As an artist I’ve always taken great pride in my work and when I’m composing and performing I couldn’t care less about my profit margin. I’m focused strictly on the music itself and what I have to give to my audience. But I learned in my first year of full-time touring that I was an entrepreneur and small business owner in a highly competitive industry. I understood that if I wanted to grow my business (which I wanted to do both for my family and to increase my opportunity to make more music), I would need to pay attention to every facet of my company just like any CEO. I have common ground with every CEO I meet. One thing we all agree on is that at the core of any company is the integrity of our product. If our product, be it an item or a service, does not perform as we say it does, then we have lost product integrity.
That’s the blinding truth I had to face – I had lost all integrity of my product. To make it worse, I had experienced the humiliation of losing my product integrity in front of thousands of people on stage all by myself! I’ve always loved to share the stage with a full band. I’ve recorded many CDs with my own group and others. That’s how I started out – playing in bands. Not many guitarists want to or are capable of performing as a soloist, especially a solo instrumentalist. Sure there are endless singer-songwriters who strum and sing-along. In this setting the guitar is merely a backdrop to the melody, which is provided by a second source. I was getting booked as a solo instrumentalist where all the chords, all the rhythm and all the melody came from just ten fingers and six strings. I rose to the top of the heap of these highly proficient and amazingly talented soloists based on the integrity of my product. People loved my guitar playing and expected me to play the heck out of it in-person, like I did on the recordings. It was awful to experience the loss of my music in front of so many deserving audiences.
What happens when a company or an individual experiences a total loss of integrity? Most of us reach for coffee or something else to drink and sunglasses or something else to keep us from looking at the truth. It hurts too much. It’s too bright a light. Like being naked in public – which scares me to death! Actually playing guitar badly in public scares me even more. Because I had no other way to support my family, I kept doing it until I finally realized I was doing more harm than good. I had to take off the shades and see the truth that my music, my concerts, and my income would never be worth having until I could restore the integrity of my product. You don’t have to be a musician to know when a musician is having an off night. Even little kids can tell when something is out of tune.
We all know when we believe in what is going on around us. When our team believes, when our spouse believes, when our nation believes, then we can make progress for our future. I had no hope at any progress until the most blinding truth came in the words of a neurologist. After years of alternative therapies, trying everything from acupuncture to deep tissue massage to yoga and meditation, I finally began to think I had a brain tumor. What else could account for such tremendous uncontrollable clenching in my hand? Nobody really wants to go to a neurologist. I didn’t. But it began to dawn on me, like my mom used to tell me growing up, that “William, your biggest problem is between your ears!!!”