HTT: How to Professional

I've always been of the opinion that professionalism was relatively simple. Show up on time, showered, reasonably dressed, and if you can manage an entire cup of coffee before-hand, do that too.

Whatever happens next is out of your control.


However, I have found that if you master those basic principles, you're gonna win at life.

Not always, but mostly.

And the same is true if you choose a life on the corporate ladder or if you would prefer to disappoint your parents and become an artist. Any kind of artist, doesn't matter.

(That's a joke of course. I don't know any artists whose parents aren't proud of them, especially my own.)

True Story Though:
I may have purposely derailed my acting career during an audition for MFA Program in San Francisco in the late nineties because the auditionors showed up 45 minutes late. I honestly felt if they couldn't respect me enough show up on time, then they had nothing of value to teach me. Certainly nothing that would be priced at around $90,000. I changed my monologue at the last minute to something that was only a quick paragraph cause I just didn't want to be in that room any longer.

Knowing what I know now hasn't changed my mind a bit.

Not even a little.

They are jackasses and their training is virtually useless.

Prove me wrong.

Yet . . . as I was thinking about that story, I realized that there is a significant problem with my "Show Up On Time" model when applied to making the transition between amateur and professional.

The problem is . . . there is no time, there is no place, you have to personally manufacture them and be emotionally prepared that finding a "needle in a haystack" is a cliche because it is exactly and painfully apt.

The worst part about having to cast a wide net is that there are sharks in the water. Even as savvy as I consider myself, I've been duped once or twice, and nearly duped a hundred times over.

You may know to stay away from things that are "too good to be true"

But it's also important to stay away from things that are "too mediocre to be false"

So for today's "How to Tuesday" I thought it might be apt to share a few personal stories of my own little journey of suffering in that limbo between not having having access to the Big Boys and not being conned by sharks.

How do you find the middle?

You guessed it . . . Professionalism.

And not just any professionalism . . . simple professionalism.

Timing, cleanliness, and caffeine enhanced attention.

True Story Number 2:
I got invited to join a national booking agency. My website had been found, my promo videos watched, an email had been sent. The terms of the shows were predicated on ticket sales, which is the very very low end of what I do, but . . . it's a gig . . . a gig I don't have to chase down . . . and I can can usually make my gas money back in tips.

So I wrote back . . . yes please . . . sign me up.

And I waited.

For three weeks. And then I finally got an email showing me how to sign up and the laundry list of special terms that weren't made available on the previous email. Terms like me being responsible for ticket sales prior to the shows. Which, okay, terrible deal, and very nearly the antithesis of what I do, but hey you know, get the gig, make a feeble attempt, sell an album or two, and at the very least meet some other local artists. Again . . . I've done more for less.

And I waited.

Two weeks later I get an offer to do a local gig. And the terms got worse. Price per ticket? $10 (double what it normally is) My cut per ticket . . . $1 (ridiculous and irresponsible, but since I didn't have any intention of selling tickets aside from a link on my website, I shrugged it off).

The venue was odd too. It was an art gallery, opening flooring, no stage. Good for poetry slams, but clearly not right for a rock show.

And then the final kicker: I would be given a 20 minute time slot.


Dude . . . I normally play from 2 to 4 hours per show.

I wouldn't know what the hell to do with only twenty minutes. See . . . this agency broke all three of my professionalism rules. They didn't respond to me in a timely manner, they're tactics were mildly dirty (borderline offensive), and despite having insisted that they had looked over my work, they assuredly were not paying attention.

I declined the show (which is only the second time in two years that I've done that) and haven't heard from them since. Too mediocre to be false, almost got me that time.

Which brings me round to True Story Number Three:

My first book is under review right now. It's a process and not an easy one. Just think about all the things that have to line up in order for my written words to reach print.

First, it's a staggeringly saturated amateur field. Everyone thinks they have a book in them (maybe they do, who am I to judge?), and if even a minuscule percentage of those actually finish one, that makes for somewhere around 100,000 Great American Novels being solicited every year.

Walls . . . have . . . to . . . be . . . built.

Most publishers won't even take submissions. They can't. It would be impossible. More so now that the margins for books in print are so small. Not a fools errand, but certainly one where being humble in the face of it is a virtue.

So I've made it through several hoops now, and to my detriment, I got impatient.

I sent off an email.

Not a nasty one (I'm not stupid), but . . . you know . . . a delicate "How's it going?" kind of nudge.

And to my utter delight . . . I got a response a day later.

"Sorry for the delay, hundreds of submissions to review. You should hear soon."

The full email was super nice, clearly hand written, and the exact sort of thing I didn't expect.

This publisher could have ignored me. Could have even been curt. Could have even lied. But they repaid my impatience with kindness and even though a rejection letter is still most likely coming my way, I feel good about it. These are the kind of people you want to work with.

Timely, well mannered, attentive.

That's how to professional.

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