What I Really Learned During 30 Years In The Trenches

ShovelUntil recently, my chosen career was in concert and special event production.  I spent more than 30 years doing sound, lighting, staging and event management.  It was a great run-I got to see the country and make dozens of great friends.  I saw more than my share of great shows along the way.

So, what did I learn that I consider really valuable today?  I can coil cables, level stages, mix sound for live TV and focus lights from the top of a 20 foot ladder.  Those were all hard-won skills that served me well, but they don’t have a lot of value today.

The most valuable skill, by far, was being able to make decisions.   Producing large events and concerts, every day was a string rapid-fire decisions, all focused on the starting time of the show.  There was never a chance to kick around a lot of options or “sleep on it”.  Not enough time

Fortunately, these were not decisions of the life-or-death variety, and if I was able to get two out of every three right, I was usually a hero.  There was never the option of putting off the decision until later.  The show would be today whether I made a decision or not.  Choosing “not to decide” was the same as “choosing to fail“.

The Only Time That Matters Is “Show Time”

I reality, the more decisions I made in a day the more likely I was to get really good results.  Making a couple of decisions before my first cup of coffee always gave me new options that got me closer to an on time show.  That was the goal.

Actually providing good entertainment was the job of the performers and their hands on technicians.  My job was to make enough correct decisions to insure that they got to do their job.

Making lots of decisions can be risky, even painful.  Rarely will it do the sort of damage that is almost guaranteed by making no decision at all.

No Competition In Your Rear View Mirror? That Usually Means Trouble

rear view mirrorAn interview in on of my favorite trade journals talked with someone who had started a very successful manufacturing business.  Most of the interview had good insights about starting and maintaining a business, but I was shocked at the founders answer to this question:

When asked about his competition, his response was that “we take pride in not concerning ourselves with it.  The moment we look back, we are no longer leading.”

If you are not willing to look back to see who might be nipping at your heels, then don’t be surprised when you look forward and see someone who you always thought of  as your trailing competition is now leaving you in the dust.

It’s great to see yourself as the leader, but that isn’t worth much if no one’s following.

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