Don’t Learn From Your Mistakes
We’ve all heard it said that to learn in life, you have to learn from your mistakes. That is very true. But I want to propose the idea that might shock you. I know from personal experience, there is a lot easier way to learn and improve. And I’m going to show you why I believe this in a moment. I’m saying this loud and clear, “Do Not Learn From Your Mistakes.”
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career in music, which has been about 10 years at the time of writing this. Here are a few I want to highlight.
1. My big mistake #1: NOT BEING A SERVANT FIRST.
For starters, when I started out on the road as a touring artist, we were doing about 120 shows per year. Add a travel day in to each of those, and you do the math, we were gone more than we were home. I call that the school of hard knocks. I speak from experience when I say that I know what it is to be an artist. We opened up on tours with international best selling artists in sold out arenas, and played the empty bars as well. It’s not all glamour. But we got to see the world. And I met a beautiful girl who became my wife a year later.
Here was my biggest mistake: I was too focused on the small details, and not focused on my the ONE BIG THING that all artists and creatives should be focusing on. That is, that we should be only thinking about how we can CONNECT with our audience, through music that moves them, and lyrics that inspire them. Our ONE BIG THING is ultimately to SERVE people.
I was too worried about the bottom line, our radio chart positions, our concert merchandise sales, and our own comforts in being on the road. I understand, it’s hard to be out there touring, and it’s equally as hard to grind it out in the studio or in the writing room. But here’s the reality. If our big WHY isn’t to SERVE other people, our hearts are in the wrong place.
2. My big mistake #2: NOT LEARNING TO BE A VULNERABLE COMMUNICATOR.
This may sound a bit odd to my readers out there who are music creators. What does this have to do with music producing, artistry, or songwriting? Let me tell you from experience, it has EVERYTHING to do with it.
We are all public speakers, whether we want to admit it or not. We are public speakers when we go to the dry cleaner, when we meet with our publishers, and when we stand on stage before our audience. We are public speakers with our bandmates and our families.
I failed to put the right energy into communicating well with my bandmates, and my wife. We eventually towards the end of our artist career wound up doing some counseling together, and that was the best decision we ever made, because it opened up safe lines of communication. This was thanks to a bandmate of mine pushing for it, and me reluctantly accepting. My biggest mistake was NOT HAVING DONE THIS SOONER! I wish from the start that communicating openly and honestly was one of my key priorities, over getting a hit record or making the most money possible. I was too worried about what other people would think and how I would be perceived. I was terrified and paralyzed by even the idea of conflict.
Here’s why this was a big mistake: Because your audience only wants to hear your honesty and authenticity, and if you aren’t honest and authentic with your INNER CIRCLE, and the ones closest to you, then why would you be honest on a stage? Your audience wants openness, in other words, they want VULNERABILITY. They want to hear that you’re not perfect, and that you don’t have it altogether. That’s how humans truly connect with each other, and there is no other substitute for this.
3. My big mistake #3: TRYING TO WEAR TOO MANY HATS AT ONCE.
I love the saying, “Chase 2 rabbits, and you catch neither.”
I made the mistake of trying to be a producer/writer at the same time of being an artist, and at the same time of being a husband. It really takes an immense amount of effort to be a SINGLE ONE of those things, let alone trying to be all three. And I know there are a lot of you out there who are trying to do EVEN MORE than that.
Let me tell you something: It doesn’t work.
Multi-tasking is a lie.
Multi-tasking was a word invented to describe the way computers process tasks, when computers first came out. And even then, it is false advertising. What a computer is actually doing is rapidly SWITCHING back and forth between tasks, not doing multiple at the same time on one processor. And think about this, if a computer can’t even multitask, then why do we think we have the ability to do so?
This also applies to this key principle: “YOU CAN’T BE ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE.” If you’re trying to please everybody, then you please no one.
Your audience can’t be EVERYONE. I was trying to appeal to so many different audiences that we fell between the cracks and that is a large part of why you never saw my face on the cover of rolling stone magazine for being the next big Artist.
I shared those with you to hopefully help you learn from my mistakes, and in a way, for me to become the solution for YOU that I am about to share.
I titled this piece, “Don’t Learn From Your Mistakes”, for a reason. In life there are really only two ways to learn when you boil it down:
That may be a novel concept for you, but let me share with you three of my mentor stories and how if I would have had them in my life earlier, I may have avoided those mistakes altogether, and think what would have happened if I didn’t make those! I am so massively thankful for the success that I have had: 2 Grammy Awards, 4 Dove Awards, over 20 #1 Radio Singles, Billboard #1 Producer of the Year, and SESAC #1 Songwriter of the Year. I don’t say all that as a brag, but I say that with my imagination running wild with the thought of : “How many more #1’s would I have if I hadn’t made those mistakes? How many more tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars would I have if it weren’t for those? How many more Grammy Awards could I have on my wall?”
Think about it as I share these stories.
1. My First Mentor – Reid Shippen.
(Mixer/Producer/Engineer for Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Deathcab for Cutie, India Arie, Keith Urban, Eric Church, and more)
I picked Reid to write about first because, it is only fitting that had I received this advice earlier, I may have avoided my first big mistake altogether.
Early on when I moved to Nashville and I was working on one of my first major label record projects, we were working with an artist I was producing and writing for, and Reid was mixing the record at his studio. I was there with an exec from the label, and we were going listening to the mix. I was so nervous of how the exec would like the mix, because this was my firs BIG thing I got hired to do. I was sweating. I was pacing back and forth, and waiting for the song to be over so I could hear the verdict.
When it was over, I wish I could say that he LOVED it and we all high-fived each other and went out for Waffle House, but that isn’t true.
The exec, HATED the first mix.
He couldn’t even really say why he hated it, it was just ALL WRONG.
I felt like my heart sank and I braced for a fight that I knew was going to happen any minute between Reid and the exec.
But then he said something that I’ll never forget: “Okay. Let’s get it right then.”
My jaw dropped. This guy, who had mixed more number ones and had more grammy’s on the wall than I ever dreamed of even seeing, had no ego to say, “ok, you’re right, let’s give you what you are looking for. My interpretation was wrong.” And he went back to work on it and the exec left. I stayed there with Reid to see what he was going to do. I half expected him to throw his glass across the room and shatter it on one of his wall plaques.
I asked, “So is this how it goes? Does someone not just hire you and you give them your best, and if they don’t like it, they can go somewhere else?”
He replied, “No. This is a SERVICE INDUSTRY.”
LET THAT SINK IN.
Music is a SERVICE INDUSTRY.
It is not just a creative industry, although that is a big part of it. But it’s about serving your clients and giving them what they want, because after all, it is THEIR vision and THEIR art at the end of the day. I’m speaking from a producer or writer role when I say this. But if you’re an artist, the same is true for you. You aren’t making the music for only YOURSELF. You are making it as a gift to your audience.
This story sticks with me to this day and has impacted the way my company does business, with the core value that, SUCCESS IS SERVANTHOOD.
2. My Second Mentor – Roger Love.
(Celebrity Vocal Coach for Eminem, Selena Gomez, Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard, Jeff Bridges, Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, John Mayer, and more)
Not long ago, I was introduced by a friend to the idea of working with a voice coach. You might wonder, what does this have to do with being a good music producer or songwriter. And as I shared above, whether we admit it or not, we are all public speakers. I am a public speaker to every artist, writer, or producer that comes in my studio. I initially went to him to get better at speaking on stage, because it was my #1 Fear: PUBLIC SPEAKING. I’m sure a lot of you can relate. But what I received from him was a gift, much greater than just that skill.
I received from him the gift of confidence, confidence to put myself out there and be vulnerable. Not just to have a nice sounding speaking voice. That’s part of it, is giving a gift with the WAY you talk, not just what you say, but the bigger thing I got unexpectedly was the gift of my self-esteem going up by 10x.
If my self-esteem would have been much higher before, I wouldn’t have had the fear to stand up and speak my mind, authentically, and honestly to the people around me (both on stage and at home). It’s about COURAGE.
And courage is this: Moving Forward in the Face of an UNCERTAIN OUTCOME.
When we put ourselves out there as any type of music creator, we are never sure of the outcome. People are going to love it or they are going to hate it. And that is why the courage to be vulnerable is so incredibly important.
I continue to work with Roger Love as my coach and mentor to this day. Hear me talk about the 5 things I learned from him here.
3. My Third Mentor – Jason Ingram
(Producer and Songwriter for Chris Tomlin, Passion, Nick Jonas, Jeremy Camp, MercyMe, Michael W Smith, Hillsong, and Many More)
Since I moved to Nashville, there was always this guy that stood out to be above the rest of the crowd. He was always the one winning the Songwriter of the Year awards, and on the top of the radio charts with his songs he’d write.
I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time with him and have been able to collaborate with him on several projects.
The one big thing I’ve learned from him is this: LASER FOCUS.
He turns down way more writing sessions, records, and opportunities than he accepts. He’s so good at saying that two letter word that we all have such a hard time with: “No”. He knows who he is and what his strengths are. He knows where his skill sets work best. But he also is smart enough to know his weaknesses as well.
This takes humility, to know that nobody can be a master at EVERYTHING. He makes sure that he is always in rooms with people that compliment his skill set. I recently had a chance to interview him for my podcast, the FULL CIRCLE MUSIC SHOW, (Link here), and my big takeaway from his story was this.
“When I moved to Nashville and got my first publishing deal, I told my publisher, “I Write my best songs by myself”, and she replied “Let’s see how that works out for you.” He says.
“I wrote 100 songs in my first year, and how many of them got cut? NONE. Then I wrote 100 songs the second year, and ONE got cut at the end of the year, and it was a HIDDEN TRACK ON A RECORD! Needless to say, I rarely write anything on my own anymore. I’ve found my lane and I stick to it.”
I’m paraphrasing of course, you can hear it from his mouth in the full interview HERE, but the gist is to FIND YOUR LANE, and STAY IN IT. Don’t try to be too many things.
I wish I would have had him in my life a lot earlier on, my focus has just in the past few years become like a laser, and it sure has paid off.
Take it from me, it’s a lot easier to learn from mentors than mistakes.
Don’t learn from YOUR mistakes.
Learn from MINE.
Interested in having me and my team mentor you?
Click Here. We know we can help you avoid some serious roadblocks and mistakes that will cost you time and money.
We always have a policy in our company, that if you’re not happy with our services, then we will give you your money back. That’s how much we believe in what we do. I encourage you, even if we aren’t the ones you end up using for your mentor, that you don’t think about it as an expense. Think of the potential expense of NOT having a mentor. In the beginning, I would have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for those three mentors I told you about, because I know they would have saved me at least that much, plus YEARS of my life, which are priceless.
You can make money back you’ve lost. You can re grow confidence you’ve lost. You can even rebuild relationships that are broken. But the one thing you can never get back is time.
We are here to help you get there a whole lot faster, a whole lot smarter, and a whole lot cheaper.