Zoomed Out? Here’s What You Can Do

“I’m just SO Zoomed Out”

 

How many times have you heard that phrase in the past few weeks? From your teenagers, your students, maybe you’ve even uttered those words yourself. 

People are saying that they never want to look at a computer again after this year. 

I get it. Students and teachers have been staring at screens from 8 am-3:30 pm all day, every day. The students listening to their teachers lecture them about Calculus and teachers trying to get through to a bunch of black squares with names on them–wondering if they are simply talking to themselves. 

It’s been hard. 

 

 

But don’t students and teachers feel this way about school EVERY year in late May? Aren’t we always a little bit burnt out and “over it” when the days get longer, and summer begins to beckon us towards her relaxed schedules and absence of homework (to be done OR to be graded?)

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  It’s not ZOOM we are sick of, it’s the endless hours of being alone, sitting still, staring at a computer and trying to stay focused while someone talks at us. 

Zoom (and other similar platforms) saved us this year. It’s what allowed us to stay connected to our friends and family during lockdown. Zoom is what made group online trivia fun and allowed us to continue learning and growing and having cello lessons. It is what led to us being able to watch the recitals of former and out-of-town students via livestream. 

 

In other words, without this technology, the past year would have looked very different, and NOT in a good way. 

 

 

And now, with all of the amazing online summer opportunities happening, the kids who are “refusing to look at a screen all summer” (and their parents who are acquiescing) are truly missing out on a golden ticket. 

But (and here is my unpopular opinion of the year) I think having “Zoom fatigue” is as contagious as tendonitis at a summer orchestra festival. And similarly, while there are definitely students who find themselves in pain and needing treatment, there are a whole bunch who jump on the bandwagon in the ensuing days because it’s suddenly “cool” to have practiced SO MUCH that you got hurt.

 

(Important: Tendonitis is terrible and debilitating, which is why one should always take each and every complaint seriously. But anyone who has ever taught or worked at a festival like this knows of the suddenly increasing group of students sitting out of orchestra rehearsals because of arm pain who are miraculously fine when it comes time to read through the Mendelssohn octet at 11 pm.)

 

 

Luckily, there are a lot of smart kids out there who are seeing past the “it’s cooler to be zoomed-out ” pressure to the benefits of these online programs, and they have also figured out that being a part of a virtual summer program is not the same as sitting there from 8:00-3:30 listening to lectures. 

The reasons students have for attending an online festival are so varied–from the sheer number of teachers and guest artists an online festival can bring in, that logistically just isn’t possible at an in-person program, to needing to get a part-time job to help cover their college expenses – An online format allows them to continue to progress musically, while also working in the evenings and weekends. 

 

And the list goes on. 

 

There are other online summer festivals that look amazing – The Online Solo Strings Intensive, The Virtual Violin Summer Festival, and the Summer Strings Academy for Girls all have incredible faculty, guest artist lineups, speakers, and forums. It’s like Disney World for these string students, and there are similar festivals being offered for flute, trumpet, percussion, etc.  

And while there are plenty of students who are lining up to attend these virtual festivals (mine is almost full!), I’ve had so many conversations with colleagues to tell me how much they wish their students would apply, but don’t want to push it because the student is tired of zoom. I wish more parents and teachers would help these kids to look past their current school situations, and see all of the amazing things in front of them that they are passing up–The friendships, connections, access to world-famous cellists and pedagogues, and the inspiration and accountability that are paramount to having a productive summer. 

The next time someone near you complains about being “zoomed out”, instead of immediately agreeing and saying “oh, yeah-me too!” maybe you can challenge them on that thought. Maybe you’ll be the person handing them just the golden ticket they’ve been waiting for. 

Cheers, my friends! Keep Thriving! We’re almost through the year 🙂

 

Kate

 

P.S. Are you a part of Thrive-Fest? Head over to the Tales From The Lane Facebook Group and join us for another 3 weeks of daily 5-minute tasks to help get your ducks in a row and help you to feel that you are thriving in ALL areas of your life! 

 

How I Went From Languishing to Thriving

Did you read that NYT Article by Adam Grant about Languishing? It went completely viral, and talked about that feeling that so many are feeling right now, and how it’s not so much burnout, but rather, the feeling that one is Languishing. I think it resonated with a lot of people right now. 

To counter that, the following day, Dani Blum came out with another article (also NYT that talked about the opposite of Languishing: Flourishing, or, Thriving. The most important part of the article is that she points out that research shows that there are steps one can take to move from the Languishing end of the Spectrum to the Thriving End. 

I agree. 100%. I’ve done it.

I know Languishing well. I spent years languishing. Failed and dysfunctional relationships, deep in debt, crying myself to sleep every night because of a HORRID boss who (just after I bought a condo and had a mortgage to pay) went out of her way to make my life a living hell. (What full-grown, middle-aged woman tells a 26-year-old new employee that she hated her and wished she was dead?) Anyway, yeah–life was pretty rough for a few years. 

My health was suffering. My relationships were suffering, bills were going unpaid-not because I didn’t have the money, but simply because I was too overwhelmed by it all. I felt paralyzed.

I was languishing. 

One day I just decided I was done being miserable, and that I was ready to start figuring out how to be happy. I was shocked at how simple it was.

 

I took the 5 things that were most important to me:

 

  1. Relationships
  2. Career
  3. Health
  4. Home
  5. Adventure

 

And for each one, I wrote down 3 things that would be happening if I was thriving in that arena. I call these “Thrive Points”

E.g. Home. If I was thriving:

  • my house would be clean and tidy
  • my gardens and outdoor spaces would be full of blooms and vegetables
  • and my papers would be well organized

 

 

In the end, I had a list of 15 things. 

 

Every day, I would take a look at that list and I would ask myself what I could do to get 1% closer to one of those items. 

  • I could make my bed
  • I could sort the pile of mail and toss the junk
  • I could buy some seeds
  • I could water my dying houseplants and nurse them back to health.

 

You get the idea.  Nothing too transformational-I didn’t have the energy for that.  But I could get myself to make my bed. Maybe the next day I would do something to get myself 1% closer to a different “Thrive point”. 

 

 

I am beyond grateful to say that since I started that process, I’ve never dipped that low again. Sure, since my mid-20’s my life has had ups and downs. Highs and lows.  That’s just how life works, but I have always been able to lift myself up a bit when I’ve needed to, by keeping this exercise close to my heart.  

I took it up to a whole new level with my Focus Months a few years ago (which I’m thinking about doing again this year–would you be into joining me?) and it was the basis for my January Practice Cure (ahh…January 2020…..life was so CUTE then, wasn’t it?) The idea that when your practice routine feels in a rut, sometimes just cleaning out and sharpening your pencils can have a magical effect on the whole process. 

So I invite you to make your list. Pick 5 To Thrive because we love a rhyme  (or pick however many you want) and then pick 3 Thrive Points for each. This is your ideal. Tops. You know life is good when “THIS” is happening. “When I have my shit together, it will look like THIS” etc. 

And then, for this week, pick one small tiny action that you can take to get 1% closer to that ideal.  

 

 

What constitutes 1%? Anything that moves you closer but is SO easy for you to do, it would be silly not to. 

 

Want to be healthier? Go have a glass of water. Not 10, not a gallon. 1 glass of water. Voila. You are healthier than you were 5 minutes ago.  Want to be the kind of family that regularly gathers around the table for meals, laughing and discussing their day? try just making some pancakes next Saturday morning. 

Bit by bit they all start to add up. Making your bed becomes a habit you don’t have to think about and you can pick something else to do. That 1 sit-up you did has turned into 25 and you’re starting to feel a difference. 

Before you know it, each area morphs from where it was into what you had dreamed up, and then one day you’ll look around and notice that you are, actually, thriving. 

I’m so excited for you. 

Cheers!

 

Kate

Do you like free stuff? Because I created two helpful (I hope!) pdfs as a thank you for being a part of this community.  

This one is for all the teachers out there: 30 Things you can offer your online music students

And this one is for anyone looking for just a bit more motivation. It’s my 5 Strategies to Boost Motivation

In the meantime, join my Tales From The Lane Facebook Community for more bonus material, live discussions, and tons of free content and insider info. 

Finish Strong: Battling Our Collective Senioritis.

A few Sundays ago, I hopped into the morning group session for my Bridge Online Cello Studio.  My students are a bunch of smart, hard-working, enthusiastic, and generally awesome people between the ages of 15 and 20. They are super talented, and they show up each Sunday morning greeting each other with a smile.

That morning was different.  3 of them were late.  2 had overslept, and the 3rd, when I texted to see if she was on her way, snapped at me in a way that was totally unlike her. I chose to let it slide. Once everyone was there, I was faced with a sea of grumpy, unsmiling faces.  I wondered if I had done something wrong. I asked them how they were all doing.

Shrugs.

I asked them how their school week had been.

“The same.” They said. “Nothing ever changes.”

For 9 months, these amazing students have greeted every opportunity with excitement and grit. Districts, All-States, Concerto Competitions, Masterclasses, etc.  School online? Sure thing. In-person? Okay. Hybrid now? Got it. They took everything in stride, and and they all had big wins under their belts from throughout the year: Musically and Academically.

By all accounts, they had been thriving.

So what was going on?

“Senioritis” basically. And although they aren’t all seniors in High School. They (we!) are all in the “Senior Year” of this pandemic. We’ve been putting in the work, slogging away with our great attitudes and resiliency and grit, and now here we are…the sun is out, the vaccination roll-out is going strong, and everyone has their eye on this being over.

“This” of course, being the pandemic. Lockdown. Closures. Online calculus class. Masks. Not having a social life. 

 

 

But like a senior who just wants to get on to their college existence, can’t be bothered to show up to their favorite class, and doesn’t show much interest in their beloved activities, they’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Unfortunately, I’m seeing it with a lot of adults as well. Collectively, everyone is just DONE with all of the restrictions. We have all had varying degrees of personal trauma this year, but every single one of us has been through a lot just by existing this year. Wanting desperately to be past it we run the danger of feeling, or at least acting, “done” with everything else too. Even the good things.

Years ago, when I taught at a school in MA, the headmaster would get up in a morning assembly each spring, and would give his talk on “Finishing Strong“. I remember thinking the first time I heard it: “Man, I wish someone had said this to me my senior year.” And by the time I heard it for the last time, some 8 years later, I realized: This applies to us teachers as well.

And while most of the specifics of his speech have disappeared from my brain in the Bermuda sun, the basic principle of it remains with me.

• Keep showing up. Do you want to be remembered as the student who was a cornerstone of the class, always ready to contribute? Or as the kid who gave up at the end, and just couldn’t be bothered?
• Think about the people who helped you this year and find time to thank them properly. Whether that is a handwritten note or a cup of socially distanced coffee in a park.
• Make a list of the people who came into your life specifically because of these pandemic circumstances, and let them know how much their presence has meant to you.
• Tie up any and all loose ends. While the idea of what is ahead is exciting and new, and we are eager to get there, once this time period is over, it’s over for good. There is a point when we can no longer “turn in the overdue assignment.”
• Consider the example you are setting for others. Burnout is contagious. So is Inspiring Action. 

 

So friends, students, colleagues, let’s all do our best to finish strong. In a handful of weeks, the school year will be over. Summer will bring new activities, new friends, new opportunities, and when we return to “work” in the fall, things might look very different. When you can simply hire a babysitter and go out for dinner with friends again, you might forget all about the next-door neighbor you created a pod with just to give each other some childcare relief once in a while.  The one you texted with throughout the day for much-needed support.

 

 

Students who return to you in person in September might remember how you were barely there for their last lessons, and how the usual end of the studio recital didn’t happen last year because you were too overwhelmed to get it together.

And my dear student readers, I beg of you, especially, to finish strong. Your reputations matter. Especially in the music world. Throw yourselves into the preparation of your last lessons, your recitals, your festival recordings as well as your AP exams, your finals, and your end-of-year projects. Give yourself some kind of 6-week challenge to mix things up and stay focused. Go to class and turn your camera on. Say something to the quiet new kid who never had a chance to make new friends this year. Write notes to your teachers, reconnect with your friends, and take the time to properly reminisce about what you have all gone through together.

Focus on the funny moments.

We can do this. We’re almost there. Let’s show up as our best selves until the end. Because the stronger we finish out this year, the better we can begin the next.

 

Kate

 

Do you like free stuff? Because I created two helpful (I hope!) pdfs as a thank you for being a part of this community.  

This one is for all the teachers out there: 30 Things you can offer your online music students

And this one is for anyone looking for just a bit more motivation. It’s my 5 Strategies to Boost Motivation

In the meantime, join my Tales From The Lane Facebook Community for more bonus material, live discussions, and tons of free content and insider info. 

 

Spotlight Series: Jaime Slutzky

Musicians around the world had no choice but to take their teaching online when the pandemic hit last year. They learned the basics virtually overnight, dove in, and started counting down the minutes until they could “return to normal.” 

But after 13 months of it, teachers and students (and parents!) alike have embraced the benefits of the online platform and are looking for ways to continue this current format. The problem, of course, is that to make an online teaching studio really something, can involve a lot of scary tech – from housing video libraries to creating full-on work-at-your-own-pace courses (brilliant for adult beginners!) to having a members’ login, etc.

It’s enough to make one re-think their ideas.

Enter Jaime Slutzky! 

With a background in tech, and a passion for arts education (thanks to 2 extremely creative and talented daughters) Jaime started her own company called the Tech of Business Agency, a technology strategy and implementation agency for artists. In other words. You dream up the brilliant idea, and she makes it happen. While there are tons of ways you can work with her, she’s hosting an incredible summit on all things “Online Music Teaching” in early May, called the Expand Online Summit

She’s bringing together 15 experts to speak on various topics like setting up a new business model, social media for recruiting students, running an online music festival (that’s yours truly!), and how to increase profits in your teaching studio.

Since technology is something that many musicians (certainly not all! but…let’s face it, many) are terrified of, I thought I would bring Jaime in to answer a few questions about what she does and why she loves working with musicians in particular. 

 

 

 

TFTL: Jaime, can you start by telling us where you live, and what do you love most about it?

JS: Redmond Washington. The Northwest is such a gorgeous place to be, I love the water and the mountains. Love driving down the freeway and seeing Mt. Rainier in the distance on clear days.

 

TFTL: How did you get started in tech?

JS: I’ve always loved computers and technology. I earned my BS in Computer Science from McGill University in 1999 and just kept going with computers and technology from that time.

 

TFTL: What made you want to work with musicians?

JS: I love working with clients who provide an opportunity for their students/patrons/clients to grow. And after working with a lot of people, I found that my favorite clients were music teachers, so I decided to focus on serving this group.

 

TFTL: When you’ve worked with musicians to help them set up their tech platforms, what skills do they bring to the table that they might not be aware of?

JS: Clarity and determination. Learning and mastering a musical instrument takes determination which is a huge asset when building something online. If you’re determined to succeed, you’re not going to let roadblocks become barriers. And when you’re clear about what you want to create, it’s easy for me to help you translate that vision into something that can be delivered online.

 

TFTL: Where do you find most musicians lacking, in terms of moving online?

JS: They are lacking confidence that their online program or lesson can be as effective as in-person programming can be.

 

TFTL: Where do you think online learning is headed in the next 5-10 years?

JS: More niches — I think you’re going to have a teacher who specializes in a subset of a subset for a subset of the population. And music teachers are so creative, so I think boundaries are going to be pushed as far as how they are going to show up. I also think that some of the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality tech is going to become available to music teachers which will further students’ opportunities.

 

 

TFTL: How do you suggest musicians break through “the noise” online?

JS: The million-dollar question, right? Seriously, it’s about knowing who you want to attract as much as who you want to repel, what you want to be known for, and what lights you up. Then comes consistency and conversation. Post consistently and engage with people who show interest in your posts. And don’t be afraid to reach out to others.

 

TFTL: Are you surprised at where your career has brought you? Or was it all part of your master plan?

JS: I never really had a master plan. I really wanted to be home to raise my kids, so that part of things has absolutely worked out. But as far as building out learning management platforms for music teachers, it makes sense but it could have been something else entirely. I’m happy with what I’m doing and where this journey has taken me so far.

 

TFTL: Why have you put this summit together, and who is it for?

JS: I love collaboration and live by the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats.” So, a summit is a perfect vehicle for this, since the summit is a collective effort. I want more music educators to expand online and stay online long after the pandemic. Online affords so many opportunities and is a gift to both student and teacher. I want to provide a pathway forward from what 2020 threw at us into something that is long-term and sustainable. The summit is specifically for established music teachers and studio owners who want to keep offering online programming, either as the entire offering or as another branch to their in-person offers.

 

 

TFTL: What is the most brilliant online learning idea you’ve seen?

Cohorting. I have a client who has a 40 week, comprehensive program. The program can be entirely self-paced, new material drops every two weeks. A couple of years ago, she added a cohort element to the program to provide feedback, accountability, and community for her participants. Students stay motivated and keep coming back to continue their learning. She teaches the bass.

 

TFTL: If you could be a professional musician, which instrument would you play?

I have never thought about that — guitar maybe, because I remember back to my summer camp days when we would just sit around and someone would strum a guitar and someone else would sing. Those are some great memories!

 

TFTL: What would you consider a successful summit?

JS: I have a registration goal of 1000 and a participation goal of at least 25% of registrants watching at least 75% of the sessions.

 

TFTL: Will you be doing the Expand Online Summit in 2022 and what do you think you’ll focus on?

JS: That’s the plan, I want this to be an annual event because we should always keep on learning! Right now, I’m thinking it’s going to focus on the student experience, but things may change.

 

TFTL: How can people find you? 

JS: They can go straight to my website: https://techofbusiness.com/, listen to the “Expand Online” podcast, or find me on FB and Instagram: @jaimeslutzky

Thanks so much, Jaime!

And of course, you can all join the party over at the Expand Online Summit happening May 3-7, 2021! Click HERE for your free ticket!

 

 

The Most Important Skill Musicians Need to Have Right Now: 

I came across a post the other day on social media. It was from a musician who is doing some side coaching in the health and wellness sphere. They seemed nice enough. 

This post was about musicians who work with other musicians as business/career coaches (hey! That’s me!) so I was curious to read what they had to say. 

Well, let’s just say they’re not impressed. Their main argument seemed to stem from the idea that no one knows what the hell the classical music industry is going to look like when this is all over, so how can we possibly charge our colleagues money to tell them what they should be doing? 

I appreciate that they are trying to be of service to their audience. They’re trying to save them time and money and give them the advice they really need to hear. In other words, I think their heart is in the right place. 

 

Unfortunately, I also think they’re missing something that is truly important. and it’s also clear to me that they have never experienced this kind of coaching themselves. 

 

Career coaching is no longer about a specific list of tasks to be completed (write a great bio! Tweak your resume! Go to XY and Z conferences and network!) but more about teaching clients how to adapt to a changing landscape while staying in alignment with their goals and values. 

They think we’re handing out instruction manuals on how to build a canoe during tsunami season. But what we’re really doing is giving people training in general boat-building, swimming, weather-forecasting, and aviation all at once, so that they are better prepared to see things coming and adapt to whatever happens.  

While my coach certainly armed me with fantastic business tools and actionable skills, the most important lessons I learned from her were more universal. How to look at what is happening, see what could be possible, and how to create something new within that. Gatekeepers be damned! 

 

 

I aim to give my clients those same gifts. 

 

The other thing that saddened me about this post was the idea that musicians should just hunker down and wait until the dust settles, figure out how things are, and then act accordingly.  I believe we can do better than that. I believe we can be part of the “figuring out” process. By creating our own programs, projects and space, we are, essentially, the ones deciding what the industry will look like on the other side of this.  Not the other way around. 

It’s our job as creators to communicate with others. To find out what they want. What they need, and then we can create something new and interesting within that framework. 

The ability to adapt will look different to each person. For some, it meant selling beauty products through an MLM company to create a much-needed sense of community and additional income to pay the bills. For others, it meant dreaming up small-scale (but artistically epic) opera productions on timely topics, with underrepresented composers, and presenting them as a ticketed Livestream, or repeat performances for a small audience. And 1001 different ideas in between. 

 

 

But the important lesson this year is this: As musicians, we need to be able to adapt. The sense of complacency many of us felt pre-pandemic kept us stalled in “the same old same old” for too many years. Even those of us who were happy doing what we were doing realized that we could improve upon them even more, continue to learn new skills, and work harder to keep things fresh. 

I think it has been a valuable gift to a group of people who have been doing the same daily warm up for decades! 

The gift of adaptability. Looking at things with a fresh perspective. Asking ourselves how something good could be even better, and then asking ourselves how WE could make it better. 

 

For this moment.  

 

The next one might look different. But that’s okay. 

 

We’ll handle that one too. 

 

Cheers to us!

Kate

 

Do you like free stuff? Because I created two helpful (I hope!) pdfs as a thank you for being a part of this community.  

This one is for all the teachers out there: 30 Things you can offer your online music students

And this one is for anyone looking for just a bit more motivation. It’s my 5 Strategies to Boost Motivation

In the meantime, join my Tales From The Lane Facebook Community for more bonus material, live discussions, and tons of free content and insider info. 

The Art of Showing Up.

I have spent more time on calls over the past 12 months than I have in the previous 10 years of my life. Between those calls with my current and potential clients and the group coaching sessions that I lead,  I am at the point now where I can tell who is going to be hugely successful at what they want to do, and who is going to need a little more help to get there. In fact, I see it pretty clearly in my cello students as well.

There is one trait that the former group consistently exhibits.  

They show up.

Woody Allen has a quote about that, but he’s disgusting, so I’m not going to write it here.

But it’s true.

It’s the folks to who show up in their work; whether it’s to a group coaching session (live, or actually making the time to watch the replay) or their lesson (even if they’ve had a bad week) or doing the thing they said they would do (posting on FB, emailing a potential client, making a landing page) and who do it even if they have a headache. Even if they didn’t sleep well the night before, even if the weather is lousy, who are going to be successful.  They are the ones who will reach their goals and achieve their dreams.

 

 

The others? Well, they can learn how to do it as well. But they’ll have to face some hard truths along the way.

Steven Pressfield talks about it in his book, The War of Art, as the difference between the Amateur and the Professional.  The Amateur, he says, shows up when they feel inspired, when they feel like it, when the mood strikes them.  When all of the pieces are in perfect alignment for them to do the thing. The Pro, however, shows up every day. Shows up no matter what. Shows up even when they don’t feel like it.

As musicians, we recognize this in terms of practicing.  Those that figure out how to show up and get their butts in the practice room day after day, no matter what, will have far more success than those who bail out at the first sign of ennui.

 

 

So we should be able to transfer that professional attitude to the other parts of our lives.

And, honestly, most can.

This is why accountability is so helpful. As students, we learn how to practice consistently because we have things in place. Lessons, studio classes, seating auditions, competitions, and most importantly, our peer group. We don’t want to play badly in front of them, and if we told them we practiced 3 hours a day, we really don’t want them to catch us watching Netflix all afternoon, right?

Eventually, we see the link between that steady consistent work, and our artistic success, and we are able to get ourselves to practice without the need for peer pressure.

The same is true for adults, and for other types of goals. It’s why I am such a huge fan of a group program. You get the guidance of an experienced coach who has done it all before you, AND you’re surrounded by group of peers who are on the same path as you. When you announce that you’re going to get something done, it feels amazing to go back to them and declare success. To give it a huge public “Check”. The kudos, accolades and virtual applause received make you want to rush off to complete the next task. And the next.

Soon enough, it becomes a habit. Showing up. Doing the work.

Soon enough, you can hold yourself accountable.

Soon enough, you’ll be one of those successful types who Just.Always.Shows.Up.

Even if it’s raining.

Even if you have a headache.

Even if you didn’t sleep well last night.

How can you show up today?

Kate

“Vulnerability is not about winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” -Brené Brown

The Spring Session of my 10-week group coaching program, The Profit Pivot, is starting up next week, and there are only 2 spots left!  Want to know more about how a group might help you to show up and achieve your dreams? Book a (free) 30-minute ‘Discovery’ call with me to talk about you, your goals, and your ideas today! I also have one more 1:1 client slot available if that’s more your speed-but grab it before it’s gone. I won’t have any more openings until the fall!

In the meantime, join my Tales From The Lane Facebook Community for bonus material, live discussions, and tons of free content and insider info. 

5 Ways to Gain More Career Clarity

 

Searching for my ideal work/life situation has been a long process for me. From orchestral player to freelancer to recitalist, to teacher, to coach, etc. I have basically made a career out of experimenting with shifting balances and jobs until I found just the right fit.

I’m at a point now where things feel right. Ironic, since I haven’t played a live concert in over a year, but that’s for another post. 

As we’ve discussed before, a lot of people are taking a good hard look at their current (or pre-pandemic) career situations and feeling a bit of anxiety over going back to “before times”.  As much as they might miss certain parts of what they were doing, for a lot of folks, there were some aspects that they were very happy to leave behind this past year.

We have this incredible opportunity right now to figure out for ourselves what it is, EXACTLY, that we want to do, be, have, etc. What kind of work do you want to be doing? what kind of concerts? What kind of students do you want to be working with? Where do you want to live? What kind of schedule?

As one of my clients recently confided:

” I miss performing SO much, but I realized this past year, that spending weekend time with my family is amazing, and I had been denying myself that for years. I’m heartbroken when I think of all of the moments I missed out on. The family memories I simply wasn’t a part of. I don’t want to go back to having to work every Saturday night and Sunday afternoon for eternity.” 

I don’t think she’s alone in that! The answer, for her, has been to shape a concert series that SHE runs, and SHE dictates when the concerts are held. She’ll be playing music she loves, with colleagues she adores, in her favorite venues, and can keep whatever Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons free that she wants.

To get to this point though, I’ve found some tools to be helpful and some, well, not-so-much.  I thought I could save you all some time and write up a list of my favorite 5 techniques and exercises that I have used on myself and with clients to help bring more clarity around career and life choices.

 

1. The Jealousy Scroll

 

I wrote about this exercise in a post I wrote years ago about getting yourself out of a funk, and it serves a similar purpose here. Open up Instagram (or Facebook if you don’t have IG) and as you scroll through, pay close attention to any posts that make you feel a twinge of jealousy. Is it the colleague who is finally able to rehearse and perform a live chamber music concert? Is it the person who is teaching an online class at a university? Or the person who seems to always have the cutest and most perfect studio of tiny little beginners? Make a note of it.  Also make a note of what you just scroll past without interest.  (see above list..)

 

 

2. Write it Out

 

People look at the life I am living, and ask me how i got here.  My answer? I wrote it into existence.  I know, I know, that sounds pretty woo-woo, but It’s true. Always has been. When I was in my 20’s and had bought a condo, I was BROKE, and I had very little furniture. And every morning I would have my coffee and write about what I wanted it to look like. I wrote about how it would be full of lush houseplants and gorgeous rugs, and music and friends and students, and chamber music parties. And I would write about it all in SUCH detail, that I was hyper-alert to those things whenever i came across them.  A gorgeous rug on Ebay for $150? snag it! Admiring my friend’s houseplants? Grab cuttings of those suckers! You get the idea.

As my finances improved, the craigslist and yard sale items would get upgraded, and as I evolved, so did my morning descriptions. Everything I have in my life now–from living on an island to the students I teach, to the “white, love seat-sized sofa bed that would be perfect in my office” (and then found at the consignment shop the very next day while looking for a lamp) are things that I wrote about wanting to have.

I don’t think it’s a matter of magic.  When you have created a picture of it in your mind, it’s like it already exists, so when you see the opportunity out there, you’re more likely to grab it and not pass it up-because your brain wants to match up the reality you’ve created in your head with actual reality. (okay, maybe that’s a little but woo….)

3. The Pinterest Game

 

I married late. I was (gasp!) 40, and all of my close friends had already started celebrating their 10+ year anniversaries. So when it came to planning my wedding, I didn’t really have a finger on what to do/have/latest trends/etc.  I was kinda on my own.  So I turned to Pinterest.  It was also a bit of a hectic year for me, so my wedding planning/pinning was sporadic. I would look through floral arrangements for a few minutes here, dresses for 10 minutes there, etc. all the while, pinning anything I liked the look of to my secret wedding board. It was all very chaotic and random.

But after a couple of weeks of this, an amazing thing happened.

Once I had about 20 examples of each “thing” on my board, I began to see strong patterns. Most of the dresses had a similar design.  The flowers I kept pinning had a very clear color palette. In fact, the whole concept had come together very clearly on my board without my realizing it.

So go for it! Create a Secret Career/Life Plan Board and just start pinning anything that looks good to you. do it in short spurts, different moods, different times of day. In a couple of weeks, take a look and see what trends you’re seeing.  Do you have 8 pins of lake houses? Photos of gorgeous music rooms with grand pianos–just begging for a house concert?

 

4. Explore the Past

 

They say that your childhood offers a lot of clues for how you will be happiest in your adult life. Case in point. I knew when I was 15 that I wanted to be a professional cellist, and from that moment on it was all about competitions, festivals, teachers, conservatories, and the endless pursuit of being just that.

So it was surprising to me when I suddenly wanted to start a blog, until I remembered how much I used to love writing “books” when I was in elementary school, and how I used to get my older brother to pay me to write his book reports for him because I could knock out an A+ paper for him in less than an hour.

And it was surprising to everyone when I started a festival during a pandemic/economic turmoil, but it wasn’t so surprising when you look at the fact that when I was 10 and told I couldn’t do a certain summer camp because we didn’t have the money, I started my own camp in my back yard and charged my neighbors $3 a kid to have them come to my back yard for 2 hours a day, 2x a week while I read them stories, and we made craft projects, and I gave them lemonade and cookies.

I CLEANED UP that summer. We happened to have a ton of little kids in the neighborhood and their stay-at-home moms were more than happy to get rid of them for a few hours each week. Win-Win. And a baby entrepreneur was born.

What did you love to do before music took over? How might you incorporate those first passions into your life today?

 

 

5. The Retirement Party

 

If you’ve been reading Tales From The Lane for awhile, you already know how being confronted with the idea of retiring from a particular job jolted me out of temporary complacency and compelled me to start doing what I truly felt called to do.

Here’s the exercise:

Part 1: Imagine you’re at the point where you’ve decided to retire.  Your career looks exactly as it does now. Same gigs, same type and number of students, etc. How do you feel? Like you accomplished what you wanted and are leaving the legacy you always desired? No? Make note of what feels lacking.

Part 2: Imagine an imaginary retirement party. Someone is giving a speech about your career and your legacy. You feel proud and accomplished. You lived your dream, you did amazing work, and you feel completely satisfied with how you are exiting your “working years”.  What did they say about you?

 

 

Life’s too short to be living someone else’s life.  I think the best thing each of us can do is figure out exactly what we want to be doing, and then do everything we can to make that happen. 

If you’re having trouble figuring out exactly what that is, try the exercises above and let me know what comes up for you. Here’s to Living Your Best Life!

Cheers,

Kate

 

The Spring Session of my 10-week group coaching program, The Profit Pivot, is starting up in a couple of weeks, and there are only a couple of spots left!  Want to know more about how to launch a summer program, festival, concert series? Book a (free) 30-minute ‘Discovery’ call with me to talk about you, your goals, and your ideas today! I also have one more 1:1 client slot available if that’s more your speed-but grab it before it’s gone. I won’t have any more openings until the fall!

In the meantime, join my Tales From The Lane Facebook Community for bonus material, live discussions, and tons of free content and insider info. 

A Pandemic Year in Review

 

And here, we are. One Year Later. When thinking about what this week’s post should be about, I was initially opposed to adding what will surely be an avalanche of “reflections upon this past year” posts. I figured it would be like the typical onslaught of Top Ten Lists that arrive the last week of each year.

But then I realized how much I have been getting out of reading other people’s reflections that I’ve seen this week. It’s natural and human to want to peer into someone else’s life for a brief moment, but it’s also nice to see a) how we’re all different, and we’ve all had incredibly different experiences this year, and b) each one that I have read has made me pause and think for a moment.

So, indulge me, my dear readers, as I ponder what this past year has meant for me. I’ve made no secret of the privilege that I have experienced over the last 12 months. Not having young kids to take care of/school/reassure 24/7, nor having college-aged kids that to worry about. My 77-year-old mother was in strict lockdown at her CCRC, which went to extreme measures to keep their residents ….well…alive, and my brother and his family are 10 minutes away from her, so I never had to worry that she was alone or unable to get what she needed.

Living on a small island that managed to keep numbers EXTREMELY low, being able to go to restaurants, and have a fairly normal social life for most of the year because of the natural bubble an island creates. Having a spouse with a secure job, so that we were never forced into financial crisis mode. The list goes on.

But, like everyone else, I lost the majority of my income when concert halls shut down, and I had to reinvent how I worked, how I taught, and how I made an income. I haven’t hugged or even seen most of my closest friends or any of my family, I’ve lost relatives without the ability to properly say good-bye to them, and I have spent the last year at home, like everyone else, getting to know myself on a much deeper level.

And I probably learned more about myself this year, then in the previous 20 years combined. Here are my top 5.

 

1. I can do hard things

Like ignore everyone who thought it was a weird idea, and bring my Virtual Summer Cello Festival into existence, for instance. Or reinvent a career mid-concert season, or take my income from $0 to multiple 6-figures in a matter of months. I can take something I know nothing about and figure it out. I can read up on it, try, fail, try it another way, and eventually succeed. It is both terrifying and exhilarating to create something new, and it is always worth it in the end.

And part of this knowledge that I can do hard things comes with the acknowledgement that doing said “hard things” with the support of a like-minded community makes your success virtually fool-proof (no put intended).

As I said at the “graduation ceremony” for the group coaching program that I was a part of: I had the ideas, and I did all of the work, but I’m not entirely sure I would have done any of it without my amazing coach and the rest of them– from cheering on my wins to helping me work through obstacles. Experience guidance and community support is key.

Also, I can put my contacts in IN SECONDS now. (go, ME!)

2. I like my husband. A lot

Nothing makes you appreciate a person like having to spend 24/7 with them for months on end and not wanting to kill him. Don’t get me wrong, when he walked out the door to teach in-person on the first day of school in September, my alone time and I did a little happy dance, but by the end of the day, I missed him again (or, I missed someone coming in to refill my coffee mug–either way).  We had our moments, for sure, but I think we came out of it knowing a little bit more about what we each need in order to feel supported, loved and taken care of.

 

3. I had the childhood I had because I am the person I am – not the other way around.

This is the year that I realized that the fact that I wasn’t much of a social child, and spent most of my time between the ages of 5-15 alone in my room had less to do with the fact that I was a latch key kid with a stream of disinterested babysitters, and a family that didn’t really talk much, and more to do with the fact that I’m just wired that way.

Hanging out in large groups of people is fun, but draining for me, and if I have to do it more than once or twice in a weekend, I’m EXHAUSTED for days. Spending time with 1 or 2 close friends feeds my soul and invigorates me, and the thing that really gets me going is a long stretch of time by myself. Time to think, putter in my garden, jot new ideas down, contemplate my life as I fold laundry. I came to realize that, in fact, I had the ideal childhood for who I am. And also, those long hours spent alone with my thoughts as a kid was great preparation for a global pandemic. Who knew?

 

4. Making more money doesn’t change you.

It just makes you more of who you are.  As our finances have changed, my tastes have not. It’s just that I can afford the things I always admired. More importantly, I can support things that have always mattered to me in a more direct way. Instead of supporting organizations, alma maters, friend’s initiatives, etc. by sharing their social media posts, I can also write them a check and know that I’m helping in a more direct way. It’s true what they say.  Money isn’t good or bad. It’s people who are either good or bad.

Also, that whole question about whether it can buy happiness? Well, I have been broke as broke and deep in debt, and I can assure you, I am much happier with money than without.

 

5. Whatever happens next, I can adapt.

This year has brought the biggest changes to my status quo (mine and everyone else’s) For my personal career, and for my industry as a whole, and I found a way to adapt. I formed a company, launched an international festival, created a new standard of teaching, and have helped dozens of other professional musicians successfully launch programs and projects of their own.

People keep asking me what I’m going to do “when things go back to normal”, and I smile. We have no idea what will happen. I think online learning is here to stay–probably with new enhancements–in person retreats and get-togethers? But it doesn’t matter. I have learned that if I watch what is happening around me, and listen to what people are saying, and think quietly by myself, I’ll come up with new ideas, new tweaks, and that I will continue to adapt and offer what people want and need as the world changes.

Having done it once, twice, three times in this past year, I’m fairly confident that I can do it myself AND help my clients to do it as well. 

One of my big “shout from the rooftops” theories is that as individuals, we are the ones who have the flexibility, speed and agility to make changes happen in a way that even the most well-intentioned organizations cannot due to their size, bulk, and the sheer number of decision-makers and departments that need to be involved.

 

 

And what about you?  What are the biggest lessons you have learned this year? I’d love to hear them, and I know they’ll give me something new to think about.  

Have a great week!

Kate

 

The Spring Session of my 10-week group coaching program, The Profit Pivot, is starting up in April! (woohoo!)  Want to know more about how to launch a summer program, festival, concert series? Book a (free) 30-minute ‘Discovery’ call with me to talk about you, your goals, and your ideas today! The Early Bird Deadline is coming up on March 26th, and it likely will fill by then (spots are limited) so book that call today! 

In the meantime, join my Tales From The Lane Facebook Community for bonus material, live discussions, and tons of free content and insider info. 

 

How I Plan Out My Week

 

I think the no. 1 question I get asked these days is: “How do you get so much done?”

Short Answer: I don’t have kids. 😉

And although I’m sure that has a lot to do with it-especially this year (and just as a quick aside–how the HELL did you people do it? There are not enough spa days in the WORLD to make up for what you parents out there have been through this year) scheduling a ton of things into a small amount of time is an art I have been trying to master since I was in high school, with 4 hours of homework and 4 hours of practicing to do in a 6 hour block of time.

If you read my last post about finding that sweet spot between Boredom and Busy (or Burnout) you might have guessed that this is something that matters to me… a lot.

My natural state is to be working on something, but I can easily work day in and day out without a break, and that makes me very dull. very unhappy, and very unfun to be around (just ask my husband). So the trick for me is to figure out a schedule that allows me to keep moving forward in my work, while also taking care of life things, maintaining my relationships, and having some fun.

It’s a work in progress, but I wanted to share a few things I have learned along the way.  Things that have worked well for me.

 

1. Pick a “scheduling time” each week and stick to it.

For me, it’s Sunday mornings before I meet with my Bridge students. I grab my ink & volt planner, my multi-colored pens, my phone, and a coffee, and I curl up in a cozy spot in my sunroom and get to work. It’s a ritual that in and of itself, helps me to feel grounded each week.

 

 

2. The Non-negotiables

The first thing I do is write in my coaching times: Trainings, Q& A’s, 1:1 sessions etc.  I pull up my scheduling app on my phone in case someone has booked a last-minute session and get those in too.

Then I write in my teaching for the week. for the most part, it’s the same each week, but by writing the name of each student, I am reminded of anything I might need to remember about that lesson (an etude I want to assign them, if I need to scan something over to them beforehand, etc)

Third is any set appointments. Interviews, podcasts, guest trainings, doctor’s appointments, etc.

Each of these gets its own color, by the way. Coaching times are in blue, teaching is in green, and other appointments are in black. The different colors help me to keep things in balance throughout the day and the week, and also helps me to shift gears more easily between tasks.

 

3) Schedule Fun

Next, I get out the pink pen. Pink is for FUN. A Monday breakfast with the girls, or an afternoon walk with a friend, Friday night with friends, Sunday night pub quiz, etc. There are days when the pink is mostly relegated to the weekends, but I try to sprinkle something in every few days. Even if it’s just a zoom catch-up with a friend.

4) Tasks

Then I compile my to-do list. I look at my task list from the previous week, and if there is anything I didn’t get to, that gets transferred to this week. I try to make sure that 80% of the tasks on my list a) have to be done by me, as opposed to someone on my team, or that it’s not something a student or client could find/do for themselves) and b) MUST be done this week.

That said, we all have long-term projects that will never be urgent, nor will they ever be mandatory.  Things that we’d like to do, learn, create, etc. and I like to break those down into tiny little tasks, and do a couple each week. I have a running list in the back of my planner of long-term projects (those non-urgent house projects and general life things) I take a look through that list each Sunday and see if there is anything that I want to add to this week’s task list. So 20% of my tasks are more long-term oriented, and honestly, if they don’t get completed this week, it’s not a big deal.

 

 

5) Goals

It’s important to differentiate your weekly goals from your weekly tasks. Your goal might be to learn a piece.The task is to practice it, listen to it, record yourself playing it, etc. The goal is to line up 2 new students. The task is to email 5 orchestra or band directors to see if they have any talented kids who need a private teacher. I try to set between 3-5 goals for each week, and then make sure I have actionable tasks written down that will help me meet them.

6) Look ahead

At this point, I’ll take a look at the next 3-4 months. I have an entire wall of my office that is covered in those big Month-at-a-glance type Calendar pages. I tear them all off and put the entire year up at once. Anything coming up that I need to plan for? Can I get one or two things done this week that will help me be ready later?

 

7) Fill in the blanks

Now I take a look at my tasks and fit them in where they make sense.  Some are well-established routines.  I am writing this blog post at 3 pm on a Sunday, which is when I always usually write my blog posts. My cleaning lady, Esther comes on Wednesday afternoons, so on Wednesday mornings, I empty the fridge of anything that needs to be tossed, water the houseplants-because she is going to be mopping the sunroom later anyway, and I toss my husband’s work shirts in the wash so that she can iron them.

Likewise, work things have a time and place that make the most sense. I adhere to the Marine’s motto of “plan early, plan often.” so while I have a general plan of action for things early on,  I like to make sure I have the very latest, updated information at hand when I create a finished product.

I could write out the trainings and create the pdfs for my profit pivot group before the program even starts, but if I wait until the Monday before each training, I know exactly what my cohorts are working on, struggling with, and I can tweak that week’s training to be as helpful as possible given where they are in that very moment.

 

 

8) Routines

Routines get a bad rap in the artistic community.  The disheveled genius who works whenever the spirit moves them is glorified in books, films, operas and urban legend. But most of the folks who have made lasting contributions to the world around them, artists included, had fairly consistent routines that they stuck to throughout their lives. By not having to think about when I should do something, I’m free to just do it. e.g. It’s 9am = time to sit down with a cello.

The trick is to figure out when in the day you are at your best for whatever task it is.  Some people love to hit the gym at night. Not me. It has to happen early in the morning, or it doesn’t happen at all. I do my best email writing around 6 am, and while my brain is on fire teaching in the afternoon/early evening, I could not write a coherent sentence to save my life at 5pm on a Wednesday.

 

The Result

When I’m finished with the week’s planning (which only takes me about 15-20 minutes).  I have a clear idea on what my main focus is going to be that week-what must get done, what should to get done, and what I would like to get done. Tasks have a set day and time, but I’m flexible within that.  If I get a text from a friend asking to meet up for a coffee, and I know that what I have laid out to work on over the next hour could be done elsewhere, I’ll go.

As I replied to a friend to asked about making plans this week, which she had prefaced with “I know you’re super busy with projects this week…”  The day I am too busy to meet up with a friend is the day I quit.

For me, it’s about mapping everything out clearly, and then allowing myself to be flexible within that. 

In an upcoming post, I’ll dive a bit deeper into my morning routine. AKA, what happens between when I wake up at 5:30 and when I start working at 9:00. I’m experimenting with a couple of new tweaks this week, and I’m excited to see how it works.

Have a great one!

 

Kate

 

The Spring Session of my 10-week group coaching program, The Profit Pivot, is starting up in April! (woohoo!)  Want to know more about how to launch a summer program, festival, concert series? Book a (free) 30-minute ‘Discovery’ call with me to talk about you, your goals, and your ideas today! 

In the meantime, join my Tales From The Lane Facebook Community for bonus material, live discussions, and tons of free content and insider info. 

 

 

Between Boredom and Busy

 

I was chatting on the phone with my mother yesterday, telling her about the various things I was working on: my students, clients, the festival, etc. I was explaining that February and March had a lot going on in them and that perhaps April or May might be a better time for her to come and visit.

Gosh, she said.  Sounds like you’re really busy!

Well, no. Not really. And the point is that I don’t want to push myself over to “Busy”.

Busy is the new Smoking. It’s both unhealthy and unseemly.

It seems there are only two ways to be these days. You’re either stuck at home with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to see, or you’re running around like a crazy person, balancing work with homeschooling, a video project here, a side business there. So busy that you can barely breathe.

Whatever happened to the in-between?

 

 

If there is one thing I have learned from my life-long training as a) a freelance musician and b) a business owner, it’s how much I actually CAN fit into one day (I know I’m not the only musician here who has fit in a quick luncheon gig between an orchestra double.) I’ve also learned what my limits are.

I know that if I push too hard M-Thursday, then Friday afternoon (just when I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel) will find me on the sofa with a raging migraine.

And I’ve learned that if I fill my schedule from top to bottom each day, leaving zero “white space” then I will start to feel blocked. I won’t have any ideas for blog posts, social media, new projects.

The creative well needs filling and it wants to be filled with time. 

One of the main reasons I left my Always Busy Non-Stop life in Boston and moved to an island in the middle of the Atlantic was so that I could have a more balanced life and schedule.

 

 

There is no glamour in being busy all of the time, and these days, having that full a schedule means that I have lost control over what I’m doing. I’ve said yes to too many things, too many people, and I (and probably everyone around me) will pay the price.

What does an ideal week look like for me? It has my teaching and coaching work in the afternoons, mornings are free for calls and writing and practicing, and evenings are ALWAYS kept free. There is time to meditate, go for walks, meet up with my girlfriends for breakfast or lunch, and if the weather is nice, sit outside on my veranda and stare at the harbor.

That’s where the good ideas come and find me. 

 

 

When I hear people talk about how bored they are, I do feel a twinge of jealousy, but that’s because I equate “boredom” with “white space” and the idea of having days on end of white space sounds like an absolute luxury.

But I also realize that it’s about the same as eating chocolate cake 3 meals a day for days on end. It sounds amazing until you think about how sick you’ll feel after slice #3.

We all need a sense of purpose. Even if that purpose is making the world’s best sourdough boule or growing seeds for this spring’s vegetable garden. It all counts. 

And it’s that sweet spot of waking up every day excited to get something accomplished but not feeling so maxed out that you’re working non-stop at all hours of the day to get it done. Of having things to do, but time to enjoy an afternoon coffee in a sunny spot.

It’s there, waiting for us, somewhere between boredom and busy.

Here’s to finding it this week!

Kate

 

The Spring Session of my 10-week group coaching program, The Profit Pivot, is coming soon (woohoo!)  You can get yourself on the waiting list by booking a (free) 30-minute ‘Discovery’ call with me to talk about you, your goals, and your ideas, and you’ll be one of the first to hear when it launches.

In the meantime, you can join my Tales From The Lane Facebook Community for bonus material, live discussions, and tons of free content and insider info.