Dave Carlock: Pride is enemy and friend

Published 8:44 am Thursday, June 13, 2013

Though the stumbling blocks in a career in the entertainment business are numerous, many of them can be summed up into what I call the Seven Deadly Sins of The Creative. If you feel stuck right now, see if any of these might apply to you.

1) FEAR. A very dangerous obstacle to a creative person, fear all too often paralyzes a person into stagnation. To grow, achieve and succeed, creative people must get out of their comfort zone at some point.
I once worked with a female artist who traveled from America’s Corn Belt to work with me in Benton Harbor. When she arrived, she revealed to me that making that 500-mile drive on her own, necessary to work together, was a terrifying prospect. The biggest obstacle she faced in having me write and produce songs for her debut? Simply leaving home. But through facing that fear and overcoming it, she got out of her box, and we had a great productive time as she took another step toward success.

2) SELF-DOUBT. Another artist I worked with had significant trouble accepting that she was “good enough,” though anyone on the outside could see that she was highly talented and that my interest in her was based on that talent.
Our culture is so fiercely focused on the issue of being “good enough” that it’s really hard to shake the insecurity. Using that insecurity to fuel achievement can be a positive tool, but not being able to turn it off can undermine progress by forcing your team members to play therapist or by disrupting the work flow. Marilyn Monroe’s notorious lateness and drug addiction were a perfect example of self-doubt run rampant. Never mind her iconic place in popular culture, she always felt she didn’t measure up.

3) TRUST. How can trust be a problem, you may ask? Caesar trusted Brutus. Jesus trusted Judas. Get the picture? Only someone you trust can get close enough to put the knife between your ribs. When a creative person overtrusts or trusts the wrong people, it can be absolutely devastating to them emotionally. Creatives are typically known for their sensitivity and at times “oversensitivity,” and such should always protect themselves by trusting LESS. This is one of the reasons I have insisted on contracts for years.
A contract can be thought of as a “trust minimizer.” The discussions leading up to a signing end up helping individuals fully understand the details of their business relationship and help them consider potential scenarios and ask questions.
Sure, even with a contract people must trust each other to a certain degree, but the chance of project success and good relations is increased dramatically with a contract. When someone says to me, “we don’t need a contract for this do we? Don’t you trust me?” I reply: “That’s not the issue. I don’t want to have to trust you and I don’t want you to have to trust me.” Contracts are tools to help people understand what they agree to do for each other. Stay awake and whenever possible TRUST LESS. Trusting is lazy.

4) BETRAYAL. I always like to list this after Trust, as a sad consequence of trusting too much. It should be one’s duty as a decent human being to not betray the trust of someone’s confidence, but not everyone sees it that way. It should also be one’s duty to not be a false friend and allow another person to believe they can be trusted, while the betrayer listens perfidiously to innermost secrets and feelings, ready to use them for their own gain or passive/aggressive entertainment. But again, not everyone sees it that way.

In the movie “Amadeus,” Mozart’s great jealous rival, Salieri, definitively and unforgettably personifies such despicable wickedness while the all too-trusting Mozart is taken in, even to his eventual demise. Remember Salieri and imagine your own betrayals before opening your mouth. Get friends outside the entertainment business, or even better, a therapist with a code of ethics.

5) RIGID AUTONOMY. You cannot build a career alone, unless your career is playing covers on the weekend for the rest of your life. Get that through your thick skull and form a team to build your career. You can’t “do the work” and “get the work” at the same time, in a large scale. At the beginning, you will be on your own, but plan for and be ready when it’s time to implement the team.

6) SHORTSIGHT-EDNESS. Where are you going to be five years from now? Next year? What do you want from your life? Get a REALISTIC plan. Set your goals out and then work a plan around them to make it happen or show you your naivete.
I once talked with an artist who, as the plan,  wanted to release two albums a year. That short-sightedness showed me the plan had not been thought through because it’s impossible to release two professional albums each year and promote them properly.
One album a year is a lofty goal, and one every other year is a far more realistic plan. Being aware of the big picture of promotion tasks and to recouping costs for each album will be a necessity to satisfy your investors or label.

7) PRIDE. Pride can be a killer, but its mere existence is not the devil. A certain amount of pride, or ego, is absolutely imperative in being a creative person. There needs to be a drive to achieve the ridiculous thought that what you can offer the world is great and necessary. Also, a certain amount of pride in one’s work is also imperative in order to keep an eye on quality and care to do one’s best.
But an excessive amount of pride can upset even the best-laid, most hopeful plans. Creative people must coexist with those who help package, distribute, present, market, promote and, in one way or another, bring the art to the world while the creative person creates it! Excessive pride can alienate your team and can turn the tide against any kingdom.
This sums pride up well in my estimation:

“Pride goes before a fall they say, and yet we often find,
The folks who throw all pride away, most often fall behind.”

~ Edgar Guest, Pride


Dave Carlock is a 26-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable.
His continuing work as an Independent Content Creator of Sound and Image has earned him a Grammy Award certificate, two Platinum Record Awards, and a Paragon Award in advertising. Currently, he brings national and international artists to make records and music videos at his production studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District. www.davecarlock.com.