. I was conducting rather than playing the cello, and I was confident that I’d either do a competent enough job or that the players would know to ignore me and just do their thing. I was nervous about the other moving parts. The tent, the vendors, the will-call tables, the sound and lights, the after party. I was worried about T.S. Cindy making an unwelcome appearance.
But I thought back to the first time I planned a recital tour or the first time I took an orchestra on tour, and I remember planning my wedding (which, I had never done before.) I remember the first day of the 1st year of my Virtual Summer Cello Festival, and just thinking about those other “firsts” kept me calm and reminded me of the most important thing.
Things Will Go Wrong. Big things, little things. One thing, or many things. Nothing ever goes EXACTLY to plan.
I’m not sure there is a way to avoid that First Time feeling of ”OMG, I’ve never done this before. NO ONE has done this before! What if it all goes to shit?” But it helps to remember that it always works out. Somehow. And even when it doesn’t, there is always a way to make it work. To turn any First Time into a Success.
In preparing for this Pops Concert (which, to most of you will sound like no big deal, but they don’t do those here–not in anyone’s recent memory anyway. So this was not only a first for me, but it was a first for everyone involved.) I needed to remember that this might be my first time doing a concert in a tent, but that tent company sets up tents every day. For them, it’s a simple solo recital. Show up, play, done. The vendors? This is what they do.
The trick, you see, is to not allow the nerves of doing something for the first time to stop you from doing it at all. The “but I’ve never done anything like this before” mentality is about 2 thoughts away from “Who am I to try something like this.” which is the stop right before “I’m going to look like an idiot and people will laugh at me.”
If you listen to and act upon those types of thoughts, elegantly called “Imposter Syndrome”, you will continue to live your life in safe, familiar, and predictable territory. But they will also keep you from trying new things, having adventures, making a difference, or having an impact on the world around you. You run the risk of regret, lost dreams, and a whole lot of “If I had only just…”
And, as I constantly remind my clients as they push past their own imposter syndrome and do big amazing things, operating outside of our comfort zone is a muscle, and that muscle gets stronger the more you flex it.
You can practice flexing that muscle in small ways. Order something new-to-you at a restaurant. Invite that new mom at the park who seems like she’d be a cool friend over for a coffee. Do something you’ve done before on a bigger scale.
As for the Pops Concert? Well, the tropical storm dissipated and it was a glorious, picture-perfect day. Did things go wrong? Oh yes. The tent we had lined up fell through, and we had to scramble to get a new one (from a great company that we’re excited to work with again), the overseas musicians got caught in the United Airlines/Newark Airport Hell Week (but they eventually made it–with various amounts of their luggage) And a bunch of little things here and there went awry. The things you can’t plan for, but you figure them out in real-time.
But the event was an enormous success. We had about 100 more people than we expected, and the atmosphere was ebullient. The orchestra sounded great, and everyone is asking when the next one will be.
I’m looking forward to the next one as well. All of those big unknowns are now known. The stage dimensions (they were correct!) the tent company, the transportation. All of those First Time things are proven concepts, and we just repeat what worked, and tweak what could have worked better.
And most importantly, I have flexed both the muscle of Doing the Big.Scary.Thing, and the muscle of fixing what goes wrong. I have even more proof that we have the power and the strength to figure things out as they unfold. I do, and you do.
So get out there and use those muscles, my friend!
P.S. If this post struck a chord, and you’ve been trying to figure out how to step things up in your life or career (or both!), I’ve created a short but super helpful worksheet that has helped dozens of my clients find that much-needed clarity so that they can move forward toward their goals. You can grab it here for free today.
I taught my first cello lesson when I was around 13 years old. It was a younger student of my cello teacher, whose parents were both busy professionals, and not at home to help him practice. They lived close to me, so Mrs. B gave them my phone number and told them to have me come over to work with their son 2 days a week. I ended up just becoming his babysitter, and I’d practice with him every day after school.
Those mini-lessons lit something up inside me. Using what I had learned and struggled with, and finding ways to explain it to him so that he could do it (hopefully without the struggling part!) felt amazing to me. It gave me clarity over what I was doing in my own playing, and I could see the results in his improvement.
I continued to teach throughout high school, and college, taught in community programs while I was at New World Symphony, and once I settled myself in Boston, I built a private studio, taught at a community music school, and also worked with students in the youth orchestra program.
I always considered myself a performer first, but teaching was always a part of who I was and what I did. When people asked me what I did, I would answer “I’m a cellist.” and then if they followed up with Do you teach? The answer would be “Yes–of course!”
When I retired the identity of “Cellist” a year ago, the “Teacher” part didn’t end. I love my students and get so much enjoyment from working with them and following their successes. My favorite thing (and I think it always will be) is when they reach out as young professionals and ask to play for me as they prepare for big moments. And the letters and emails I have received from former students who went on to non-music professions, telling me how the work we did together through music has helped them in their lives warm my heart and fill me with tears of gratitude.
But I have decided that this will be my last year of teaching. My Bridge Online Cello Studio students have graduated, and are in very good hands, and my last day of teaching at the Bermuda School of Music is 10 days from now. This has all been in the works for months now, but I couldn’t talk about it publicly until the announcement was made here.
Why am I leaving something I love so much? Something that has been a huge part of me for 30+ years?
I’m just not going to be teaching cello–or music, for that matter.
I learned a lot from my decision to leave my performance career behind last year. Shortly after I played my “last official professional concert” I was asked to perform in a concert here in June 2023. It was over a year later, and it was repertoire I loved. I decided to keep it on the calendar in case I found myself regretting my decision to stop playing. I figured if I did change my mind, I’d be happy to have something fairly big already on the calendar, and if I hadn’t changed my mind, well…it at least would be fun.
Said concert is this week, and it IS fun. The pianist I’m performing with is fantastic, and rehearsals have been a joy. It’s a piece I know well, and it’s been great. And I’m looking forward to not having to do it anymore.
So now, this time around, having given myself that contingency plan for “Big life change #1”, I don’t feel the need to do it for “Big life change #2.” I’m ready to put the “Kate as cellist” behind me, and honestly, teaching 4-5 days a week has meant that I’ve continued to play the cello almost every day as well.
The Teacher in me is still going strong. I don’t think she’ll ever die. I do a lot of teaching in my coaching work: the career coaching part of it anyway. I teach my clients how to write copy, how to increase their visibility, how to network in non-slimy ways, etc. in other words, just as I was able to help that very first little student of mine way back when by teaching him the things that I had figured out in my own work, I help them develop the skills that have helped me along the way.
Even these blog posts are about me as a teacher. I’m not writing this because I think you’re all dying to know all about my life and my thought process. I’m writing this because some of you out there are thinking about changing some part of your life as well, and I’m here to share my experience so that you can struggle less with your own decision-making.
1. People might initially be shocked, but they will quickly come around to being supportive
2. A LOT of people will contact you and express their secret desires to do the same thing.
3. You are innately allowed to change course. If you still need external permission to do so, I’m giving it to you now.
4. You are also allowed to change your mind about changing your mind. You can come back if you want to.
5. You will likely find (as I did) that what you are leaving behind is only the external expression of who you truly are. The cello was my tool for expressing myself and connecting with others. I still do those things, but now my tool is writing. Teaching allowed me to share knowledge and help others become the best version of themselves. Now I do that through coaching and, again, through writing.
6. Never make decisions based on what you think others expect of you. 100% of the time, they are too busy worrying about their own lives to have any real concern over what you choose to do with yours.
As I spend the next 10 days giving my last cello lessons, watching my students play their spring recitals, and clearing out my studio, I will no doubt feel lots of feels. Already, when I gave one of my Bridge students her last lesson last Sunday, I looked down at my well-worn copy of the Saint Saens Cello Concerto and realized that it was suddenly possible that I will never look at it again, and that felt BIG.
But, just like a good closet refresh, when you clear out things that have been with you for 30+ years, you’re making room for other wonderful things, and you get to keep all of the memories that went along with the old. It’s bittersweet for sure, but growth always is.
Here’s to making big decisions, endings, beginnings, changing course, and staying true to ourselves. If I can do it, you can too, my friend.
P.S. If this post struck a chord, and you’ve been trying to figure out a new direction for your life or career (or both!), I’ve created a short but super helpful worksheet that has helped dozens of my clients find that much-needed clarity so that they can move forward toward their goals. You can grab it here for free today.
The parent of one of my chamber music students texted me the other day to say that her daughter would need to leave our next coaching early in order to get to her school music concert. She was so apologetic–she knows that the group has their own recital coming up, and that rehearsal time is precious.
“I’m so sorry! There’s so much going on this month!”
I could list all of the things that I need to do over the next 4 weeks, but I don’t need to. I bet you have the same exact list. Between your own performances, deadlines, rehearsals, and your kids’ or your students’ various events, it’s hard to keep up! Everyone is in a rush to finish things up by the end of the school year.
Added to the mix, of course, is the exam stress the students are under, the pressure we teachers are under to make sure the exams and the performances all go well, and the scheduling conflicts that inevitably come up making it impossible to get everyone in the same room at the same time.
We somehow always manage to get through it in one piece, but it can feel pretty rough if you don’t enter into this kind of period with a few intentions set out.
It will be exhausting at times. That much I can guarantee. And I’m sure a few of us will be remembering back in the fall of 2020, when we were stuck at home with a bare-bones schedule. No group activities for us or the kids, no social obligations other than a Sunday morning Zoom with the family–for which sweatpants and bedhead were expected attire.
Back then, as much as we missed our community, we breathed a sigh of relief to not be so busy all the time and promised. Promised that we would never go back to the way it had been pre-COVID.
The trick, I think, is to make sure that there are only 1 or 2 times a year when things are this jam-packed. Most likely, it’ll be December and May/June–When every arts organization, class, and program is constitutionally (or at least, institutionally) required to have a final shebang.
This kind of schedule is certainly not sustainable 12 months a year, but if we can limit it to 2, and put a few behaviors and boundaries in place, I think we’re going to be fine. Just fine.
And then it’ll be July, and it’s all just summer reading and popsicles, right?
Do you need to drive 7 different carpools on Monday? Fine. Drive the carpools. Don’t waste energy complaining about it. It’s not hard, it’s just annoying. Annoying won’t kill us. Keep breathing through it, and put one step in front of the other.
Listen to a great playlist, an audiobook you’ve been meaning to read. Make or pick up your favorite coffee or kombucha for the ride. Rather than allowing these moments to drain you, do things that will generate more energy. Do a minute of stretching, or catch up with a good friend.
This one can be tricky because it’s important to honor commitments you’ve made–especially if other people are counting on you in big ways. Is it essential that I make time for my clients? Yes. Is it essential that I post on Instagram every day? No. Is it essential that I play the concerts and rehearsals I said I would play? Yes. Is it essential that I go to the pub quiz every Sunday night with my team? No. They’ll manage without me–I’m still hopeless at 90’s British pop music, anyway.
Even in the busiest period, there might be a 30-minute window, when you don’t actually need to be doing something. But we tend to stay in that adrenaline-fueled mode regardless. Cortisol pumping away, afraid to let our guard down. If you’ve ever found yourself pacing back and forth, wondering what it is you’re supposed to be doing, you know what I’m talking about. Even on your fullest days, there will be small breaks. Slow it down. Breathe. Drop your shoulders. It’s okay.
Instead of saying to everyone around you “I’m just sooooo busy!” See if you can switch it to “Yep, life is certainly full right now!” bonus points for a big knowing smile. Be grateful that you were invited to take part in these events. Grateful that you get to see your kids exhibit their talents, or learn to punch stage fright in the nose and get out there. Grateful that you are able to give your students these important opportunities to show off their hard work, and grateful that another year is successfully drawing to a close.
Everyone at the gig is feeling a little bit frazzled. All of the parents are desperately trying to keep up with everything. The kids are stressed out and want to do it all well and make us proud of them. If we show up grumbling and cracking around the edges, everyone suffers. But if you show up smiling, with store-bought cookies, (because who the hell has time to bake in June?), or encourage a Madonna sing-a-long in the carpool, you can single-handedly make it a fun experience for everyone around you—and most importantly, for yourself.
July 2nd I will be sleeping in. I will be playing in my garden for as long as I want, and I will be getting a 90-minute hot stone massage. The idea of Sunday, July 2nd is giving me the strength I need to get through the next 4 weeks. What is your ideal reward? A weekend getaway? a movie in a theater with popcorn and milk duds? A nice meal at your favorite restaurant? Plan it, and book it.
Good luck, my friends! And for those of you who are already through your very full end-of-year periods (I’m looking at you, Florida and Illinois people!) tell us how it is on the other side.
P.S. If you’d like some help in gaining clarity around your life and career goals, I have a great (and free!) workbook that can guide you toward those answers. You can grab it here for free today.
Today, for my “in real-time” readers, is Memorial Day in the U.S.
Memorial Day is first and foremost a day of remembrance. It is a day that we honor those who lost their lives trying to make this world a better place.
On a less serious note, it also marks (rather unofficially) the beginning of the summer season. A day of ice cream, opening up the family vacation house on the cape, and the emergence of those white jeans that have been hidden away since early September.
I’ve always felt that the two “sides” of Memorial Day Weekend were entirely at odds with one another, but lately, I’ve been seeing the intersection of the two.
The people we are honoring had their lives tragically cut short. Many of them were barely out of childhood. They didn’t have the chance to decide exactly what kind of life they wanted to live. They didn’t have the chance to try different career paths, hobbies, learn new languages, climb every mountain, or travel to every ballpark in North America.
Summer is a time when, especially as creatives, we have more time and more freedom to explore different ideas and projects. It’s a perfect time to take your work in a new direction or try on a new identity for size. Away from the pressures of a “new year, new me January” where our resolutions are meant to be forever. Or the madness of “Back to school” September, where the minimum commitment time is a full 9-month academic year.
It’s a 2-3 month period. It has a clear beginning and a clear end. Short enough to keep your enthusiasm going, but long enough to see some results. It isn’t as daunting to say “I’m going to work on my vibrato this summer” or “I’m going to learn 3 new French words a day this summer.”
Maybe you, like me, still have a few weeks to go in the teaching year, and the next 4 weeks are going to be chock-full of recitals, the “end of year” this, and the “final” that, it seems there is something on every square of my June tall-on-the-wall calendar page that is going to get a giant checkmark.
Even so, this time of year feels exciting and anticipatory. We poured our heart and soul into this past season—the performances we did, the series and festivals we planned, the students we taught, the courses we ran, programs we launched. The juries we either prepared for, or adjudicated, the auditions we won, lost, or listened to, the shows we put on. The list goes on and on.
And now, we see that glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Summer might also be full of students we’ll teach and rehearsals we’ll show up to. We might still be doing our craft all day every day, but somehow it all feels different in July and August.
Festivals bring a change of scenery and some new students, summer courses bring a different timeline, and the longer days, rehearsals that end with a jump in the lake, and the copious amounts of ice cream that will (and should!) be consumed make it seem like anything is possible. There’s more space to it all.
Do you promise that you will spend lazy afternoons lying in the grass identifying cloud shapes? Or take a daily nap?
Or maybe you’re more of a project-oriented person. Do you want to read the complete works of Shakespeare? Watch all of the James Bond films? Attempt to grow 100% of your vegetables? Make some art every morning?
I always loved a summer project. Whether it was my library’s summer reading challenge when I was small, or a freshly marked-up part of a new concerto my teacher would entrust me to learn at whichever festival I was heading off to, I adored that feeling of having a set amount of time to accomplish something clear and tangible.
And now, as an adult, I find myself thinking about what my project will be this summer. Last summer was about reconnecting with friends and family throughout the States and England post-pandemic.
This summer feels a bit more personal. As I continue to shift away from some long-held identities and lean into exciting new ones, I find myself wanting to purge my things. Which I have always seen as a sign that you’re ready for a big breakthrough of some kind.
The point is that every person is going to gravitate towards a different kind of project, and each year will pull you towards something new. Generally, they can be broken into the following categories:
What about you? What is calling out for you to explore, try, and add to your life? Because living a well-lived life means always evolving, and the fact that we have the ability to do it for at least one more day is a gift that we should never take for granted.
P.S. If you’d like some help in gaining clarity around your life and career goals, I have a workbook that can guide you toward those answers. You can grab it here for free today.