The great artist Byron Stripling paid a visit to the University of Denver last year and blew everyone away! I HIGHLY recommend that you book this wonderful artist-speaker-entrepreneur for your event, concert, festival, performance, band whatever! He is wonderful on many, many different levels. Indeed, I believe him to be one of the most effective artists who came on the scene in the 20th Century and made the switch to the 21st Century out there. Please go to this site and book him right now: HIRE BYRON STRIPLING!
So, along with helping a friend by hopefully tossing him some work, I wanted to bring up Byron because of something he said to us in his wonderful presentation at DU that hit home with me…and I find it to be a great subject for a 21CA Blog post. So here it is:
Byron looked around the room and asked the students “Is there anything else you like to do besides music?” (One could also put the word “arts” in place of music) Some of the students raised their hands, Byron listened to their answers, then said: “Well you’d better do THAT then! Because music is HARD!”
Mr. Stripling went on to use a phrase I had not heard before (what rock had I been living under!) “Burn Your Boats!” A phrase that comes from the popular belief that the famous Conquistador Hernán Cortés told his men that they were going to conquer the Aztecs and take over Mexico…there was no other alternative…no turning back…and now you CAN’T because we just sank the fleet! Historians disagree if the ships were actually burned, if they were sunk by another method, if the soldiers were told in a dramatic fashion, or if it was a secret later revealed, but they do seem to agree that the ships were actually destroyed. And of course the brutal destruction of the mighty Aztec empire and peoples are a sad-but-true historical fact as well. (CLICK HERE for a bit of history on Cortés courtesy of PBS.) Byron used this well known metaphor to underline the fact that if you want to “make it” in the arts, you need to be ALL in, 100% -NO BACK UP PLAN!
But doesn’t this go against what most parents tell their children? I (and I’m sure MANY others) were told: “You’d better have something to fall back on honey. That music business is TOUGH!” Are these well-meaning and loving parents wrong about that? I think not. I believe what Byron was saying is that YES, the music business (and indeed all of the arts today) is TOUGH! Actually, it’s almost impossible! So you had better commit FULLY.
Indeed if you apply the teachings of my favorite philosopher: Jedi Master Yoda (Ok, full disclosure…I also am a devotee of Dr. Seuss and Mr. Rogers) then you know: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
What does all this mean? Well, there are others who take up this philosophy of “Burn Your Boats” such as successful entrepreneur John Dunham on his blog: Burn The Boats and their is even a blog on “take no prisoner” style entrepreneurship by a young independent Internet technologist (not really sure what that is) called Kevin-Mikhail Mansour Singarayar titled “Burning Boats” CHECK IT OUT.
Does this kind of single-minded devoted approach mean that artists in the 21st Century need to be so committed that they starve? Nope. If we stick to the 21CA mantra of “Survive and Thrive“ then it’s ok to take a part-time gig of some kind so that you can put food on the table while you develop your artistic endeavor. This is also common sense. Indeed, the whole idea of 21st Century entrepreneurship in the arts is to diversify enrich and defy categorization. But perhaps then it is NOT ok to go about the incredibly important and SO very challenging task of pursuing the arts for your life’s work with a “back up plan” or “fall back” option. Does one strive to the fullest if one knows there are boat in the harbor for a quick getaway when the going gets tough?
I believe that the entrepreneurial motivational folk, Byron Stripling and yes: even Yoda are saying that we as 21st Century artists need to approach this whole thing with a spirit of “there is no other option” we are here to stay and we have NO plan to leave!
Is there any other way to go about doing all of this?
Your thoughts please. Think Tank…ASSEMBLE!