What Not To Do

Unless you’re a diehard music enthusiast, you may not think much about who the directors and producers are on albums. However, years ago I cam across a producer named Rick Rubin. He is a producer with an incredible career and has worked with some incredibly talented artists including Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash and System of a Down just to name a few. I recently read his book The Creative Act where he breaks down many lessons on being creative and finding success. This is definitely not a typical “leadership” or “self-help” book at all – he’s got some great stories and a really unique perspective.

One of the things that stood out to me was his list of thoughts and habits detrimental to your work. His list had 20 items on it but here’s my favorite 5:

  1. Believing you’re not good enough – Tony Dungy once said that the first thing that has to exist before something good can happen is the belief that it’s possible.
  2. Mistaking Adopted Rules for Absolute Truths – I’ve fallen in to the trap of thinking this myself. I try to remember with each new project, assume nothing. By staying open-minded you set yourself up to find success that might not have happened if you just followed the same approach and tactics.
  3. Never Finishing Projects – It’s been written and spoken about from everyone like Ryan Holiday to Jocko Willink to James Clear – Discipline is a critical ingredient to success. And when you see discipline in action, it’s usually looks like a finished project. It allows for the execution of a strategy and provides the follow through needed to reach an outcome.
  4. Impatience – This is a tough one for me but if we agree discipline is important to finish, then impatience is often a discipline killer. It can also be the difference between another iteration that an idea needs to be its best versus settling too soon.
  5. Thinking that anything that’s out of your control is in your way – Another challenging one try to take action on the things you can control and remember that the Obstacle is the Way.

One last Rick Rubin story to leave you with. He was working with System of a Down on an early album and on the song “Chop Suey”, a song that would go on to be one of their biggest hits, they were struggling with lyrics for the bridge. After 2 days of essentially “writer’s block”, Rick Rubin was talking with the singer in Rubin’s home office. Rubin asked him to pick a random book off the book case, and open it to a random page and then read to him the words. Those words from that random act became the actual lyrics used on the track and amazingly it’s a high point in the song! Don’t take my word for it though, check out Rubin telling the story himself.

If you’ve read the book, let me know which of the “habits to not have” resonate the most!

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