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7 Success Tips Musicians Can Teach Us

7 Success Tips Musicians Can Teach Us

Look carefully, and you’ll notice that many of the most successful people in all walks of life — including Woody Allen, Alan Greenspan, and Condoleezza Rice — are musicians or former musicians.

Why are there so many musicians present at the top of so many industries? Is it just a coincidence?

As a musician myself, here’s what I think:

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1. Musicians aren’t afraid to suck.

Success has been linked with a high tolerance for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and being unafraid to make mistakes while taking a big learning curve. There are few things quite as painful as listening to a beginning musician. However, both musicians and entrepreneurs know that they don’t remain beginners forever.

2. Musicians stick with their instrument long enough to get good at it.

Success has also been linked with hanging in there and seeing a venture through thick and thin to its completion. Mastering a musical instrument doesn’t happen overnight. Depending on the instrument, it can take up to a year just to get a good, consistent sound, and another five to ten to build speed, master basic scales and arpeggios, learn to count, and either read music or play by ear accurately.

Interesting how similar this time table is to the growth of a startup, isn’t it?

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3. Musicians are disciplined and able to take the long view.

Successful people do what they have to do, even when they don’t particularly like what they’re doing at the moment. Learning a musical instrument requires regular practice time with etude books, the metronome, and scales – even on the days they’d rather have a tooth pulled without anesthesia than pick up that damned horn – because they know that in the long run, all of that hard work will pay off.

4. Musicians have a keen sense of when to speak up … and when to shut up.

One of the hallmarks of the most successful people is their sense of timing: knowing when it’s time to press an issue and when it’s time to back off, or knowing when to risk a business expansion and when it’s time to contract or fold. Musicians know that if they start playing too soon, too late, too loudly, or too softly, they run the risk of either losing their own place in the music, playing an accidental solo (!) or, at worst, throwing the whole ensemble off.

5. Musicians learn to let go of past mistakes and keep on playing.

Successful people make mistakes, but they use these mistakes as opportunities to learn, and then they move on. They don’t dwell on their mistakes. If a musician makes a mistake in a live performance, they can’t stop and redo it; the music must go on, no matter what. This means letting go in the moment, and then reviewing what happened afterwards so that the same thing doesn’t happen again.

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6. Musicians know how to focus both on their own part and on the sound of the whole group.

The most successful are able to focus on the task at hand and keep the big picture in view at the same time. Good ensemble musicians don’t just get swallowed up in their own part; they simultaneously listen to themselves and the other players, monitor the flow of the music, watch the director or the other band members, and sense the engagement of the audience.

7. Musicians know that they are much more powerful as part of a team than alone.

The most successful people in the world didn’t build their empires by themselves. There is no single person alive who can create a product, market it, and manage the money equally well. A single singer with a guitar is fine, but adding a bass, drums, and perhaps a horn or a keyboard has the potential to turn “nice” into “magical” or even “earth-moving.” There is no single player on the planet who can play all of those instruments at once.

A Final Word:

Whether musicians actually make a living playing their music or not, they have all learned some powerful life lessons in the process of learning to play, both by themselves and with others. I suspect this is why we see so many musicians among the most successful people in so many industries.

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And now…time to go practice.

Featured photo credit: Practice / Nosha via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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