Laying Foundations

Laying Foundations – Keep an Eye on the Long Term

We live in a world of increasingly immediate gratification. If I want to hear a song I can listen to it on YouTube straight away. If I want to buy it I can download it. If I want to watch TV I can find something I like on iPlayer. If I want to know something I google it.

With all this at our fingertips it’s easy to overlook things that take a little bit longer to give us a result. We dismiss actions that don’t have a short term payoff as not worth the effort. In the last week I’ve had a few opportunities because of things I did months ago. I had written those activities off as a waste of time because they didn’t produce a positive result within a couple of weeks. It turns out I was wrong, they worked, it just took longer than I thought. They laid the foundations for opportunities that have only just materialised.

I’m going to talk through what they were in the hope that it might inspire you to tackle whatever your ‘difficult thing’ is with a view to laying foundations for the long term.

Letters to Schools

In order to get more teaching I wrote letters to every school in the boroughs of Kingston and Richmond-upon-Thames. These are the closest to where I live. I did this three months ago. I sent 150 letters. It cost me at least £80 in stamps and stationery. I received a handful of responses, all politely saying that they didn’t need a guitar teacher or that they arranged tuition through the local music service. I didn’t hear anything from most of them.

After a few weeks I decided the whole exercise had been a waste of time. I didn’t beat myself up for trying, but figured I wouldn’t do it again. I had expected a short term result and I didn’t get it.

This week I got an email from the head of music at one of the schools. She asked me to interview for a guitar teacher role. They have a lot of eager students and they pay well. She’d kept my details and retrieved them when the vacancy came up. The letters had paid off, they got me an opportunity I wouldn’t have had otherwise, even if it took some time.

I don’t know whether I’ve got the job yet but that’s not the point. I wouldn’t even have had the chance if not for the boring work I did months ago.

Emails to Musical Theatre Societies

I love musical theatre and one of my ambitions is to play guitar in musicals, maybe one day on the West End. Three months ago I went on and found the email address of every musical theatre company in London. I sent them all a short email introducing myself and saying I’d love to play in any upcoming productions to increase my experience.

Again, I received a couple of “We’ll keep you on file” replies but nothing more. But then, this week I was contacted by a Musical Director putting on a production of La Cage Aux Folles at my local theatre. He asked if I wanted to play guitar. I jumped at the chance. Once again the boring work paid off, it just took longer than I’d thought.

Pop Gig Lead

This one just landed in my lap. It was a very tenuous connection. My ex-girlfriend’s sister-in-law’s friend’s sister (are you following!) is making a few waves in the pop scene. She was playing some big gigs over the weekend and had posted online that she needed a guitarist. My ex’s sister-in-law saw this and got in touch with me to ask if I wanted to be put forward for it.

Unlike the last two examples, this one didn’t come about because of direct marketing. It came about because I make an effort to stay on good terms with people and keep them up to date with what I’m doing. Even people not in the music business. You never know where a lead might come from. This one came about because I stayed on good terms with my ex and her family. They thought of me when a guitar related opportunity came up.

An important lesson from this, which I’ll cover in more detail in my networking series, is that you should network with everyone. Don’t schmooze the big names and ignore everyone else. Talk to the door staff, the box office, the janitors, anyone you meet. They’re all people, they’re all interesting, and you never know who they might know or who they might be someday. Also, do you want a reputation as someone who’s to stuck-up and self-important to talk to ‘ordinary’ people? That won’t lay any foundations.

In the end, I didn’t hear back about the gigs. Nothing came of it. But once again, the opportunity was there. Who knows, maybe now they’ve got my name on file?

Try it for yourself

I urge you to think through what and who you want to be. Then list the things you can do to move you towards that goal. Once you know what those things are, start doing them. Do them even if they take a long time. Even if they are hard or boring. Even if you won’t get rewarded for them in the short term. Do them because they will lay the foundations for what you’re trying to create. It takes time and effort to build the life you want for yourself. Do the right thing now and then give it time to pay off in the long run.

2 thoughts on “Laying Foundations – Keep an Eye on the Long Term”

  1. Pingback: The Deep End: How to learn fast - Matt Helm Guitar

  2. Pingback: Volume Again: Practicing What I Preach - Matt Helm Guitar

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