Today, I decided I’m going to do a post in the style of Joe Gilder! If you don’t know Joe, then you need to. Fantastic guy, great songwriter and musician and he’s got some AWESOME advice on recording and mixing. He sends useful tips and tricks via email – you can sign up on his site. I’ve been receiving his emails for years now and one of his primary styles of writing is to leverage an every-day occurrence and use it as an analogy to mixing, recording or songwriting.
I had one of those parallel moments today while walking the family dog: Cody. He’s a fantastic dog – a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle – sometimes referred to as a “Cavadoodle” or “Cavapoo”. He’s always eager to please and LOVES to fetch his ball.
Being too eager can unfortunately get him screwed up in this activity though. Try as he might, he can’t seem to resist the urge to start running to fetch the ball BEFORE I actually throw it.
After a successful retrieval, he’ll bring it back, drop it for me and wait while I pick it up. However, once he sees me moving to start throwing, he’ll zip off in a general direction in front of me. Usually, he’ll be able to see the ball descending in his field of vision and veer off to get it.
But sometimes, he’ll have shot off in a direction that is just plain wrong. The ball will land, be hidden by the grass (he’s a short little dude) and Cody will end up running aimlessly around the field searching for the ball.
His pattern of searching reminds me a lot of Billy in those meandering panels from Family Circus. I’ll get a bit annoyed, point out where the ball was thrown (he usually ignores these commands) and eventually, I will find myself fetching the ball myself.
A couple of these incidents is usually a sign that we need to continue on the walk.
This actually got me thinking of my green, eager-beaver days when I was starting out in this artistic business of ours.
Chasing Balls… maybe
I remember doing the exact same thing as our dog Cody. I’d get a project and as soon as I got the media files, I’d start off running – composing, mixing … whatever it was.
- I know how to do this!
- I’d do it quickly!
- I’ll do it without bothering them too much.
- They’ll be so impressed!!!
- Woo Hoo!
There may have been one instance when it all unfolded like that, but that was the exception.
The majority of my early project experiences looked a lot like Billy’s meandering journeys. I’d get to the destination, but it’d take a long time, I’d do a lot of backtracking, I’d experience a lot of frustration and really, in the end, it demonstrated a lack of respect for the client.
After a couple of these debacles, it became evident that I needed to adopt a new approach.
That’s when I adopted what I’d been practicing in my “life” as a project manager:
Listening, Planning, Communicating.
I started to adopt a way of approaching new projects that leaned predominantly on ensuring that there was a common understanding of what was being asked before any “real” work was done. This isn’t to say that I don’t produce things until the very end of the project, but it means that there is a lot of talking, emails, examples and documentation that gets passed back and forth before I focus on making the “meat ‘n ‘taters” of the project. This is all to make sure that the client and I are both understanding what is needed, what is possible and when it can be done (… and for how much of course!).
At first, all this planning and communicating may seem like wasted time when there’s something creative that needs to happen before a looming deadline, BUT in the end, a clear, commonly-understood goal and direction will make everyone’s life easier.
Now, I don’t think I can expect that of our dog (coming back to the inspiration of this post), but it’s essentially the same principle.
If Cody could resist shooting off for two seconds and start running AFTER I threw the ball… well, I’d probably get a bit less exercise, but Cody would definitely have a higher retrieval rate percentage.
I’m working on getting him motivated towards that goal…