Go There First and Sell Your Work, Dammit!
Whatever you desire for your audience, you have to be willing to go there first.
I've been taught this simple truth so very many times in my life.
As a performer, if I wanted an audience to be excited and happy, then I had to be those very things. It didn't matter if I had a headache, was upset with my partner or feeling nervous about a new routine. When I walked onto the stage, I had to be confident, dashing and full of life. To do otherwise was to risk losing my audience and "bombing" – a truly horrifying social experience.
As a presenter, it is the same. I'm always nervous before I present, but if I allow the nervousness to stick around, it will be impossible for my audience to relax and enjoy the journey. They will be just as nervous as I am.
And yet, there is a powerful urge to start motoring through the presentation and just ignore my clammy hands. It's important that I stop and connect with my audience in order to change my emotional state. I've used jokes, a warm up exercise or even a Q&A session before my presentation. This is about creating rapport and putting myself at ease so that they can be at ease.
As a coach and facilitator, this rule applies as well. When I'm working with a group, I make sure that I expose some of my own dirty laundry. I prove that the space is safe and that I am willing to share and explore the very things I am asking them to contemplate.
This is not to say that my vulnerability will enable everyone else to feel safe being vulnerable. The rule is simply that I should not expect others to explore a state if I'm not willing to go there first. It is far more likely that they will enter a territory if I first open the door.
As a life partner, there are times when I find it hard to not get distracted, annoyed or even frustrated when interacting with Eli. It took many years before I realized that these moments were equally challenging for him. I can be a bit stubborn and slow at times.
It was a cycle of frustration, inattention and anger that would build up between us. I found it hard to identify the cycle let alone stop it. It's still something I struggle with, but things are improving as I learn to apply this rule and change my emotional state.
I make this shift, sometimes successfully, by focusing on my breathing and becoming curious about what it is happening As I begin to become curious, my emotional state changes and I become more fully present in what is happening in him and myself. I can enter fascination and understanding and this transformation helps him to also exit the cycle of frustration, self-doubt and the like.
As a salesman (of my art, my passions, etc.), this rule is king. I will sit for hours while someone overwhelmed with excitement attempts to sell me used glue remnants. Their enthusiasm and passion are a joy to witness and also extremely contagious. Compare this to the corporate sales representative droning through endless powerpoint slides about a product they don't really care about. Three minutes of the latter and I begin searching the room for a way to maim myself just enough to have an ambulance come and rescue me.
And yet, as artists, it can be hard to sell ourselves and our work. It seems slimy and two-faced. Our hands go clammy and we are filled with dread. We question our worth. We question our work. We start thinking about becoming a barista.
We've missed the whole point.
Every person we touch, every piece we put into a home, is a chance to change the world. I know that sounds grandiose and deluded, but this is the true potential of these interactions if we would stop sabotaging ourselves.
As creators, we have a chance to impact our audience, if we are simply willing to go there first.
When I go to sell a piece, I can choose to get excited. I can talk about my passion, my purpose, and my journey to help others while searching for what matters. I can choose to become contagious and have what is flowing through me enter their lives and start them on their journey for purpose and meaning.
But that means I have to change how I see selling my work. I have to see these interactions as joyous, magical, super nova, potentially life-changing events.
Are you contagious? Should you be?