The Long Tail

The Long Tail

“I hope you enjoyed your time off.”

The words, meant as nothing more than a kind greeting, rubbed me the wrong way. “Time off?!?” I wanted to reply indignantly. I had just spent the last month working my butt off.

I took a step back and a moment to breathe, and just allowed the comment to pass. She was coordinating my schedule as an independent contractor. As far as she knew, I was off vacationing in the rain forests of Peru. She just knew that I was ready to take on new jobs as of June first, and how could I stay mad over that?

“You’re lucky you get to do what you love,” was another comment that I got that irked me.

It’s true that in February I chose to leave my job at the office and began pursuing music and writing full time as a way to pay the bills. I love writing and I love music but there are still plenty of things that are a part of the deal that I don’t actually want to do. In that way, it’s just like any job. The significant difference at this point is the amount of money I am able to bring home each month. I don’t expect to get rich.

There’s this common misconception that a starving artist gets to lay about all day, be creative, show up to gigs, start drinking, and then carouse about until the odd hours of the night. It’s the party lifestyle. While a few pop/rock stars may have the opportunity to live a life of opulence through big-label funding and marketing, the reality is that most professional musicians have to work harder to earn money than most of their office counterparts.

When I was on tour, many days consisted of driving for 6-8 hours, counting inventory, unloading gear, setting up a merch table, doing the accounting, mobile marketing, soundcheck, taking pictures, playing a 2-4 hour show, loading up the gear, and then maybe even writing a blog entry. Days might start at 7am and go well past 1am. Being on tour during the month of May most certainly didn’t feel like time off.

However, I do have to confess that when I got home after the long tour with the band I spent several days doing nothing but playing video games with my roommate, Scott. Before I left I was fretting about money and wondering if I had let the “Geli Happiness Experiment” go on too long. I knew that I could easily find another job at an office where I could excel and earn an income. I had said as much to Scott as I toyed with moments of self-doubt about the new career direction I had taken myself toward.

“Look at it this way,” he told me.

I found myself bristling at the thought of getting yet another unwelcome comment.

“You’ve just started this project,” he continued.

It stopped me. The feeling of dismissal that I already had prior to him voicing those words dissolved. It was the sudden, alternative perspective that called me out. The fact that I had been telling myself, “Well, it was a good experiment.”

He was right.
I had just started this project.
Was I expecting instant results?
I found myself staring at a new perspective.
I found myself staring at my Happiness Project.

Any project requires investment, work, and planning. Was I expecting the doors to fling themselves open and allow me to walk through without paying the dues? Any project manager knows that just because you’re working hard it doesn’t guarantee the success of a project. When I returned from the month long tour in May with only enough profit to cover half of the mortgage payment, I wanted to flail my arms in the air.

“Work harder, not smarter,” Scott rebuffed.

I wanted to throw something at his head for telling me what I already knew. But sometimes you need someone in your life to reiterate the obvious lessons that you might otherwise ignore.

So I had to ask myself whether I was doing everything that I could. How was I marketing myself, how long was the sales cycle, and how reliable were my leads? Was I sitting there at the water pump cranking it as hard as I could after I had forgotten to drill the well? I started looking at my situation like a business owner. If I still had to drink water while I drilled the well, how could I accomplish both at the same time without cranking my arm off? The real answer was to stop pumping at an un-drilled well. The truth was this was a project with a long tail to success.

I realized that in this instance the to-do list was long and even working smarter still means working hard in this case.  I had already proven my ability to earn an income while working successfully for someone else. I now wanted to prove my ability to succeed on my own.

This was the choice I made.
I had, after all, just started this project.
It was time to see it through to the end of the long tale.

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