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Performer & Producer Talk with Rik Leaf
Rik Leaf is an arts in education specialist who has presented at the Northwest Territories Teachers Conference, Greater Edmonton Teachers Convention Association and numerous schools and districts across Canada.
Rik is the Poet Laureate for Tribe of One, a national collective of Indigenous & settler musicians, dancers, painters & slam poets. Tribe of One’s multicultural performance workshops have taken them around the world partnering with the Foreign Affairs Department of Canada, the United Nations, War Child Canada and U.N.E.S.C.O.
Producers, directors, choreographers and professionals in related occupations oversee and control the technical and artistic aspects of film, television, video game, radio, dance and theatre productions. They are employed by film production companies, radio and television stations, video game companies, broadcast departments, advertising companies, sound recording studios, record production companies and dance companies. They may also be self-employed.
For Producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations & Conductors, composers and arrangers, over the period 2019-2028, new job openings (arising from expansion demand and replacement demand) are expected to total 11,300 , while 11,500 new job seekers (arising from school leavers, immigration and mobility) are expected to be available to fill them.
Producers, directors and film editors
A university degree or college diploma in the performing arts, broadcasting, journalism, business administration, theatre production or film studies and Experience in a technical or production occupation in motion pictures, broadcasting or theatre are usually required.
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I love Monday as much as Friday, and that to me is worth more than then whatever those golden handcuffs would be worth.
The Job Talk Podcast shares stories from people who are passionate and love what they do in their careers. Through conversation, we explore their careers, past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
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thejobtalk.com/help Today’s guest is Rik Leaf.
Here’s our Job Talk with a performer and producer.
I’m going to read part of your resumé that you sent me.
Recording artist. Video editor.
freelance writer, TV host, event producer.
And Sommelier Did I pronounce that correctly? Sure you are the creator.
You are the creative director for a tribe of one, a national arts collective of indigenous and settler musicians, painters, poets and dancers.
And you are the producer and host of the podcast, Being Creative.
Your resumé reads like the most interesting man on earth.
Did I miss anything.
That was for an application.
Yeah, for a position I had just applied to as an artist in residence.
So I was really listing out all of the things that would be relevant to that position.
Normally, I, I try to just go with performer and producer because it’s, you know, there’s so many things that, that go with that.
But performer and producer, where did you grow up.
Where were your formative years.
I grew up in southern Alberta, in traditional Blackfoot territory.
My family, my grandparents came here from northern Scandinavia, nice and the land of the Saami people.
So yeah, that’s where that’s where I grew up.
I was actually just telling my wife, oh, so oh, you’re in Alberta, right.
Yes. I mean, Edmonton.
Yes. And I have Danish parents, so I love Scandinavia.
Yes. Yeah, totally.
You know, I’ve probably lived outside of Alberta longer than I lived there, but I was born and raised there.
And I feel like it gives me all the freedom to be as opinionated about Alberta as I want to be.
There’s a lot of opinions in this province, so.
But yeah, I don’t really need to add a whole lot of, you know, everybody’s saying everything. So what were you doing when you left high school.
That’s usually where I like to pick up people’s stories.
What kind of things did you find yourself getting into.
Well, you know, it’s interesting.
You know, like everybody probably has the young dream as a dream young Canadian kid.
I wanted to play hockey secretly.
That was my dream.
So I was kind of chasing that dream a little bit, probably unlikely.
But, you know, everybody has that kind of a dream.
So it was all about sports. It was all about athletics.
That’s what I wanted to do.
And I managed to land a job doing ultrasonic inspection on the TransCanada pipeline, just making tons of money, the kind of a job in the in the industry, gas and oil industry that a monkey could do.
And two things happened.
One, I one of my breaks, I went back to the little town where my parents were living.
I was driving home one Sunday afternoon, really beautiful in the middle of January, having a Chinook.
So the snow is melting and a whole bunch of kids racing down the road lost control, slammed into my truck and sent me flying off at 60 miles an hour or whatever.
I go into the to the wild blue.
And I woke up three days later, been airlifted in to the Foothills Hospital in Calgary and was on life support machines breathing for me.
They don’t know if I’m paralyzed. Whatever couple of things happened that were really dramatic then for me I couldn’t.
Obviously all of my sports, you know, your broken million things are broken.
I had to learn to walk again.
All that jazz.
So the sport dream, the hockey dream was over.
So is a lot of the even the job I was doing couldn’t really do that anymore.
And in the process of maybe say it was a year in the hospital and recovery and rehab and all that kind of stuff in and out of the hospital.
You know, one of the things that that happens in in a situation like that is it’s just so boring.
And so I’d ask somebody if they could bring me this hand was these fingers were broken. This wrist was broken.
But I had this one hand and I asked them if they could bring me a keyboard so they would giving these headphones, they put this keyboard on my kind of lap in my bed and I would just I didn’t play keyboard at the time and I just started to learn how to play it.
And songwriting became how I started to kind of work through all of those emotions and feelings and everything about it felt like at 19 or 20, whatever it was, that my life was over, my dreams were over.
The frustration, the anger, the bitterness, the depression, all of that stuff.
And that was how I ended up becoming, you know, an artist.
So I kind of feel like I have these two different lives.
One was about sports and athletics and and those kind of dreams.
And then when those were over, it was kind of like art and music, songwriting, whatever.
Those things kind of swooped in as, yeah, helping me heal emotionally and mentally, whatever.
But next thing I knew, I was living in B.C.
and became part of a community of songwriters and and musicians and had a chance to, like, play weekly and learn how to write songs and learn how to play in a band.
And all of a sudden I’m in a band, I’m leading a band, and I’m getting invitations to go to Seattle to play.
And it was certainly, you know, as careers go, nothing that was intentional.
It was same all very accident.
Yeah, well, that takes care of my question of what made you decide to pursue a career in the arts.
So, you know, making it as a musician, it seems like it’s incredibly difficult in in this country.
I’m speaking to Canada.
I had a friend where he was being produced by a recognizable name and it looked like he was starting to get traction.
But it just kind of all fall fell apart for him.
What do you think.
Your first big break was to continue down the road of being a performer, a musician and a career in the arts.
You know, it’s been so interesting.
The industry, you know, you have the entertainment industry and the music industry.
To me, they’re two different things. And the music industry that it’s been the most exciting time probably to be alive.
If I had been around in the sixties or seventies, you had to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of studio equipment.
You had to go into a studio to do an album.
So that was kind of like the gatekeepers where like if you were worthy of getting signed and put in there, that, you know, that was what you were able to do.
Now, where every laptop is coming with software to record anything you want.
So it’s like this really amazing time technologically.
The industry, the entertainment industry that I’m part of, like as a performer, it’s just continually imploded and been falling apart.
So, you know, when I started, if we did a, I think we spent I can’t remember.
I think it was about $40,000 on our first album, but that was back when tapes still existed and people were paying 25, 20 bucks, at least for a C.D.
So you’d put your CD together, you’d sell a thousand or 2000 CDs.
You’d have made everything back.
You’d probably sell another twice, three times that much.
And you would have made your money for your next album.
All of a sudden, streaming comes along, you know, downloads come along, people start burning CDs, streaming, Napster, whatever, you know.
So the friends that I’ve had in the industry that just wanted to be that kind of an artist the way it was when they started, they’re not doing it anymore because it’s impossible.
So for me, it was just one evolution after another, you know, some and some points.
I’ll be honest, you get to a certain age where you just like, holy crap, like this isn’t really working out.
And I also feel like I’ve invested 15 years in this skill set.
Do I start over again.
I’ve had that conversation in my head and with my partner many, many times.
Do I start over again or is there a way to move laterally.
And I mean what they say in business, you know, to pivot and try to find some other way.
So that’s what I’ve done.
I’ve just constantly taken this experience and broken it into another environment, which is why that CV reads that way.
Yeah, well, I was going to ask, like, it’s, it’s great that you could pursue your passions, but there’s the reality of having to make a living to pay for food and shelter.
So how long were you pursuing your career as a musician and a performer.
Maybe. Maybe you’re still doing that.
But did you did you get to a point where you’re just like, I do have to change this.
And what did you do.
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting.
2009, I came out with the best album I’ve ever done.
It’s called Tribe of One.
I had the opportunity to work with some of the best indigenous and French and Metis musicians and singers, and it’s like really this incredible album in the best studio, the best producer, and then I went on this, my, my wife and I, we sold our house in Winnipeg and then I went on this, my, my wife and I, we sold our house in Winnipeg so that we could spend a year traveling around the world with our two kids.
So I really kind of capped the release for that album because I wasn’t around for the year to tour it.
But when I came back to Canada, so I left from 2009 to 2010, I came back to Canada thinking, I’ll just pick up where I left off.
I was get back to booking tours and going back on the road and do what I’ve always done.
And I don’t know what happened or why in that year, not just for me, for everyone.
I came back, I’d say 80 to 85% of all of the venues that I played in across Canada for live original music were no longer booking that kind of music.
That meant all those producers and promoters and booking agents.
They weren’t doing that anymore.
And I was like, Oh, I would like the whole industry.
The whole structure was gone. And I had gone into schools with Tribe of One doing cultural and performance workshops, and I had a principal in Northwest Territories, dropped me an email and said, We can’t afford to bring Tribe of one up because that’s a big production is like, could you come and is there something you could do with our students just by yourself.
And I just spent a year making these family videos, travel videos, using music and and photos and videos to tell a story, short little stories.
And I was like, Yeah, I could do that.
I’ll just bring my cameras and my laptop that I’ve been using for the year, and I went up there making it up literally as I went that week, but it really kicked butt.
The kids loved it and I realized, well, this is maybe something that I could do. And that became kind of a I’ve developed this creative development mentorship program, which I do in schools now and have probably since 2010 or 11.
Whenever we got back to where I yeah, come into a school now we write a song, a school anthem, the kids learn how to sing it and perform it.
And we record it.
We tell the story that that song is trying to tell about their school or their community visually.
We film all of that, and then I put that together at the end of the week and deliver this thing.
So it’s like that was then drawing on my background as a songwriter and a performer and a video producer and an event producer, you know.
So it’s like it’s kind of been that element of somebody.
You get me talking about something I’m passionate about.
No, shut up.
So you censor.
I’m going to interrupt you in a second because you touched on something.
But I just want to interject.
Only somebody with an artistic mind could pull that off because if you’re an analog analytical thinker, you’re not going to do it.
You’re going to look at the costs associated and all of the risks, and you’re not going to do it.
And I yeah.
And I think, you know, desperation it’s sucks like being backed in a corner or trying to figure something out is that we all hate that, but I also, you know, as a slam poet, I realized that that was something else that I could offer to schools.
It would be easier for me to come in and teach slam poetry.
And if you don’t know what slam poetry is, very quickly, it’s this combination of creative writing and creative performance.
So you know, traditional poetry was written to be published in magazines or books, whatever, and read by the your audience.
SLAM Poetry is just performance based.
You never experience a slam poem unless the poet performs it, which becomes this really great.
It removes the barriers for a lot of students that maybe go, I can’t write because I don’t know, I’m not good at spelling or I’m not good at punctuation or whatever.
And it’s like, you know, it’s awesome.
Nobody’s going to read about you.
And it’s been a really great.
So there was this one school that I’d gone for two years teaching slam poetry too.
And so I was supposed to be there on a monday.
It was up north, so on Thursday, just a few days before.
But planes booked, everything’s booked.
I’m definitely going.
But I phoned the principal just to say, Hey, I’ve just let you know I’m going to be on the way.
I’m going to fly it on the weekend, I’ll be there Monday morning.
I said, Is there anything else you still want to do.
And she said, Well, what else do you do.
Funny song writing and do some video stuff.
And she’s like, she said, Could you write a song that would involve all 350 students in our school and make a video.
And could you do that if we broke all the kids up.
And because I need the gig, I’m like, Oh yeah, sure, whatever.
Yeah, no problem of streaming in.
And I literally didn’t think it through until I was walking up to the door Monday morning with my bags of stuff and my guitar, and I was like, Whoa, wait, what did I say to you.
I’m like, This is ridiculous.
How am I supposed to include 350 kids.
And I just went for it because by that point, it’s too late.
Okay, well, do you do you get nervous.
Like, are you nervous.
How do you handle stress.
Yeah, but thankfully, I don’t think things through much in advance.
So by the time I’m stressed out, it’s pretty much like 15 minutes to go time and it’s just like, well, here we go.
We’ll figure it out.
It’s a great bit of advice or don’t think things through, just do it.
And let’s be honest, let’s say it sucked.
Like I know that I’m going to be able to play some songs with kids.
Maybe I write a terrible song, maybe I’ll write a song after that week.
Nobody wants to sing like I’m not putting anybody at great risk.
No, there’s no money.
That’s, you know, somebody’s going to lose.
Nobody is counting on the return of 100 grand or anything like it.
It does help if I do stress myself out.
If I get stressed out, I’m like, what am I really worried about.
What I what I’m really worried about, honestly, is that I’m not going to meet my expectations for myself and what I want to deliver to this school.
And I have very high expectations of myself and of art and developing community and and, you know, helping students in particular.
But anyone find their creative skill set and then give them an opportunity to discover what they’re good at and have an opportunity to shine.
Because when they can do that, they gain confidence.
And that’s something that when I leave, that could change their life, not just for that year, but for the rest of their life.
And how did it turn out.
Oh was absolutely incredible.
It was deafening in that gym.
It was I you know, you touched on I was joking that, you know, the Somalia word.
So as a wine expert, as somebody, you know, you learn to appreciate wine using all of your senses.
How does it smell.
What does it look like? How does it taste.
What is it.
You know, and you’re using all these descriptors to really pay attention to what’s in your glass.
Well, I took that training, actually, from being a wine sommelier into the school.
So when I walk in, I just start actually walking through the school with my cameras going like, what are the posters that are up.
What’s the artwork.
Are there any slogans.
What do I hear in the staffroom.
What are challenges? What are struggles.
I just find that so many people walk through this life unconsciously, kind of like they’re, you know, spectators in the events of their own life.
And I think I walked down the hallway in that very first school, and there is this giant sign that said, if you change your words, you’ll change your mindset and mindsets too cumbersome of a word for songwriting, but it’s like, change your words.
You can change the world. Yeah.
That’s a lyric in a song that became the chorus of the song and it became this real anthem.
And these kids sang so definitely loud.
My brother’s a video of it online, and my favorite part is somewhere in the song, this little kid, you know, it’s like you’re.
You’re not alone. No, you’re never on your own.
I sing. And then all the kids are like, you’re not allowed now.
You’re never on your own.
And these kids are singing.
It’s so loud. It hurt all of our ears.
When there’s this one little boy, he gets up on his knees and he plugs his ears and then he screams at the top of his lungs.
It’s like it hurt.
Somebody wasn’t going to be left out of the moment.
And that’s fantastic.
That’s that sounds amazing.
Listen, I’m a parent.
I have three kids.
And I’ve often said parenting is all about managing your guilt because you’re not trying to you’re really trying not to screw up a human being.
You talk about putting pressure on myself.
You mentioned while you’re speaking there, and I really I’m excited to talk to you about this.
You guys decided to you, I’m guessing, sell everything and tour the world for.
And did you mention that you went on a tour of the world for one year or two years.
It was it was just over a year. Okay.
And you have kids? Yeah.
And how old were they when you decided to do this trip.
This our son was 13 and our daughter was nine.
13 and nine.
And you took them out of school and you could we talk about that, how you came up with the idea and then you actually did it.
So this is the thing I think everybody everybody listening, we all have a dream.
Maybe you want to jump out of a plane or maybe you want to start a side hustle, or maybe you want to travel to Spain or I don’t know, like we all have a dream.
And I think a lot of people will will fall into this trap of being like, well, this isn’t the right time.
I’m too busy, or the kids are in school.
I’m going to wait until the kids are out of school or I’m at this point in my career or I’m at this and we keep saying, well, someday, someday, someday, right.
We all do that.
And my dad had never been really sick a day in his life and suddenly got diagnosed with one of these weird cancers.
And just within maybe six months, kind of a thing from diagnosis, he was gone.
And because of that car accident and a number of, you know, I’ve had so many health problems and I’ve been laid up.
And so I remember I’m going to be honest and say that Zion and I might have been those people that said, someday we should do this thing with our kids and maybe never did it, but because I watched how fast my dad was gone, I think if I wait too long and say, what if someday, someday, what if I wait one day too long and all of a sudden that happens to me.
And so it was like, I don’t want to do that.
So I think, you know, that experience with my dad, while it was still sort of fresh the year after, we’re just like, Are we going to do this.
Then let’s do it.
And we, you know, there’s so many things that you can figure out you just can’t figure out a year in advance.
So I’m really lucky that my partner and I are kind of on the same page.
She’s a tattoo artist. She’s a painter and a tattoo artist.
So we both have that creative approach to problem solving and to life.
So, you know, you say, okay, we’re going to.
So when the kids get out of school.
So we, you know, made it June, end of June, beginning of July.
That was when we were going to leave.
And we started traveling and and we kind of picked our trip.
Where do we want to go.
Spent the first, I think three months just traveling across Canada because we knew we probably didn’t want to go back to Winnipeg.
We were going to try to find somewhere else.
And then when you can live anywhere, why should you live somewhere.
Like why choose that somewhere.
So we went coast to coast to see and then, you know, Zara had a friend in Hawaii.
She was, she’s like, should we call up, you know, to see if Shawn will let us come.
We stay with that guy for a couple of weeks and his family and then we’re like, there’s a family wedding in Malaysia.
Well, let’s go to Malaysia and then let’s go to Australia and stay with family and let’s go to New Zealand and we kind of knew we would spent the last three months, we spent three months in Europe driving all over the place.
And then the last month in the UK before we came home and I did that because, you know, for a family, you know, I probably knew it would be really it’d be really amazing.
I didn’t realize how much it would define who we have been ever since then.
Yeah, the tightness as a family, the closeness, the fact that this pivotal moment in all of our lives, that we were all there for each moment.
And it wasn’t like me coming back from tour or trying to tell my kids my wife.
So then this amazing thing happened or I met this really interesting person.
They were there for all of those.
I was there for all of their amazing experience is and I really wanted my kids at that time.
When you want, you know, at 13 probably more than nine.
But as a young tween or whatever they call them, you want the world of possibility to be opening up for your children, for them to start to see themselves with new eyes in the world.
And and imagine, what could I do.
Maybe I could go here. Maybe I could go there.
And it’s like I saw in my kids friends more than in our house.
The world was shrinking to the size of a X-Box, controller, you know, was like and I hated that.
And I was like, Screw that, we’re not going to let that happen. So we went and and it did have that amazing experience.
We thought we’d homeschool our kids.
That’s almost impossible.
I don’t know how anybody home schools in the first place, but if you’re traveling it forget like it’s ridiculous.
So we we focused on them reading and just the geography part of the world.
Where are we.
I remember when we got to Europe, you know, if you if you’re in Canada, you could drive for, what, 40 hours, you know, across the country you still get out where there’s still speaking English, there’s still Canadian money, you’re still in the country.
I remember we got to Italy and you just try to pick up like great sea grasses, just some simple little thing.
And then we drive across the border, we get to Nice and we get out.
We’re like, Oh, merci.
And my son’s like, Why did you say that.
It’s like, Well, we’re in France now. What.
When did that happen.
It was only a two hour drive from Milan to niece, whatever.
And so then we like getting gas.
We drive, we jump over like a dunk tank.
And he’s like, Wait, you say that.
Or in Germany now, and it’s for our kids.
They’re just like, What’s going on.
Every time we get in the back of the car, we get out in a different country.
And that was so fun.
What an amazing gift.
Do they still talk about it to this day.
And can you think of an absolute profound moment on that trip or an experience, didn’t it.
Does anything stand out to you the most.
I mean, there are some really there’s probably a collection of like hundreds of simple little moments that outside of our family wouldn’t maybe seem so profound, but the I think a lot of parents you talk about parental guilt, okay.
This just popped into my mind.
My my son is very sarcastic, always has been really quick with words in a funny way.
And I think I treated him too much like an adult when he was younger.
He was coming back at me and I would come back at him almost as an equal.
And Zorra would talk to me a couple of times and she’d be like, I think you’re being like, too sarcastic.
What’s that like.
It just feels like it’s got too much of an edge.
And I’m like, God, you know, I understand it’s a dad and his son.
It’s all good, whatever.
When we started traveling and I would start going through the footage that I had taken that day and I heard myself as a video editor interacting with my son, I hated I hated it.
And I was so glad that I saw that because it changed.
Like he says, he never knew anything.
He says it never bothered him, whatever.
And maybe it didn’t.
And thank God it didn’t.
But I realize that wasn’t the way I wanted to treat my son.
And but, you know, I just think of all of the risks that they took, the experiences that they had.
I remember we were walking through Malaysia on our first day, Penang or wherever we were, and by two Ferengi, there’s just racing vehicles and it’s loud.
And the diesel trucks and and you’re walking on the sidewalk and you’re darting between vehicles, everything that you would never do back here in Canada.
And I remember Zion said, I this is nothing like I thought it was going to be.
And I realized that moment, jeez, we never actually talked about Malaysia or what their expectations were.
And I said, What did you think it was going to be like.
Because Rio says, Yeah, me neither.
And I said, What did you guys think it was.
Give me a leg.
And they’re like, I thought I was going to be a quiet little village where you’re going to be out in the forest. And so then everything that they did was just such a risk and all of these firsts.
And to be there as a family, watching your kids gain confidence and meeting more and more people, walking into more and more situations that they never could have possibly dreamed at any age.
And here they were, just tackling them day after day after day.
I was just so proud of them, and I think that was profound for us as a family.
Congratulations on doing that.
That is that is amazing.
And not everyone would do it.
Have your kids followed you into the arts because your wife is also a artist as well.
So she’s a tattoo artist.
She’s got a studio here in Victoria called Fly the Cage.
When COVID hit, you know, both of our kids were having a hard time getting jobs and keeping jobs and getting any kind of money because of the shutdowns and just the way money was moving in and culture was changing.
Right. As they were emerging into adulthood, really.
So my wife went to Zion, that’s our son, and said, Would you be interested in becoming a tattoo artist and would you want to start an apprenticeship with me.
And he hadn’t actually thought about that, I don’t think.
And so he thought about it for a bit and came back and said, Yeah, I think I would love to do that.
So he’s been doing that for about a little over a year at least, maybe a year and a half.
And I just saw one of his last tattoos.
So he definitely has.
They’re both you know, where my story started with the end of my athletic dream.
My kids are both athletes.
They’re really good, competitive.
Dodgeball is this huge.
I think dodgeball is having a moment that maybe beach volleyball had 15 years ago where I don’t know about you, but I remember hearing about beach volleyball, maybe played at once.
And the next thing I knew, I’d turn on the Olympics.
And it’s this Olympic sport with 15,000 people in the stands.
And I was like, When did this happen.
I think that’s happening with competitive dodgeball.
So our kids have both gotten chosen to play for Team Canada at Worlds, which is coming up in Edmonton in, you know, couple of weeks.
So 25 countries from around the world are coming to Canada for the first worlds since COVID hit two years ago.
So they’ve kind of definitely taken that.
Athletic passion… Yeah, that yeah. For themselves.
It is definitely on my list to speak to tattoo artists and when I speak, finally speak to a tattoo artist, I need to take the approach of people listening to it.
Want to know how they got started in the tattoo industry and not how you put the most amazing artwork on somebody’s skin.
It seems like magic to me.
I don’t know how it’s done. That is amazing.
I 100% agree.
What I what Zara is such a colorful artist that I’m used to her paintings just being so rich in color.
And I never imagined that her tattoos could be the same.
Like the shading and the blending and the subtlety.
I’m just like, I’m with you.
I’m like, How does this even happen.
I’m not noticing sleeve tattoos on you, though.
Why has that not happened.
I wanted Zaha’s very, very first tattoo because I knew she was going to be really great at it and she needed a human canvas that she could take her very first one.
So I got her very first one and I got my son’s very first.
One of my calf. That’s amazing.
Between you and me, Kim, I would never have even thought about getting a tattoo in my life.
I just know that I would never have even thought of it if it hadn’t been for her.
So. And I have a whole bunch of maple leaves on my shoulder just because it kind of went with the whole Canadiana theme of, Yeah, the music and the kind of thing that I do.
But yeah, I’m not the toughest guy when it comes to those needles.
I’ve seen his artwork.
She’s made me even think that I need to drive out to Victoria to get a tattoo, but I don’t know if I can pull it off.
Rik I often like to talk to people and I hate calling them failures, but have you experienced failures in your life that really stand out to you and what did you learn from it profoundly.
I mean, the life as an artist, as a creative person, I one of the most difficult things is that your heart is tied up with everything your brain is doing.
So it’s not this just passionate.
I’m doing data entry on a ledger, on a Excel sheet, and I go away at the end of the day and nothing of my heart and passion is in that which isn’t to criticize, you know, professions that are not heart driven.
It makes this really tough.
I mean, the amount of like, for instance, I have this, like I said, this creative development, mentorship program that offers schools.
I’ve probably offered I took the time throughout COVID to create courses to develop all of the material, to publish eBooks, professional developer eBooks for teachers and subs and Tas puts together all of this stuff and hired a company to help me put my website together so that it could be like this easy membership thing.
Anybody could go get it.
I’ve contacted hundreds of schools and principals so far and haven’t had a single sale.
It’s not uncommon in my life.
I would probably approach hundreds of schools and communities every single year, maybe hear nothing back, maybe get in or whatever.
The percentage of even getting a response is maybe 5%.
The amount of being ignored or somebody saying, I remember going through this whole process of a school in Vancouver is going to bring me in.
And they were asking all these kind of questions to vet me.
Do you have, you know, your references and the people we can talk to whenever and then when we went through this entire huge, convoluted process, I think they were expecting me to come for like 500 bucks a week or something, and I’m like, How the hell do you think I’m making a living if you’re going to like, I can’t.
I was so mad, right.
The amount of grants that I’ve applied for, I don’t get that CV that I sent you.
I’m just like the position for artists in residence comes up for the city of Victoria.
I’m just like as I start putting my CV together to apply for this, I’m like, Wow, I really hadn’t had an opportunity for a few to step back and just see how much I have to offer and how relevant all of these experiences would be for developing other artists in the city and for connecting with the community.
And I didn’t even get an interview.
So to keep plugging away when there’s overwhelming like disinterest and busyness and maybe misunderstanding or a lot of people I pitched a show a couple of years ago.
It was going to be a wine show, travel show, and I pitched it to well, I was supposed to have a little crew and we were going to do this whole thing and then shoot a pilot and then COVID happens and it was 2020 and I’m like, Well, I could sit here doing nothing, or I could just try to put the pilot together myself and communicate the gist of the idea.
So I did and I managed to get on the phone with the people who pitched those shows to CBC or Netflix and Amazon and HBO and all this kind of thing.
So I had this amazing success at getting to the person who could maybe take my idea into the room for the broadcast or the, you know, the network that would produce it.
And it was the wildest conversation.
They’d be like, What? We’ve seen this already.
So you’re like, Well, this is how it’s different from anything you’ve seen.
Well, we haven’t seen that before, and nobody would understand that.
Well, here’s how it’s kind of like what you’ve seen before.
But I was like, I can’t believe I’m talking to people who produce creative content.
They’re like, It’s a downside if I’ve seen it before and I understand it and it’s a downside of it’s totally innovative and original and I don’t know what box to put it in.
That kind of stuff is constant in my industry and for me as a person.
And so just, I don’t know, sometimes I feel like the reason I’m still here, still doing this is that I don’t know what else to do.
And I’ve, I remember being a young artist making this very insincere threat to the universe.
If, like this doesn’t work out. That said, I quit. I give up.
Like, nobody gives a shit if you do except for you.
But I never did quit and I realize at some point I’m just full of it.
Just look in the mirror, Rik, and say, if this doesn’t work out, it’s going to hurt and it’s going to remind you of the other thousand times it hurt.
And you’re still going to get up tomorrow and be driven to try again to stop talking about giving up and just go, well, I’m going to learn from it somehow and I’m going to keep going.
While you were speaking, you reminded me of a situation.
I interviewed a tax manager and going into that interview and I mentioned it to him, I thought it was going to be boring because it was accounting and I was a amazed when I didn’t even recognize or think about where his passion lied with being a tax manager.
And he told that his passion lied when he has conversations with his clients and learns about their businesses and their passions.
And I had never thought about it because I thought he was just running numbers.
The spirit of this podcast that I’m producing is to help people that are in a midlife career change situation.
And I think it would be hard for you to wrap your mind around a person that’s sitting in a career that they’re not enjoying, that all of their passions have left them, but they have what is called the golden handcuffs, where they’re thinking about their pension.
And one of the most awful things I could think about is somebody hanging on to something that they’re miserable doing for 30 years because they get a pension at the end of it.
That will ultimately maybe pay for their utilities going into retirement.
What advice could you give that person that’s sitting in their cubicle hating life.
What kind of advice do you have for them to maybe, maybe help them find their passions.
They know what they are.
They know we all know what we’re passionate about.
But this is this golden handcuffs thing.
Let me just be, like fully transparent.
Like when I was working on the TransCanada pipeline and I was making just scads of money, I had nothing to spend and I just banking thousands and thousands of dollars.
And I was meet these old guys on the pipeline but doing their whole life.
And I’d be like, What the hell.
You’re like 63 years old and you’re still out here on the pipeline doing this.
Like, what do you do with your money.
What do you do.
And it’s like they’d all their lives were basically in ruins.
You know, most of them were I don’t know, relationships don’t always work out.
But these guys were just like their lives were almost always ruined.
They were alone or they were whatever this one guy is just struck me, though.
He was 63 years old.
He was hanging on for two more years so that he could get that pension or do whatever he wanted to do.
And I said, well, what what he’s done in his whole life.
And he’s like, every second year, I’m like, why.
Why are you still here? Because he hated it.
It’s like every every second year he would buy a truck with cash.
You buy a new truck with cash.
And I was like, I remember walking away from that conversation going, I am not going to be that guy who gives a crap about your stupid truck or whatever the thing.
I’m going to tell you something, as a traveling artist, I stay with a lot of people.
Over the years, that’s been one of the ways that I’ve managed to be an independent artist making money on every tour.
Because, you know, I tour really simply and inexpensively.
And if I could stay with people, certainly in the beginning years, I would do that.
So I’d stay with lots of people.
Part of the fact that I’m just in town for one night, stay with them and then I’m going to leave.
I would get a lot of people and I would do a show where I’d be sharing lots of like personal stories and stuff, and you make a connection with your audience as an artist.
And so if I came back to their house and I would sit down with them to have a glass of wine before bed, it would be almost like confession an hour, and they would time and after again, the hosts would just pour out their frustration with life, with their career, with why they felt like they couldn’t do whatever they want, because they’d also know that I was leaving the next day and I was going to take their confession with me, and they wouldn’t have to look at me the next day or whatever.
And I’ve just heard so many people.
They built their dream house and they’ve lived in it for two years and now they want to sell it because they don’t care.
It’s not about the house.
They’re we think it’s about the house.
We think it’s about the truck.
But it isn’t.
It’s about like the life we’re actually living in, who we’re going to live it with and why we put that relationship and that core of what we really, really want and what really brings us life down below all of the the levels of priority.
I think that’s why I mean, I’m not trying to be insincere or about anybody who’s got like hard financial situations.
Sometimes I feel like you can come across as a real dick.
If you’re saying like, you could make the choice if you wanted to, it would be so hard.
And so it’s ultimately, do you want to pay that cost.
So for me, but I keep having these conversations.
I was thinking about two years ago, I was in a school and I went over and there was a it was a husband and wife that were both teachers.
And he was going to retire earlier than her.
And he said it was like for teachers, if they taught an extra couple of years, they would get more on their pension.
And it would total, however much over all the years of their life kind of thing.
And I said, So are you going to do that.
And he had had a colleague who hung in, taught an extra couple of years.
Now she’s got it.
She retired and literally within six months she got cancer and died.
And he’s like, No, the minute I can, I’m retiring because when is enough enough.
It’s never going to be there’s I think that was the deal with our traveling.
When is it right to pull the plug on your career for a year and take off and spend time a year as a family.
When is that ever going to be the perfect time.
It’s never going to happen.
So I think for me, continuing to meet unhappy people reminds me of like, yeah, I don’t have a pension, I’m probably never going to be able to retire.
I’m not set up the way they’re set up.
I’ve lived every week of my life, not like a retired person, but doing something that I love my whole life.
So I have a I find it absolutely impossible that I’m going to get to the end of my life and go, Oh, I wish I had more.
More more trucks, more a bigger house.
I don’t know.
We all have to we all have to find that way ourself.
And I just think, you know, I woke up this morning and I was thinking about the kids that I work with in northern and remote communities and when I apply, I hear that their their communities apply for grants through anybody, Canada Council for the Arts or anybody to, you know, provide an opportunity for these kids maybe to do stuff that I do video music, production, film, any kind of stuff like that, because they often like to tie it in with their culture, save the language, tell stories, record stories of elders, that kind of stuff.
And they never get accepted because the Art Council will say, You don’t need us, just go do it.
Just get a camera and a laptop and do it and it’s fair.
You don’t need the art Council, but it’s not fair.
If they’ve never seen what you’re talking about, how can you picture yourself doing something you’ve never even imagined.
And I think sometimes that’s why the power of stories for me, you know, when I wrote that book Four Homeless Millionaires, How One Family Found riches by leaving it all behind.
Really, the only reason I wanted to write that book, it was in case there was families like us.
There were sitting out there going, Should we do that.
That seems really irresponsible.
Maybe our kids won’t, you know, want to hang out with us and won’t want to have the adventure of a lifetime because they might miss out on you know, middle school, you’re in middle school or something.
And it’s like I just wanted to say, Hey, I can’t tell you what to do.
You can’t tell anyone what to do.
But maybe if they can see there is somebody else out there that did this thing, somebody in the middle of their career when it wasn’t going very well, pivoted and they figured out how to broker their experiences in their expertise into some new thing and they just lay their ass on the line and they went for it.
And you know what.
They’re not making nearly as much as they would have if they’d stayed with the the golden handcuffs. But they’re happier.
I love Monday as much as Friday, and that to me is worth more than then whatever those golden handcuffs would be worth.
Did that even come close to answering the question.
It 100% did.
And congratulations on your career.
But most importantly, congratulations on the way that you’re living your life and the gifts that you gave to your children to take them on a trip of a lifetime.
Rick, you’ve been very generous with your time today and just thank you for coming on this podcast.
Kim Thanks for having me.
Thank you for tuning into The Job Talk Podcast.
For more information, please visit us at thejobtalk.com Our podcast music was created by our friend Mike Malone in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.