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“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times….”

These famous words hail from the classic, A Tale of Two Cities and can easily be a giant billboard for what most of us experience throughout various seasons of our lives.  Surely the sound design world is not exempt from such tension which can often bring additional frustrations, trials, and heartaches; not to mention a world of confusion.  Social media memes, sneaky troll-ers, and outright misinformation do nothing to help clarify things.

Contentment, as defined in the online version of Merriem-Webster’s Dictionary is the quality or state of being contented and the word, ambition is defined by the same source as a particular goal or aim; something that a person hopes to do or achieve.  When we use the original definitions, we see they’re really quite generic.  All of us can, at one point, bend these words into either laziness or obnoxiousness but for the most part, if we keep with the initial explanations of these sweeping terms, we can find a happy junction.

So what next?  How can we take up residence in that Utopian city at the intersection of “contentment” and “ambition?”  Below are some categorized, simple suggestions/opinions.  Obviously your specific lifestyle and business philosophy dictates how much you’ll need to adjust within each parameter.

Additive Wisdom:
1) A wise engineer will always stay humble during both lean and prosperous seasons.
2) Engineers must always don a permanent learning cap no matter how many task hats they’re called to wear during any given project.
3) Learn from your mistakes but don’t wallow in them.
4) Likewise, enjoy the successful moments but don’t make trophies of them.
5) Maintain an attitude of gratefulness we’re in an era where there are so many engineers.  We are surrounded with amazing technological advances too numerous to count.  When we start getting a stingy focus, we can lose sight of the fact that without the numbers, there would be much less availability of gear and advice.

EQ’ing Perspective:

1) Perception can be as faulty as mixing in a cheap pair of headphones so keep at least one or two close friends around to help you with it during good and bad days.  Conversely, perspective can be your best friend when there is seemingly no one close by to help or cheer you on.
2) Keep a loose hold on expectations.  Know that people zig when you think they’re going to zag and vice versa.  Half of frustrations can easily come when we place our ambitions hope in our own expectations instead of the understanding that this is a service-oriented industry which comes from outside of us.  You work on the being the dependable, non-zag-ger.
3) Gaining the correct, wisest perspective is best obtained during the lean seasons.
4) When centered on the common ground of achieving the best possible sound quality, perspective can often help resolve much of the angst between the client/engineer relationship–sans ego.
5) Perspective might be the quickest and fastest road to sound design wisdom.

Tuning Habits:
1) Do not immediately disagree with criticism… or even harsh criticism.
2) Do not immediately agree with criticism… harsh criticism… or accolades. *See #1 and 2 under the heading “perspective” for auto-tuning.
3) Make time for other hobbies, family time, and responsibilities… and try and talk about what interest others.  It’s surprising how small my world gets when I only talk about only myself and the current, greatest technique.  Counter the bad habit through engaging others.  I’m equally amazed at how much my personal sound projects are enhanced when I engage in and with others. In other words, let a little sun in every now and then.  🙂
4) Be determined to incorporate your good experiences into your own business, and equally exclude any bad experiences.  My own dealings with a skilled, professional engineer has been an admirable prototype.  He has provided a plethora of noteworthy elements to incorporate technically, and exemplary ways to treat people socially; even when the client is not ideal.  Resolve with each project to choose at least one or two components you can add to the value of your next project.
5) Do not air dirty laundry about any client for any reason!  Engineers, if other engineers can read your bad experiences, publically, so can potential clients.  While it might seem like a good idea at the time–you’re not helping distinguish the bad clients; you’re potentially keeping away the good ones. Keep those to private e-mails.

I hope this is an encouragement that the Tale of Two Seasons (contentment and ambition) can truly be lived out in the same moments of time. With a little moxy, diligence, and remixing of defined terms, we can all learn to apply these to engineering.  This is just a starting chapter of a well-worn book.  Please feel free to add your editorial comments below! 🙂
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Kim Noble is a Connecticut suburban housewife and mother by day; and recording enthusiast and Christian artist by night.  She is involved in two projects: one is a homegrown mixing venture called Farms and Fields {www.facebook.com/farmsandfieldsmusic} and the other is a professional singing collaboration titled Kim Noble Music {www.kimnoblemusic.com}.  Please feel free to privately e-mail her at: farmsandfields@gmail.com  She would appreciate the interaction!