The Secret to Rapid Improvement

How would you like to accelerate your progress in an area of weakness? My 23-year-old son, Chris and I discussed this a few days ago. He reminded me of how he stretched himself by being in several lead roles in musicals. “I hated that but it was good for me,” he told me. He is a naturally shy creative who can draw, paint, write articles, write and arrange music, write lyrics and produce music. He rapidly advanced as an actor because he did what he didn’t want to do.

Chris confirms what I just listened to on this podcast hosted by Ray Edwards. He interviewed bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins who is releasing a new book about creativity. Jeff researched leading successful artists such as Michaelangelo who was one of the wealthiest artists of his time during a period when artists were considered paid laborers. Goins revealed a key to rapidly growing in your craft – going public with your process, especially when you’re uncomfortable with this.

Goins discovered that Chris Rock, one of my favorite comedians, would test his jokes on audiences before adding the jokes to his show. Chris would show up at a club with a pad of paper and just start telling jokes to see which ones worked. The jokes that didn’t get any laughs didn’t make the cut. By going public with his creative process, Chris was building his fan base and testing his ideas.

Goins shared his own story of playing in a band and how he rapidly improved as a musician by doing several shows a week. My other son, Alex, has been literally leading worship for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week while he has been in India. I’ve been watching him via Facebook live broadcasts. I asked him why is he always on the keyboard. He responded, “Because I’m the band leader.” That’s 15 to 20 hours of leading and working with other singers and musicians.

These worship sessions have been broadcast live over a Facebook page with opportunities for people to instantly comment. This means that every song that’s off key or pitchy can’t be edited. Awkward transitions are live for everyone around the world to see but the heart and spontaneous singing have been amazingly fresh.

Alex told me that he has noticed an amazing improvement in his singing and playing piano because he has been doing this for many hours. If you want to rapidly advance in an area, then do it for hours at a time and go public with your process. I’m trying to do this right now as I go public with my attempt to do more writing.

I spend hours writing headlines, teasers, and curating hundreds of articles a week. Now I need to carve time out to do my own original writing. Look for more writing in days to come as I go public with my own creative process.

What would you like to improve in?

3 Business Lessons I Learned at a Songwriters Retreat

Jennie Lee Riddle, a Dove-award winning songwriter.

Jennie Lee Riddle is a Dove award-winning songwriter. I recently attended her songwriter’s retreat in Sherman, TX as part of a media team with Highways Ministries. While sitting in a chapel service, God spoke some lessons through her that will change the way I do business. The last thing I expected to gain at a songwriter’s retreat are business practices.

I once thought of a songwriter’s retreat as a kind of fluffy gathering for spacy creatives. But as I met and hung out with some songwriters and musicians, I realized that they are the hardest working creatives. Making a living from crafting hooks and lyrics that people want to hear is an art. Jennie Lee Riddle has made her mark on the music industry as a leader, award-winning songwriter and mentor to young creatives.

Here are some principles I learned from Jennie at this retreat that will change the way I do business and life:

#1 If you see a picture in your mind of what you want to do, draw it or write it down. God speaks in pictures and visions. Don’t be afraid to capture those pictures and words.

#2 Speak your mind if you don’t agree with something. Don’t waste people’s time. Jennie gave this instruction to students participating in a songwriting circles. If you hear something you don’t like, don’t wait until the end of the meeting to say you don’t like it. When you speak up after everybody has already wrestled with the idea, you’ve just wasted everyone’s time.

I’ve sat in meetings where the direction on an idea was obviously wrong. I’ve watched thousands of dollars wasted on an idea that was a loss because I didn’t have the guts to speak up. Speak your mind. Don’t feel obligated to be polite. Don’t waste other people’s time or their money.

#3 Work on what you already know. I’ve had a lot of wannabee writers tell me that they want to write a book or a script and they want my idea on how to get started. Or someone who pitches me a new business idea. My advice isn’t revolutionary. “Just start,” I tell them. Write what you know. Work on what you already know to do.

You don’t need my permission to do what you know you’re suppose to do. If you’re suppose to start that business, then do it. Write that book. Talk to that person who can move your idea forward. Work on what you already know. Use what you already have.

So draw a picture of what you’re envisioning. Speak your mind. And work on what you already know.