Entrepreneurial Thought: “Juggling Chainsaws”

Written by Jeffrey Nytch,
Director of The Entrepreneurship Center for Music, Univ of CO- Boulder


As much as I would have liked to have taken off to the mountains for Spring Break – or, better yet, somewhere warm – I stayed home and had a very satisfying time catching up on various projects. It wasn’t the most glamorous of weeks off, but it felt good to cross a whole bunch of things off my “to-do” list, things I’ve needed to get to but for one reason or another hadn’t found the time yet.


This is a frequent problem for anybody who has a lot going on in their life, regardless of their professional path. It’s particularly true for entrepreneurs, though, because they frequently are responsible for a variety of things in their venture. These can range from content creation to marketing to keeping the books to stocking office supplies. And the more that’s going on with your venture, or the more things you have up and running in conjunction with or in addition to your venture, the more it can feel like you’re juggling a lot of things all at once. And as soon as making your living is tied up with those things, the more it can feel like a high-stakes game of juggling chainsaws: drop one, and you lose an arm (or worse).


Unless you have a penchant for living on the edge, such an image might scare you off from considering the entrepreneurial path. But let me offer some thoughts that will help you look at this from a different perspective:


1. The things you’re juggling might appear to be chainsaws, but they rarely are. Of course things are important; you can’t carelessly let things drop that must be attended to. But as artists we often have a tendency to overly-dramatize things (after all, we’re ARTISTS!), and I’ve found that things will tend to sort themselves out as long as I work steadily and consistently toward my goal. Learn to prioritize the things that DO need to be done NOW, do those first, and then work out a plan for the rest. Which brings me to:


2. Break things down into manageable bits. Have you ever watched a juggler? They have amazing focus – and at any given moment they are fixated on a single point in space. They’re not looking all over the place trying to take in all these moving objects at once. I think the same thing goes for our multi-tasking lives. Oftentimes when we look at the totality of what we need to accomplish it can seem overwhelming, perhaps even too big to even be possible. When that happens, I try to break down the task into smaller, manageable bits. And then I focus on simply achieving those bits. Step by step, bit by bit, we make real progress: suddenly that overwhelming thing turns into something manageable after all!


3. Working with chainsaws might be dangerous, but that’s where the power is. An entrepreneurial venture that seeks to meet the needs of the marketplace with something new and innovative is a powerful thing. Whether it’s a for-profit business, a non-profit entity, or an individual career, the individual who takes an entrepreneurial approach to their life’s goals has the potential to unlock great things for themselves and others. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the payoffs are commensurate with the effort. The arts marketplace is undergoing tremendous change right now – which means there are tremendous opportunities to be capitalized upon. Where will you be in that process?


Oh, and one more thing about my Spring Break: yes, I got a lot of work done, but I also promised myself I wouldn’t set my alarm in the morning and that I’d do some hiking as well. So even in the midst of hard work, finding time for self-care is a vital part of the juggling process as well!


About Jeffrey Nytch
Jeffrey Nytch comes to the Entrepreneurship Center for Music having built a diverse career as a composer, teacher, performer, and arts administrator. For 15 years he has continually created fresh ways to support and nurture that career, whether it be through developing commissioning opportunities, establishing residencies with community organizations, or building relationships with patrons. He has also run a small business, helped found a non-profit service organization in Houston, performed a wide range of repertoire as a vocalist, and served five years as Managing Director of The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (“PNME”), one of the nation’s premiere new music ensembles.


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