Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nothin' But a Good Time

I’m a fan of music. That’s no secret. I also grew up in the 80’s, so naturally I have an affinity for all things hard rock (yes, sometimes referred to as “hair bands” today). Why does that matter? Because my iPhone has a decent variety of 80’s hard rock on it and in introducing my two boys (ages 4 and 5 now) to a wide variety of musical genres they have taken a liking to many of the 80’s classics (I don’t know, maybe it’s the stadium size drums, or shredding guitar riffs – who can blame them, really). Well, the other day while driving home and listening to some tunes together, Poison’s hit “Nothin’ But a Good Time” comes on.  My two boys immediately respond with an enthusiastic “Oh yeah” and begin singing along. Then, my 4-year old interrupts and wants to have a conversation.

“Daddy,” he bellows over the music, “you wanna know what the game is?”

“The game?” I ask.

“Yeah, it’s complicated,” he continues, still speaking loudly as though trying to talk over the music, even though I have lowered the sound. “In this song, he wants to have the best time. But for him, singing rock n’ roll is the best time. So he’s already having the best time.

“Huh,” I remark, dumbfounded.

“Yeah, and that’s the game.”

“So, the game is finding your best time, and then doing whatever that is?” I ask, the teacher now having become the student.

“Yeah,” he affirms, “and for him it’s singing rock n’ roll, and he’s doing it!”

I smile, and look in the rearview mirror at the little boy who was once not too long ago a baby and see him growing before my eyes, gaining a glimpse at the man he will all too soon become.

“That’s right,” I say, “he’s doing what he loves. He wants the best time, and he is having it.”

Kids say the darndest things, that’s for sure. But sometimes it takes the simple, enthusiastic words of a child discovering the world around him to help us realize some of life’s truths. Thank you, Bret Michaels and Co. for inspiring that moment with my son, and for inspiring him to reflect on your situation – you pursued your passion of music, never gave up, and succeeded. And that deserves recognition. When you live your passion, when you do what you love, life ain’t nothin’ but a good time. Here's a link to Poison's video:

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Honesty is Always the Best Policy

Honesty is always the best policy. I honestly believe that. Whether in business, with family, friendships or other relationships, being truthful always leads to the right result. It doesn’t always produce the most immediately satisfying result (and in fact can often lead to awkward or challenging moments), but in the long run it is definitely best for everyone involved. Think about it, decisions and actions made on false premises will ultimately lead to false outcomes, and eventually need to be corrected. (I am of course talking about long-term results here. Lying and cheating can “get you ahead” in the short-term, but even then your reputation and credibility will be tarnished. You know the old saying, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, well . . .”). In any event, I think it is pretty clear how honesty builds a strong foundation in all facets of life. However, the greatest challenge is not always being honest with others, it is being honest with yourself. 
Very often you will hear people say that the key to success is doing what you love, and following your passions. I am one of those people you will hear saying this, and I absolutely believe it to be true. The trick is knowing what you love and knowing what your true passions are in life, which requires you to be brutally honest with yourself. Doing what you love or living your passion is all about life’s journey. It is not about some destination or goal you have set out to achieve. What do I mean by that? Many people focus on the potential fruits of their labor, instead of focusing on the labor itself. That’s a problem, because your labor is what you are going to be doing day in and day out. In other words, your labor is your life’s journey. Doing what you love and living your passion should mean that you love and are passionate about your labor, the fruits from which you will also inevitably enjoy.
Take, for example, entertainers. Many people set out to be an actor or singer because really what they want is the fame and fortune that being an actor or singer potentially brings, not necessarily because they absolutely love and are passionate about acting or singing. Yet, they most likely do not realize this fact because they are not being honest with themselves, which is sometimes very hard to do. After all, they may be talented and even have some of the attributes associated with famous entertainers, and they may even be receiving encouragement to pursue such a career by family, friends, etc. who are also intrigued by the potential winning lotto ticket that success in the entertainment industry can be (by the way, you are better off playing the actual lottery). And let’s face it, they are probably dreamers, since they set out to accomplish such lofty goals, and heck, being an entertainer could be fun. The same is true for many who pursue becoming a professional athlete. How often do you hear about kids or young adults playing sports because they see it as a “way out” of their small town or inner city neighborhood? They are willing to pursue a labor that has perhaps the least likelihood of success, because of the potential fruits they may enjoy if successful (no matter how remote). The same holds true for business owners and entrepreneurs. Are you starting a business because you love and are passionate about the product or service you are going to provide? Or, are you just looking for a payday. Entrepreneurs who start out already thinking about an exit strategy are doomed to fail. Why? Because obviously they are focused only on the fruits of their labor, and not building the best damn company and business they can build.
Discovering who you are and what you are truly passionate about is one of life’s greatest challenges, but it is also one of the secrets to success and, ultimately, happiness. So try, really try, to be honest with yourself when it comes to who you are. Listen to that inner voice, and trust it. You already have the answer. After all, it is who you are.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stop Chasing Your Dreams, and Start Living Your Passions

When someone says, "follow your dreams," what does that really mean? I think all too often people have a goal in mind or destination in life where they think that if they achieve that goal or arrive at that destination they will be happy, and they call that their “dream.” Once they accomplish that goal or arrive at that destination they will have arrived at their dream. They will have finished, and can now stop. They will be done. In other words, for many people their “dream” is an end, some far off majestic place they need to get to. It almost doesn’t matter how they get there.

To me, getting somewhere without absolutely loving the process seems pointless. Life is a journey; it is not a means to an end. It is, in fact, the means. So the idea of having a “dream,” some far off fantasy land that you hope someday you will arrive at seems almost pointless. What if it takes your whole life to get there? What if you never get there? Then, and all to late might I add, will you spent your life chasing something you never achieved and, in the meantime, may have missed out on life or not enjoyed it to its fullest.

If I told you that you would be the happiest you could be for one day on the last day of the year, the 365th day of the year, would you spend the other 364 days miserable or unhappy trying to achieve that one day? I certainly hope not. So why is it any different with your life? Why would you spend the better part of your life trying to achieve something that you think will bring you happiness, when it isn’t even guaranteed that it will? In fact, chances are, if your happiness is defined by achieving some goal, you will never be happy. Because once you achieve that goal you will want to achieve the next thing, and will spend the next part of your life or year unhappy trying to achieve it. Your life will become a vicious cycle.

For example, you might say, “My dream is to be the greatest baseball player that ever lived.” Really? Being the greatest baseball player that ever lived can only come at the end of a career spent playing baseball.  I think in that case what you are really saying is that baseball is your passion. That you love the game of baseball and want to spend every waking hour of you life devoted to mastering the sport and becoming the greatest baseball player ever. If that is the case, then what are you waiting for? Start now. Don’t wait. Wake up tomorrow and begin training. Study the sport inside and out. Go to games. Watch games on television. Read every book ever written on baseball. And damn it, play. Be baseball. Eat, sleep and breathe it. Before you know it, baseball will be your life. You will be living baseball. And when all is said and done, when you finally look back at your life, then you (or others) can access whether you were the "greatest baseball player that ever lived." Odds are not, but you would have had a lot of fun trying. 

The point is, rather than trying setting your sights on some far off “dream,” try to live a life loving what you do every day. Figure out what you are passionate about, and surround yourself with whatever that is. Immerse yourself in the industry, culture, etc. of your passion. Most importantly, don’t wait to start – see living your passion as your dream, and start living it now. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Don't Just Wake Up Tomorrow, Rise and Shine

Every day we are faced with the task of getting out of bed. And let’s face it, some days are easier than others. But the first action we take, the first thing we do every morning that potentially sets the tone for the rest of our day, is to get out of bed. So why just “wake up”? Why not “Rise and Shine”?
What’s the difference you ask? Think about it. “Waking up” is the sort of thing you do day-in and day-out out of necessity, habit or routine. It’s monotonous. But to “rise” every morning is to elevate yourself, bring yourself to a higher place than before. It’s inspirational and allows you to greet the day with a sense of purpose and determination. So, don't just wake up tomorrow. Rise. Like the Phoenix from its ashes, rise in the morning and begin the day anew. Free yourself from your past and whatever problems you faced yesterday and start fresh. Rise, empowered to conquer the day. Rise, and continue your journey, ascending to greater heights each day. Rise, like a wounded fighter who has been knocked down but knows to keep fighting, never giving up. When that alarm sounds, open your eyes, let the sun in like fire, and RISE.
But “rising” is only half of it. You also must also “shine.” That’s right. Start your day by letting yourself shine. Be your best self. Take your gifts and talents and give them to the world. Be a beacon of light and hope that inspires others around you to do the same. Be confident. Know that you are amazing and that you illuminate the world around you. You have so much to give by just by being you. Let yourself SHINE.
That is what it takes to be successful. Success comes through perseverance and resilience. Every great athlete will tell you that they have suffered many losses despite their victories. As Michael Jordan once famously said:
"I've  missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
Similarly, every great artist will recall the many rejections they had to face first before finally making it. And every great entrepreneur will have had several businesses and ideas fail before seeing one prosper.
It’s not enough to just wake up the next day. If you want to be successful and achieve something great, you have to open your eyes and begin each day more inspired and determined than the one before. You have to be prepared for even harder challenges than you faced yesterday, and be willing to stand up and say, “bring it.” You have to RISE, and SHINE.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

AC/DC: Consistency is "Who Made Who"

AC/DC has been in business for over 40 years, and has sold over 200 million albums worldwide. That's pretty darn impressive for brothers Agnus and Malcom Young, both of whom play guitar in the band, and brother George Young, who is the unofficial "sixth member" of the band. They have withstood the test of time and developed one of the most recognizable and iconic sounds in rock history. The minute an AC/DC song starts on the radio, you know it's them. In addition to their sound and stage presence, AC/DC has built a huge business around the band's brand, with all sorts of merchandise incorporating the AC/DC trademark and logo. Everything from t-shirts, neckties, beach cover-up dresses and baby bibs, to a range of wines, German beer and board games can be found with the name AC/DC attached. So how have they done it? What lesson can be learned from the success of this Australian rock band? Consistency.

AC/DC has built a loyal following through sticking to what it knows best - hard rocking guitar riffs and lyrics about sex, drugs and rock n' roll. It's simple. And it's brilliant. AC/DC is the place you go to when you just want to rock. Go into any dive bar across the country, and you are bound to hear an AC/DC song (or twelve) played on the jukebox. There is a clear identity to the brand and legacy of AC/DC. So much so, that AC/DC is able to take that brand and cross market into completely un-rock n' roll territory, like baby clothes and bibs. Whatever their brand touches becomes automaticall cool. Parents craving to still feel cool want to buy AC/DC shirts for their toddlers because it screams, "look at me -- I'm a cool, edgy parent." In fact, AC/DC is such a defined brand and legacy that their unwillingness to waver or change over the years has almost become a battle cry. They stand alone atop the great rock n' roll mountain waving their flag. And taking that brand to the masses through merchandising without softening the music or message has allowed the band great commercial success without compromising its own integrity. They, unlike so many, have stayed true to themselves. In fact, bringing their brand to mass retail chains and a range of products looks more like an attempt to corrupt the world with rock n' roll rebellion than it does to sell out and go corporate. I mean, who is to fault any artist for a larger audience or louder megaphone to scream through?  

The point of all this is that whether you are an artist, athlete or entrepreneur building your brand, stick to what you know. Do not let outside influencers tell you to be something you are not. Grant it, there is always room for change and a natural evolution. Who you are today may not be who you are tomorrow. But stay true to yourself and what you know you do best. When it comes to building a business and brand, having a solid core identity, and sticking to that identity, can be key to achieving long-term success.

Click here to read more about the AC/DC family business:

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014: How Do You “Make It” in the Music Biz?

Before you ask the question, how do I “make it” in the music biz, you must first answer a question: what do you mean by “make it” in the music biz? After all, how you define your goals determines whether or not you have successfully achieved them. Does “making it” in music mean global fame and selling out large concert venues all over the world? Sure. I don’t think anyone would argue that BeyoncĂ© or Jay-Z have “made it” in music. But what about the little known musician who plays hundreds of shows a year, self-releases their own music through the various digital channels now available (and even has a small distribution deal for physical CDs, LPs, etc.), and pulls in anywhere between $50-150k per year solely through their music? Hasn’t that musician “made it” too?

If you are an artist who makes music because you are compelled to create and express the emotion that lives inside of you, then “making it” in music should be about developing a sustainable career in music, where you can spend your life working as an artist and creating your music. That is a very different proposition than craving fame or a life filled with material excess. Not that there is anything wrong with fame or money – by all means, please enjoy both should they come your way.  But it shouldn’t be the goal and you need to not get distracted by these things or adjust your business plan in order to achieve them. Building a sustainable career in music is by definition a long-term plan, and one which requires extreme dedication, hard work and patience. Rarely is overnight stardom involved.

 There is no precise formula for building a career in music, but there are some basic principles that apply. Here’s what I know:
·         You Have to Be Music. You have to know that you are an artist and that music is your greatest value and the gift that you unequivocally must bring to the world. Music must be your purpose. And you just can’t say it (there is no faking this one), you have to know it and believe in yourself. You are but a vessel through which music must speak and be heard. This is the hardest step because too often people are not honest with themselves. Sure, they may say they love music and may be talented, but the truth is they end up pursuing music for a variety of other reasons and not because it is their entire being and they absolutely have to. Maybe it’s the potential fame or exciting lifestyle, or maybe they figure they’ll just give it a shot because at that moment they have nothing to lose and, hey, a career in music could be fun. The truth is, if you are pursing music for any reason other than the fact that music is a reflection of your soul, then a sustainable long-term career is probably not what you really want and you will be less likely to succeed. If, however, you truly are music, the rest will not be so hard.

·         You Have to Work Really Hard. Simply being music is not enough; you also have to work really hard on making your music into a career. The good news is, if you are music, the hard work should not be that painful and you should revel in the process of building your musical career. The hard work starts with mastering your craft, practicing and becoming the best musician, singer, songwriter, performer, etc., that you can be, constantly looking to improve yourself. You should strive for perfection in every little step taken and note played or sung. Again, if you are music, this should come naturally and not be a burden at all. If you don’t enjoy mastering your craft, maybe you are in the wrong craft. Next is mastering the business of music and building a career based on your craft. You will have to completely immerse yourself in how the industry works and understand how the potential revenue streams work. If you are really not business savvy, you’ll have to try and find someone who can help you out with this part, and take on a partner of sorts (i.e., a manager). Either way, you (or someone on your team) will need to understand the business of music from all angles so that you can aggressively and strategically pursue the many outlets now available to independent musicians.

·         You Have to Never Give Up. This goes without saying. You can’t make music for your career if you stop making music. Stay at it. And stay focused. Remember, the goal here is to make a living making music. Too often, artists give up because they find that the living they are making is not enough. They want more. They feel that they are not getting enough back from their music and the hard work they are putting out. The reality is, if music is truly who you are, then being able to make a living (no matter how modest) that supports your music and gives you the freedom and opportunity to share your music with audiences big or small is all that should matter. If you are frustrated that you can’t buy a house yet, then what you really want is a house, and music is only secondary. In that case, get a job working for someone else doing something you probably don’t enjoy that will pay you enough to afford a house, and buy that house, or car, or whatever it is you feel you deserve out of life. Maybe that’s “making it” to you. Otherwise, keep doing what you were born to do and love. Keep making music, and be grateful that you can make a career doing so. Before you know it, as you continue to build a sustainable long-term career in music, some of that fame and money that others crave so immediately may start to pour in. And the house that is your musical career that you built with passion, hard work and integrity will have a much stronger foundation.

To read some success stories about artists you probably never heard of who are making a living in music, check out this article: