What Rock-N-Roll Taught Me About Being Successful

The Best Take Lessons: A somewhat introverted kid would disappear for a couple years. You wouldn’t see him for a while, and then he would show up with a guitar. He had filled his time taking lessons and jamming with the radio, learning to shred. The pretenders avoided lessons and, lacking the fundamentals, they never reached a high level of competency. Keep learning.

The Best Practice Their Craft: The best musicians practiced. Not occasionally, and not sporadically. They practiced all the time. No matter the instrument, they continued to develop their skills. The earlier they developed the habit of practicing, the better their overall skill, but many who started late caught up through the discipline of relentless practice.

The Audience Wants You to Succeed: When you are starting out, you aren’t very good. It takes time to improve your skills, but it takes even more time for a band to perform as a unit and not a group of individuals. Even though you might be terrible, the audience still wants you to succeed. You can make up for the lack of skill with attitude and enthusiasm, and that is enough for people who want a show.

Give the People What They Want: You might not be able to play well enough to cover your heroes at the beginning, so you play what you can. No matter what, you need several numbers that are “crowd-pleasers,” even if you personally hate the songs and wish you could play something else. You can also get too far out in front of your audience, playing something that they don’t recognize. In that case, you are doing what an artist does: leading your audience.

Rehearsal Makes the Performance: In Los Angeles, the Sunset Strip is a distraction. You would have a much better time going to the Strip for sushi than rehearsing for the sixth day in a row. The performance, however, is only made great through rehearsing. If you want to be professional, you rehearse. It is easy to tell who rehearses and who is winging it.

Know Your Content Cold: Recently, my friend Kevin asked me how I remembered the words to the hundreds of songs we played. He still plays, and all the singers now have an iPad to feed them the lyrics. Why bother being a lead singer without knowing the lyrics to the songs? You need to know your content cold, something that provides you with even greater confidence.

Everything Is a Performance: From the minute you step onto the stage, you are performing. You are commanding attention, or you are wading into something that isn’t quite enough to be called a performance. Your technical prowess is important, but it isn’t often enough to be the performance by itself. You have to pour your heart and soul into what you are doing for ninety minutes if you want to make an impact.

Energy Creates Energy: The more energy you exert, the more energy is returned to you. The way you get energy is by giving it. Your energy creates more energy. You cannot keep it bottled up—you have to let it go, trusting that it will have an impact and return to you even stronger.

Some People Want the Reward without the Effort: There are always people who want something without being willing to do the work. You can buy the right guitar, the right gear, and the right clothes. You can stand around at the back of the venue criticizing the bands that are playing, talking about how much better you are going to be. That makes you a poseur, not an artist. Unless and until you do the work, you will only be pretending.

Talent Isn’t Enough: There is no end of talent when it comes to players. Talent, as powerful as it may be, isn’t enough to create success. In the arts, you also need a good bit of luck, good timing, and the maturity to be ready when an opportunity presents itself. More than that, you need to be hungry enough to pursue your dream. Hunger stands above all other attributes among those who create success.

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