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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Change the world.