More precisely, you should ignore everybody. At least that’s the perspective of author Hugh MacLeod in his book Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity. I’m not even all the way through this book yet I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a quick and easy read and based on what I’ve already read, there’s a wealth of insight that can be adopted to benefit everyone in this business (administrators, musicians, patrons, etc.)…

The Amazon.com description says [MacLeod] expands on his sharpest insights, wittiest cartoons, and most useful advice. A sample:

  1. Selling out is harder than it looks. Diluting your product to make it more commercial will just make people like it less.
  2. If your plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail. Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain.
  3. Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.
  4. The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours. The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.

Based on the above description, I know some folks might have some preconceived notions about the book’s message (especially #3) but trust me – if you’re part of the structural deficit clique, MacLeod’s points will go right over your head. On the other hand, if you subscribe to the concert of adaptive administration (Adaptistration – get it?) and could use some reassurance that positive change implemented properly delivers success, order, and comfort from difficulty, pain, and turbulence, then get a copy today.

What I have been finding useful about the book is it provides the proper amount of clarity and inspiration to arts administrators whose otherwise good sense hampered by the stressors associated with the economic downturn. In short, good managers should be able to draw some much needed clarity from MacLeod’s book.

Although the basic messages are simple and reoccurring, MacLeod does a fine job at making sure the repetition is always entertaining and never stale. In fact, the book is filled with so many wonderful one-liners that you’ll have to make a conscious decision to refrain from using them lest you turn into “that guy” in the office (you know, the Yodaesque wannabe).

If you can’t find a copy in your local library, try the Amazon link above or visit your local book store. Although this is MacLeod’s first book, he does have a free eBook entitled How To Be Creative which you can download here. I haven’t read it yet but if it’s half as good as Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity then it is worth your time (as I imagine is his blog).

Frankly, I haven’t been struck by such obvious “duh level” clarity on how to approach recent challenges since Matthew Guerrieri’s absolutely brilliant (really, brilliant) Take A Friend To Orchestra month cartoon explaining what real artistic programming is all about. If you loved Guerrieri’s cartoon, then MacLeod’s book is for you.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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