Need Nothing, Want One Thing
I’ve thought a lot about business and how it connects with success in creative endeavors. I’ve had plenty of failures and a few successes, but there are a couple of things I’ve found to be true in terms of getting people to listen, to my music, to my writing, to me. When I do this, I succeed, and when I don’t, I fail.
I find someone I want to do business with. I need nothing from them. I want one thing from them.
First, the distinction between need and want, which can be confusing. Some people like to be needed, for a variety of reasons. However, I find that this doesn’t make for a sustainable business relationship.
When I need something from someone, I create a one-way relationship. I need, they provide. These relationships can be appropriate between a parent and a child, between a doctor and a patient on the operating table, and anywhere else that survival is on the line.
Beyond that, such relationships often feel inappropriate. Do you like it when someone comes up to you that you don’t know and needs something from you? It creates a sense of obligation that may not be warranted.
It’s much healthier, I believe, to want something from someone. That creates the opportunity for me to express what I want, and for the other person to assess their ability to answer that desire. It’s a two-way relationship with freedom on both ends.
Life being as busy and as complicated as it is, when I meet someone that I want to do business with, it’s important for me to keep it simple. People assess me very quickly and form impressions that are hard to alter later on, even with years of interaction. If I want a lot of things from them, at best it can be confusing, and at worst it can seem like a “needy” relationship.
I have products for sale. When I meet someone, I let them know as simply as possible that I want to have a conversation to see if business between us is possible. From there, the interaction can grow into something more complicated.
As an author and composer, I’m learning to have a sense of what I want from my audience and to communicate it through the work: “I want to make you laugh.” “I want to help you escape for a while.” “I want to create doubt in your mind about something you believe.” While I do like to express many things in my creative output, I’ve found that if I do not make clear what I want from them initially, somehow through my writing, people do not bother to look at what I’ve done, no matter how compelling I think it is.
Performing is the exact same, only not as concrete. As a performer, it’s essential that I at least have a sense of what I want, that it helps if what I want is simpler, at least in the beginning of the performance, and that I make an attempt to communicate that want to an audience. Later, when we have an agreement, a connection, I can create with them a more complex relationship.
If I don’t know what I want, I often ask for something I don’t want. Either without knowing it, or overtly. Here’s an example:
I went to my 5th year college reunion and signed up to play jazz at the coffeehouse. When I sat down, I was nervous and I told my audience it was okay if they talked while I played. So they did (to my chagrin) and I found I regretted and resented it, but no matter how good I tried to play after that, they kept talking.
The next person who played was a jazz guitarist. He sat down without speaking, played something very soft, and then worked it into something more interesting. From the beginning, everyone was listening with rapt attention because that was what he wanted, and he told them, not with words but with his body and his music.
And it was just one thing: “Listen!” So they did.
I want you to tell me if you think I’ve expressed this idea in a way that makes sense.