You Don’t Need Permission to Create
If you’re curious about what you will learn from my new book, You Get What You Give, I wanted to share my story from the introduction with you today.
If you like the following passage, please grab a copy of the book right here.
How do you become a successful six-figure business in a music industry that never seems to end its decline? For me, it started with €0.34.
Back in 2009, in the stone-age years of the internet, I had been writing my little audio blog for a few months, publishing what I was learning as an audio engineering student at the SAE Institute campus in Madrid. On the side, I had enrolled in an “online business” course and one of their income-generating strategies was to earn money from Google ads. This sounded promising to me — so I added some to my site. Then I waited. Alone in my dimly lit basement apartment, I refreshed the Google Ads dashboard waiting for the big clicks to come in.
All I got were crickets. Either that, or the cockroach infestation of my apartment was getting worse. After what felt like a billion data packets later, somebody clicked an ad on my site and it made me a whopping €0.34! So I did what any short-term thinking college student would do and I went out on the town to celebrate my online riches, probably spending a hundred times more in food and drinks than I earned in income. I quickly learned that selling advertising was a losing business strategy if you wanted to run a sustainable business, but the thrill of earning money from your own online asset was a feeling like no other. I also learned the importance of celebrating the small wins that give you the momentum to move onto bigger challenges.
It’s over a decade later. My business has grown from an ugly looking blog earning less than a dollar to a reputable audio education platform earning more than six figures per year. And to think it all started because of one moment when a random person clicked on my Google ad, earning me a measly €0.34! Every big endeavor starts small and snowballs from there. As the Bill Hicks joke goes: you can’t learn to fly if you don’t take off from the ground first, no matter how much acid you take. Small wins are the guideposts along the way as you scale the mountain of your success.
I believe good business starts with the mindset of making something you’re proud of. Making an impact and creating a lasting body of work that lives without you is a mission that someone who races to the bottom of the discount pile and cuts corners instead of committing to quality will never achieve. What you will find in the following pages are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned from growing a successful business in the music industry. We’ll follow Casey’s story as he learns the mindset behind making an impact in his career, from the importance of routine and the power of value-based pricing, to understanding his clients and diversifying his income streams. I’ve found these lessons to be the core building blocks of a sustainable business and now you will have the opportunity to implement them in yours to grow your career. Along the way, we will pause to consider the various mindsets you must have to make an impact with your own career. These little Success Strategies break up the chapters and are a chance for you to reflect on how you would implement what Casey is learning in your own life. For those of you wanting to learn even more than what these pages include, I have put together additional resources and worksheets for you to use in your journey at www.YouGetWhatYouGiveBook.com.
Traditional business wisdom tells you to find a niche because the “riches are in the niches.” Similarly, comedy tells you to be specific because it elevates the joke to another level. So, in order for me to write a business book that was similar to the business parables I so enjoyed, I had to set it in a world I was familiar with. Having run Audio Issues as a successful online business in the music industry for ten years meant that I had a lot of experience in a very narrow niche, yet the business principles I share in this book can be used across industries and disciplines.
This book came to be because of an offhand remark by my friend Chris Graham of the Six Figure Studio Podcast. He joked on our mastermind call that my next book should be a business parable for the recording engineer. Unbeknownst to him, I had been wanting to write a “how-to fiction parable” for a while, with thousands of words of unpublished ideas, scenes, and dialog that I wasn’t sure what to do with. His request came at the right time and his idea gave me the structure I needed to get started. The first bullet-point draft poured out of me over the course of a few days, later expanding into a standard zero to hero story arc. Then COVID came and it gave me time to expand on the draft and give it a different feel than the traditional business parables we were used to. If I was writing for the music industry, the book had to be a little more Rock ’n’ Roll than Suit & Tie. So, as with every creative endeavor, it started somewhere and then morphed along the way into something unrecognizable from its original inspiration. If good artists borrow and great artists steal, it’s because great artists are also obsessed with hiding their theft in such a way that their originality wipes out the origin of their inspiration.
I, like any other creative I’ve known about: obscure, unknown or renowned, suffer from imposter syndrome and it’s never been more apparent than in the writing of this introduction. I’m dealing with imposter syndrome and procrastination as I’m writing this because I know that when I finish the introduction, which one should leave until the end, the book is ready for release. And when you release something you have to let it go. You have to give it up and hope for the best. At best, you’ll get accolades for your art. At worst, the sharks will circle and rip you into the abyss, leaving you awful reviews with ad hominem attacks.
However, in reality, chances are you’ll get a bit of both. Life is nothing if not about balance and like the author David Leddick taught me a long time ago through his book I’m Not for Everyone. Neither are You, you will never be liked by everyone who comes across your work. If being a writer and educator in the audio industry has taught me anything it’s that there are plenty of people (mostly men) that are ready to rip you apart and feel superior just to feed their disguised jealousy. But if you have the tenacity to move past the attacks and focus on the ones you can help, you’ll learn that there are plenty of people (men and women), who are eager to enrich and improve their lives by listening to what you have to say. I believe the world is a better place if you meet people where they are, seek to understand their problems, and help them make an impact. This is one of the core tenets of Noah’s teachings in this book you are now reading, and it’s my hope that you will take those ideals into consideration when making an impact with your business.
If there’s one thing that my business has given me above all else it’s the freedom to design the lifestyle I want without asking for anybody’s permission. Permission is a weird construct that creatives can often feel jailed by. We worry about whether our art is good enough and whether we have any right to lean into our inspirations and create the things we feel inside. Whatever you’re working on when this book happens to cross your path, remember this: You don’t need permission to build something you believe in. You don’t need permission to run things your way as long as it gives you what you want. There is no one way to have a successful career. You don’t need permission to mix two disparate ideas together and create something new, however crazy it sounds. That’s literally the definition of innovation. You don’t need permission to start your own thing. There are no gatekeepers. You don’t need permission. Your creativity is the permission you need to create. Just promise me you’ll let it out into the world and give other people permission to experience it. Your creativity can make an impact on your future, you only have to believe in it. To paraphrase Lt. Colonel Frank Slade, “Don’t destroy it. Protect it. Embrace it. It’s gonna make you proud one day, I promise you.”
Of all the books I’ve written, this one was the hardest so far. The first draft whizzed by as a fun exercise. Then the rewriting started and the closer I got to the finish line the slower I worked and the harder it was to overcome the self-doubt of whether it was worth the effort of publishing. It’s funny, the entire mission of my business is to encourage musicians to overcome their fears about releasing their music into the world. So if anything, it’s been an interesting, although hypocritical exercise in “do as I say, not as I do,” as I’ve worked to push past my own limiting beliefs about my own value in the world. In a word, it’s taken a lot of willpower to put this book out. Yet here we are.
This book was hard to write because these limiting beliefs don’t go away. You have to fight them every day. Writing this book pushed me out of my comfort zone because it was a stark contrast to the how-to books I’m used to writing. I could’ve easily chosen a different topic and kept to my regular voice. But I was so inspired by the parables that came before that I decided that I did in fact have the gall to write something similar.
Imposter syndrome would ask, who are you to write such a thing? Who gave you permission to venture off your beaten path? Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to!
Yet I dared into the arena with the other men and women who put their creativity on the line, ready for the one-star reviews and the pummeling of the internet trolls. If the worst thing to happen is a one-star review and indifference, this book will still tower as a trophy on my bookshelf. A reminder that I ignored the insecurities, pushed past my comfort zone and gave myself the permission to conquer my inner critic. It’s my hope that this inspires you to do the same, no matter what type of creative you are. Let this short story about marketing, music, and making an impact be the inspiration you need to forge a path up your own mountain of success and find your own small wins along the way.
August 27th, 2020
I’m happy to report that my fears of one-star reviews and indifference were all just made up worries in my mind because so far, You Get What You Give has received numerous five-star reviews from readers all over the world.