Keith Everette Smith

Producer, Songwriter, Multi-Instrumentalist

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The difference between the talented and the talented and successful

I have the pleasure of calling some VERY successful people in the music industry my friends. These friends teach me a lot and I thoroughly enjoy being around them. I covet their friendship because we always have something to talk about. They are often recording geeks like myself. They can talk for hours about music like I can. I learn a lot when I’m with them. They are just great people to be around!

I’ve invariably asked myself “what makes these people so successful?” “What have they done that I can do?” I’ve determined the answer…

You see, there are TONS of talented musicians in the world. You can hear some of them playing for coins on a city street or subway terminal. You can meet them while they work the day shift at McDonalds. Talent is not the determining factor to success. If it were, there would be a “talent threshold” and anyone who’s talent exceeded the threshold would achieve fame and forture based on their musical genius. No, you can find some very mildly talented people finding success in the biz. There are many exceptions that allude to the fact that talent is not the determining factor.

The determining factor is DISCIPLINE! A musician/producer who can meet deadlines, prioritize and “deliver the goods” has that unique factor that brings success. This is the secret sauce of making it in the music industry. It’s what divides those with talent and discipline from the ones that are simply talented alone. I once asked a successful producer, “So, are you the kind of guy who always meets your deadlines?” He answered (with a smirk), “I never miss a deadline. This is very important to me.” … telling don’t you think.

There are exceptions to this, sure, but there are very few lazy people truly finding success in the business. I guess you could say that this is why there are managers. True. I’d still be willing to bet that the laze musician who finds success will enjoy it for a much shorter time. The disciplined musician has a greater chance of enjoying long term success. Discipline allows a person to work within a set of rules that allow for efficiency. These rules also allow a person to adapt and chance course when needed. Thus lengthening the career of a disciplined musician’s career. I know many artists turned producer turned manager turned successful record label owner.

You might say, “but wait, I spent years of my life being disciplined about studying music. I must be disciplined!” OK, I hear you. But, wouldn’t you say that most of that “discipline” came from the love of music? Personally, I never considered my music study a discipline. It was a form of discipline, but I played because I loved it! I played because I enjoyed getting better. I loved being creative, not being disciplined!! Studying business, leadership and time management is very hard for the creative person.

If you think about it, it makes TOTAL SENSE why many musicians (and artists) have such a hard time building disciplines in their business. I personally spent 24 years of my life almost exclusively developing the right side of my brain. My brain has to be very lopsided! The discipline I was creating by studying my trumpet was creating a very creative person, but not a well rounded person. I think this is the case for most artists. We find it very hard to be disciplined, show up on time, etc.

For many of us, our talent has carried us too far. We’ve been allowed to coast through life… like the charismatic gentlemen who gets his way with women with little effort. He doesn’t learn to nurture relationships correctly. It’s far to easy for him. When the going gets tough, this man can cave in and leave the relationship prematurely. Creative people are much the same way. We get scholarships to school, get our picture taken with fans, free meals on occasion. Perhaps if if were hard for us, we would have worked harder.

The above is my story! It wasn’t until I came to Saddleback that I realized that my success would be determined by my ability to get things done on time and deliver the goods to my clients. My successful (disciplined) musician friends painted a clear picture of who I would have to become in order to achieve my goals. I probably spend as much time reading leadership books as I do reading music books. It’s a new life-long journey!

Check out this blog by Seth Godin. He touches on this subject. Seth is a marketing/business genius. His blog is worth subscribing to!