• Tammy Amstutz

4 Things I Learned On The Road (that actually work in real life)


1. Not all coffee is created equal, but all coffee deserves a chance.

There can be an adventure and a lesson in every cup of coffee. Sounds cheesy, right? Bear with me. (Also – if you’re a non-coffee drinker just replace “coffee” with…whatever non-coffee drinkers drink first thing in the morning. Tea?)

Whether or not you enjoy the effects of a cup of brew, there’s something to be said about appreciating the varieties this beverage can offer.

As Canadians, many of us live and die by our beloved Tim Horton’s. The US has Starbucks. Italy, Turkey, Greece and Israel all have different variations of enjoying the beverage. Americanos (the name originating from American soldiers overseas who preferred to water down espresso due to the strong taste), caffé latte, mocha, cappuccino, straight up espresso, breve, or just simply home brewed and black. Each variation throughout the course of coffee history created by someone trying something new.

I’ve had Jamaican coffee with rum, sitting on the sands of beaches in Negril. Espresso on the streets of Berlin in the fall, reading a book and watching people. Black brewed coffee while running through London-Heathrow. Sipping (what I think was) an iced vanilla latte outside a coffee house in Amsterdam. I’ve bought bottled Starbucks mocha's long boarding down Venice Beach boardwalk, and have drank hotel coffee while burning in the morning sun on the beaches of Florida. What was present in each memory? Coffee. (FYI: McDonald’s coffee is actually pretty alright wherever you go.)

But let’s bring it local. The idea of this list was to take what I learned in the back of a tour van (or in the front of the van if the rest of the band was too tired to call shotgun) and bring it back to the office.

In case you couldn’t tell – I thoroughly enjoy coffee. Now that I’m back at an office coffee has once again become in installation and a great opportunity to meet with people and exchange ideas. I get to sit with consultants and hear their stories – how they ended up working in Calgary, why they do what they do, and a little bit about who they are, and how they take their coffee.

It’s always a great brain break from a busy day to go to Starbucks with a coworker and chat, getting to know who someone is, aside from their job title, and how they take their coffee.

While we’re all creatures of habit, we’re all creatures of different habits. And there is nothing wrong with being different. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great when you find another soul that loves large, strong, dark Americanos, but you’ll never broaden your horizons if you only drink what you know.

Never say no to a new coffee. Make the most of every exchange. Keep your mind open. Seize the opportunity in every new and different adventure…and who knows?! You might end up finding a new favourite “coffee” (or improving on the old).

2. Hard work is hard work. Period.

During my time as a musician at first I thought I had it rough. (Before you give me grief about how ‘easy it is to be a musician’)…being a musician is actually (almost) the greatest challenge I’ve ever undertaken. Different beds every night. Sometimes you sleep. Most times you don’t (unless you can sleep in a van). Picky eating habits? Well you’re probably starving anyways so food is food at that point. Have you ever been to a live show in a basement venue? Guess what – old music venues don’t have elevators. And young bands don’t have roadies. What are your friends and family up to at home? Really missing the boyfriend? Girlfriend? Mom? Dad? Let’s hope you got to sleep somewhere with a computer that night because paying the cell phone bill took a back seat to gassing up the band van.

As we were exposed to more success we were surrounded by other people who worked hard, too. Our tour manager, who was always up taking care of the band until the last member finally went to sleep was still always the first person up in the mornings. We came to find out that she’d regularly be doing work long after we’d all gone to bed for the night. When we asked why, how can she work like that, her response was as simple as “well, it’s my job”.

Surely, you can’t tell me that keeping all the band mates (relatively) sober, arranging food (now that we have food again we’re all picky, of course), transportation, accommodations, managing guarantees and contracts with the venues, and acting as band counsellor on top of it all, was everything that was asked of her? It wasn’t. She was simply asked to get the job done and that’s exactly what she did.

Her reward? Unending love and friendship with some pretty amazing memories. Shout-outs at every show. And sometimes we’d even let her go to sleep at a decent hour. But on top of that – a great contract with a growing record label and huge respect in the industry.

So bringing it back home. I mentioned that one of the biggest challenges I had was being a musician. Well the biggest challenge I had was not being a musician. I felt like a fish out of water, but Tour Manager Steffi is often in my mind: Work. Work hard and work well. And NEVER say “it’s not my job”.

I started working at Britt Land as a billing clerk, also working a day or two a week with our Human Resources manager. Reggae bassist to billing clerk was a hard transition, but I worked hard and never said “it’s not my job” (mostly because I couldn’t believe someone would hire a nearly homeless, jobless and directionless ex-musician). Fast forward to today I’m blown away by how little by little, a step at a time, hard work is rewarded with success. Two promotions, my own office and a rewarding, challenging, engaging position for a company that I love coming to work for. Never say “it’s not my job” and your hard work will reap unexpected results.

3. Never forget a book. You never know how long the ride will actually be.

Have you ever driven across Texas? I did. Once. Starting out a few hours north of the Mexican border in Truth-or-Consequences, NM (a real city, believe it or not), we were headed for Corpus Christi, TX. Easy. 11 hours. Calgary to Winnipeg is a few hours longer than that, and we’d done that tons of times!

Texas. Is. HUGE! And hot. And empty. I think the word for it is “horrifically barren”. I do not relish the memories of driving across the Texan wasteland.

Life rarely ever gives you what you expect. When you’re expecting a balmy, breezy trip it’s not often that you’ll get it. There will be long, drawn out and uncomfortable journeys that you will take. It’s what you do during these times that make them either worthwhile or a miserable memory.

Always bring a book. When you aren’t where you want to be and you have another 8 hours (days, weeks, months) of heat – learn. When you have miles of inevitable boredom ahead – educate yourself! Make use of your downtime by stretching your character, personality, vocabulary so you can be ready for the road ahead. Be prepared for that next fork in the road and maybe try taking a path you’ve only read about!

I have read some GREAT books in this last year! Two of my favorites are Blink: the power of thinking without thinking. The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success.

Up next: Eat That Frog! & You Are A Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life

4. Never be afraid to think big – and talk about it.

No huge idea started out being well known. Music was amazing because we were passionateabout it. We wanted to talk about it, and we did! We told people that we loved our lives! We told people when we were going to play. When we wrote new songs. When we were going on tour. New music videos. New nominations. New awards. OLD nominations! OLD awards! Everything about our lives was cool and we told everyone because we believed in what we did and we believed that we could make a difference.

When I came back to “real life” it was hard to find this same love and passion for everything. I didn’t 100% believe in anything I was doing – how can you make a difference if you don’t believe in what you’re doing every day of the week?

I see so many people who fell into a routine and did what they needed to do, not what they wanted to do. At times we all have to do this – to get the job done. But do you believe in what you do? I’ve always hated the idea of life controlling me instead of me controlling my life. It feels like an addiction that you can’t kick – always being at the mercy of someone or something else.

My life took an amazing turn when I started loving everything that I did. Love isn’t a feeling in these circumstances, love is a conscious and determined effort. Love is a habit.

Like I mentioned, I couldn’t believe that I was even hired in the first place – that’s when the dreaming started.

Before my life as a musician I was an executive assistant. I dreamed of getting back to a fulfilling role like that. Hard work + dreams = results. Within the first 6 months of my employment at Britt Land I was promoted to the HR Administrator / Executive Assistant.

My next goal and dream was already formulating and seemed to take shape with little effort. I was dreaming of the day I could feel like I worked with a team instead of for a team. That switch in mentality didn’t come with a promotion – it came because every day I had a goal to work with a team. To own what I was doing instead of only considering myself “the help”.

Today I hold the title of People & Culture Coordinator. I get to work with one of the coolest teams. The promotion? That came from hard work and dreams manifesting themselves as reality – the result of that hard work.

Next step? Time to pick up some books and get reading.

I love my job. I love my friends and my family. I love my hobbies. I can’t wait to talk about these things. I can dream as big as I want! The harder I work towards those dreams and the more I talk about them the closer they get. Dreams grow as you grow. And they make you richer for it.

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