Epic Failure: Taking My Own Medicine

I sometimes find myself working as a consultant generally helping start-ups move forward.

This particular start-up company that called me in is a mixture of freelancers and employees.  They were working business black suitwith a pretty high profile client on a project that seemed to take forever. Unfortunately, they didn’t understand or take into account the financial ramifications of what it would actually cost them to produce their art.  So they ended up losing money.  In essence, the small promising start-up company ended-up paying to work.

To add to the loss of money they endured, the client whose project they worked on for months, decided not to use their work and went with a rival company instead.  That stung for sure.

When I was asked to help these creatives unravel their problem with finances I simply told them:  “The issue you’re having is you don’t fully understand your own value as an artist. You don’t get the big picture.”

The room went uncomfortably silent.  They seemed stunned.  How dare I? And what could I possibly mean?   The vibe I was getting felt like they were all secretly screaming – We’re designers and absolutely understood our own work, crazy lady.  Eeeh, I kept on…

“Look, art is a beautiful thing. Being creative is magnificent and all of us have to find it within ourselves to express who we really are – – and some of us do that by designing, some by writing, and others by being teachers, actors or whatever.  But being creatively brilliant isn’t enough.  It is, if what you’re going for is being creative in your bedroom or basement and only showing your stuff to your family and friends. But if you’re going to put your art out there and expect people to buy it, then you’re going to have to learn the other part of being a creative person – and that involves ALSO understanding the business end of the spectrum. That’s what I mean by not understanding fully your value as an artist.”

Lightbulbs seemed to be going off above some heads. So I continued on:

“Look, I saw your boards. I saw how meticulous it was that you scheduled time for each frame, for each character, for each part of the story. I saw the schedule you put in place for each person’s time on each individual thing. But what I didn’t see was that same dedication into billing for that time, or any time frame for revisions and costs to those adjustments.  I don’t see a budget anywhere that includes things like materials, overages and/or calendar changes.  Basically, a client offered you money and you took it without a thought to any of that. Creating art as a business isn’t just about the design. It’s about something bigger than that. The technical stuff. The money stuff. The marketing stuff. Business is the umbrella, but under that umbrella is a lot of other “stuff” to understand and master to make it work and to make it profitable. ”

They got it.

“Let’s talk about what someone earlier called an ‘epic failure’.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, mistakes are going to happen.  Not just in business, but in life.  It’s never an epic failure to make a mistake unless of course you make the mistake over and over and over again and never learn from it.  If you learn from the mistake, then it was a valuable lesson and one that should be embraced and then let go. Period.  Consider it a learning moment. That’s a good thing.  It’s an education.  And education is never free.  Change your perspective to a positive about this particular project. It feels better and helps you move on…”

Well the vibe in the room seemed lighter.  They got it.  Applause.  I felt good.

And then, just as quickly I realized I had to make a note to myself — so on my phone I quickly typed in a memo:  You know what would be really great Carm? If you actually practiced what you preached and took some of your own medicine!

Ahhhh….a perfect example of a “Carmen-ism” for sure!

15 thoughts on “Epic Failure: Taking My Own Medicine

    • Hola Guapo! Awesome question and I’m so happy to say I have an update. That consulting gig rocked something in me — I’m fiercely working on my marketing now. I re-branded — there’s a new pic I added at the top of all my pages that I’m also using in marketing materials (Postcards, business cards, etc.). Networking — joined some meetup groups, attended some programs, some functions I’d usually avoid, but realize I don’t do enough myself on the business end of things for work as an ACTOR. I keep studying, taking classes and working with coaches — and if I’m not doing that, I’m reading a play or re-watching some movie and memorizing a monologue — I just realized I’m a GREAT actor IN MY LIVING ROOM because I’m not doing everything I tell everyone to do with their business. Isn’t that something? So, it’s all good. I guess I needed the lightbulb moment — or a good swift slap upside the head! Either way, I’m now applying some of my own knowledge in business to my own acting career. If you have any advice or ideas, I’m so open to them Guapo… thank you for stopping by. I miss you!

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  1. So interesting to read this! And you’re right on the money. I think a lot of people want to look cool – and so they don’t assign any value to what they do, what they’ve taken years to learn and perfect, in order to be seen as humble. I can imagine that creative types in particular suffer from that kind of weird approach, especially since marketing and business seems so ….. foreign to us. That’s not the part of the brain we’re interested in. We take far more interest and delight in the bright shiny balls that flitter around in our brain, helping us to create something out of nothing. The business side is for math nerds who walk around with a calculator in each hand. It’s an unwise fallacy, that viewpoint.

    If nothing else the creative person *needs* to surround him or herself with people who have the strengths they themselves lack. I learned a lot from attending ADHD groups (of all things) that has to do with that. So many people with ADHD are brilliant thinkers and have the wherewithal to create interesting ideas for business – but they lack the ability to actually get to the nuts and bolts of their business and make sure everything’s done on time and within budget. It’s not that they’re (we’re) stupid, it’s that they find it all too boring. And I don’t boring in the usual sense – where they *could* do it if they put their minds to it – I mean helplessly boring and bored. I’ve struggled with this all my life and felt guilty about it, until I learned that so much of it was out of my control.

    What’s not out of anyone’s control is the ability to seek help. To find the person who revels in the minutiae of the particulars and the budgets and the scheduling. A good entrepreneur will do just that.

    Loved reading this slice of life from you! As you can see – it got me thinking. : )

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    • Oh Wolfie! First, so glad to “see” you here. I usually read your reviews at http://www.tvfanatic.com and see you every so often on Twitter (https://twitter.com/wolfshades) but somehow I’ve been missing you there as well. I promise to do better tweeting! But, yes, everything you said above is so on point. Actually, a couple of people came up to me afterwards and talked about the same kinda thing. I can only imagine what it’s like for someone with ADHD, but the “inability” or “disdain” for doing such “nuts and blots” work as you put it, is extremely similar. People just don’t want to deal with what is called “the business end” of things. But here’s the funny part — I wasn’t a fan either of the “money stuff”. But I’m really good at it. And, I think because I’m a performer and have such a creative bent to my whole way of being (and talking normally helps), that somehow the practical, organized and money-oriented part of me comes across extremely good in business. Which I guess is why I was pretty successful in that arena. What I’m trying to teach people — creative folk — is to understand that it actually doesn’t have to be boring and it doesn’t actually have to be out of your control. But you’re right, you COULD just hire someone else to do it — but I also believe you should never hire someone else to do something you don’t completely understand ESPECIALLY when it comes to money because then you’ll never be able to know if they are screwing you over or stealing from you (The biggest embezzlement cases that I know about, happened right under the eyes of CEO’s — but because they had no clue what was going on, it was truly too easy… it shocks me still to think about it).

      Here’s the thing — if you can add a value, a true value to what you do creatively, it actually adds to the piece in a way that is almost indescribable. But think about it this way: If you paint a picture for a friend, and then you realize a bunch of people love it and want to buy it, the painting itself doesn’t change. The intention of what you painted isn’t any different and your vision is still the same. But what HAS changed is how YOU value what you produced. There’s a new sense of pride in what you do. You understand your talent in a very different way. There’s a new sense of appreciation. Please know, I’m not saying that MONEY adds to your art — I’m talking about is VALUE. Understanding and appreciating your talent. And when I get these start-ups to understand this, they seem more flexible, more appreciate of the “money” folk. Now, don’t get me wrong — a lot of money folk are..sorry to say, dorks. But, there are a whole crop of money peeps like I used to be who are cool, fresh and have a different bent on how it all works. And for a creative entity, it’s the perfect combination!

      Glad you stopped by Doug…. oops, Wolfie! It’s been too long. And you know, if you ever have a question about the “minutiae” of stuff… well, you know how to reach me!

      Hugs!

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  2. Epic failures are indeed very valuable – if we survive them and learn from them. But even harder is to take our own medicine, isn’t it! Good for you that you saw it. What you write about I have seen many examples of, included in myself. I am more savvy with money now, but still not as good a businessman as I am an artist…

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    • Oh, I was just over reading your post on choosing the Hard Path. What a great piece!

      Thank you — it is hard to swallow that medicine for sure, especially when I’m constantly explaining to others how to take it! I like the word “savvy” — and being “savvy” with money is a great place to be as an artist! I guess if I were to give one piece of advice to creatives, is to at least admit the money part, the business part, exists. Once you do that – acknowledge it – it’s at least a start!

      Love your blog! For anyone who may be reading this comment, please stop on by and take a look: https://munchow.wordpress.com/)

      Thank you Otto!

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