What it takes to be great

If you follow my content, you know that I haven’t produced a podcast in over 3 months. There is a good reason for that.

I’m focusing.

Social media and all of the media that this instant gratification culture consumes will have you believe that greatness is achieved overnight or the second you throw on a bunch of face tattoos and brand yourself.

These are all ideals that are casualties of people spending more time in fantasy spaces than reality. Reality is driven by numbers and facts, fantasy spaces are driven by things that are not possible, half truths and partial glimpses into the latter stages of multi part sequences that may take years to master.

So this brings me to what I have been doing. I have been working on my live show.

Because my artistic ability is so diversified and the economic and artistic mote I have created for myself is so wide, I know that to get to greatness, I need to focus my most distinctive skill sets and highlight those in the best way possible.

I have always been an advocate for deepening skill sets, but focusing is easier said than done. Living this day in age has truly presented new sets of challenges for people, mostly how to avoid all of the new distractions we didn’t have in the past. Distractions are the biggest killer to achieving greatness because they attempt to annex your time for other individuals.

Anyways, all of this being said, let me get down to the meat and potatoes of it. What does it take to be great? This podcast outlines some general ideas you can implement that will help you achieve more by focusing on the right things. So, here goes.

1.     Determine your end game goal - In other words, what is your expectation? What is your overall goal? Because the subject of this podcast is being great then your overall goal should work towards being great. In my case this means becoming the best and most effective live performer possible. Being the best means a majority of people ubiquitously agree or have an involuntary, instinctive agreement with your skill set. For example, you could be a shitty person, but people still like you because you are a great artist. They are in involuntary agreement with your abilities. In other words they can’t deny you the attention because your skill set is so exceptional their lizard brain can’t help but watch.

2.     Commit to the daily practice - People are so addicted to social media and other platforms that generate zero income for them and mostly income for other people, that they will never master this skill. Committing to daily practice means you will commit to a set of steps that will move your closer towards becoming indispensible. In other words, you are developing your unique skills. As it relates to me playing guitar, I commit to practicing in as many 45 minute increments as I can per day. Usually four. So, I am dedicated 3 hours of focused attention to a very specific task or objective. Right now I am committed to writing this post. I won’t get to it later or finish it later. I do it now because it contributes to my understanding as well as the understanding of others. Because I am running a business and have lots of tasks to accomplish, I can’t just practice 8 hours a day. I mean I could but that’s not going to get the other things I want done. As I have mentioned many times before being a great musician does not make you a great entertainer. Being a great entertainer is not going to get the telephone to automatically hop off the wall and go call promoters to get you booked. Whatever it is the main thing is you need to direct your focused attention towards specific important tasks that help you achieve your overall goals.

3.     Eliminate distractions - The most important commodity in developed nations is attention. The more of people’s attention you have the more potential you have to sell them your product, ideals, etc. The problem with this is that if you are distracted by other people’s content, imagery and agendas, you can’t work on your own. You always want to figure out more ways to become a producer and not a consumer. Producers make, consumers spend. The distraction economy has destroyed the frontal lobes of many generations coming up today but this presents a significant opportunity to people who still live most of their lives outside of the screen. I spend a significant amount of time in front of a screen on a daily basis but I’m either producing, or deepening my understanding by consuming valuable information that can help me become a better producer. The one distraction I could eliminate is my consumption of news and current events, but I keep my eyes on them because it gives me something to talk about in my questions answered section. By using this information as a tool to create, it moves me from the consumer to the producer category. If you are just consuming, but taking no action on the new information you acquired through that consumption, then you are a digital dope fiend. Obviously you don’t want to be one of those.

4.     Grind through the hard task - When driving on the road to the top you will notice when you look off to the shoulder that the embankment is littered with casualties. People who didn’t see through their objective because things became to difficult. If you drive a little further down that road, you will notice that the final stretch becomes even more sparse if not totally barren. Then you get to the end of the road and you think it’s almost over and there is a sheer cliff that is the only pathway to the summit. Now you have to get out of your car, throw on a backpack and some rock climbing shoes, chalk up your hands and throw a grappling hook as far up this sheer cliff as you can so you can pull your ass up to the summit. Sorry for the shitty analogy, on yeah, by the way, you don’t know how to climb. This is life. The one advantage we have as humans though is our ability to critically think and try. When we fail, we gain experience we can then utilize that experience to make a second attempt or no attempt at all. The point is that grinding through the hard tasks whatever they may be are what allow you to become the envy of the populous, a leader and most basic, someone who gets to keep living. Grinding through the hard tasks is a skill you must master if you are going to become great at anything. The crazy thing about it is that if you grind through the hard tasks you start to realize it’s not as hard as you thought. The hard part is staying committed to the daily practice required to complete these tasks. When you hone your skills as a result of the daily practice, you become more prepared for the journey ahead. This is no different than a fighter training for a fight. You will notice most of what separates the good from the great or the mediocre from the good is that they merely spend more time on a given task than other people. That’s it. More time. The last and probably the most important thing you need to understand about hard tasks is that when you commit to them and undoubtedly survive many failures as a result of you making the attempt, you eventually achieve breakthroughs. A breakthrough is what happens when you are able to accomplish something that was substantially difficult that now puts you in a league of your own. In other words, as I talk about all the time in my key concepts, it’s called going zero to one.

5.     You know how to sell - The immutable law of sales in my key concepts states that all people, regardless of how great their product is need to learn to sell. Sorry, that’s a Harsh Reality. As much as the Iphone has a sticky presence, Steve Jobs made it so because he was an exceptional salesperson. Elon Musk is the same. Both of these individuals are unicorns in their field and by nature of them being unicorns, people listen to them. When people listen to you, like you and trust you, they buy from you. You’re not buying a Tesla. You’re buying a car from Elon Musk. This is why people will advance a payment of $250,000 for a Roadster sports car they won’t get from Tesla for another few years. A Tesla is a cool car, but Elon Musk is the one that made it cool, because he is cool. Musk also has a lot of unique skills and he understands the immutable law of sales. Same goes for you or whatever it is you want to do. Musicians are always amazed how I have been able to make a living in the creative field for my entire working life. It’s because I understand that supply needs to go find demand or demand needs to find supply. Nothing happens organically. Sales is the catalyst required to push your greatness to people who will appreciate it.

6.     Focus - This goes back to the opening, so maybe I’ll close here. The only downside to the creative mind is that it truly can accomplish some crazy things when you follow inspiration. Becoming distracted can actually lead to some amazing art, but eventually, if you’re like me you need to focus and understand that while you can do it all, it doesn’t mean you should. I write, record podcasts, create visual art, read books, watch interesting documentaries on the economies and cultures of countries I may never visit, backpack, RV, Wakeboard, etc. There are so many ridiculous things you can do but the main thing is what is your ONE THING. There was a book I read called THE ONE THING. In that book he says, “What is the one thing you can do that will make all of the other things you do unnecessary?” I totally get that and I agree with that. The only caveat to that I will add is that I think the human brain is hardwired to crave diversity, novelty and of course dopamine! These things only happen when you subject yourself to new situations or information that might provide perspective or insight on things you haven’t heard before. So, yes focus on ONE THING, but also allow yourself to dabble in other shit. Honestly, I think it can only assist your creativity as it relates to the ONE THING. It can make the ONE THING better.

7.     Go Deep - This is also related to focus but what going deep is exploring your art work in a deeply connected way that amplifies your uniqueness. I am a guitarist that understands the value of being an entertainer, so I am constantly looking for elements I can add to my life show that will boggle the mind. This is what going deep means. You know you are going deep when people become fixated on whatever it is that you are doing. I have been able to apply this to multiple areas of my life. When I installed a mini-split air conditioner in my Airstream camper, people stopped me asking what that was because they had never seen it before. That was me going deep as it relates to my interest of traveling in an RV. People ask me about some of my custom made guitars and ask where they can get one like that. I respond that I created it and they now want to purchase it from me. I create a specialized lighting effect to present myself a certain way on stage and people ask me how I did that. Of course playing guitar, people go “damn, that’s a crazy lick, can you show me how to do that.” No, I can’t or won’t. lol. Go deep on your own. When you go deep that attracts people to you. Keep pursing it until you have truly created a universe of your own.

8.     Measure your success - As mentioned in point #1, you need to determine your end game goal. My end game goal is to get paid for my art in as many ways as possible and become a master worthy of praise. You only know if you are achieving these things by setting goals for yourself or measuring the data. If you’re out there selling your live show, how many promoters are responding to your emails? How many tickets are you selling because someone heard how amazing you were? Are you able to get a reporter to write about you because they are intrigued by what it is that you do? If you are an artist, getting people to respond to who you are is a major measure of your success. This means when you are selling to the right audience, they are buying. If you are selling to the wrong audience, it doesn’t matter how great you become, they will never provide a benefit to you personally, financially or otherwise. In other words, measure the right data. 50,000 followers on social media that have never paid you any money for your unique skills are a waste of digital real estate. Instagram models know this best. They might have a few hundred desperate Beta males making them “donations” every month, but most of the people following them are not interested in contributing to their mission. They let you know this by not giving you their time. So, as I talk about in the Art vs. Product key concept, creating a lot of art makes you a better artist. As you refine your skills as an artist, some of this art will become product. Product is art that resonates with the marketplace that you can sell for a profit. While all artists have their own ways of measuring their success, I measure mine primarily in terms of monetary returns or opportunities created as a result of something I created. For example, if someone I respect admires something I created and invites me to collaborate with them or now includes me in their circle, that would be an example of a non monetary benefit that I may be able to monetize at a later date. Even if I don’t it provides an intangible benefit that cannot be purchased. Industry awards such as Grammy awards are examples of this. If you receive one you don’t receive an immediate financial benefit but the clout you receive cannot be purchased for any amount and it’s a gift that can’t be taken away from you.

9.     Hang around other great people - It’s true the company you keep can be critical to where you end up. I wouldn’t say I’m socially isolated, but I definitely limit my exposure to individuals that cannot help me. While other people may consider that to be harsh, I value my time, mental energy and peace of mind more than anything else and anytime you spend it or expend it on someone else you run the risk of cutting yourself short. There are plenty of kind hearted and good people out there that are not striving to be anything more than what they are and that’s fine, but I am. While I can be courteous to these individuals and will definitely give them the respect the deserve as a human, if they are not contributing to my evolution or most importantly, their own evolution then we really can’t have a substantial relationship. When you hang around people because you feel obligated to do so, you’re really not doing either one of you a favor and you are both wasting your time. Relationships expire. Friendships expire. New ones come along. The right ones stay in place. Don’t force those situations, forcing situations takes energy away that you desperately need to accomplish the hard tasks. You only have so much energy to expend, so don’t waste one ounce of it on situations not providing you a benefit.

10.   Insist on excellence - It’s funny how many people will binge watch shows on Netflix and Hulu and will consume endless memes on social media but think things are “good enough” with regards to the work they complete. What they don’t understand about these platforms and the content they consume on them is that all of it is a result of someone’s excellence. Netflix does not order a season of shows if they can’t addict you to the first episode. Instagram would not have the “explore” option if people were not carefully curating their lives and the images they present based on the most excellent parts of their lives. Stand up comedians do not receive laughs unless they are funny. In the business of being great, the only thing that is rewarded is greatness. In the business of entertainment, the only thing that is rewarded is greatness. All of the drug shows such as Narcos on Netflix are so successful not only because they addict you to the storyline but because they focus on individuals that implemented exceptional skill sets that are highly uncommon. Drug Lords live the life everyone wants but they also do things nobody is willing to do to achieve that end. If someone snitches or becomes an informant, they are swiftly deleted from the org chart upon being discovered. This is similar to grinding through the hard tasks. There is such a thing as good enough. I always say that becoming a master is not about achieving 10,000 hours as the myth states. Becoming a master is spending as much time as necessary to get whatever it is you’re trying to do, right. You don’t have to touch a stove 10,000 times to know it’s hot. A plumber cross threading a pipe is not doing things right. The right way is to do it again until it’s right. In my sector you see this a lot with band members. Band members will say “oh it’s fine to play it this way, it sounds good." Does it sound right though? I one had an engineer try to remove a blip in a solo I did for the song Land of the Free. He considered it a mistake, to me it was an imperfection that was a by product of greatness. The only reason I allowed that solo to stay was because I recorded the guitar line in its entirety about 90 times before I got it right. That was me insisting on excellence based on the standard I had set for myself. We all know what that standard is. If you don’t know what that standard is, look at other masters and see what their standard is. If that standard is getting proper reactions out of people based on how they measure success then that might be a good way for you to set up the bar for yourself.