Restructuring the Empire: Why I Think NOW Is The Time To CHANGE

The time of COVID-19/Coronavirus/Rona/Pandemic has been such a catalyst for change in the world. I admit that at the beginning of it, I believed that it was a political ploy or that people were overreacting. I remembered SARS and the fact that it never became a big issue for the United States. Within a few weeks, I realized the severity of the pandemic, so I began to shelter-in-place like the rest of the world. This is change #1 for me. I went from being a skeptic to being an advocate for mask wearing. It’s ok admit you were wrong and change your ways!

Pre-pandemic, I was teaching over 30 voice lessons each week, while also aggressively pursuing a second career as a travel advisor. My mindset was that if I worked really hard for a while, things would eventually balance out. I might be temporarily crazed, but things would settle down eventually. I assumed that around August of 2020, I would say no to some of my teaching work, in order to teach certain students and devote time to the travel business.

That time came significantly early for me, in the form of a global pandemic. The extra time at home, as well as the major disruption to “normal” life, helped me to realize some things. I don’t mind teaching online. In fact, I mostly enjoy it. I don’t have to drive, it allows for greater flexibility with scheduling, and it actually works very well. However, what I quickly realized is who I want to teach. Some students show up to lessons ready to do the work and learn (a complete pleasure), while some show up and go through the motions (a drain). While I try to encourage them to just make the most of it, I believe in self-motivation and do not try to force people to like something. When the school year ended, that meant that I went from teaching over 30 lessons a week to teaching around 12 lessons a week. The students who were left were mostly students who were closer to my “ideal clients.”

This was change #2. It is best summed up in something I wrote to my students earlier today: “Moving forward, I intend to maintain a relatively small studio of students who value the work of developing a very solid technical foundation that will allow them to use the singing voice as a powerful and versatile instrument for communication. This will allow me give more thought, energy, and attention to each student, both during lessons and between lessons.”

About the travel business, I had worked hard to get the word out that I am a travel advisor, and it was beginning to pay off. I designed some beautiful, exciting itineraries for people to Hawaii, Italy, and places between. The way the travel industry works is that you typically get paid after the travel happens, which meant that I would have a nice income in the summer months from my clients’ trips. Well, all of that had to be canceled or rescheduled. It is common knowledge that the pandemic has been devastating for the travel industry. I have felt so horrible for everyone from cruise line crew members trying to get home to my contacts in Italy who were ready to welcome my clients.

This is change #3. Knowing that my work as a travel advisor would continue, I just accepted the temporary pause and figured out what I could do. That is why I started a podcast, which is called “Just Beautiful Experiences: Travel, Food, Music.” It had been on my mind for a while, but I hadn’t quite figured out my unique spin on a podcast that would bring all of my worlds together. In the midst of a pandemic, I figured out that if I did something to give other people a platform to tell their stories and tell about their businesses, that could help them, it would strengthen our relationships, and it would give us all greater exposure. Episode 6 was just released today, and they can all be heard on Apple Podcasts, or pretty much anywhere podcasts are available, as well as on my website (or the bottom of this post).

Other changes are brewing in my travel world (change #4), which I believe will involve focusing my specialties. I don’t know all of the details yet, but this will include music-based experiences, as well as European adventures and cruises. Along the lines of my podcast, I want to facilitate and curate experiences that help people to feel more alive and then discuss how to incorporate some elements from their experiences into every day life. I will focus less on hustling to book as many clients as possible, especially if it involves travel that might as well be booked online.

Other changes will come as well, and there are some things I’m not sharing yet because they’re not ready to be shared. They’re exciting, though! Let’s call that change #5. 🙂

For some reason, Madonna comes to mind, and I’m sure that sounds strange at first. I remember that on the news or MTV, they would always talk about how she was reinventing herself. I’m sure that many people, including me, thought she was silly for doing that and doing it only for fame. Maybe she was just adjusting until she found the right fit, or restructuring her empire to stay relevant. Change can be scary, and sometimes the scariest part is wondering what other people will think. If you keep changing directions, you must be wishy washy or not really committed to what you’re doing.

I’ll end this with two ideas that helped recently. First: “multi-passionate.” I’m passionate about singing and teaching voice, and I’m passionate about the life-changing possibilities of travel experiences. I’ve feared that people would think I’m not as legitimate in either profession since I’m dividing my time between the two. Pushing through the last part of 2019 and 2020 until the pandemic hit was a crazy time, and the pandemic has helped me to better figure out how the pieces fit together as a multi-passionate entrepreneur. I have to thank Elise Besler for this, as well as introducing me to the work of Mike Michalowicz, which led me to the second idea.

Second idea: “the world’s best.” I watched this YouTube video, in which Mike Michalowicz speaks about finding authenticity, and we have to be “the world’s best” for our world–not someone else’s world. Rather than listening to what the world and everyone else says, “if you truly listen to the rule of your soul, that’s where your best is…if you serve into our authentic self, you’ll be serving the right world, and others will be attracted to it.”

To sum it all up, while the world is seeing a major upheaval and restructuring on a much grander and scarier scale, I believe that changes are necessary. Sometimes ugly and scary things, like rioting and plagues, have to happen in order for us to wake up and live our lives more fully, beautifully, and authentically. Hopefully some of these ideas will give someone the courage to make changes, whether they are small, internal changes or big life and career changes. Restructure the empire to be the world’s best!

John Ratledge on Music, Travel, and So Much More Just Beautiful Experiences: Travel, Food, Music

Dr. John Ratledge was the conductor of the Shorter College Chorale while I was an undergraduate music major. He went from there to University of Alabama and to begin a symposium for conductors and singers in Robbiate, Italy. Dr. Ratledge is certainly a major musical influence for me, as well as for hundreds of others who have worked with him. He has some great stories!Links:Bassi Brugnatelli International Conducting and Singing SymposiumJust Beautiful ExperiencesFacebookInstagramPilkington TravelsWebsiteFacebookInstagramJonathan Pilkington (music site)Website
  1. John Ratledge on Music, Travel, and So Much More
  2. Cynthia Vaughn: Entrepreneurial Voice Teacher Adapting to 2020
  3. Just Me Today, Reporting From Savannah, GA
  4. AmaWaterways River Cruises with Kathy Brock. Bordeaux Wine Cruise, Anyone???
  5. Caribbean resorts are opening…carefully! Karen Bull of IslandLuxe, Susan Logan of Bucuti & Tara, and Rufus Gobat of Cap Maison

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