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7 Success Tips Musicians Can Teach Us

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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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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