Tiffany Chang

conductor

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Values and Fulfillment

Posted by tiffanychang on July 24, 2020 at 4:15 PM

I've recently been thinking a lot about values. I went through a self-guided process of clarifying and giving meaning to my values (inspired by a class with Rich Diviney, former Navy SEAL Officer). I explored how these values inform my work and how to make them actionable. I reflected on how fulfilled I feel right now in my life and how these values play a part in that. It was a worthwhile journey of self-discovery. I'd like to share what happened.


- Clarifying and giving meaning to values -

Step 1: I got this giant list of just under 150 values. I went ahead and checked every single value that spoke to me in a profound way. I ended up with about 25 words, so I kept narrowing them down - my goal was to get it down to under 5. I realized that some of these values were actually related and fell under the umbrella of a "main" value. Here's how I ended up organizing these values, in turn revealing what my 5 main values were (in no particular order):

- Excellence - Mastery, Knowledge, Competence
- Integrity - Hard Work, Responsibility, Accountability, Honor, Honesty, Clarity, Humility
- Ethics - Fairness
- Career - Success, Achievement, Ambition
- Leadership - Courage, Impact, Loyalty, Empowerment, Vision

Step 2: I proceeded to try to answer the question, "What do these values mean to you?" What I learned is that every person can contextualize a value in very personal ways. How I define a value can be very different than how someone else defines it. So here were my attempts at defining these values, weaving in as many of the "secondary" values in Step 1 as appropriate: 

- Excellence - possessing the highest mastery and knowledge possible in the field, being absolutely competent in the work I do, always doing my best work
- Integrity - always working hard, being responsible and accountable for my work and others' time, doing honorable work that I can be proud of, being honest about the quality of my work
- Ethics - being fair as much as possible, giving credit where it is due, encouraging accountable behavior in the world (by expecting it and modeling it)
- Career - spending the majority of my time conducting, holding significant conducting positions in first-rate conservatories and professional organizations, being versatile and proficient in many conducting areas, holding the ambition that I can always do better, being seen as a leader
- Leadership - having impact on and inspiring how others think and behave, having courage to go first and to take risks, being loyal to one's ideals, empowering others to do their best, having a vision for a better future, being humble and grateful, working with maximum transparency and clarity

Step 3: Then, I attempted to answer the question, "How will others see you behave when you are living these values?" Many of the responses are a repetition of Step 2, but they're reframed to be actionable and to hold myself accountable:

- Excellence - I continually work on myself as an artist. I always do my best work and back it up with skill and knowledge.
- Integrity - I always work hard and take responsibility for my work. I always be honest and do what I say I would. I am so prepared that I never waste anyone's time. I always do work that I feel I could be proud of.
- Ethics - I strive to be fair in how I treat others and how I run my organizations. I establish a culture that encourages others to value fairness and accountability. I model those behaviors and expect it.
- Career - It will never feel like I've gotten where I want to be: I am always striving for the next level up in my work. I am fluent in conducting diverse scenarios. I am busy working on different projects and with different organizations all the time.
- Leadership - My ideas and actions change how others think and act, thus inspiring a vision I have for a better future in musical fulfillment. I have the courage to go first (and start something) and to take risks. I remain loyal and stay true to my ideals. I empower the group to do their best and feel purposeful in their work. I am reflective and humble and grateful. Everything I do and say has maximum transparency and clarity.

- Visiting fulfillment for a bit -

After going through this exercise, I decided to go deeper and explore job satisfaction and feelings of fulfilment in the music industry.


I often read in dismay that fewer and fewer of the world’s population are feeling fulfilled by the work they do. We in the arts agree that we are lucky to love what we do for a living. Yet, we also contribute to the statistic since loving what we do does not necessarily always lead to feeling fulfilled by our work. People don't actually realize that they do not feel fulfilled. I have been in too many situations where I see musicians complain about their gigs and having to go to rehearsal, treat it like a job they clock-in and clock-out, and don't always feel excited to perform. I think the key word for the last one is always. I realized that it's not simply doing what you love that makes you feel fulfilled, but the the context in which you do it that ultimately seals the deal—such a simple but profound distinction.


I'm on a mission to revolutionize the orchestral workplace so everyone feels absolutely fulfilled.


So, how do you help musicians feel truly fulfilled? I think it is building a culture of trust, empowerment, and belonging: if you feel trusted to take musical risks knowing we have each other's backs, empowered to do purposeful and individualized work, and feel a sense of belonging to a group that share the same values and goals. It's just like in any other industry.


- Now, going back to values -

I finally asked myself: why do I currently feel unfulfilled by my work? what aspects of my work are misaligned with my values? what do I need to do to rectify and improve that?


This is how I decided to evaluate. I took each of my values and rated how I feel they are currently represented in my work. How satisfied am I with the degree in which I live each value? Here are my ratings on a scale of 1 (least) to 10 (most) and some reflections: 

- Excellence [6] - I hold myself at the highest (sometimes impossibile) standards, and I'm not able to do my best artistic work in my current positions. As a result, I do not feel fulfilled. And not being able to do my best work makes me feel terrible about myself - and I don't improve.
- Integrity [9] - I take pride in working extremely hard and doing what I say I'll do. I consistently take responsibility for my work and over-prepare for everything. I am always bettering myself so that the quality and consistency of my work remains high. This is something I have completely control over - how I show up. This is also cited frequently as what others see strongly in me.
- Ethics [8] - This has always been central to the way I handle things in my work and how I interact with others. I feel like this should be a no-brainer 10, but I've assigned it an 8 because I remain confused about the gray areas. My insistence on being fair in this way may make others feel like I'm inflexible and inconsiderate. But from my end, what I feel is that I'm staying loyal to the rest of the group that has demonstrated a commitment to that responsibility. (That's an interesting thought - I just thought of that as I was writing this. Maybe it's a perception issue?). 
- Career [4] - I'll always be grateful for jobs that allow me to conduct. I'm thrilled to be working at the top institutions in the country so early in my career. However, I think my work has been too isolated within academia and what's missing is work with high-level professional organizations. I have realized that I cannot be in a position that is only teaching. I want to be working in places that allow me to do the highest level work and to conduct. Right now, that is not the case, and I want to change that.
- Leadership [8.5] - I feel like I'm doing pretty well as a leader. I feel like my behavior and ideas have changed culture in multiple organizations - the behavior and thoughts of others - in a positive way. My musicians have certainly been inspired to do better work. Generally, the musicians I work with (professional and amateurs) feel greatly empowered and alive when we make music. That's a very strong foundation to begin with and results in much better and deeper work. I will never be the best leader I want to be, so my score will always be around a 8 - like, forever. 

So it turns out that I feel the least fulfilled by my (lack of) career and excellence. Well, I've got some work to do! 


Also, all those other 120 or so values I didn't even select from the start - why are they not on my values list? Maybe I should run this exercise with those and see what happens? I guess that's why everyone's different. 


Thanks for reading till the end - this was really two posts in one!

 

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