One of the things I always say about us musicians is that we’re thrust into the world of entrepreneurship, yet no one tells us this. And as such, the frustration that many experience is due to having embraced the wrong mental strategy for this journey. More specifically, it’s the application of an employee mentality to an entrepreneurial landscape that creates such friction. Now I’m not trying to make a judgmental comparison between employees and business owners, but what I am calling into focus is that they are in fact two different paradigms, as the circle of concern for each isn’t the same. One obvious symbol of this is reflected in the tendency for employees to associate with other employees, and business owners with one another, due to the empathy factor. Hence the phrase “birds of a feather flock together”.
I’ve heard it said that the difference between an employee and an owner is that of a child and an adult. Now the funny thing about this phrase is that I’ve run it by MANY employees and owners of businesses over the years, and what’s always consistent is the emphatic knee-jerked responses of agreeance from owners and push back from employees to hearing it. So allow me to elaborate for a moment.
As a parent, you’re held accountable for EVERYTHING that happens on your watch. If your kid breaks a neighbor’s window, you must resolve the issue. However, you do something bad, your kid won’t be held responsible. But depending on the severity of the situation, your kid’s security could be impacted, as they’d be under the legal authority of your leadership. So like a company, it should be no wonder as to why more potential benefits are accorded to a parent/guardian to help offset the weight of responsibility that they’re forced to shoulder. So while I don’t think everyone needs to become an entrepreneur, I do think that it’s highly beneficial to develop entrepreneurial/leadership tendencies, because as a leader of an organization (just like the conductor of an orchestra) you HAVE to maintain a topographical awareness at ALL TIMES for what’s happening within your organization so that you can best assess the shifts that need to be made to navigate the ever shifting sands of the marketplace (or a song if you’re a conductor). As an employee, however, your only concern is to consistently check the boxes for satisfactory completion of whatever your individual role is that you’re being paid to do (like a side-musician). And once you check out of work for the day, you have the luxury of turning your brain off from work because you’re not being paid to think about your job in the off hours. However, for an owner (just like a parent to their kids and household), it’s impossible to fully mute the noise you’ll hear, internally and externally, from the concerns you’ll likely have towards the health and well-being of your business.
Now just like in business, musical decisions become easier to make when you have a clear mission and vision statement by which to filter your decisions through. And for me, the beginnings of gaining this type of clarity came after I asked myself this very important question, which was “is it more important to make 100% of my income from music, or is it more important to live a phenomenal life with music anchored in the middle of it?” You see, what I had forgotten over the years was that the second question was where I started! It was never the profit potential from music that drew me towards it. It was a combination of the relationships I had developed, and the fact that I was already experiencing a great life because of what my mother had provided for me, which gave me the latitude to just focus on growing as a musician without having to worry about any of the managerial issues that grown-ups have to think about every day. So when it became clear that number two was what I was really after, it forced me to begin thinking outside the box (like an entrepreneur) by searching for innovative ways of carving out a sustainable niche for myself that could hedge against competition/saturation, provide great upside for profit potential, flexibility to prioritize my most valued relationships at the drop of a hat, and a financial moat to help protect myself from the periodic downturns in the economy. And just like learning how to become a great musician requires being mentored by better musicians, I recognized that I would need to do the same thing within the arena of acquiring a more affluent lifestyle. And I think the reason why more people don’t put into practice such a simple concept as acquiring a mentor is for two reasons:
a) Fear from the guilt of potentially having to face a reality that might prove that the quality of the time you’ve invested thus far (especially if you’re past a certain age) might not have been as well invested as you initially thought, thus calling into question your assumption of your intelligence.
b) Fear from the abandonment-laden judgement of those that have gotten you to where you are if you prioritize a new relationship with those that can take you to the next level.
It’s important to remember that as you’re trying to make such a transition there will be a period of time between fully earning the trust and respect of the new relationship(s) and being possibly ostracized by the old relationship(s) for leaving them behind, that can leave you emotionally floating in no-man’s land until you’ve fully leveled-up or back down to what was once comfortable and familiar. And the reason for such potential push-back will be because you come from where your old association comes from, while they’re still stuck there. In short, your decision to potentially graduate onto a better situation would serve as an indictment for the quality of the decisions that they’ve made up to now. Therefore, they’ll either respond with lashing out to bring you back down, or they’ll slowly begin to disassociate with you first before you get the chance to “break up” with them first. Either way, expect for there to be resistance, as all success is gained up-hill.
So here are a few suggested takeaways…
a) If you want to go up in life, you’ll need a tour-guide.
b) If entrepreneurship is the street-facing vernacular in business for leadership, then the best environment to experiment with the development of your leadership acumen should be within the home.
c) The relevancy of our personal and professional productivity can only be measured against the clarity of the mission and vision statements we set for ourselves.