This Article Originally Published December 1997
by Michael Laskow
I'm heading home on a plane as I write this. I'm somewhere over the midwest after giving a speech last night at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. I was very impressed with the questions from the student body and the faculty. The questions centered more on perfecting their songwriting and production craft than they did on TAXI.
This showed me that they were serious about their careers in music. More importantly, it showed they were looking externally for information that could help them add more arrows to their quivers and ensure their success. They know they will have to be really good at what they do in order to succeed in this business.
It may seem silly, but I ask myself if I'm really good at what I do nearly everyday. Sometimes, several times a day. I usually don't do it out loud, though. My staff might be tempted to give me their opinions!
I don't think I ask myself the question because I'm terribly insecure (am I?). I ask it because I'm highly passionate about what I do, and I want to make sure that I do it well today, and even better tomorrow. What I "do" is run TAXI. Actually, that's just the day-to-day manifestation, not the core. What I really do is strive to perfect a system that enables you to get better at what you do.
Sure, TAXI is about getting deals, but let's face it, not every member is ready to get one yet. We can help by giving you the vehicle and the tools, but that will only take you so far. The best thing you can do to reach your goal is to become exceptionally good at what you do. "Kind of good" and "pretty good" simply aren't enough in this business.
So, ask yourself, "Am I really good at what I do? Am I an exceptional songwriter? Do I know everything I need to know to successfully compete in this industry?" Take my advice. Ask yourself in private.
If you're flipping burgers for a living, you can get away with being mediocre. That may also be true if you're selling shoes. Some occupations don't require you to be excellent at what you do to get by. But there really isn't such a thing as "getting by" in the music biz. You either make it or you don't.
I take that back. Many of you already have day jobs. Some of you have careers you enjoy. Maybe music is just a hobby for you, albeit, a hobby that you love passionately. Maybe success for you is getting a song placed in a movie or getting an instrumental piece on a network show. Nothing wrong with that. Good goal. But, you know what? You're still going to need to be really good at what you do just to accomplish that.
How can you get there? Maybe this simple prescription will help. I call it the One Percent Rule. Actually, a book I read called it the One Percent Rule, but I can't remember which one. So, as far as you're concerned, I'm the genius who thought it up!
If you improve your skills just one percent each day, then you'll be 365% better at the end of a year. Pretty dramatic results without a Herculean effort.
Check out the list of books on the back of our feedback form. Buy one. Read it for one hour a day. That should give you at least a one percent notch-up each day. After you're finished with the book, do the songwriting exercises in it (if it has them) for just an hour a day. When you've completed the exercises, start listening to one hour of contemporary hit radio each day. Diagram each song's structure. Make notes about lyric ideas and twists. Figure out what made each song a hit and write it down.
Now, I ask you... is one hour a day too much to ask for a 365% improvement?!? I think not.
I've been doing it for years. I spend at least an hour every day reading a book or magazine that helps me in my quest to drive the perfect TAXI. Almost every aspect of TAXI has either been created by or improved with what I've learned in those one hour increments. It really works.
Now when I look deep inside myself and ask, "Are you really good at what you do?" I can honestly answer, "Yes, I am, but there's always room for improvement."