January 5, 2018

Finding your voice

When I was a teenager, my next-door neighbor Robby got an electric guitar. He brought it over to my house one day and I instantly fell madly in love with it.

I was so smitten with Robby’s guitar that I somehow convinced him to leave it at my house instead of taking it home with him.

(I don’t recall exactly how I did that but if memory serves, he was more of a sports guy and he didn’t really care about the guitar that much.)

And so began my lifelong love affair with electric guitar.

It was the early 80s. I was a HUGE fan of Rush and Van Halen. I devoted every hour after school to slowing down their albums with my finger trying to figure out how to play Limelight just like Alex Lifeson, and Eruption just like EVH.

This is how musicians typically learn to play. They copy their heroes.

They learn every note and bend and slide and so on until it’s all “in their fingers” - i.e., it becomes subconscious muscle memory.

But after a while, copying isn’t enough for most players.

They surpass their heroes technically, or they give up because the technique is just too hard for them to emulate, or they mature beyond the musical style.

And at that point, they’re finally ready. Ready to blaze new territory. To find their own style. To contribute something new.

This stage is generally referred to as “finding your voice.”

So... what does this have to do with business?

In my experience working with hundreds of independent professionals, there seems to be a parallel between how musicians learn to play and how devs learn to “business.” They both start by copying what’s worked for others.

Ask yourself:

Yes? I know I did. And there’s no shame in that.

When you’re first getting started, it makes a lot of sense to follow in the footsteps of the greats who have gone before you.

But eventually, it’s not enough.

Eventually, clients can’t tell you apart from the competition. Of course, they can’t! You’re all copying from the same sources and from each other. The only difference they can perceive is price, so they naturally gravitate to whoever is the cheapest.

And this is all fine.

Until it’s not.

When you’re sick of competing on price, and sick of losing deals to posers, and sick of wondering where your next paycheck is coming from... that’s when you know you’re ready.

It’s time to find your voice.

More tomorrow! Stay tuned...