Monthly Archives: March 2013

Career lessons from Joe Walsh

Today, careers everywhere have been shaken up. No gig is guaranteed, and many people are on their own when it comes to benefits or health plans while politicians sort out the details. But musicians have always lived this way. Recently, you might have caught some of the History of the Eagles documentary on TV that cast the latest light on the dark corners of that business.

The lot of the musician is one of constant adaptation, persistence and reinvention. You have to prove yourself every night in front of a new audience, pretty much for the rest of your life if you plan on being around that long. Many don’t make it.

But a good example of successfully navigating this sea of uncertainty is Joe Walsh, as a solo artist and an “Eagle,” he’s always proven to be maneuverable, versatile entertainer devoted to his craft. So since we’re in a rocking mood, let’s glean some career lessons from this iconic guitarist.

Always look for opportunity. Walsh started his career in the James Gang when their song Funk #49 kicked off the 1970′s by blowing out Camero speakers everywhere. After three records with the Gang, Walsh had some money and fame, but he knew it was no time to get comfortable. So he bailed out of the James Gang to start a new band, Barnstorm, and then kicked off a solo career that would result in over a dozen albums. Do you balance staying “comfortable” with taking risks?

March to your own drummer. Not too many artists put their solo career on hold to join a band, but that’s what Walsh did when he agreed to replace Eagles’ guitarist Bernie Leadon in 1975. The result was a new direction for the band that produced their classic Hotel California album. Walsh’s guitar solo on the title track ranks as one of the best ever. Always be open to new options, and keep in mind that your next gig might be in a direction you didn’t anticipate.

Always bring something to the table. Walsh brought three things to this established band. 1. An edgy guitar sound that gave The Eagles the opportunity to venture out into fresh territory. 2. New song ideas including riffs and lyrics. 3. The willingness to collaborate and compromise in a team environment. (The latter is often not easy for those used to calling the shots, such as solo artists.) New ideas and fresh thinking are not the sole province of entrepreneurs and start-ups. If you are joining an established organization it’s just as important that you bring creativity, money making (or saving) ideas, and a team-player attitude.

Cultivate your network. Over the years Walsh has helped out by playing guitar on records for many artists from Dan Fogelberg and John Entwistle to Any Gibb and REO Speedwagon. He’s also known to be generous with his gear, sharing vintage guitars from his collection with other musicians such as Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page. Do more than just connect with others on LinkedIn. Cultivating a network where you share your time, talent and treasure pays lifelong dividends.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. While he’s a member of a superstar band and his songs have been rock radio staples for decades, Walsh doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s known as one of the most laid back approachable “rock stars” around. His albums reflect this with titles such as, “So What,” “Ordinary Average Guy,” and “Got Any Gum?” In a world of inflated egos, social media status updates and bloated bios, take the road less traveled and let your work speak for you. Do that and you’ll be in business…for the long run.

Revive a reading regimen

libraryThese days, even with a Kindle, it can be tough to find time to read. You’ve got mind-numbing games and endless apps on your smartphone, hundreds of channels of reality shows on your FiOS, and all those “Hangover” movies downloaded on your tablet. But if wedging some reading time into your day is important to you, use these tips to get started.

Keep a list. I maintain a list in my black notebook of all of the books I want to read. The list keeps me motivated. It’s a list that will never end and I find a certain amount of joy in checking off a book after I’ve read it. You can also create a list on Amazon to share with others.

Start with something. Never been a big reader? Relax, you’re not in school anymore so you can pick out books you want to read. Want a short biz book? Try The One Minute Manager, Poke the Box or Do the Work. And if you find yourself bored you can always set it aside and try another one, no one else is keeping score.

Mix it up. Biographies provide inspiration and insight, business books let you keep on top of the latest thought leaders in your industry and beyond, the classics expose you to the proven great thinkers, graphic novels can fire your creativity, and current bestselling titles provide enjoyment and convenient social ice breakers.

Steal time. I saw this tip in a book about JFK. The young president was an avid reader but naturally had a crazy schedule, so to adapt he always had a book handy and read while standing up. This trick lets you read a few lines while waiting for an appointment, on hold with the airline, or waiting for that leftover Mako shark to cook in the microwave. Reading a page here or there will help you get through books much faster than if you wait to find time to relax on the couch.

Ritual reading. Instead of falling asleep in front of your flat screen, make reading a good book before bed a nightly ritual. Sleep experts agree watching TV or playing Xbox just before bed isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep anyway.

Jot notes. Sometimes you may want to take notes or underline passages for later reference, but how do you find them again when you need them? Easy. In a blank page in the front of the book create your own informal index. In pencil jot down the item and the associated page number. Something like, “Job search tip, page 53.” Writing notes, ideas and doodles gives a book character and makes it your own. (Librarians may not agree.)

Don’t let excuses get in your way. Sure you’re busy, but busier than Theodore Roosevelt? (NYC Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York , naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, colonel, VP and President.) In addition to building out the most incredible resume ever, Teddy was famous for reading at least one book a day…amounting to thousands over his lifetime. (Oh, and he found time to write 36 of his own books.) Here is some advice to read like TR.

Use social media. Twitter and LinkedIn can help you find fresh new books and reintroduce old classics. Use Twitter to ask questions and interact with authors and other fans, and try LinkedIn to join book-related groups and discussions.

Educate yourself. Remember this Matt Damon line in Good Will Hunting? “You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you could’ve got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.” Some of us have sheepskins on the wall and some of us don’t. But no matter what you’ve spent on education it’s in the past and the future belongs to those willing to keep learning.

It’s never been a better time to get back into books!

Pope

Jorge Mario Bergoglio woke up this morning as a cardinal. This afternoon he was elected pope and became Francis I. In his first appearance he asked the crowds for their blessing as be began his “journey’ as head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Are you ready for a new journey if the opportunity presents itself? Are you making yourself available for an opportunity to present itself? You’re not too old, Bergoglio is 76 and his life just changed a few hours ago.

Pope lesson: be true to yourself, but always be ready to assume a new responsibility and identity.

Strange deer

It was midnight as I negotiated a turn and slammed on my brakes as a four-legged creature materialized on the side of the road. I had never seen anything like it. It was about the size of a small deer and almost entirely white in color. It looked at me with curious brown eyes and hopped away for several yards before stopping. Yes, it hopped. It also had a small hump, like a camel. I have spent many years in the outdoors and I had never seen anything like it.

Google revealed it to be a piebald deer. Apparently it possessed a one-in-a-hundred inherited genetic trait.

Imagine, an encounter with a rare ungulate right in my own neighborhood. If there can be deer-size things living in your neighborhood that you’ve never seen, maybe there are jobs nearby that you’ve never imagined.

It’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time…and the more you’re out there looking, the better the odds.

Lunch

You have a lot of emails to attend to. You have spreadsheets to fill out, forms to complete and a desk covered in problems and projects. It’s easy to keep your head down and plow through the work. But sometimes some of the best work gets done when you talk to others and get to know them.

Understandably, many people are “too busy” to go to lunch. But that’s even more reason why you should do it.

Going to lunch with someone could be the best career move you make all week.

What do you tell yourself?

I’m not handy.

I’m bad with numbers.

I can’t draw.

We become used to saying these things. But when you were a kid you improvised, you knew your flash cards and you drew whatever you wanted. What happened? Maybe you decided it was easier to be bad at things. Not everything, just something.

Buy a house and you’ll become handy because things will need to be fixed.

Put yourself in charge of a budget and your numbers skills will improve.

Get a notebook and start doodling and you’ll see your ideas take shape.

Enough people will tell you what you’re not good at, why add to the noise?