Losing Self-Doubt and Finding Your Music Talent

By Michael Laskow

Criteria Recording Studio
Criteria's lobby, circa 1974. The chair where I got my lucky break is the farthest in the shot.

Do you secretly think that you don't really have what it takes to make it in the music business?

You love it when your friends and relatives check out your home studio and compliment your music. "This should be on the radio!" "You should be scoring movies in Hollywood!"

In the recesses of your heart you know that they're impressed with your work because they can't do it. But in the deepest recesses, do you fear that your talent may not be good enough to compete with the most successful songwriters, artists and composers?

I understand! I've been there. I think we've all been there in one form or another.

Self-doubt can be crippling. It can deprive you of opportunities to live your life the way you have always hoped and dreamed it would be.

I'm not a professional therapist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am somebody who has accomplished some pretty cool stuff in my life. And all of those accomplishments happened when I was able to lose my self-doubt.

I'm thinking about this today because I'm looking at the schedule for our upcoming convention, the Road Rally. One of the speakers (let's call him Dave) joining us this year is among the very best public speakers I've ever heard.

After watching him totally command an audience as a guest speaker at one of my seminars a couple of years ago, I asked him where he leaned to become so incredibly great. His response blew me away.

"For about 10 years, I had anxiety disorders that were so pervasive that I couldn't leave my house. I missed my kids' baseball games. I'd show up for gigs, then freak out in the parking lot, turn around and go home without doing the gig! I went to therapy for years, and have finally overcome it."

I was astounded! Dave is an amazing speaker, and even fills in for his minister from time to time. Talk about an inspiring man, wow! Frankly, Dave is such a great public speaker that I was nervous about going back on stage after he finished his guest spot.

I wasn't a great student as a kid. I wasn't remarkable at anything. My parents crammed the idea down my throat that I had to grow up to "be something!" I knew deep down inside that I wasn't built that way. I had self-doubts, and plenty of them.

There was a pivotal day in my life in 1974. I had always dreamed of being in the music business, but all I did was dream about it until a fateful June day in Miami. I was hanging out at Ace Music in North Miami. I overheard a delivery guy tell his boss that he was leaving for Criteria Studios to deliver a piece of gear to Stephen Stills.

I wanted to be in the music business so badly that I gathered the courage to ask the delivery guy if I could go with him. He said "No!" I asked again, and told him that I wouldn't do anything to get him in trouble.

He said, "It's a really high security place. The Eagles, Clapton, the Bee Gees and Stills are all recording there right now. If I let you come with me, will you just sit in the lobby, keep your mouth shut, and act cool?"

I agreed.

As I sat in the lobby reading a Billboard, trying to act "cool," an older gentleman walked through the lobby and said to a younger, hippy-looking guy walking with him, "This place looks like crap! Can't we find a kid to sweep this place up and clean the bathrooms?"

I lost my "cool," jumped up out of my seat, dropped the Billboard on the floor and began to wave my arms while I blurted out, "I'll do it. I'll do anything you need!"

They kicked me out right then and there. And they were less than kind about it.

Normally, I would have let that rejection stop me dead in my tracks. But, not on that day.

When I got home, I called Criteria and asked to speak to the owner, Mack Emmerman. The receptionist politely, but sternly told me he wasn't available. I don't know how I found the courage to overcome the rejection, but I called Criteria five times a day, every day that week. Twenty-five calls in all!

On the 25th call, Mack came on the line and said, "You're driving my receptionist nuts. If I interview you for this internship and you don't get the job, do you promise that you'll never call here again as long as you live?"

I agreed to his terms and drove an hour to go meet with him. Mack was a little bit less than welcoming as I entered his office with its orange shag carpeting and platinum records on the wall. I shook his hand firmly and instantly took the lead.

"If you give me this job, I will work harder than anybody under this roof. I'll be the first one in the door in the morning and the last one to leave at night. I will work hard to make you proud of me every day. If you don't think that I'm living up to my promise, then fire me! Can I please have this job? I've wanted this opportunity my entire life, and now that I've got it, you've got to believe I'm not going to blow it."

Mack looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "Okay, you've got your chance to dance kid, but with no promises from me. Do one thing wrong, and you're out of here. Do we have an understanding?"

I agreed, and thus began my 35-year-long career (and counting) in the music business. I owe everything my life is today to Mack Emmerman giving me that one, life-altering chance. We remain friends and I tell this story every opportunity I get. Not to brag, but to inspire others to get over their self-doubts.

Yes, I was lucky to be at Ace Music at just the right time, but the courage to ask the delivery guy if I could go with him came from deep inside of me. It rose above my self-doubt.

Yes, I was very lucky to be in Criteria's lobby at exactly the moment that Mack noticed the place needed a new "kid" to keep it clean. But it was my intense desire to be in the music industry that gave me the strength and courage to persist until I got that job.

The lesson I learned from it was that I could grow up to be something. I learned that I could be anything I really wanted to be. Anything at all!

I know that we're not all built the same way, and what worked for me might not work for you. But the point is that you can be anything you really want to be. "Really" is the operative word.

What could you accomplish if you just tried? Could you go from being frozen with fear and anxiety to become an amazing public speaker that inspires others? Could you live your dream and begin the career you've always dreamed of?

Lose the shackles that bind you. Start today and take baby steps. Set realistic goals, don't overreach and set yourself up for failure that will confirm your fears. Read every book you can on overcoming fear and doubt. Learn to become an effective person. It is something you can learn.

Make new friends with people who are successful and find out how they achieved their goals. If you've got friends who feed your self-doubt, try to spend less time with them. Change the patterns in your life that prevent you from being what and who you really want and deserve to become.

And when the day comes that you meet your Mack Emmerman, you'll recognize the opportunity and act on it rather than sitting quietly and letting the things you want most in life pass you by.

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