Making Changes

Reinvention Back at the end of the 1980’s and into the beginning of the 1990’s there was a fellow named Tom Peters who was making quite a splash in business news circles. He was also catching on with much of the general public with a delightfully radical idea. He thought that, for any business to stay healthy and profitable on a long-term basis, it needed to reinvent itself every three years or so. For me it the idea came as vindication of a sort. I had, from a creative standpoint, been doing that since I started my career as an entertainer in 1970. What you are seeing or hearing on this website is my long overdue self reinvention. The stage persona has changed. The style and substance of the comedy has changed. Much of the music is being changed. That is not to say that I’m ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There are things that ain’t broke so I ain’t gonna fix ‘em. I am not, for example, about to stop yodeling. It’s too much fun. But, I’ve been cruising along on that cowboy stage character for more than a decade. He’s a good character and I like working in him . But, he’s no longer enough to handle what I need to be doing as a singer, songwriter and satirist in these early years of the 21st century. Some radical changes have to happen. Other than that I won’t bore you with all of the dopey details of what I need to change and why. I’m only bring it up as ajumping off point to pass along what I think that I have learned from my various reinventions. Note that I am not claiming to be particularly wise or to be telling you anything that you don’t already know. I may have an experience a couple of weeks from now that will prove that everything that I think I know is completely wrong. That’s part of the nature of change and growth. So feel free to take the following with a grain or so of salt. Renewal A friend of mine once told me that every once in a while you have to unscrew your head from your shoulders, put it on a table in front of you, and talk to it. It’s a colorful variation on one of the oldest pieces of good advice on the planet. ”Know Thyself.” This is particularly important for artists of any kind. A good deal of your core identity is going into your chosen medium. Thus, the best way to get control of your art is to have a good handle on what’s going out there. Even if you’re not an artist it is still important to know who you are inside. Some go therapists to find this stuff out. Some people go to support groups. Some people join a religion. We each have our own way. Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t feel that we have the kind of time needed to achieve any demonstrable level of self knowledge. That’s not always true, though. There are a lot of points in our lives when we are not actually doing anything except to wait; on the bus or train commuting to and from work, in a doctor’s waiting room, in line at the supermarket, or in line anywhere for that matter. You can’t honestly say that you’re doing anything especially useful at moments like that. Use that time to ask yourself some of the following questions. 1) What makes you laugh? 2) Why? 3) What makes you angry? 4) Why? Obviously, questions about all of the emotions between those two points will occur to you while you’re thinking. As you start to cross-reference the various questions the answers may start to surprise you. You will like some of them and want to hide from others. But, it’s important that you know both. The tricky part, of course, is in answering the question honestly. The most universal and widely practiced art form in the world is that of self deception. I say this knowing that I’m as guilty as anyone (maybe more than some). Sometimes what you need is a way to jumpstart a different point of view. This is going to sound wildly absurd, but stay with me for a couple of minutes. I’ve found this to be a darned useful technique for changing my view of things. Early in the morning, when you are standing in front of your mirror to shave or put on makeup (or both), spend three minutes mugging. Spend three minutes making strange, goofy, or weird faces at yourself. Spend three minute being five years old. You may be thinking, “That’s really stupid! I can’t do that!” Yes, it is and yes, you can. It’s a bit startling what doing something that childish and ridiculous can achieve. For a start, it forces you, quite literally, to see yourself differently than you normally do. That’s never a bad thing. Beyond that it will carry you into your day with a slightly different and, possibly, more positive attitude. The knowledge that you have spent three minute of your day doing something shamelessly silly will make it very nearly impossible to take yourself too seriously. With that barrier removed it will be a lot easier to prioritize the degrees to which you need to take the rest of the world seriously. With that barrier removed it will diminish the degree of self deception in play when answering the previously discussed questions. Try it. If nothing else it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

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