image of success, progress, self-limiting assumptions

You Don’t Need All the Pieces in Place

When I started recording music 15 years ago, I joined several online communities to get feedback and learn the tricks of the trade. On those forums, I encountered people of all ages and experience levels.

In general, they fell into one of several groups: The first were industry professionals. They had access to thousand-dollar microphones and the full version of Pro Tools. Their mixing consoles included a dizzying number of buttons, knobs, and faders. They made their living recording and producing music.

The second were amateurs who aspired to look like the first group. To them, that was the image of success. “If only I had that gear,” some would say, “I’d be making platinum records.” They craved fame and fortune, which they felt were within reach with a new Fender guitar or Korg synthesizer. Others boasted about their fancy equipment and home studio setup—despite their mediocre productions.

Though it’s tempting to criticize this group, there are two lessons we can learn from them:

First, we too may carry a checklist of self-imposed prerequisites. I often hear would-be entrepreneurs say: “I’ll start when I have an office (logo, website, certification).” In reality, those things are seldom limiting factors. The real issue tends to be insecurity. These assets offer a sense of legitimacy, as if to show that this is a “real” business. So many alleviate their anxiety by setting up intermediate “next steps” that give them a way out. It’s a roundabout way, akin to saying you’ll start recording when you have a $100,000 studio.

Truth is, you don’t need all the pieces in place to begin. The smarter approach would be to start recording, and build your studio along the way.

Second, we may place undue hope in those non-essentials. An office, a logo, a website—these are all valuable things. But none by itself would make a business a runaway success. Likewise, we may derive false security from our degrees and certifications. These things are helpful, but they are the baseline. Success requires ongoing application. In other words, how are we using those resources to deliver value?

To drive this home, let’s relate it to our recording analogy. Owning expensive gear doesn’t make one a competent musician or producer. Certainly, one would sound better on a Steinway than a budget piano. But a professional can do more with cheap instruments in a garage than a novice can do at Abbey Road.

There was also a third group. These people simply loved making music. They too were amateurs, but they neither made excuses nor held delusions of grandeur. I met brilliant composers who had no formal musical training. I met talented remixers armed with only a laptop and a MIDI controller. They were committed to honing their craft and didn’t let such limitations stop them. In fact, those forced them to become more creative and resourceful.

In our own careers, may we emulate this group. For it is better to chase our passions and invest the effort required for success, than to chase an image of success and miss out on both.

This is the third post in our series: Challenging Your Self-Limiting Assumptions.