An obnoxious response to the easily offended

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There’s the intelligent, non-confrontational side of me that is suggesting I stop writing this one now. That rational, well mannered side says that nothing good will come from this. That side isn’t assertive enough. Sorry.

The other side of me is where my ADHD, obnoxious attitude and slightly arrogant mess runs rampant. That’s the side that gets me in trouble and makes people write whiny, politically correct comments and tell me that I am a bad person. That side makes people think that my journey to becoming a better man hasn’t taken me very far. Well. Maybe you should have met me before.

Feel free to build a monument to my wife. She is the amazing one here. She lived with me for twenty years before I figured out how difficult I can be. Getting better, but slowly.

So. Back to my story.

That cuddly, intelligent side of me is always there. I have just learned to repress it in certain situations. If you read the article about my three second rule, you have an idea of how I ran my shows. The audience, promoters and other techs thought I was a jerk sometimes. The bands loved me. They knew I meant business and that the show was going to happen. They knew I was going to take care of them. I took my job serious. When my crew was working well together, it was great. When someone was being slack or lazy or getting in my way, I told them. Rude? Maybe.

Pro audio is no different from any other business. We are there for the check. We have clients to take care of. We agree to provide a certain service for a certain price. If we don’t deliver, we don’t get paid. If we consistently fail to deliver, we develop a reputation and nobody wants to work with us. Once we stop receiving contracts, we are out of business. Simple.

The average employee mindset is often determined to treat that job like a social engagement. They think they are just working a show and everyone is there to have a good time. It’s a concert. “Woo hoo! We get to be backstage!” That guy doesn’t work for me twice.

It’s even worse in the church. I can’t tell you how many people talked to me, with the delusional idea that my life had to be so wonderful because I was on church staff. They thought we floated around in the clouds, having long joyful prayer time all day. They thought my life was a continuous worship service because I was always in that happy place.

They just couldn’t understand that I was there 60-80 hours a week sometimes, trying to make sure that every rehearsal, class, conference, concert, recital and regular service happened flawlessly. They didn’t know that every pop, crackle, buzz, feedback ring or any other problem ended up getting someone upset with me. Even if I wasn’t mixing in that room, it was all my responsibility. I wasn’t there to make everyone happy, I was there because it was my job. Lots of people depended on me.

Those were my church friends, too. I did my best to be nice and friendly. But, it’s kinda wrong to interrupt the sound guy when he has an entire choir and worship team running at 105dB in front of thousands of people. Don’t expect anyone to just step away and have tea with you right then. My good friends understood that I was managing a major production at the time, they wouldn’t come up there. Intelligent people could see that there was no way I would be able to focus on them, they would wait. Still, there was always someone who just had to attempt a conversation in the middle of all that.

Sure. I guess I was just rude sometimes. The lesser of two evils. Upset one person or risk a mistake that will fail my pastor and interrupt the entire service. Maybe get me fired. That’s the kind of stuff you face at front of house. You will get your turn. Someone out there will tell you how rude and insensitive you are. Ease up on me after you experience it. Maybe you won’t make the perfect choice, either.

I am not stupid. I understand that I can’t make everyone happy. I understand that there will always be someone who thinks I made the wrong choice or should have done things differently. They criticize my decisions or choice of words. They think I should just do it all their way and then I will be ok. I love it when those guys are calling me arrogant. Funny.

As for my choice of words? I tend to say what I think and use the language that has been most effective. Most of this is in response to an article I wrote for Church Production Magazine. This is the stuff I am getting comments and emails over.

Sound guy. I try to be clear that I am referring to techs in general. Yes. There are plenty of women who rock professional production. In general, women are more qualified than men for this stuff. Most women have better hearing, are more organized and multitask better than men. They also have MUCH better communication skills. I guess guys are just more tolerant of the foolishness associated with this industry. I don’t know. But I am usually talking about myself or my experiences. I am a guy. That’s where it ends up sometimes.

My common phrase about effects. “It’s like a woman’s makeup. If you can tell it’s there, you probably have too much.” I honestly don’t care if that line sounds degrading or rude. It’s not. It’s just the most easily identifiable comparison I know. I first heard that line in recording school, with a female engineer sitting right beside me. Nobody flinched. Everyone understood it. Nobody got offended.

If you think I am some kind of male chauvinist pig because of that line, you have no idea who I am. Visit my other site. This site was an afterthought. That site is my real mission. Teaching men to love and respect their wives above every other person. People don’t like me for that, either. Go figure.

What about those horribly rude remarks over the church nursery? What rude remarks? “If you aren’t interested in learning and growing as a tech, there’s probably an opening in the nursery.” That line got me called arrogant. Sending more volunteers is rude? Telling people who aren’t wired for one department to visit another one is rude? My wife managed a nursery for a large church for two years. I spent countless hours in there. We both worked in children’s church and ridiculous hours with youth groups. Find the area you have a passion for and dig in. If it’s not tech then it’s just not tech. I have worked in almost every area of the church. Tech was where I was most effective. That’s all. I am not disrespecting another ministry.

I am sure there are plenty more reasons to think I am a jerk. Sorry if you are offended because I forgot to offend you. Make sure you don’t sound too arrogant, while telling me how arrogant I am. I will gladly apologize for my lack of tact and poor writing skills. Not for being honest.

Professional production is a tough world. You have to work with musicians, promoters, techs, drunks, junkies, liars, crooks, sluts, jerks and other amusing creatures. I have experienced things out there that I never dreamed of in any other profession. People who have never mixed outside the church don’t understand. Paying gigs often take you into uncomfortable situations. Biker rallies, unethical corporate events, drunken parties, bar gigs, other religious groups, money hungry sales pitches and eventually you will work in Vegas. The wolves are waiting for young techs who aren’t prepared for reality.

This whole blog began as an attempt to finish some coaching for a few specific guys. If it has benefitted you at all, great. I never expected this thing to grow like it has. I never expected to be faced with the barrage of criticism like I have. I didn’t plan to be treated like an expert. I openly admit that this whole blog is about my experiences and failures. I am giving you a free map to a minefield I crossed. I was just trying to help a few guys prepare for the jump to a career in a difficult business.

There’s a massive difference in volunteering to mix in a local church, and having your family depend on your skills to pay bills. You get out of that comfort zone quick. If you are easily offended, you might want to stay a volunteer.

And maybe find someone else to mentor you. Just a thought.

10 Responses to“An obnoxious response to the easily offended”

  1. Andrew Causey
    January 9, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    I’ve spent a large portion of my life volunteering for church sound. I’ve even had a few paying gigs mixing and doing other gig type stuff like you’ve been describing. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your articles. Your honesty is refreshing. Your statement about mixing and someone else walking up and wanting your attention is right on. People usually don’t understand what you’re doing and so “it must not be that important.” Again keep the articles coming. I’m loving your other blog about your journey to become a better husband/father too.

    • January 9, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      Thanks. I am always hesitant to publish the “really honest” stuff. Glad you’re along for the ride.

  2. Kim Jackson
    January 9, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Some people seem bent on changing the world into an everybody is the same kinda thing. Perceived reality check in play. No one should complain about a blog that they choose to follow!

  3. Gary
    January 9, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Erik,
    I just discovered your site and was glad to read this. I have been doing tech stuff for churches on a volunteer basis for almost 20 years and I am glad to see others have the same problem with people wanting to interrupt before or during a gig. I always felt vaguely guilty for offending people by ignoring them or cutting them short while trying to do my job. Thanks for the confirmation that I shouldn’t feel like that.

    • January 9, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      Nope. You probably don’t need to be quite as obnoxious as me about it, but there’s nothing wrong with telling them no.
      Don’t get suckered into guilt. People are depending on you.

  4. Jim
    January 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    I to am glad you are sharing your experiences Erik. It’s very refreshing to hear things honestly and not through a filter of saying the right thing so that no one is offended.

    I read your Becoming a better man blog also. Thank you for that. It’s helped me to see where I need to make changes.

    • January 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      You are very welcome. Just throwing my mistakes out there, hoping someone else can avoid them. Glad it’s helping.

  5. Mike Willis
    January 13, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Hey Erik, don’t let the haters get you down. Whenever someone puts effort into something and makes it public, there’s bound to be detractors who are happy to criticize someone else but can’t be bothered – for the most part – into putting the same effort into something constructive themselves. I’ve been following your blog for at least a year, and I’ve learned so much. I know I’m not the only one. All of which isn’t to say that criticism is all bad — there’s a time and place, of course. But I hope and pray that the rants and mindless diatribes don’t discourage you from continuing to write. Keep up the good work.

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