John. Whaaat’s Happening..?: On Being My Own Boss

I’m my own boss.  And if you believe as I believe, you are your own boss too — even if you are working for someone else.

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Since I manage myself, I’m afforded many cool luxuries like being able to work from home; creating my own work schedule based around how I want to live my life; coordinating my own rates for my services; planning each day for the highest productivity, etc.  When I reflect on my previous jobs outside of producing and creating music for a living, I sometimes wonder how I was able to “punch the clock” day in and day out, working for a company in which I didn’t believe and a manager who motivated his team with backhanded sarcasm and phony baloney pep talks in the morning.  Needless to say, I am much happier now!

At the same time, there are downsides to being my own boss.  Unfortunately, many of them are the same as the upsides.  Being able to work from home means that I can be easily distracted from my work.  Creating my own schedule is one thing, but sticking to that schedule is another; it’s very easy to procrastinate when you ultimately decide when you’ll work.  Deciding on rates means placing a dollar amount on my professional value related to my industry and the current market for my individual services, which requires calculation, research and constant reevaluation.  And trust me, you can plan out your days meticulously and be as thorough in your preparation as possible, and things still won’t always go according to plan.

Occasionally, after a period of long, hard work on a project, the boss lets me take a vacation.  Maybe I go to Chicago for the weekend, or just take some time off and read that new book I’ve been itching to start.  Sometimes, he lets me reschedule my entire upcoming work week to the following week, just because “the vibe isn’t right” or “it’s pointless to work on [something important] now because of [some reason]”.  He lets me go to the gym whenever I want, and knows that my health is most important to me.  He’s very accommodating and understanding.

During my vacation, at some point — usually the day after I’ve had the most fun — the boss calls me up…

Boss: “John.  Whaaat’s happening..?”

Me: “Uh, hey boss!  Just enjoying life!  What’s up with you??”

Boss: “I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying yourself, John.  I was just wondering when you were going to [start/finish] [something important].”

Me: “Damn it.  Yeah, I need to do that, don’t I?  Okay.  I’ll do that tomorrow.”

Boss: “Yeah, if you could take care of that tomorrow that would be great…”

…and then I don’t hear from him again until I need to start/finish the next important thing.

Right now the important thing is finishing pre-production on my full-length solo album and deciding which songs are ultimately going to be included.  I have over 20 songs from which to choose, and am having a very challenging time deciding.  Filmmaker M. Night Shamalamadingdong (sp?) said “as a director, you have to be prepared to cut your favorite scene”.  I don’t have any favorite songs, but there are some that I truly believe need to be released and heard now, both from a personal standpoint and because of their potential impact on current culture.

The thing is, I could be wrong.  Only a handful of people have heard the tunes, and most of them are good friends, family and fellow musicians.  While I trust their opinions and criticisms — I wouldn’t have asked them to listen to the songs otherwise — I want to be sure that the songs included are the songs that you want.  I’m proud of all of my creative babies, so I don’t have a problem outsourcing some of the decision-making process to the people who actually want the album!

In the book Zen and the Art of Mixing, producer Eric Sarafin (Ben Harper, Amy Grant, Foreigner) writes, “Frankly, a song that can’t be sung effectively by one person with one instrument can’t possibly be considered a great song.”  In light of that statement, every few days I’ll be posting stripped-down versions — just acoustic guitar and vocals — of the songs currently in pre-production.  I humbly request that you please set aside 5 minutes of your day to listen to a song when it has been posted, and let me know what you honestly think of it, with no reservations.  I’m not quite ready to perform these songs live yet, and have no way of knowing which songs affect people most positively, so your feedback is crucial.

Don’t like the melody in the bridge??  Say so!  Do you think adding a trumpet section in the chorus would liven it up??  Okay then!  It’s the best thing you’ve heard all day??  Well, thanks!  You absolutely hate the song??  Tell me why!  I’m not trying to put kindergarten drawings on the fridge anymore.  I’m trying to create lasting greatness in life through music, and you can be a part of it with me if you’d like.

Thanks for reading.  Now…get back to work.

:-J

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