Tag Archives: lessons

The Uncommon Choice Has Real Value

Coach Rivas instructs two amateur boxers

Coach Rivas instructs two amateur boxers

Though I work in radio and with musicians, I haven’t spent all of my free time doing music related things. I used to work out at a boxing gym where my Coach kicked my ass every day. I loved it (strangely enough) when each workout session ended because we all had collectively done above and beyond what we believed we could do physically, mentally and emotionally in those workout sessions.

It was fabulous. However, I did dread those workouts before going up there each
day, because I knew they would be intense, and would require everything I had and then
some.

We were there Monday through Friday for about 1.5 hours a day and were pushed beyond
the limits of what our minds told us we could do. I remember days of doing nonstop cardio
workouts for 20-­30 minutes at a time, to switch to doing wild bag work combinations. My mind
would be saying “I can’t do anymore, please let us stop,” but Coach kept pushing us, and we
ended up being able to do more than we thought we could.

Though I didn't fight in competition, I did go to events to support the team. I'm on the far right in the back behind a few people

Though I didn’t fight in competition, I did go to events to support the team. I’m on the far right in the back behind a few people

I learned a lot from those experiences. I learned that listening to just the common thread of thought in your mind can be very limiting, because often times you won’t push yourself past your own limits unless something else is the driving force. But to get to the real results you want, you have to do uncommon things, which may mean subjecting your will to that of someone you trust to push you harder than you’ll push yourself. It was one of the first times in my adult life to have a coach who did such things. The results were amazing.

I learned a lot in those 2 years before I moved locations and the gym eventually shut down.
While I was there I got into the best physical and psychological shape of my life. Being a
relatively small person (standing 5’ 7” and weighing 110 lbs soaking wet), I’ve struggled with
insecurity and fear my entire life. This is a common thing that people feel, especially at school
with jocks and bullies. I’m no stranger to this stuff. But I backed down from challenges and
endured way too much emotional setbacks in my youth and early adulthood, all on account of
fear. Part of going to the boxing gym was to face that fear literally, and put myself in a
situation where I had to fight or flight.

I never ended up being very good at boxing, but I still enjoy the sport. Having done it on an
amateur level showed me so much about the unspoken and irregular aspects of the game,
something similar to how musicians who closely study their instrument and playing something
beyond chords or basic scales might understand. There’s music theory, there’s your
instrument, there’s your creativity, and there’s you. Isolating those things independently of
each other loses a lot of the power they have together. That’s just an observation. Back to
boxing.

I got in great shape boxing but what has stuck with me more than the exercises and the
knowledge of fighting is something that Coach said at nearly every session­ “Be uncommon.”
There were times when he was almost preaching a sermon to devoted followers in how he
spoke of being uncommon as a boxer and as a person to achieve true greatness in what you
do. As I’ve worked in business and in music, those words ring more and more true as I see
and experience well­-meaning people doing the same things everyone else is doing, the same
things that produce no positive or good result.

When I was in grade school, I wanted to fit in. Just about everyone wants this. No one really
wants to stand out, so we try and dress like our friends or the popular kids. We would follow
someone else’s leadership in what we would do, what we listened to, how we wore our hair,
and so on. Sometimes we would be followers of rebels instead of doing our own version of
rebelling, because following is easier than being a trendsetter and throwing popular opinion to
the wind. Standing out is difficult. Fitting in is desired because it’s common to blend and not
make waves.

Everyone feels that on some level. We all want to be loved for our uniqueness yet are afraid
that what makes us unique might also be what causes others to criticize, mock, or reject us.

So many of us hide our uniqueness and do what everyone else does so we can fit in. In the
process, we lose part of our hearts and a sense of self (or sometimes a sense of purpose)
because the road regularly traveled is quite dull, and so beaten into the ground.

Until the advent of social media, we didn’t (or didn’t as often) let our opinions dictate our
course of action like we do today. In music and in business, I keep seeing the majority of
people do things that don’t make sense. The only reason I can think of for some people’s
behavior is “That’s what everyone else does, so it must be what works.”

Everyone can be wrong. Everyone can fail to do what they set out to. This is why when you
look at those super­-successful people in any industry, they’re the minority of the group. A
small portion (usually 1­5%) of an industry or business type are the most successful in the
short term and long term. They’re not doing what everyone else is doing, because if they were
they wouldn’t be successful.

Values we represented as a team and values to live by

Values we represented as a team and values to live by

In boxing, an uncommon fighter is one who doesn’t make lazy decisions like dropping their
hands. An uncommon fighter looks for ways to strike at angles instead of standing directly in
front of their opponent and just throwing punches. Other traits that uncommon boxers have is they work harder, longer, and more consistently. They don’t let their bodies get out of shape between matches. There’s a reason why Roy Jones Jr and Bernard Hopkins could not only still fight in their 40s but remained champions as long as they did. Those two were always, always, always in shape. That’s not common.

Uncommon boxers put themselves through more vigorous workouts and prepare their minds
as well as they prepare their bodies. They study their opponents strengths and weaknesses to
find ways of getting an edge. Floyd Mayweather has fought much stronger fighters than
himself, but he always wins the battle of the mind. Sugar Ray Leonard did the same thing with
his mental game. Finally, uncommon boxers don’t just win. They win effectively and
consistently. They aren’t on one day and off the next. Winning seems to be an ingredient
throughout their lives.

The same is true for musicians.

Music success doesn’t depend solely on talent, though talent does help. It doesn’t depend on
popularity, though that can be a blessing. Music success depends on an artist’s ability to draw
a listener into their world using notes, beats, and words (unless they’re an instrumental
performer). One hit wonders are a form of music success but who really sets out to just create
one great or memorable thing?

I’ve seen it and experienced it firsthand, where outstanding artists craft brilliant music and
draw global fans into their realm through excellent songwriting, performance and sound
quality. But how do you get your music to a level of greatness that beckons a global
audience?

Don’t do what everyone else does.

It’s common to hope that winning the lottery is the answer to achieving the fulfillment of your
dreams so that you never take the steps and the time necessary to invest in reaching your
goals.

It’s common to think you can become an overnight success just because you have a desire
for greatness and a little talent, instead of putting patience, diligence, and hard work into
effect along with gauging your work over time and making improvements/adjustments when
necessary.

It’s common to do just enough to get by instead of giving more than is asked.

It’s common to do one thing well and expect the world to faun over you instead of being
gracious and thankful while seeking refinement and improvement.

It’s common to expect people to just open doors of opportunity for you that others have spent
their lifetimes working hard for and then having a bad attitude when things don’t just go
perfectly the first time.

It’s common to act like a complete diva (Kanye West isn’t the only one in music; most artists
have a degree of this that they showcase more often than not). Many artists demand that
their music be showcased, promoted, and talked about, then act butt-hurt when that
opportunity isn’t given to them.

It seems that everyone wants to shortcut the process of paying your dues, cutting your teeth,
and struggling through the early stages of growth to achieve something truly great that has
lasting value.

Don’t do what everyone is doing.

Don’t be common.

Common people can’t change other’s lives or become inspirational heroes because there’s
little inspiration in the life of someone who just gets by.

Common people don’t recognize the beauty and glory in the transformation process, the kind that takes time, commitment, hard work, and difficulty to reach monumental results.

                                                           Instead, be uncommon.

                                                           Be great.

                                                           Be more.

                                                           Change the world.

The Art Of Finding What You’re Looking For

abstract-summer-background_MkgLu3u_Remember the U2 song I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For?

Sorry Bono, we’re all in your boat too.

I spent my youth and young adulthood looking for something. I (sort of) knew what it was, yet it remained a mystery at the same time. At various intervals I thought I’d finally found it and could relax. The hunt was over, finally. A short time later, however, it became clear that only a piece of what I was looking for had been found, and not the whole thing. So the hunt began again.

Do you think I’m talking about love? In a way I am, but not the romantic kind (that’s a whole OTHER story for a later time).

I was searching for fulfillment, or purpose. It’s what we’re all on a quest for, partially one reason why we’re artists, creative people and/or individuals who get get categorized as entrepreneurs because we venture into unknowns often without a clear map of what’s in front of us.

Sound familiar?

There was a time I thought I’d found fulfillment by way of occupation. I wanted to be on the radio and had achieved that by the age of 16, working as a DJ at a station in Alvin, Tx (89.7 KACC) while in high school. A decade later I was running a public radio station (KACU in Abilene) and had created a music program (The Appetizer Radio Show) that would eventually be picked up on other radio stations across the country (through syndication). I got a piece of fulfillment in each of these capacities, a degree of purpose, but not the whole thing I was searching for.

Changing jobs and industries at the age of 31 after 15 years in the same industry altered the purpose card quite a bit. Suddenly I was in a new world with many new things to learn. I had transitioned into the realm of infinity, aka online marketing. I still do a little work in this industry, but have since transitioned yet again.

I say all of this for a little context. I’m a pretty consistent person who is big on commitments and not jumping from one thing to the next every so often. After graduation from college in 2004, I held a job with the same organization for nearly a decade. I’m good at sticking with a job. However, after switching to marketing in 2013, I quickly learned that your career path and your purpose in life are a rough marriage. They’re linked, yes indeed. But they aren’t always the same thing.

I’ve since shifted the job stuff again, now more in the self-employed sector of the job market. It’s some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. But that’s not the point. The point is, in each shift, I found a different piece of the fulfillment I was searching for, and made an interesting discovery in the process:

The art of finding what you’re looking for is an evolutionary process that begins at birth and ends at death.

The idea that you reach a destination in your lifetime where you are completely fulfilled with nothing else to aspire to is missing the mark. The pursuit itself is the purpose.

Goal setting is a piece of my life, as it is yours. There are certain things I’ve set out to achieve early in life  that I’m still chasing after. Since I’m still pursuing them, and “success” as I envision it hasn’t happened yet in a gigantic capacity, means there are some more pieces I’ve yet to acquire. So the hunt continues.

At different stages of this journey, I’ve had to learn some powerful lessons, and seek help from people with experience in things I know not of. These stages are necessary in reaching the next fulfillment milestone.

One thing I used to wish was available for me to gain assistance was a How-To guide for radio program creation and development. I spent a few years scouring every online and brick/mortar book store for a book or blog on how to take an existing program and get it carried on stations across the country. When I was looking for this, it didn’t exist. Today, there are millions of artists and entrepreneurs just like you, trying to find the same answers. How do you get your work accepted by other people, people you don’t know, so that you can grow your platform?

I learned from trial and error, risk and reward, mistakes and successes what worked and what didn’t to get The Appetizer Radio Show syndicated. I used my time, energy, and limited financial resources along with networking and relationship building to make it happen. I wanted someone to show me how and instead I found my own path.

Now I know the reason for this: part of my fulfillment in life is teaching others how to do things. There was no teacher for me in this way so I was given a way to learn something that I could later teach others. Now I can teach you how to do exactly what I did. All it takes is a commitment to process, a mind willing to learn, and just a little money.

Want to learn the art of finding what you’re looking for? Reach me directly below and let’s talk about how you can find your next piece of fulfillment with your project.

How To Boost Your Audience With A Free Cookie

heartcookieAudience growth is an endeavor every entity, musician, business, artist, and random guy on youtube is engaged in. Every hour of every single day.

For musicians, the use of cover songs posted on their websites and done in videos (in particular) has been a great way to connect with prospective new fans, and introduce them to your original music.

There is another way, and it’s a fairly familiar method: the FREE song giveaway.

Noisetrade has been incredibly successful with this means of audience growth, whereby an artist can post a single, short EP, or even a full album on their site for free download. The listener only has to provide their name and email in exchange for the free music. I’ve used Noisetrade for several years to discover great new artists, and then feature the better songs on The Appetizer Radio Show to promote the artists. Other radio outlets do the same.

Some artists are turned off at the thought of “giving their music away,” so they pick one of their lesser songs to offer to potential fans.

How would that work for a bakery?

This is where the Free Cookie is so powerful. A local bakery has a very specific market, in many ways restricted to location and confined by proximity to a major grocery store chain. The comparison works well, because as a DIY or indie artist, you have some confines that an artist on a major label or even a larger indie label doesn’t have. How you attract new fans is very similar. Here’s how great bakeries do it.

cakesliceGreat local bakeries offer a free cookie. The bakery builds its reputation for having some truly excellent cake, particularly their lemon mousse crepe cake, and their family recipe sopapillas. Both of those offerings are a little more expensive, but if you get a chance to have a slice or a piece, you’ll buy the whole thing and arm wrestle your coworkers or family to keep them away from it.

The bakery also serves other deserts and caters primarily to an audience who uses their offerings for parties, gatherings, and the morning breakfast desert try. A cup of coffee and a croissant is perfect to take in to work. Yet, the local bakery has to keep working to attract new customers, because settling for only the same people won’t allow them to grow, expand, and set up that other bakery on the other side of town, or even the one 30 miles down the highway in a different town, despite the desire of that town’s residents for their unique foods.

How does the bakery use a free cookie to get new customers, and in essence grow their audience? That free cookie is outstanding. It’s chocolate chip, the most popular and appealing cookie. It’s soft, not hard, fresh out of the oven, and the chocolate chips are of a quality that is not generic. The cookie tastes so good, you inherently want to try everything else in the store. Suddenly, price isn’t a consideration anymore when it comes to that chocolate brownie cake, or the angel food cake with swirly icing.

You’re sold on the rest of the baker’s offerings because that cookie was so amazing, everything else in the store must be just as good or better. In reality, the cookie recipe for the baker has been worked on and crafted for years. She makes those cookies all the time, has the process down to a matter of minutes, and has easily trained her assistants to make them with little effort. That cookie is amazing, but its creation daily takes little effort and minimal cost. Yet it turns casual individuals into die hard customers.

Here’s where your free song boosts your audience growth.

Give away the track that has been in your repertoire for a little while, one that you are fairly known for with your core audience and is regularly talked about amongst your most ardent fans. That’s the one you can play at any show or on when asked on the spot and it be a wonderful experience. Maybe you have a few different versions of it, and you can cycle through those variations every few months to give away something a little different.

Here’s where the responsibility to have the amazing cakes to truly wow your prospective fans comes in: If the rest of your offering isn’t amazing ,the free song is the best thing about you. If the free song is the best thing about  you, and your other music doesn’t scream “AMAZING,” there is some development that needs to be done with your sound and songwriting. The majority of the rest of your music catalog should be great music, music that hooks people into wanting more.

Ultimately the baker is using the free offering to not just get someone in the door. She wants to create an opportunity for a new soul to experience her crafted and unique offering and build a connection with that person. The free cookie serves as the perfect introduction point because she knows her chocolate chip cookie is great. She also knows that the rest of her cakes, cookies, pies, and everything else is truly fantastic, and it’s just a matter of getting someone in the door to have an experience that will make them a die hard fan. She’s also fairly confident that once someone tries her food, they won’t settle for a second rate knock-off at a grocery store or general food outlet.

6172115189_f0b6c08598_zThat’s the same mantra for indie musicians who know that what they offer is Top-Shelf stuff. The free song is the teaser that leads to the exploration of your songbook. Give away an amazing cookie and you can convert a fan instantly. An average cookie (free song) might get them to look at a video or something else on your site, but chances are the mildly sweet flavor and crumbled pieces will just make them want to go find a better cookie elsewhere.

Instead, make that free song the best cookie that they’ll experience all day, or all week. And invite them into your greater songbook with it. Provide an opportunity to experience even more great sounds and stories with the rest of your offerings. When that free song knocks their socks off, they’ll not only flock to the rest of your songbook, but they’ll share your music with their friends. That’s the organic growth that every musician dreams of. All it takes is one fabulous and free cookie.

Do you know if your music is of the caliber to convert a casual listener into a die hard fan, even if you gave away your best song? Have you tried this in the past and it work, but now you’re considering doing it again? Or have you tried giving away music before and it didn’t work how you wanted it to? Let’s talk about how your free song (cookie) can bring in new folks and boost your audience. Contact me in the box below.

*Note: All cookie and baking images are from my better half-Mrs. Smith. She’s not officially a baker by trade but has built a giant reputation for amazing food. Her free recipes on her website have led to massive growth in her audience and business. Read more about her HERE.