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Category: Business

Comfort Zones

As a bit of an introvert, I am constantly coming face-to-face with the limits of my Comfort Zone. It can be a challenge to get past that brick wall, but I have found that the more I fight past it, the weaker it becomes. Whether it is introducing myself to fellow business leaders in town or cold-starting my piano show in front of a small crowd of strangers, putting on a smile and jumping in really works. Try it!

Keep pushing your limits, and you’ll find that they start melting away. The fact that our Comfort Zones exist is proof that we aren’t taking enough chances in life. Put yourself out there. You will fall flat on your face a couple times, but you’ll land on your feet a couple times, too. The more you stretch yourself, the easier it will become, and the better you’ll get at it! The Comfort Zone is on the list of our enemies. Fight it!

-Josh

Making Choices

For a long time I was hesitant while making important choices. The problem was that I wanted to have the most information in front of me as possible before choosing. Makes sense, right? Well, here’s the thing. A lot of times you don’t know what the right decision would have been until way later, and the consequences of making the wrong choice usually aren’t nearly as bad as the consequences of making no choice. You may lose your opportunity, fall behind, or (even worse) develop a reputation of indecisiveness!

When faced with a decision, of course think about it, but do so with the information you have now. Trust your gut, but don’t mistake nervousness for a red flag. You will always be nervous when making a quick decision.

Make choices when presented with them. If it’s the wrong decision, great! It’s an opportunity to learn and grow and make better choices in the future.

-Josh

Podcasts

I have turned into quite the podcast junkie as of late. Whenever I’m in my car, it’s always the podcasts instead of the radio. I’ll use this post to keep you guys up to date with what I am listening to.

My current podcast app is Player.fm – the GUI has nice big buttons corresponding to each podcast I subscribe to. I stream my programs, but the app also has automatic downloading as an option.


Current Podcast List (titles link to the corresponding RSS feed)

The Slate Political Gabfest – Featuring the insight of Emily Bazelon (New York Times Magazine), John Dickerson (Face the Nation), and David Plotz (Atlas Obscura), this is a roundtable discussion of three big topics from the week’s news. While slightly left-of-center, it is absolutely cerebral to the core, eschewing party spin for a deeper understanding of the news.

$100 MBA – Hosted by Omar Zenhom, this is a quick (usually less than 10 minute) daily podcast that focuses on one narrow aspect of entrepreneurship each episode. I wouldn’t call it a gold mine, but it gets me in a good business mindset on my drive to the office in the morning.

EOFire – Hosted by John Lee Dumas, this is another daily business podcast, but in this one, JLD interviews an entrepreneur. The value of the episode is highly dependant on the guest. With 1100+ episodes, you can imagine how some may be flops.

The Tim Ferriss Show – Hosted by (you guessed it) Tim Ferriss (The Four-Hour Workweek), this is a long-form podcast, usually lasting around two hours, in which Tim interviews a pretty fascinating person. Some of the episodes get a little out there, and with such an eclectic group of interviewees, some episodes just aren’t as appealing to me as others. At the end of each episode, Tim always asks an assortment of “quick-fire” questions that usually elicit pretty useful stuff – I have gotten quite a few great book recommendations from it.

NPR Hourly News Summary – Updated every hour, this is a five minute review of the top headlines currently making news.


Honorable Mentions (I just don’t have enough time to listen to everything I would like to)

WTF Podcast with Marc Maron (weekly) – amazing interviews with really deep conversations.

The Gist with Mike Pesca (daily) – worth it just for his “Spiel” at the end of the show, where Mike rants about whatever random thing that has got his goat that day.


What podcasts do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments.

-Josh

Small Talk

I hate small talk. I can’t do it. I am not good at feigning interest in something I am really not interested in. If that’s selfish, then I guess I’m selfish. It does present me with a bit of a dilemma however. I am a local business owner. I have to interact with other people all the time. I was afraid that when attending networking events for instance, the small talk would crush me. Well, guess what. It didn’t. Want to know why?

I stopped making small talk.

Small talk as a phenomenon only happens when you should have already ended a conversation. We feel an obligation to adhere to some arbitrary minimum conversation length, and sometimes you run out of things to say before that time is up. Enter the small talk. It just seems to be a waste of everyone’s time.

When you meet someone at a networking event or just out in the world, talk to them, but with intention. Ask questions about what they do. Tell them what you do. Try to draw a connection between the two. Then, if you’ve got nothing, say how nice it was to meet, and pat ‘em on the back. Then you are out. They are looking to make a beneficial connection too, and if there is nothing there, they will appreciate your bowing out before that awkward lull. You know the one… … …

I can hear you right now. “Josh, that’s all well and good, but I’m at a wedding reception table with these people. I can’t just leave!” Well have I got news for you…

Tomorrow: “Small Talk II – What If You Can’t Leave”

-Josh

The Test Kitchen

I have a regular show at the Ivory Room Piano Bar in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a solo show every Tuesday night. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s always a great crowd. I like thinking of the show at the Ivory Room as my “test kitchen” – a space where I am free to experiment. I try new bits, play new songs, goof off, and have fun. Here’s the thing to keep in mind when playing most nightclub shows – the crowd is there to have fun with you (as opposed to most corporate clients who want to be entertained by you or most wedding clients who want something high-energy to dance to).

The test kitchen is where I can make mistakes (plus, the audience usually loves the screwups!). I experiment with new tools to use at the big show, and I sharpen them. It’s my chance to get things perfect, polished, and performance-ready.

Where is your test kitchen? Musicians – is there a regular show where you can relax a bit and have fun? If not, maybe look into hosting an open mic somewhere or just regularly participate in one. The key to a test kitchen is a low-pressure environment where you can feel free to fail. Non-musicians – is there a forum (maybe a cocktail hour group or online community) where you can connect with empathetic peers to bounce new weird ideas about widgets or formulas (or whatever you people talk about!)?

The bottom line is if you have the opportunity to fail without consequences – take it! What we can learn from our failures outweighs what we can learn from our successes by a wide margin. The ROI is immense!

-Josh

Be Actively Passionate

One thing I have learned from being a business owner and performer is to be actively passionate about what I do. I love playing the piano in front of a crowd. I love the energy that crowd gives back to me. I even have a business doing what I love. But simply loving all of it is not enough. Sometimes headaches arise. Sometimes I have to deal with people whose energy wants to bring me down. That’s when I have to remind myself to be actively passionate – to let my passion boil through to the surface, swim in it, and show it. If I’m not excited about what I’m doing, how can I expect anyone else to be. Don’t be passionate. Do passionate. Let people see and feel what gets you going. Be an evangelist for your loves in life.

I know not everyone has a job they are passionate about, but find something in your life that wakes you up. Is it cooking? sports? The Walking Dead? Let people know what you are wild about. The world could do with a little more passion, so spread it around.

-Josh

What are you passionate about? Comment below!

Onstage Energy

Is this familiar? You are lying in bed or sitting on the couch or driving to work and you just don’t feel like “bringing it” today. You’d rather lay low and fire up the Netflix. Are you ready to have your mind blown? I’ve had that feeling too. Yes, seriously! I know!!!! We have so much in common!

It doesn’t matter if you’re heading into the office or walking onto the stage, sometimes you’re just not feeling it. There’s a mantra for that. “Fake it til you make it.” Get up there, smile, and lie through your goddamned teeth. Throw yourself at the moment. Then the next, and then the next. Hell, tell yourself that you’re having fun. Believe me – our brains are pretty dumb when it comes to this kind of thing.

Here’s an exercise for you to try the next time you are feeling just plain neutral – not down, not up. Straighten up either sitting or standing, take a healthy breath (from down low in your gut), and hold a smile for ten seconds. I know you feel stupid. Shut up. As the ten seconds progress, I want you to take that weak-ass smile (oh I can see you) and gradually extend it first to your eyes (good – it’s getting more believable) then finally to your ears (just do it – you’ll feel what I mean when you try). See! You feel better already! You don’t? Well it works for me sometimes. Just fake it til you make it!

Do you have any tricks to get yourself going when you’re not feeling it?

-Josh

[Side note (or is this a footnote?) – after writing this post and going through the exercise as I wrote the steps, I went back to the top to start reading it back. That’s when I added the silly “yeah, I know” bit with all the exclamation points. My energy had actually been lifted by doing the exercise while writing this! Crazy, right‽]

-I am not saying that this trick can take you from sad to happy, nor is it any kind of treatment for any depression. It is simply a way to give yourself a little bump – a little pump priming to get you over that first hill. Chances are you’ll get rolling from there, but there are always bigger hills, and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to talk to a professional therapist or counselor if you need to.

Slow and Steady Loses the Race

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

I’ve never liked the moral of the tortoise and the hare. It’s always bugged me. Sure, the turtle plugged away and eventually crossed the finish line. And he beat the hare! Hooray! Here’s the rub – a moral is a theme from a story that can be taken and applied to real life, and when in real life is this even remotely going to happen? When is all of your competition going to lay down and take a nice long break, basking in their lead over you?

The point of this story isn’t to behave like the tortoise – setting a comfortable pace, not pushing yourself too hard. Just as long as you don’t quit, you’ll win it all. Right? What kind of horse shit is that?! The moral is to not behave like that stupid hare! He didn’t stop and rest because he was too tired to go on. He did it because he was so content with the lead he inherited from his talent, that he got lazy and didn’t even begin to push himself.

Here’s the real moral of the tortoise and the hare – don’t rest on your laurels. There is always someone behind you who is plugging along everyday with the hope of overtaking you. The real takeaway is to continually challenge yourself and don’t get lazy, because the people ahead of you aren’t going to lay down for a nap. The tortoise isn’t the hero of this story – he’s the villain. And he wins. So learn from the hare’s mistake. If you want to win this race, keep pushing the limits and don’t give up.

Call to action – What can you do at this moment to get a little farther than you were a moment ago? Why shouldn’t you just get up and do it. Proofread that article now. Start working on that important email now. Make your bed now. Lay out what you’ll need for your morning routine now. Do it. Now.

Taking a well-deserved rest can be the correct answer, too. In an upcoming post, I’d like to explore some ideas for even making your downtime more productive.

What’s your opinion on the “Tortoise and the Hare?” Did I come close, or am I way off base? What did you do when presented with today’s call to action? I’d love to hear it – let me know in the comments.

-Josh

Hi, everybody!

Hi, everybody!

Welcome to my little side project on these open seas of the internet. I have been wanting to have an outlet for sharing what insight I have in the world of live music, business, and life in general, and the Piano Fondue site just didn’t quite seem the place for it all. Piano Fondue, by the way, is a business I run. It’s a piano-centric entertainment company based in Madison, Wisconsin. The main act is a dueling-pianos type show, and it’s just a riot! I started the company with my friend Christopher Lange back in 2006, and after almost a decade of wearing several different hats in and around the business (co-owner/entertainer, then as an independant contractor) I’ve been running things solo now since October, 2014. I highly recommend checking it out if you have the chance. Just head over to pianofondue.com </shameless_plug>

I hope that as this site develops, we will get to know each other a little better. I really mean it – please feel free to ask questions, comment, insult me, what have you… either here on the site or on twitter, where you can find me at @PianoJoshDupont. I think I’m looking to figure out the same things we all are in this crazy world. Join me, and let’s find stuff out together.

-Josh