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Remember saying those words, “When will I ever need to know this…” while sitting in algebra, earth science or any other class you had no interest in.

Well, you may not have ever used the exact formulas you memorized for the algebra test BUT without realizing it you probably learned how to solve life problems. How to approach a situation presented to you with “unknowns”. How to resolve a situation by solving for those unknowns.

Those “there is no reason to learn this” moments will repeat themselves over and over again throughout your career. You’re working a gig that has nothing to do with your goal.  The gig goes sideways and you watch as the veterans search for the solution. Most likely no one will be asking for your input to help solve the problem. And if you sit there focused on the idea that this gig has nothing to do with your goal, you’re going to miss a valuable learning moment that may safe your ass three years from now.

All of us with the advantage of decades of experiences both good and bad have learned that everything we have been exposed to has a purpose in developing our successful careers. The key is paying attention to the moment. Watching how the pros work together to solve a problem. How information is shared and applied. Hang around old timers (sorry, “experienced professionals” haha) long enough, you will hear the statement, “I learned more from my failures than from my successes”.  That’s because when things are going according to plan there is no need to search your brain trying to solve for the “unknown”.

As you all know my career has been all over the map.  Starting as a young white kid playing in funk bands, to fixing electronic musical instruments with no training or experience. To evolving those self-taught skills into a full-blown custom engineering design company in the music industry. That somehow lead to co-authoring fifteen books on how to use music technology creatively. Then onto a career as a show producer in the broadcast world. With a quick stop as a hardware engineer at ITT Defense assigned to the Shuttle and GPS satellite system (GPS at the time was a classified gov’t project).  Along the way I landed five Emmys, nine Emmy nominations and two Super Bowl rings with my name on them.

At first glance you might think that is a ridiculous amount of unrelated craziness.

And you’d be right, at first glance.

Everything in your professional experiences WILL have some purpose if you let it. Playing in bands as a young teen was exactly what I wanted to do.  Getting thrown out of some of those bands sucked. But I realize now that that’s where I learned how to not quit something I loved. That it was up to me to get up and find another way back into to the game. I learned about organizing a group of people with common goals to accomplish a task, getting gigs and building a following.

Hacking and repairing guitar amps, electric guitars and keyboards with no training or supervision cost me a lot of money making peoples’ gear worse than when they brought to me.  But the breakthrough to actually fixing stuff came when I discovered the key to everything was understanding signal flow. By the way, finding the “signal flow” in every aspect of my life became the key to many major accomplishments throughout my career. (more on that in another blog)

The time I spent at ITT Defense seemed so far from anything I ever wanted to do. At the top of that list was the culture of white shirt black tie people I had nothing in common with. But looking back my time spent at ITT was a milestone in my professional life. Not many in the entertainment biz can say they contributed to projects on the Shuttle missions and a classified satellite system, Global Positioning Satellite, now known as GPS. 

Below the surface of those opportunities was the awaking to the realization that I initially judged those white shirts and black ties as geeks before ever saying a word to them. I was making those judgments purely based on appearance. (Sound familiar? Maybe similar to when a production crew loads into a five-star hotel for a shoot and we look a little different then the guests.) 

Once I spent time getting to know them I found them to be amazingly brilliant, interesting and willing to share their knowledge. Their professional stories of being the technical pioneers who designed and engineered the aerospace industry through the 50s, 60s, 70s to our modern-day space program was professionally and personally inspiring.

The second to last thing I ever thought I’d be doing was working at an aerospace company.

The last thing I thought I’d be doing was learning valuable professional insights at an aerospace company that would enhance and advance my career in the entertainment industries.

The long-winded point I’m making is EVERYTHING you do professionally will contribute to your career growth and career decision making. You might not see it at the moment but as time passes and you gather more experiences you will see how they build on each other.

If you can’t find the exact job or gig you’re looking for take what’s available and go in with an open mind. Enjoy the moment, the people, the culture.

  • Watch how they work together. 
  • How they don’t work together.
  • How they approach solving problems.
  • The personality of the leaders, the followers and the quiet people who actually have all the answers.

These are the take-home points that will benefit you down the road. The key is if you get pushed off the main road on your career path, don’t freak out. Eventually, you will end up back on track with new experiences. Experiences, that will add to your personal value and accelerate your professional growth.

Fast track your entertainment production career