This Article Originally Published October 2000
by Michael Laskow
I was just cleaning up my office and found a list of quotable quotes from someone I consider to be one of the smartest people I know. His name is Howard Tullman. He is the co-founder and past CEO of RollingStone.com.
That's his short-form resume. The list of accomplishments in this man's life is so long that I have to omit it from this article. If I included it, there wouldn't be enough space for the rest of the article. Suffice it to say that he has been at the helm of several successful start-ups, and has somehow managed to squeeze in "hobbies" such as teaching at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Business Management/MBA program, collecting art, and collecting PEZ dispensers. Howard is a Renaissance man.
As I re-read some of Howard's axioms, I realized that they may give valuable insight to TAXI's members. And now kids, it's time for a little deep thinking!
Howardism #1: "Ideas come easier than execution. And execution is the difference between winning and losing."
I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but my life as it relates to TAXI is a prime example of this. I can't begin to tell you how many people have called me during the years since I started TAXI to tell me, "I had that idea years ago."
I'm sure they did, but I was the person who got off my butt and did something about it. I took action. Not only did I take action, I was relentless in my pursuit of perfect execution. I could have opened the doors to TAXI months earlier than I did, but I knew that my chances of success would be dramatically increased if I had all my ducks in a row.
How does this relate to you? Songwriting. Knowing that our members are a creative lot, I would guess that you have ideas for songs all the time. The big question is; how many great songs have you NOT written? Remember that day in the car when you had that killer hook pop in to your head? Did you write it down? Do you carry a little hand-held recorder to help you remember the important stuff?
I always have my best ideas in the shower. If anybody knows of a waterproof hand-held recorder, please let me know.
If you did write your idea on the back of a matchbook, what then? Did you ever sit down and finish the song? Did you keep working on it until it was perfectly executed? If not, then you just may have let the "Big One" get away. That song you didn't start or finish may have been that once-in-a-lifetime hit. EXECUTE!
Howardism #2: "A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn. It can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow."
I've noted that during my twenty-some years in the music business, that songs I love seem to sound out of tune and slower when I play them in an A&R meeting. If the A&R person's foot isn't tapping, it has an effect on me. But, I learned years ago, that I must stick with my first impression of the song, and not be daunted by someone else's reaction or lack thereof.
I can only imagine what kind of effect finding out that your song didn't get forwarded must have on you. Worse than a "sneer or a yawn." Trust me, I know. Did you actually think that every time I've ever played an artist or a song for an A&R person they jumped out of their chair and screamed, "This is #@%$ing great. I want to sign this immediately!"? I'm sure that my batting average in those meetings is pretty close to your forwarding average. Probably not as good, now that I think about it.
But, I've learned that one person's opinion shouldn't deter me. Neither should two, or ten. If your gut tells you that something is good, it probably is stick with it. Along the way, maybe you'll find someone whose opinion you trust who can give you some pointers on how to improve your execution. Rather than their opinion being a deterrent from success, let it be an inspiration that motivates you toward success.
In other words, don't let anyone kill your ideas before you complete the execution. Don't nip a beautiful flower in the bud. Let it bloom. Help it bloom. Make it bloom!
Thanks to Howard Tullman for his wise words and for inspiring me to grow my ideas until they bloom.