A+B = Doh!

As far as I've always believed, there are 5 things that propel someone up the proverbial Ladder of Success:

1. Ambition
2. Talent
3. Passion
4. Hard work
5. The X-Factor (Luck? Timing? Karma?
Who you know/Who you blow?)

Last night I had one of those peak moments. A genuine Gestalt. I realized there is a 6th item to add to this list and it alone knocks out all the others. Aggression. Seizing opportunities and running with them no matter who gets run over, no matter who gets used along the way.

I've spent the better part of the last 15 years wondering what the hell happened to my bright and promising musical career. So have a lot of other people who know me, too. Why did incredible opportunities slip out of my hands? Why did offers sideswipe me and pass on by? I've finally come to understand that it was aggression, or my lack of aggression that caused me to stall out about 3/4 of the way up the ladder.

My renewed contact with Big Brother Ernie has made me look back at my music career and it dawned on me that at any point along the way I could have asked him for help. As a producer and a friend he would have been all too happy to put me in his studio and help me make a really great demo that I could afford -- probably even for nothing -- but it just ever occurred to me. And now I'm too old to be a pop star regardless of the fact that the music I've written is still really good.

My mother taught me not to use my friends. When I was a kid I knew a girl who had a horse. Two, actually. Two beautiful Arabians, and we often went riding on them. I have to admit that I didn't really like her all that much. She was a sickly child and was a geek like me, but damn, she had those horses. My mother quickly sat me down and explained that it was wrong to use people in that way. Being a nice person by nature and never wanting to hurt anyone, I immediately stopped, keeping her words in my mind throughout the years. So as I moved into adulthood, trying to chase down a career in music, her voice was aways in my head. So much so, in fact, that it never once occurred to me to approach Ernie. I never thought, "Oh, I can't ask Ernie to do that." It simply never occurred to me.

I'm not saying that doing so would have set me on the road to stardom, I'm just saying that I never asked anyone to help me and when I rubbed shoulders with and talked to some really big people out there, I never tried to sell myself by hammering them with what I had to offer musically. I guess I just wanted them to like me; coming off as an opportunist was the last thing I wanted to do. But there's pimping yourself and there's promoting yourself and I didn't know the difference, so I shied away from both, I guess.

I also never fell for the old "casting couch" routine. I refused to sleep my way to the top, bottom, or in-between. I had plenty of those opportunities, but my parents raised me better than that.

The reason this is on my mind today is because of a conversation I took part in yesterday. Someone said that "making it" is about luck, with which I heartily disagreed.

"Hard work, passion and being pro-active is what it takes. You make your own luck."
"But you have to get picked at auditions," she said.
"And that takes hard work and passion, not luck. Again, you make your own luck."

Hearing myself say that caused the light bulb above my head to light up.

I still believe that using people as stepping stones is wrong, but there were a lot of opportunities that I could have ethically utilized. Truth be told, I just wasn't heartless enough and no one taught me the difference between using and asking for help.

I suppose this is part of getting older and acquiring wisdom. It's also part of that old, "If I could go back in time knowing what I know now" crapola. The point is, I can't go back in time, but I can move forward keeping this new lesson in mind. Who knows what awaits?


  1. and no one taught me the difference between using and asking for help.

    I identify with this. In fact, a great deal of the time I was afraid to ask for help because I thought it might make me look stupid or that I might appear selfish. I was constantly being accused of being selfish.

  2. I think the distinction is that "using" people implies you leave a burnt husk in your wake.

    I see so many great young writers out there now and - though out of the minor part of the business I was in for only a short time - I would love to get behind someone's career, and what would be so wrong with being their representative? It's a legitimate occupation, so long as nobody gets sucked dry.

    If someone would have said "I'll set up a meeting with so-and-so record person and act as your agent" and if they got you a deal they'd take their percent and you would (well I would) happily give them their cut.

    That's how it works.

    What I'm saying is "using" someone would - to me - imply taking them for what they could give you and leaving them cold once you're on the next step.

    In the meantime the world needs its Diaghilevs. But they are very very rare. And I'm not so sure he was ever "used".

  3. My Grandfather was a successful small business owner and he always taught me "it's not what you know, it's who you know". I have put this wisdom to good use being a small business owner myself. I have plenty of friends over the years that have helped my business and in turn I have helped them with their business ventures or personal needs with me being in the floral industry. I have never looked at it as "using" my friends but rather as networking and using the you scratch my back and I will scratch yours approach. So far everyone seems happy as long as I remember to be honest about my motives and in my friendships.

  4. I wish someone would have taught me the distinction when I was younger, instead of being taught not to ask for help.

  5. Jen from sent me over. I’m glad she did. Thank you for your enlightening post. Words of wisdom I’m “young” enough to incorporate. :-)

  6. I'm glad you stopped by. Thank you for taking the time to leave your nice comment.


  7. Jen from sent me over. I’m glad she did. Thank you for your enlightening post. Words of wisdom I’m “young” enough to incorporate. :-)


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