In last week’s episode we chatted with DJ Sures of EZ-Robot. It was a great conversation where we talk about the many different careers he’s taken part in over the years. He was the brakeman for a bobsleigh team until he broke his back. He built a studio in his house to compose music for film and TV. He worked on projects for NASA. But as he says all those projects just amounted to him doing something. When the project was done he felt like he’d done a good job but he didn’t feel like he’d really made a mark. Really made a difference.
After a decade long break from making robots to work during the .com bubble of the early 2000s he started making robots again. He was inspired by his grandfather to start a company that empowered people to create their own robots. (if you haven’t yet you should go back and hear him tell the lovely story of his grandfather asking DJ to help him build a robot). This company is where it all turned around for DJ. Instead of everyone pointing and saying “Nice job DJ, look what you did.” which is simple adulation, it turned into “Look what I did! Thank you DJ for helping me create my very own robot.” that’s him being appreciated for his work. He says it’s that sense of helping others with his skills that really keeps him going now.
I imagine it’s the same feeling teachers get when they see people start to grasp and excel in a topic. It’s the same feeling an artist gets when someone says something they made touched them.
I’ve always had a hard time trying to figure out my place on stage when I perform as a songwriter. Am I up there so people will tell me I’m good and the songs are well written? To gather up some adulation to make me feel like my work is good? I think that’s why I started. Just as proof that what I was doing was good enough that I should continue. But eventually it wasn’t enough. I’m writing this and I realize it may sound like I struggled in front of theatres full of people but the fact of the matter is the largest concert I’ve performed was for about 50 people. And mostly just open stages. So, it came to a point where if I wasn’t doing it for adulation, for simple applause and compliments and I really stopped playing out. But as part of the release of my CD I created a series of emails that told the story of the songs and when you sign up for my email list you get these ‘commentary’ tracks for free (they’re still available if you sign up at TheSparkAndTheArt.com). Anyway, while I’m use to getting compliments like “Your songs sound really nice” or “Your voice is really good.” the compliments I got back from these story versions of the songs were “I remember exactly the person who was my first crush and I hadn’t thought of her in years. Thank you it was a nice memory.” and then I got a handshake or “That Born To The World song describes me and my friend perfectly and I just had to send it to her.” and then I got a hug. I’d much rather be appreciated for my songs than complimented on my skill.
Here’s where you get to do some thinking
- When you imagine showing people your work what kind of reaction are you expecting? A compliment on the work or a silent reaction like a tear or a smile?
- Who do you make your work for? Is it for the critics who will say nice things about your skill or for and audience who will be able to see a deeper meaning?
- If you could make your work, put it in a machine that would give you back some money would you still do it?
- Or would you rather make your art, put it in someone’s hands and when they put some money in your hand they held on for just a couple extra seconds and said “Thank you for making this for me.”
Do you know someone who is struggling with why they are doing what they are doing? If you could send this episode to them I would hope it might give them something to think about if they are doing things for adulation or appreciation. The easiest way is to send them the short url TheSparkAndTheArt.com/51
Were you reminded of your own story of someone appreciating your work? Did it change your direction at all? I’d love to hear about it if you would like to share. Get me on twitter @sh_tucker