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Bruce Long - Coaching - Art - Photography Flag + Flagpole = Up!

Flag + Flagpole = Up!

“My face is my fortune, that’s why I’m totally broke.” So wrote Cole Porter for the musical Panama Hattie in 1940, (I know, my cultural references are just mind-bogglingly up to date!), which I always found charming in a ‘self-effacing’ way , and certainly back in our here and now, is probably even more so the case. Image is everything, fortunes are made from faces on a daily basis.

The online world is the one in which I have to operate in really, based here in a very small town with limited networks to join with, and a cultural and language framework I don’t entirely gel with. My friends say that I’m more German than a German, but that’s because I’m on time and like some degree of structure. Not sure that the rest of the Germans are so German any longer, but that’s another theme! Regardless, the internet offers huge possibilities for business development, making contacts, seeing beyond the village. But, being more than an observer and consumer is hugely conditional on being able to project an image that has currency as appealing and aspirational it seems. I’m not 'beautiful', never was and don’t aim to be so. Not too clever at projecting sparkling versions of my reality, in fact I may have self-effaced my face right off! An Influencer I'll never be, at least not to more than one person at a time!

I’m probably not offering anything that’s novel or unique, on paper anyway, those particular qualities eventuate only within the interaction with people I’m coaching. The uniqueness comes from the personal and immediate interaction, that will always be a one-off moment of energy. It is not something you can easily express in generalisable terms. So, talking about the idea coaching, just as with the idea of creativity, is all a bit hit and miss. These are both processes, to experience.

My main true objective is to do excellent, useful coaching which facilitates the people I work with to enhance their creative experiences and vision, and to feel successful within their own values and definitions of success. For me, this has little to do with money. I have refined my own vision down to choosing only to work with those whose creativity - words, images, thought, sounds, objects - touch or inspire me in some way, and whose personal qualities such as kindness, positivity, openness or courage are identifiable. To have the opportunity to collaborate with such people in their work is worth more than gold and any skills that I may have that magnify the skills that they have - that’s what I want to offer. This means that I am likely to offer people extended periods of free coaching to test the waters, or to adjust the price according to their means. Art only pays in a very few, fate-fuelled cases, and coaching, like other forms of creativity, is so much more than a fixed monetary price. Why forsake so many invigorating and useful coaching conversations just because that creative person can’t afford my arbitrary monetary amount?

I’ve been in professional roles before that paid ridiculous amounts of money, but at the cost of your health, joy and soul, to be only slightly hyperbolic. If wealth and fame are your goals, that’s brilliant. There are an abundance of coaches, mentors, advisors and experts to work with you towards those ends but we are unlikely to find a shared enthusiasm for what you are doing and that has been the underpinning for my best coaching relationships. I want to be passionate about your vision with you, but that will only happen when our values have enough of a cross over. Most artistic people don’t earn huge amounts from their work all the time, but the process of learning and being fulfilled can require little cash too. For me, the opportunity to do good work, to be in the presence of other creative individuals, is something so special. If there are those who value a service or interaction primarily on its money price, perhaps we won’t find common ground too quickly, if there are those who prefer style to substance or who can’t differentiate between the two, again, we may never have a productive relationship.

Music is such an amazing form of creativity and communication, and I’ve really enjoyed working with several musicians over the years. So far in my life, there have been four voices I can think of that can make me literally weep from the sheer beauty of the sound. One I only discovered in the past year, so maybe more will come along.  In the last week, I listened to a long radio interview with my latest vocal infatuation, the baritone Andrè Schuen who has some inexplicably magical quality in his voice that touches me so profoundly. He might be singing about going to the shops for all I know, but who cares? (And he seems to be an absolutely charming and delightful man whose face literally could be his fortune if he wanted to go in that direction. Not jealous…..) I also read an interview with the Italian band Måneskin, winners Eurovision in 2021. These bizarrely diverse musicians , opera and glam rock, were all saying basically just do your thing without thinking of external fame and money, be authentic, develop your craft, train your skills, do what makes sense for you and if other rewards come, then they come but don't allow then to be the goal. It is always reassuring in a way to hear how much work and creative focus and discipline go into those who achieve ‘overnight sensation’ status. Surely for most others of us, the joy in that process of developing and learning and expanding our talents and skills, brings its own rewards however intangible. As my very odd portrait of the day hopefully illustrates, there is a lot of nuance and story lost when you try to remove the unconventional or unpopular aspects of a face, and similarly with a personality or a style, a process or a career. Unless you are a dedicated master of perpetual holographic editing or some other method of deception in life, surely just being yourself, on your own path, doing what pleases and make sense to you while learning and progressing, has to be the best way forward?

So what ways of working do make sense to you as you develop? Have you thought about your values and dreams? In what ways do you want to fill in the outlines of your aspirations and move forward? What are you working on right now and what is going well with that? I am absolutely convinced that we, as artists, have so many resources such as openness, imagination, organisation, freedom of thought, new ways of seeing, and on it goes that we naturally tap into every day, and that other people have to go out and pay for! I would love to explore with others how these wonderful abilities and this knowledge can be applied to our creative work and from our creative work onto other areas of life. I find this fascinating.

There is my coaching manifesto I suppose! The shared experience, the shared values, the forward motion and the making use of my skills as you make the most of yours. Change and forward motion. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I always dreamed of being the backup singer for one of my favourite singers, not being the star, but being one part of the the bigger whole and having the opportunity to listen to the diva every night. Not too keen on divas these days, but hoping some excellent artists out there are excited about the prospect of having a new backup singer. Doo wah, doo wup.

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