Many people define success in different ways: A good setup, starting on time, a sold out show or more. Industry success if often defined by the amount of awards that someone has won, which internationally acclaimed band they are touring with, or by that bright and shinny new equipment they can afford. Obviously, there are hundreds of ways to define success and just as many that could be used to call something failure.
Recently, when working with a student staff member they told me all they wanted was for one show to go perfectly right, exactly as planned. That idea intrigued me, mostly because I never really thought about it that way, so I asked for them to share more with me. I learned that their desire was to never have to go back and change or fix something. They wanted to set the mics in the exact right spot, get the monitor mixes perfect during soundcheck, and have the entire system plug and play properly so nothing ever needs to be traced back for corrections. I do find value in that idea, but I think it is impossible. Now people who know me know that I don’t think of many things as impossible. There is always an option or a work around to get something done. However, with the nature of the business and the nature of a young and learning staff team one must realize that it is impossible to have everything go exactly right the first time around. Why is that? My guess is human nature and how communication works and the fact that people change their minds all the time.
On the other hand as I define the success of the staff I have to keep in mind that normally 50% of this staff team has never touched an XLR cable before they joined the team while the others are learning to watch for the details, keep track of timing, and teaching the new staff; also that most staff member’s only get three years in staff before they graduate. Everyone’s on a steep learning curve and to master it all in a short period of time is impossible.
This is where I challenged that staff member to change their frame of mind. Redefine what success in an event looks like. Change the impossible into something achievable and value the successes that come with each event – find the bright side. Success for a staff team like this is a moving target. Each person is working towards their individual goals, and each individual is working within the team to achieve the teams goals. The team goals cover the broader picture like having the PA plugged in and tuned early so soundcheck can occur when the artist is ready, packing the cases properly and checking off the pack list so they don’t have to run back for missing equipment, leading the team, and being able to make adjustments on the fly as things always change.
I define success as someone on the team learning something new or showing that they learned from their mistake by doing it right the next time. They have grown and are able to take on larger events with more independence. They can setup and fully troubleshoot the night taking care of concerns as needed. Success is demonstrated by someone being able to think through the situation with all the variables and make the right decisions that result in a great event.
I look at success as a bigger picture. I find my success in the growth the staff has, the increase in services we can offer and by watching each team member going from never wrapping a cable right to leading the entire team during one of our large event setups. For some these changes may seem be too small and take too long to see the results. For me it’s about the bigger picture. The small successes here will lead to these students’ larger successes in the future. For me it is all about what is next for these staff members. I find my success in the education and training can I provide them so they become valuable employees for their next position.
How do you find success? Are you looking for the impossible to define your success or do you celebrate the short-term wins? You may not have a staff where you can see their successes like me, but there are many ways to see individual successes. Success can be recognized by seeing your growth from small shows to larger ones, gaining more leadership within and during the event, or by increasing your knowledge of the board you’re using that night. There are many ways to define success, define yours by setting some goals that are achievable quickly and others that might take more time and work towards those goals. Instead of striving for perfect, strive for successful. Either way if you’re a veteran in the industry or someone just starting out, think back to when you started and where you are now. Think of all of those successes that occurred overtime, define what they mean to you and continue to strive to be more successful; not perfect.
Heather Holm is the Event Support Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. Her job requires her to be a jack-of-all-trades (Audio technician, venue manager, teacher, safety manager, supervisor, lighting designer and so much more). She loves live sound the most – and says “there is nothing like firing up the PA for the first time”.