By Johnny Dwinell
Answer: True Grit
For months now I have been telling y’all that you should be reading the Lefsetz Letter. Bottom line, if you’re in the music business, Bob Lefsetz always provides and intelligent perspective for indie artists backed up by real data. I REALLY want to share this blog that Lefsetz posted in September (I just got around to reading it last night as I caught up on all my blog subscriptions via a nasty bout of insomnia) regarding a study about how grit trumps talent. I’m gonna offer up a few comments and strongly suggest you read the Lefsetz post and subscribe if you already haven’t.
Success Study Shows Grit Is The Best Predictor of Success
The headline here is a study done by University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth where 100% of the 2,800 subjects studied showed that grit, which is defined as passion and perseverance over long-term goals, is the best predictor of success. Wow, read that again because it’s so important! Grit is the best predictor of success even when negatively offset with poor/mediocre talent! (I proved this my damn self, LOL)
I can tell you with absolute certainty that my experiences as an artist, songwriter, and a producer constantly confirm that in the entertainment world, sticking around longer than everyone else is willing to, will pay off eventually. Frankly, the longer you have to wait for the “big break” the more prepared you will be to handle it emotionally and business wise. .
Truthfully, in my artist career, I wasn’t going to EVER win a vocal talent contest; I was a very mediocre singer. I was really pitchy and I took tons of lessons to get my voice to a point where I could pull it off live without driving people out of the club; I literally clawed my way to “middle management” as I like to say. Since my voice was mediocre, that meant I had to write good songs with lush background harmonies in the choruses, have a KILLER band around me (all of whom were better musicians than me), and be fascinating on stage to offset my ho-hum vocal ability. It was time and perseverance that allowed me to learn my lane (i.e. my strengths and weaknesses) and adapt to formulate my portion of our act that was going to keep people coming back. We were 4 kids from small towns in Southeastern Wisconsin who somehow managed to make a living touring for the better part of 6 years; all because we had grit.
We took risks.
We weren’t afraid to fail. Did we fail? HELL YES! FYI, our first Midwest tour in 1988 lasted about a year and grossed around $120,000 (about $240,000 today)…it cost $128,000!!! After that, we KNEW how to be profitable; we LEARNED from our mistakes and continued on.
Admittedly, back then, speed bumps pissed me off. I was so damn negative in my head (like most artists) but we still moved forward. We all learned to EXPECT challenges on a daily basis and eat them for breakfast. We learned that negativity was nonproductive; focusing on exploiting what we had instead of bitching about what we thought we needed turned out to be far more productive.
Ya know something else that comes to mind? Grit spawns at least 1 immediate tangible benefit; respect. When we moved to Florida to be developed by Bud Snyder with the Allman Brothers, we were blessed to be the recipients of constant good will from every angle simply because people respected that we had the balls to move down to Florida to follow our dream. Many mission critical favors were handed to us simply because people knew or felt that we had grit.
Winston Churchill said “Responsibility is the price of greatness”. The longer you continue to pursue excellence in the music business, the more you learn about how much responsibility is required to make it happen; the closer you get to greatness.
I hope you take a few minutes and read this post from Lefsetz. I hope you realize that despite the negative voices in your head, which we ALL have, you can make a living in the music business. Job requirement #1 is grit.
How bad do you want it?
Get to the Lefsetz post HERE.
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