Everything new we become can lead to something new we can do. It’s simply a matter of leverage. Because when we expand our sense of who we are, we also expand the universe of decision makers who can engage our services. When we widen out the boundaries of our being, adding more ways in we can deliver our unique value to society, we widen the menu of yesses for prospects to peruse. And when we keep one eye cocked to the infinite commercial possibilities of our work, people will come out of the woodwork to lay down the track in front of our train.
This very philosophy was the impetus for creating the discussion guide for my documentary.
The intention was, I wanted the movie to be more than just a film, but also a platform for education and connection. And so, I offered resources to educators, learning institutions, companies, congregations and other organizations to help spread the messages of identity, belonging and creativity. Free of charge, of course, and with the confidence that new and exciting opportunities would open up as a result.
Are you open to pursuing any financial avenues that are available to you?
What a perfect sentiment to summarize the experience of busking. Because when you perform in public, you learn that not everybody will like your art. In fact, not everybody will even acknowledge the fact that you’re there. Most will just walk by as if you weren’t standing there naked, breaking yourself open and pouring yourself out.
And it’s painful. It makes you feel invisible. It insults your soul.
But you can’t let it phase you. You can’t allow the uncompromising forces of reality to crush your dream. Because job number one is not to please everybody who walks by, job number one is to create an exhibition of love through your art. To find the best that is within you and let her rip.
The ones who don’t get joke and can’t hear the music, they’re not your people. So just keep playing. Whether you’re performing on the streets for change or producing on the internet to create change, just keep playing. Stick around long enough and continue to be yourself until the right people find you. And when the world is finally ready for you, all you have to do is say yes.
What’s the one thing, if practiced consistently, would make the biggest impact on your life?
My foolish pride and suburban ego simply wouldn’t allow me to accept tips from strangers.
But after a few weeks of playing, I realized a few things. First of all, it’s not about making money, it’s about making a connection. Because every interaction is a relationship. Regardless of how long it lasts, I’m still relating to the other person. And so, every time a stranger drops change into my case, it’s like they’re saying, I like you. That makes me feel seen. And whether people give a dollar or a dime, no amount of money is insignificant. I’m learning to find joy from whatever people have to offer.
The other thing is, tips are totems of an abundance mentality. They’re reminders than money matters to me, that money is always flowing into my life from all directions and that I should train myself to spot money whenever it presents itself.
In fact, since I’m streaming my documentary for free on my website, I decided to recreate the open guitar case online. I created a donation page, almost like a digital tip jar. And if people find joy and value and inspiration in the movie, they can show their appreciation by dropping a dollar.
Ultimately, it’s been a transformative experience. A reminder that there is no prosperity without the willingness to receive. Because the answer to every question you don’t ask is no.
What is blocking your ability to receive?
My career has flourished on the power of giving myself away.
Through reckless generosity and a promiscuous heart, I’ve always treated the bulk of my work as a gift. As an offering to the marketplace. As a loving impulse of emotional labor that signals to the world, there’s plenty more where that came from.
This strategy, if you can even call it a strategy, hasn’t failed me yet. Because it comes from a place of abundance and love and connection. In fact, the concept of giving yourself away began as an anonymously written article in a business magazine nearly a hundred years ago. And due to its popularity and volume of reprint requests, the piece was later expanded into a bestselling book, which became an inspiration to millions. Myself included.
And so, when it came time to decide on a distribution strategy for this documentary, there was never really any question. Of course I’m going to give the entire movie away. Of course I’m going to stream the whole thing on my website for free. Of course I’m going to adopt the direct to consumer channel. Because anything that’s a barrier to getting my work in people’s hands is a problem.
Besides, since most of the independent documentaries that premiere each year never even see the light of day anyway, much less secure theatrical distribution or achieve commercial success, I see no reason to exhaust and expense myself in the process.
Are you keeping your giving away machinery in good working order?
Obama famously said that opportunity is who we are. That the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise, and that no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than us.
I couldn’t agree more. The challenge, though, is that opportunity isn’t the only variable. There’s a larger creative equation at work that centers around the idea of wherewithal, meaning everything needed to buttress opportunity, including knowledge, resources and courage.
Because even though creating art is work, creating the opportunity to make art is work too. It’s a much more strategic, measured and entrepreneurial type of work. But it’s work nonetheless.
When I first moved to New York, I started busking in the park with my guitar. Not an activity I ever anticipated doing, but it created an opportunity make art, from songs to performances to this documentary film.
The point is, we get our start by giving ourselves a start. That’s where opportunity grows.
What is the opportunity is going to pass you buy if you don’t act on it?