Decisions you regret

Have you ever made a decision you regretted?

I must be honest and issue a disclaimer already: I haven’t. I have no regrets. If I did, there would possibly be two, both decisions I made in my early 20s.

But I’m being honest: I cannot regret the decisions I’ve made in life, and here is why:

We can only make the wisest, safest and most sensible decisions – perhaps with a little risk thrown in as well otherwise we’d never accomplish anything – with the information we have at any one moment in time.

And that information can change at any moment in time, too, so it’s OKAY if you make a different decision now than you did a few moments ago… after you receive new, impacting information.

That’s why I can’t stand it when politicians, lobbyists, activists and hierarchic religious institutions get all heated when their “image” is in jeopardy simply because they made a point and feel they must choose to stick with it regardless of any new significant information that comes their way. Or worse: stick with a previous decision/ viewpoint/ stance simply because others will chastise them publicly and try to make them look bad for changing their mind. How sad is that? (Very, if you really need the answer given to you!)

Here’s an example of making decisions based on updated information:

  1. Monday: Hurricane Irma is heading towards the Caribbean and will either enter the Gulf of Mexico and spin around Tampa Bay, or head up the USA’s East Coast. I live in Tampa Bay so Melissa and I will be fine… as usual.
  2. Tuesday: Irma gets strong and is likely to affect Tampa Bay – we should leave and head up the East Coast, despite our recent road trip to NYC. We even booked a hotel room for a couple of nights, out of harm’s way.
  3. Wednesday: Irma is predicted to make a sharp turn and head up the East Coast. We cancel the hotel room and decide to stay put. We’ll get wet and it’ll be windy, just like a multitude of other times. Maybe we could go to Tallahassee – our favorite hotel there has some rooms pretty cheap.
  4. Thursday: My friend in the Florida Disaster Management Office lets me in on a secret… “Some areas of Tampa Bay will be told to evacuate on Friday and Saturday, but it’s not public knowledge yet.” Our favorite hotel in Tallahassee suddenly doesn’t have any rooms available. In fact, NO hotels in Tallahassee have any rooms available! There’s a Super 8  motel with two rooms left an hour further North in Georgia, but we’d rather go West. Hmm… Melissa and I decide to pack some clothes, grab our always-ready overnight bag, cancel a few meetings, and hit the road headin’ for Destin. En route we book a hotel in Spanish Fort near Mobile, AL for a couple of nights.
  5. Late Thursday, in a different time zone: We see Irma is heading up the center of Florida and into the Mid-West States (AL, TN, KY) where we were planning to go next, and we hear on the radio that evacuations were ordered for various zones in Tampa Bay, a day earlier than planned. Arriving at the hotel, we check in and ask if we can stay longer. No room. What? Fully booked through Wednesday. Actually, there are NO ROOMS in ANY HOTEL in the Mobile area through Wednesday! We find one in Houma, LA so are heading there next.

The Lesson?

Feel free, and give yourself permission, to make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time a decision should be made (delaying a decision may mean it will be made for you, and it will probably not be with your best interests in mind). And that you can change your mind when you get new information that is sufficiently impacting.

You know who else changed his mind after getting new information?

J.R.R. Tolkein.

After The Hobbit became a massive success his publisher wanted a sequel. Tolkein struggled and struggled, producing multiple drafts of The Hobbit 2. His friend in the Inklings, C.S. Lewis, one night told him “You know, Hobbits are only interesting when they are not in Hobbiton.”

Tolkein went home and began writing what became The Lord of the Rings.

He made a different decision based on the new information he had, and look what happened! A much bigger success indeed.

As were the movies Peter Jackson made about the Rings.

Including the music.

Here are a couple of things I rated and slated about the music Howard Shore wrote for Jackson’s version:

How to lead by celebrating humility and the classics

Leadership humility, celebration and advice for beginners

Today we explore three articles that help us define good and strong leadership, including why it is worth celebrating, as well as some solid advice to those starting out as leaders. But we begin with one of the most counter-cultural aspects of successful leadership that people generally do not like to talk about, or even admit is valid these days: humility.

Leadership: Study the classics

Why Share Your Valuable Creative Process Right Now?

Creativity Sir Ken Robinson

Many times it is difficult for people who create things to keep their fans and audiences interested and up-to-date.

A long time can occur between local performances, compositions, pieces of art, etc.

Probably the best way to keep people engaged in your art form and looking forward to experiencing it live, is to share the process you go through to create it. Whether it is practicing a piece of music (see video below), layering a painting, or preparing a speech, share your thoughts, ideas, exciting discoveries, techniques, tools, and other elements.

Doing so creates excitement and brings people closer to your work than is possible just upon hearing. You generate a connection that does not exist otherwise, and letting people in is a sure-fire way to help them decide whether or not to attend one of your performances.

You will also be contributing to a better society by letting others know how they, too, can be creative. This is important for culture as well as Sir Ken Robinson!

For example, each weekday I share one element of the #PsalmQuest composition I am working on. Once the composition is complete, all those progress reports are collected together on the final product page – scroll down to the bottom of the page for Ecce Quam Bonum.

You don’t need to write something every day – once a week may work for your schedule – but do try to keep it regular (the same day at the same time: click here to read why). In my case, I have a completely separate email list for my daily progress reports as I don’t want to overburden readers only interested in sharing their passion for live music with my more selfish goal of composing 150 new pieces of music by my 50th birthday! If you are interested, though, click here to sign up.

If you would rather just read all the progress reports and hear the final published composition, then sign up for my #PsalmQuest Premium service.

Here are some recent excerpts from when I shared my creative process with readers:

#PsalmQuest 43 progress 5: engagement

One way to generate excitement is to give the unexpected. The result is that your audience/ team/ customers/ colleagues are more inclined to stick with you, because as long as there is…

#PsalmQuest 43 planning

A subtitle of this piece could be “A Vision of Peace,” thanks to its theme of stillness, peace, rest, fastened strength, a fortress. Therefore, we will use the key of G Major.

#PsalmQuest 42 progress 3: a full stop

These other speech patterns can actually be reflected in music, too (or is it that speech reflects musical techniques?). In our new #PsalmQuest composition Happy Dance, the violin’s last couple of bars…

#PsalmQuest 41 progress 5: Sweat the detail

One thing I have learned over the years is this: it is definitely worth sweating the details! If you want to be noticed, to be considered an authority, to establish credibility, you will find it in the details.

#PsalmQuest 38 progress 2: the time to be perfect

As I constantly tell my community and youth ensembles, if you don’t play something, we can’t fix any problems. It is vital that we create first and make perfect later.

#PsalmQuest 40 pictures

Because I am a strong believer in consistency and being reliable, I use a template in MS Publisher. Using a template helps maintain consistency. Sometimes routines can help, too, as long as…

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Photo: “Ken Robinson on Creativity” by Eric E Castro is licensed under CC BY 2.0

5 secrets to more rewarding musical collaborations


Probably the most rewarding aspect of anything artistic is eyes & ears. A.k.a. The audience.

Even if you do create a stunning piece of music or choreography, there seems to be little closure until it is shared with someone.

Bearing that in mind, when you collaborate with other performers, it should be with the intent that your work will be shared with others. Here are 5 secrets to maximize your reward:

1. Collaborate, don’t compete.

One of the reasons audiences say they do not attend concerts is because they do not have someone to go with (NEA, 2015). By partnering up with other performers, you automatically increase the number of known fans who might know each other. Partner with three other performers, and they all have friends, family, colleagues, neighbors who you do not have access to but might attend the same church or meetup club. Rather than compete against each other, let’s work together more to share our artforms.Tweet:

2. Share everything equally.

Whether you are a performer or an enthusiastic listener hosting a concert, be sure that each performer gets an equal share of everything: time as a soloist, time in chamber groups, print space (i.e. the number of words in a bio, or the size of their names), and most important: an equal share of the concert’s income (donations). Treating everyone equally is not only fair, but pretty motivating. In the BBC’s recent program The Paradise the staff of the Ladies Department pool their commissions and soon finding themselves helping each other, working better as a team, and actually getting along with each other as well!

3. Solos and Ensembles.

Offering your audiences variety is essential. When you collaborate with another performer, their fans have come to see them, not you. So let them have their moment! Each performer should be able to do their thing but it is also appropriate to open and close (and perhaps do something in the middle, especially if there is an intermission) with everyone performing together. It avoids the rush-in rush-out of the audience that schools are known for: the number of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings who leave a concert halfway through because their little one has played their piece and is done. If there is no familiar repertoire for the combination of performers you have, make something up!

4. Make something up!

What could excite an audience more than knowing they are a part of something special, something that is only existing in their presence? Collaborations do not have to be always creating new works, but including one at the end of a concert is a sure-fire way to grab your audience’s attention and come back next time. Although it would be nice to create something that will last a lifetime and beyond, it can also be thrilling to create just one viewing, one showing, one performance. It does not need to be complicated (such as the collaborations between classical music and fashion in Sugar Vendil’s Nouveau Classical Project) but quite simple, such as flute player Zara Lawler and a dancer C. Neil Parsons:


5. Collect and share fan contact info

Careful with this one – it can be done very tastelessly. Invite your audience to want more and if they do, the best way to find out about your next event is via email. Have your audience fill out a form or visit a website page made specially for this event to sign up for your newsletters, BUT! make sure the audience understands their email address will be shared with each of the performers and no-one else, and that they can unsubscribe from any or all the performers at any time.

There are many more ways to collaborate, but approaching performances with these five perspectives (which so few performers demonstrate they do – I’m so glad if you already get them!) will make your work far easier and much more rewarding than going it alone or being directed by a boss.

Now it’s your turn:

Tell me, which of the five secrets above do you already do, which are new to you, and when do you plan to implement all five in one program? Be as specific as you possibly can so we can turn your performing dreams into reality.

Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. Hundreds of passionate people visit my sites for weekly insight and inspiration, so thank you in advance for adding your voice to the conversation.



This makes me so angry

Opera audiences in the ROTW are not declining as they are in the USARecently, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) published another year’s worth of audience attendance analysis. OK, so audiences are still declining for a whole variety of reasons, primarily:

  • Lack of time
  • Inaccessible venues
  • Couldn’t find someone to go with.

These are all things that performers can deal with.

What got my goat this morning was this statement by Sunil Iyengar, Director of Research and Analysis at the NEA:

“Highly educated Americans are going (to arts events) at much lower levels than they did 10 years ago.”


My response:

Highly educated in WHAT?

For decades we have been drilling the arts OUT of education, out of people’s lives, and removing exposure to them for kids. I don’t care where you are from (the NEA report cites Hispanics as having a “historically low rate of arts participation,” [Of course, El Sistema blatantly disproves this in Venezuela]) if someone shows you the thrilling importance of the performing arts, you naturally end up appreciating them. Depending on the extent and passionate approach to that exposure, those on the receiving end are usually awed and inspired to get more of it.

What happened to all those gawky-eyed children in the ’60s who sat enthralled and amazed at Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts? Where did they go? Did they expect people to just keep giving them the arts, or might it have occurred to them that they actually should be giving the next generation the same kind of exposure?

It’s the same with anything.

Math, Science, Technology, Languages… you name it, someone somewhere usually inspires someone else through passion and exposure.

Remove that exposure, or degrade its importance to the fundamental communication of human emotions, and BAM! No-one is interested.

And that’s why Iyengar’s unapologetically P.C. statement makes me very angry.

It is reiterated by Principal Nolan in “A Dead’s Poet Society” with this scoff:

I always thought the idea of educating was to learn to think for yourself.

At these boys’ ages? Not on your life! Tradition, John. Discipline. Prepare them for college, and the rest will take care of itself.

Pitiful. And now we are now seeing the fruit of this approach to education, yet we still seem surprised. Or even worse, choose to ignore that it is wrong.

The consequences of removing the performing arts (and I mean performing arts, not competitive music as a sport) from everyday life, from our children’s lives, is continuing to produce an expressionless and creatively moribund society.

And that makes me VERY angry!

Share your passion:

Does this make you angry? Or do you think I’m over-reacting? I’d love to hear what your thoughts are as to:

  1. Why arts audiences are declining,
  2. Whether or not Education has any influence on the decline, and
  3. Are the arts really something humans can do without.

Be as specific as you can so that the conversations can inform and direct debate.

Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. Hundreds of passionate people visit my sites for weekly insight and inspiration, so thank you in advance for adding your voice to the conversation.