Free-Throws and The Art of Following Up

Free-Throws and The Art of Following Up

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I have found that some of the best analogies come from my past as a former athlete. I found it even more interesting that this simple shot reminded me of something we need to do in business dealings more often and more consistently.

I played for a then Division III school and one of the things our trainer stressed was shooting free throws while under duress. What he would do was make us run suicide drills (I'll leave it to you to google that) and while our adrenaline levels were spiking, he'd stop us randomly during these rigorous drills and we'd all gather around to attempt to shoot the most fundamental shot in the game. His argument was simple. If we could repeatedly and quickly go to a place of intensity and calm ourselves on call, we would become better at adding more uncontested points on the score board and raising our chances of winning more games decided by free throws.

Following up is no different than the free throw. It's uncontested and costs you nothing and when studied closely it can mean the difference between closing the deal and having potential clients bring their business elsewhere. I'm sure that most of us have watched some form of organized basketball whether at the college or professional level. I'm also positive that you were shocked that many athletes seem to fail at the what's seemingly the easiest way to score in the game. Following up is no different. Some of us are convinced that someone saying no is the end of the sale or deal, which is true to a point. The interaction is a different story altogether and shouldn't end with a resounding no or an ambiguous 'not now'.

There is hope, though. Following up is all about practice at the end of the day. Yes, "we're talkin' 'bout practice." Whether you're an introvert, shy or suffer from chronic laziness (an ailment we all suffer from), practicing this seemingly elusive art is quite simple. It really starts with a simple concept known as accountability. Holding ourselves accountable takes many forms, but when it comes to getting better at following up with clients, start with those closest to you. Did you invite your uncle to your cookout 6 months in advance? Write down a reminder date closer to the event where you reach out or 'follow up' to see if he's still interested in attending. Haven't heard back from you doctor after that non-invasive procedure? Take the initiative and give them a ring. Did your boss mention development training for a promotion in passing? Follow up with them for further discussion.

Following up in a respectable and non-stalkerish manner does two things. For starters it shows the person you're following up with that you actually care about whatever it is that partnered you up in the first place. Secondly, it's a great way to hold yourself accountable for your actions. In business and entrepreneurship, you won't always have a mentor or a best friend to push us and encourage us towards the championship of success. The path we've chosen is often a lonely path and can seem more like an individual sport than a team one. Practicing the art of following up is crucial and like the free-throw can be the difference between winning it all, or 'losing by a single point.' At the end of the day, it truly is more art than science. Follow up too much and you may be perceived as a pest or worse. Follow up too little and you might miss out on the 'front-of-mind' opportunity and lose out to more focused and patient individuals.

I remember being bitter on my Division III team, the Atlantic Union College Flames. We were playing in a very important conference game and I was riding the bench for most of the season because I wasn't living up to my potential. On this particular night the starting small forward rolled his ankle and had to be carried off the floor to the locker room. My heart pounded in my chest when the coach looked over and said, "Vilfranc! Get in there!" We were down two points with maybe 10-15 seconds left. On a broken play, the point guard recovered and hit me with a perfect pass as I slashed towards the basket off the right wing. I drove for the layup and was fouled in the act of shooting. I scored and tied the game with 0.8 seconds left in regulation. In a moment I realized that an entire season was dependent upon me hitting a single shot to give us a one point lead and potentially the game. As I stood there at the free-throw line scared out of my mind and almost ready to vomit, I recalled those training sessions and sank the shot.

Remember. Doing several little things right can mean the difference between landing the deal and missing out. Follow up right now with that client who's been waiting to hear from you, even though you know you won't be working with them. Follow up and follow through!


Throw The Jab!

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Breaking Down The Jab

They have called it the Sweet Science for as long as I can remember and after you've read this blog post, you'll see why. I won't get into the shear brutality of the sport as I want to draw attention to a valuable life-lesson we can all learn from the sports most basic punch. You guessed it! It's the jab! A quick, snappy punch thrown with one's weaker hand, the jab is more than just a way to strike your opponent. It can be used to create distance, press an attack, disrupt your opponent's rhythm or set up your power punch. You can fire off one good jab or let loose a flurry of jabs to keep the other fighter guessing. In the technical, professional sport of boxing, most fighters use it to score decisive points. Simply put, get it in the opponents face or gut as quickly as possible; in and out and back in again.



Life Parallels

The first principle that can be taken from the jab is all too obvious: Consistency! The jab is the most basic and menial task that often reflects some of the mundane tasks we must compile in abundance to achieve both short and long term goals. If you're a filmmaker, there are several 'jabs' you could be practicing even now to hone your craft. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned vet, you should always be writing. Like the jab, it shouldn't cost you much in energy consumption. For video (and even audio) editors, you should be editing; Composers should be practicing scales or notating (our version of writing). You get the point, I hope.

The other thing is volume, or quantity. Judges tend to favor busier fighters, usually the ones controlling the point totals by throwing (and landing) jabs early and often. When it comes to the seemingly menial tasks in your line of work, think of times and opportunities when you could've given more effort in terms of volume or quantity. For my millennial group, the term content creation should be a bit more your speed to help drive this point home. How often to you release content (throw the jab) and how often is that content relevant to your audience's needs (land the jab)?



The 80/20 Rule

Don't get it twisted. Don't think for a second that these are all easy tasks, because easy requires no effort and that's not the point here, as even a poorly thrown or ill-timed jab can cause injury... (Or you could just get knocked out). It makes me think of a concept I've recently wrapped my head around called the 80-20 principle, which basically states that 80% of results you receive is based on 20% of effort you put in to achieve those results. Yes, I can already see those wheels turning in your head. This principle (also called Pareto's principle) is a razor sharp, double-edged sword, as it can be positive or negative.

Let's apply it to Boom Mic Operator Bob... or just Bob. 80% of Bob's success on being called back to work on multiple projects is based on 20% of the effort he puts into being professional, friendly and hard working. Camera Operator Cammy, on the other hand isn't professional at all. She's almost always late and doesn't work well with others. We can then also say that 80% of Cammy's alleged 'bad luck' is due to 20% of her attitude, mindset and habits. 20%, people! So Cammy doesn't have to completely alter her personality. She simply has to account for 20% of an attitude adjustment and mindset shift and voila! She'd start to see a positive employment response of, you guessed it: 80%!



What's it all mean?

Much like the figurative boxing match we've been discussing, when it came to making consistent decisions for my career and my life, I wasn't always throwing the jab. Sometimes I didn't throw it at all. I'd spend nearly all the rounds slipping, bobbing and weaving, hoping to land that one blow that would end the fight in a victory for me. Lots of people think this way. They ignore the most fundamental core actions they can engage in to build a solid foundation, and instead seek only the homerun deal or acquisition. The thing is, if you wait too long to land a knockout punch, what if you miss? What if you connect and it has no effect? Your opponent spent the entire fight jabbing away, building a social media following, honing their craft watching youtube videos, etc...

So my challenge to you is simple. Find what your 'jab' is and throw that jab as early and as often as possible! Be wise, though. Stamina is also a key factor that have cost many boxers a fight and even their careers. For example, we're still all riding the New Year wave. The gyms are still fairly packed with people, most of which WILL quit come February. Determine what your career stamina level is, and be honest. Are you filled with tons of motivation and very little follow through? Then your jab is your follow through and you need to work that thing like it's going out of style! Once you've gotten your stamina up, get creative with you 'jab.' Can it be monetized? Can it be a way to differentiate yourself from your competition? Is it teachable?

And The Winner By Decision....

It really is all about deciding what you want to do and how you want to do it. I hope the jab analogy brought it home for you the way it did for me. Once you've decided to run your business like an actual business and once you've decided to kill every bad habit that kept you from thriving in the past, you'll be an unstoppable force in your industry or line of work. No one wins in this life by out-motivating the next guy. You've got to out-box everyone in your network figuratively so that the judges in your industry can clearly and easily pick a winner.

If domination is your goal, then consider arguably the boxer with the greatest jab, Lennox Lewis who had this to tweet back in March of 2018. "You can’t just make a jab an inconvenience or annoyance for an opponent, you have to make it a weapon... a punishing piston that they have to think twice and three times about."

And there you have it, folks. Consider the 80/20 principle this year. Consider the fact that there are still well over 300 days left and consider the your stamina. Determine what your 'jab' is from now, and be sure to deploy it early and often. If looking ahead to an entire year overwhelms you, breakdown your projects and goals by quarter and think of them as rounds. Don't come out swinging every power punch in your arsenal in quarter one. Throw that jab and use them to set up your power punches or power moves near the end of the 3rd quarter and before the end of the year.

Keep in mind that your opponent may very well be the person in the mirror. Well? What are you waiting for? Knock yourself out!

Betting on Yourself is Never a Gamble

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I don't know much about Vegas or Atlantic City as I've never been to either venue. I have, however been forced to play hands that I was dealt in my life and as a professional, I've played several; some good, some bad. At times I didn't know when to hold or to fold, but as I look back I quickly realized that I never once truly bet on myself or what I had to offer. Interestingly enough I went to bat for other companies that I've worked for and when it came to me, I almost always folded. I've worked for some great establishments like Apple and Audible to name a few, but I was never confident that if the chips were down, my employers would bet on me. And how can I blame them?

During my personal development these past 3 months, it's come to my realization that I alone am fully responsible for effecting change in my life and my career. Not a single person can do what I do—the way that I can do it. From something as simple as my unique speech pattern to the way I approach crafting a film score for my clients, everything about my being can be imitated, but never duplicated. Finally, out of all the things I've done to improve my self worth and personal/professional development, this one thought changed everything. It stems from the most fundamental of ideals—we are all unique. Applying this mantra of sorts to one's everyday routine can have major life-altering effects. This isn't to be confused with believing in oneself or abilities, which is a superpower in and of itself. Yet and still, accepting that you are NOT just another number or gear in a major corporate machine will alter the way you see yourself and your goals.

I'm not suggesting that you should all go up in arms and quit your jobs, as where you are right now may possess a wealth of skills and knowledge that you need BEFORE you show your hand. What I am saying is you must be prepared to invest in yourself in every positive way imaginable—and by positive I mean in ways that have tangible results that can lead you to a healthier, wealthier and happier life. Now your ideals for a happy life may not include wealth or riches at all, and that's the beauty of it! No two success stories have to be alike. They do, however all stem from ideals of successful people who placed all their chips down for their personal cause without flinching. The thing they were all thinking? No one can do it like I can and you know what? They've proven that they're absolutely right.

There will be bumps in the road and life is as far from a game as you could possibly get. Still, you have to play that 'full house' or 'royal flush' despite your fears and apprehensions. I was a freelance film composer and mix engineer for a very long time with no clear or concise set of goals. Since I decided that I was going to bet on myself from here on out, everything began to make sense. I DO have all the tools I need to be successful, whether I was born with them or acquired them along the way. I DO NOT need to invest another cent of finance or energy into any company or entity without first being willing to place that same investment or more into myself. This is why I decided to step away from the corporation I worked with off and on since 2008. They were good to me, but not because their primary goal was to invest in me. Again, this is no knock on them, but rather on myself for not being willing to remove the safety net of a "good job with benefits" to see what I'm truly capable of.

I don't know what your path or purpose is. I do know one thing though. The 'House' always wins!

Full Circle

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To say I’ve been blessed in my 20 year long career is a gross understatement. While I have not yet arrived (and I don’t ever plan to), I look back fondly towards every independent recording artist, film director and tv producer I’ve had the pleasure of working with and I have not a single regret. Despite all of this, the desire for more still burns in ways I haven’t felt before. There is definitely a wall or ceiling that I’ve hit as I’ve grown weary of dredging up past accolades in a futile attempt to remain relevant, when the only remedy for that issue is to blaze new trails, create new connections and produce fresh and new content.

Having taken up residence in Massachusetts for almost 4 years, I have yet to tap into the rich culture of film, music and gaming culture that is Boston. I’m not too sure if I just didn’t believe I could achieve the same success I did in New York, or if I was unwilling to let go of the past, fearful of the unknown. That has always been my achilles heel. I’ve never been afraid to fail, but the fear of success has always been ever present, preventing me from realizing my true potential as an artist. Yet and still, evolve I must as I’m very rapidly losing my spring chicken status (my membership was irreverently revoked after age 30).

Over the past few months, however, I’ve focused solely and completely on personal and professional development and while the results have proved promising, the discomfort of sacrificing novelties that don’t contribute to said development is becoming something I look forward to. In layman’s terms, I am embracing discomfort and most days, hanging on for dear life. When I think back to my more athletic days, I can truly say I enjoyed the brutal destruction (and reconstruction) of my muscles whether it was a grueling weight training session with Kevin Golding when I played Division III ball in Lancaster, MA or my personal beat down sessions when I ran endless 40-yard dash wind sprints at Wingate Park in Brooklyn, NY.

So coming full circle this time around (see what I did there?) is all about embracing adversity and discomfort in ways that were only limited to athletics. Creating fresh new music and sniffing out new clients via the independent film market here in Massachusetts has been very difficult and on some days I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. That right there is what’s brought me joy lately. I’ve somehow found ways to run my mind ragged with new knowledge the way I ran suicides by myself in the sweltering heat, pushing myself to exhaustion. At the end of everyday, I ensure that I’ve done at least one thing that made me extremely uncomfortable; something that made me cringe because I had no control over the outcome. Despite that last point, while I couldn’t control the outcome, I could control the output of energy I put towards the outcome I desired.

So yeah… While I haven’t really gone anywhere, I do feel as though I’m back to that guy who first discovered what he wanted to spend his time doing way back in the late 90’s. The major difference is how I see things now versus how I saw them then. Most people wish they could go back and slap some sense into their younger selves. I beg to differ. I’m actually very happy that I did things exactly the way that I did. I made some bad choices and burned some bridges I had no reason to even light a match in their vicinity. With those mistakes came the adversity that I face today. If focusing on my personal development has taught me anything, it’s taught me that I owe it to myself to spend quality time embracing adversity and discomfort, if and only if an opportunity to level up patiently waits for me on the other side. And speaking of waiting, I’ve ‘waited’ too long for things to just magically appear based on my previous successes. When I ponder on my lack of control of my imminent expiration date, it has driven me to focus on the things that matter and less on the things that don’t.

So the wheel has turned and while I am moving forward, in many ways I’m back to square one and for the first time in a very long time, I couldn’t be more excited for this fresh perspective.