Long read ahead.
Over the last year, I have been asked probably twenty plus times by people to help them understand what I do or how I do what I do in order to have a "career" in the music industry. People want to know how I have turned what I love doing into a career that supports my wife and I. First I want everyone before reading this blog to go to the "Perception" blog and read that... as what appears to be success is full of trial and error, doubts, ups and downs, and once again the internet is mainly my highlight reel and also I have spent about seven years getting to this point.
But within all of those things I do have a system. I do have a routine. I do have things I do that I believe have helped me jump levels more quickly then others. I am not sure if I can pin point the one thing that has helped me the most so I thought I would just share kind of my approach to my weeks and if something in there is helpful to you then great. These are not in order of importance.
I want to begin by saying a lot of my approach comes from business 101 type stuff. I went to college for business and I think that plays a role in what I do. Even though I didn't enjoy much of my education except for a few teachers I think there is a lot that stuck in my head somewhere. I also was a lot more of a smartass back then so I probably was not a joy to have in class. I apologize.
A lot of what I do now comes direct from reading articles and listening to podcast. I listen to Art of Charm, Tony Robbins, Rob Bell, Gary Vaynerchuck religiously. I apply almost everything they say. If you know me, you know I have told you about them. I mainly listen or read things that will challenge me and that come from people that are far beyond me in age and success. This is probably a major key in my whole thing. I have a thirst for learning. Life is hard, but there is so much wisdom in older people. I seek that out. I consume it. I listen to these podcasts multiple times so it soaks deep into my routine. A lot of people consume something then go on to the next thing. I don't. I will listen to a whole series then go back and listen again.. sometimes even 3-5 times. Repetition is the key to a lot of what I do.
In order for things to stick in your life you have to do them over and over again to build a foundation thats solid. I have been working on this for about three years now. It's hard and time consuming but I have found it to create peace and give me the clarity to see what works and doesn't work in life and business. So consume content from wise people and consume it over and over again until you can pretty much recite it out loud.
The second thing I do is exercise physically and mentally. I work out a few days a week and walk a few days a week. I meditate almost everyday. Over the last couple years I have lost 20lbs and changed my whole body and outlook on life. I let a lot of past baggage go. I stopped living in fear and went to counseling. I can't say enough good things about going to a real professional counselor if you feel lost in life. Turns out they are experts and also can show you how what you're going through is normal. They have solutions that work if you're willing to trust.
Within this, I gave up a lot of things. For a period of time I gave up alcohol and caffeine. I gave up a lot of my old diet. I now mainly eat gluten free, grain free, and dairy free....slowly turning into a vegetarian as well. I eat this way because honestly I feel better. It sounds restrictive but it's not. There's plenty to eat, I never starve, and I feel more satisfied then ever before by eating this way. It's not for everyone but I do think it plays a role into my clarity I have in my weeks. I have reintroduced alcohol and have coffee as a treat. I changed my whole relationship with food and I am easily in the best shape of my life. THIS WAS HARD. Meditation has given me lots of mental clarity and stillness in my life. I swear by it, as it forces you to learn how to be still, silent, and ok with being alone in solitude. I was extremely surprised by how hard it was to sit in silence for ten minutes. Now I look forward to it.
The third thing I do is bulletproof my calendar. By this I mean, if it's not in the calendar it doesn't happen. I say "no" all the time to things. I do this because I only have so much time and energy in life. I have work, a marriage, and a social life with some people. Outside of that there is not a lot of time. Learning to say no to things and giving up on the fear of missing out changed my life and allowed me to invest into a few people, my clients, and my wife in much more meaningful ways. This in turn has made me a healthier person. I highly recommend you ask yourself if what you're doing is what you actually want to be doing. Is going out and getting drunk moving you forward or backwards. Is having 100 friends who don't know really anything about you really fulfilling? My friends I have know me at a level that few do. We don't talk about music because they know me beyond that. This is important to have in life.. to be viewed as more than your work.
The fourth thing I do is work really hard for short periods of time. I will work for a few hours straight no distractions. Go into a complete zone and then take a break. I find the morning hours to be the most effective for me. I find that I do my best work during those few hours. After that I can tell I am already fatiguing. What I do requires lots of focus. It requires lots of mental energy. So when I start my day, I get up, I don't look at my phone, I eat, work out, get cleaned up as if I am going to work even though I work out of my home, I write in a journal what I am grateful for, I write affirmations about myself and my work, and I write out what I will do that day. After that I meditate. After that I go downstairs and shut the door to my mastering room and go to work, distraction free. This routine is crucial to my day. If you don't have a routine, get one. Once work is done, I write blogs, emails, social media prep, and by five or six I am wrapping up my day. Most the time I keep my evenings open. I have created a system within what I do to try and have a normal schedule. I am a night owl and an early bird, but I do my best work during the day. I thrive on eight hours of sleep or more. I hang out with my wife as much as possible and I always have down time in the evening to relax. Resting is just as important as doing.
Fifth thing I do, is practice. I master things for fun. I master things in new ways. I am always trying to improve my workflow, my product, my communication for my clients. Even if a client loves the product I will go back and see if I can beat it a year later. It's not a perfectionist thing, it's more so just a curiosity. I like to always be learning about my craft so that I can better troubleshoot things for my clients. I like to know what every piece of gear and plug in does and how they impact each other. A lot of people will not take the time to become an expert in what they do. I try to become an expert on anything that involves my career. I also explore the other parts of the industry so I can better relate to people. Many people do not do this either.
The sixth thing I do is be different. Being different is just being myself. We are all unqiue which then creates different. So for a lot of people they feel that I am different.. but what I have done is just embraced who I am. This means people usually remember me because I am not just another hipster in Nashville who does music. I rarely talk about music with people because I find that to be boring. I often talk to people about how they got here, what was the process like, what's hard about life, what do they like, what do you think about tacos, do you like the bachelor... and the list goes on. I don't really care about peoples job or work as we as people are so much more then that. If you want to really connect with people, go beyond the surface. Be yourself and you'll find that everyone around you is so unqiue and cool and brings something to the table that you can't.... I could go on and on about this. People are lovely. This is a process though. Becoming comfortable in your own skin is hard.. I am just stating to feel that way and it has taken me twenty nine years... but I highly recommend it.
The seventh thing I do is communicate. I have studied communication a lot. I have no official education on it, but I soak up as much as I can within books and podcasts. I find that communication is the key to life. You have to know how to interpret what people are saying and what they really need even though they may be saying something completely different. What people want is always somewhere in what they are saying. Almost every conversation we have with people is a give and take situation. We vocalize what we want as far as an end result in almost every sentence. Learning how to filter out emotion and get to the main thing that needs to be heard is a huge key in keeping projects moving forward and getting people an end product they want. If you find yourself always frustrated or feel like your interaction with people or clients is always kind of defensive or confusing then spend some time asking more questions and learning how to communicate as a professional.
The eight thing I do which is really a big one is find my worth and identity not in what I do or accomplish. This is a daily struggle. I enjoy affirmation. It's my love language, but I have learned to feel like a whole human with or without it. It's very easy to have your emotions and identity tied into your job. In the music industry it's very easy to let a little bit of success blow up your ego and forget who you were. It's very easy to associate a project that maybe doesn't go perfect with who you are as a person. I have had to learn how to create space. To view me as me and that who I am as a person is exactly who I should be and that no job or accomplishment will change my value or worth as a person. I have me, then I have space, then I have my work I get to do. Making this mind shift frees you up. Critique and praise no longer really determines how I feel each day. When I have a great project, I celebrate but I know it's not who I am. When I have people that want things changed in a project, I never view it as a personal attack anymore. Most people can not separate the two which is why they often feel like they lack stability, are easily exhausted by projects and critiques, and always have super low self esteem.
The ninth thing I do is always focus on moving things forward in projects. This is a big key to why people work with me. I do not waste time during a project debating critiques or changes or issues. It's very easy for people to get side tracked and let ego start to get in the way of actually moving the project forward towards the best end product. I get people all the time that have zero knowledge in mastering try to tell me what I need to do in mastering. I no longer find this offensive. I educate and listen to what they are actually trying to tell me. Most the time people give me mixes that they are not 100% sold on and they come to me to fix things and smooth things out then enhance things.... which, side rant ahead... mixers please get better at giving your client what they want, get rid of revisions polices and fight for the song... don't stop at 95% because you decide it should be done and the artist should just be happy because you're over the project or you accepted a project for less money and now feel like the artist owes you one...... you would not believe what the artist spills to me about their experience with the mixer. Always be moving forward and improving the song. Don't get defensive and load up ammunition on why you did a certain thing. If the client doesn't love it then change it. We are in the service industry. If you disagree with that then you're probably not going to make it.
The tenth thing I do is play the long game. I have zero urgency in what I do. I work fast but I see this as my life's journey. I don't have any expectations of getting rich fast or becoming famous. I don't have a deadline of when I should be "somewhere" in the industry. I no longer desire awards or fame or anything that comes with this industry. I am in this thing for the long haul and mainly to help improve the way the industry treats people. Most people are not. Most people will give it a couple years and give it up. Most people will not stick in it when it's hard. I will be one of the major players in the industry just because I won't give up. By default in ten years I will be one of the people with the most mastering knowledge in town and I will still be young. I will have almost twenty years of wisdom which by default will make me someone who is sought after. The reason people say "don't give up" is because it actually works. If you don't give up you will eventually outlast everyone else who tosses in the towel. Each person that stops music, gets a full time job, moves from the city, moves you one step closer to being the person who is the expert. You would not believe the amount of people I see just give up on it all to take a pay check.....one of the things I ask people I mentor is, if I gave you $50,000 a year to do a 9-5 would you take it, and the majority of them say yes. I can tell immediately that we have work to do but also that they need to really examine why they are in the music industry.
The last thing I will share that helps move me along is admitting when I am wrong. I have zero issues saying sorry, I messed up, I made an error, "yes I did print the wrong version". I am human much like you. We will all make mistakes. I see it happen on the top level of the industry and the bottom level of the industry. Some mistakes may be more glaring then others, but the sooner I learned to say... "yes I messed up or that was my mistake or I am not the best fit for this", everything got better. Relationships got better, trust increases as clients know you will tell them the truth of when you make an error. Most the time the client isn't even mad. We just assume they are yelling at us via email but in reality they just saved our butts from the public seeing an error that we did. I am grateful for when my clients catch the occasional error I may make. It makes me look better.
So in conclusion. Be a good human, work hard and be faithful to what you say you will do. Focus on things you want to do. Show up each day and learn to communicate with others and actually care about the process and the work. If you feel stuck or like you're not going anywhere, change it.
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