For the last 35 years I’ve made a living as a musician/entrepreneur. I’ve had some ups and downs over this time, especially in the beginning, but over the years I’ve learned how to make my lifestyle work. Over the last few years I’ve seen consistent growth each year, both in my online businesses and my music career. I’ve been making more money and playing more shows for more money than ever before.
I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned over the last few years and I’ve concluded that there’s really just one key principle that ties all the success I’ve experienced together. There’s one guiding principle that I always come back to and that always leads me back to success. Whenever I lose my way, I focus on one thing and one thing only. What is it? Giving Value.
When I first started my business, I focused on making money. It makes sense. The reason most of us work jobs is to make money. We all have to figure out a way to get by and we either have to work for somebody else or we have to work for ourselves. Either way the goal is the same, to make money to pay our bills and buy the things we want and need.
The problem is that if we only focus on earning more money, it’s easy to lose our way. It works to a point, but there’s a wall that we’ll hit pretty quickly. It’s easy to forget that money is simply a means of exchanging value. Getting money is a part of transaction that also involves giving value. Money is simply the means of exchange. Without the value part of the equation, there won’t be much money. You might be able to fool people for a little while, but it won’t work for long.
Whenever I feel like I’m losing my way I focus on giving value. Whenever I notice sales are down, I focus on giving value. Whenever I notice I’m not playing as many gigs as I’d like to, I focus on giving value. Without fail, when I shift my focus from what’s lacking to how I can simply give value, things turn around. Always. It sometimes takes awhile, but it always works.
There’s a rhythm to giving value and making money that can be discerned. If you’re only focusing on getting and taking, it will start to feel “off”. It also won’t work. In business, you can pretty easily quantify how well you’re doing at giving value. When I focus too much on the money side of the equation, I almost always end up seeing a decline in sales. It seems counter intuitive, but it’s not if you think about it.
Part of human nature and psychology is the urge to reciprocate. In Robert Cialdani’s “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion”, Cialdini states that reciprocity is one of the seven key triggers of persuasion. When someone does something nice for you, you’re more likely to want to do something nice in return. People want to reciprocate.
Think of relationships. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is always taking but never giving, it probably won’t be a very satisfying relationship for long. On the other hand, if you're partner is loving and giving, you're more inclined to want to return the favor. There has to be both give and take for it to work.
The relationships we have with our clients and fans work the same way. If we provide value for people, they’ll want to reciprocate. But if you’re like a needy, clingy boyfriend or girlfriend that takes and takes but never gives, it won’t be long before your ass gets dumped.