One of my favorite lines that I often quote is the hook from Frank Sinatra’s My Way— “I did it, I did it my way.”
As entrepreneurs, we are generally the types who create our own rules and do things our own way. Sometimes it’s good to reflect on why this individuality can be so important to the current and future aspects of our individual businesses.
March to the Beat of Your Own Drum
Just this morning, I was texting with some high school friends who I was in a band with. We still talk with each other about music and life, although we live in different states. When we did play songs, they were a bizarre amalgamation of the music of the time – blues, rock, jazz, fusion and funk. We had frameworks, but we mostly improvised and made things up. Unlike other players of the time, I always disliked learning classic songs and mostly wanted to play something new, different, and creative. Years later, those foundations still serve me well, as I create original music for a living on a daily basis.
When we were speaking, my friends also reminded me of the local music store where we all would take lessons, trying to improve on our respective instruments. I reflected on my guitar teacher, who (at first) tried to get me to read music. I still remember his face looking at me when I came into the lessons and had barely practiced what was on the page. What can I say? I hated it! I disliked being confined to what was there. Those notes slowed me down. To this day, I still can’t read music and don’t need to.
I do study relentlessly, but I instead focus on the foundations of music theory and what the great composers did with it. From there, I create for the needs of the show I’m composing for. I have boundaries, but am allowed almost unlimited creativity within them. That’s because my agents know if they let me do ‘my thing’, we will both benefit. Over 1000 TV series and 40 countries later, I’ve built a whole career in music that way. I did it my way.
Taking the Road Less Traveled? You’re Not Alone.
I’m currently reading Derek Sivers’ book Hell Yea or No – What’s Worth Doing. Sivers, who founded CD Baby Inc., was one of the first online distributors for independent music, eventually selling his company for $22 Million to Disc Makers. In the chapter section titled ‘How To Do What You Love and Make Good Money,’ he notes, “About your art: Pursue it seriously. Take Lessons. Make Weekly Progress. Keep improving, even if you’ve been doing it for decades.” How did Sivers get that kind of money for his company? By breaking the rules of the day for music distribution, working his ass off and doing things his way.
Recently I was watching a funny clip of David Letterman with Johnny Depp, where Depp noted he never reads screen directions in the scripts, which tell you what to do in the scene. He noted that he would “rather not know” what they wanted him to do. In another segment, Letterman pressed him if he saw the movie he was there to promote, and he hadn’t. He said, “Once my job is done on the film, it’s really none of my business.”
The Joy Is in the Making
I think that whole approach is incredibly refreshing. Do your work, to the best of your abilities, and then let it go. Yes, that can be tough for control freaks, but it can also be liberating. In regard to not reading the screen direction, it’s not like Depp doesn’t know how to act. But by doing it his way, it keeps things fresh and unpredictable. There are lessons for all of us there. Use the foundations of our knowledge, then build upon them in unique and fresh ways. But most importantly, do it your way.
Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way
-Frank Sinatra, singing My Way