In my life, I have performed with the Florida Symphony, the Oakland California Symphony, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and was an associate member of the Chicago Symphony. Now, I work in consulting and have more than 20 years of business experience with specializations in leadership, strategic planning, and organization and process improvement. In a way, music is a lot like business, and during my transition from full-time musician to full-time business executive and consultant, I noticed a few parallels.
Here are four things I learned from performing music that helped me succeed in my business career and I believe they can help you, too:
1. Practice makes perfect.
You cannot be great at anything if you do not practice first. Someone who wants to run a business must start at the beginning—learn how the business operates and what makes it successful. Just as musicians must practice scales, technique, analysis, and performance, an aspiring business executive must practice their planning, management, and communication skills before they can be successful.
2. Learn from your mistakes.
Even with extensive practice, mistakes can be made. When performing, musicians are taught to make mistakes big and loud—as in if one happens, own it, and if you are given the opportunity to take a risk, take it! I have found this to be true in business as well. When you put everything you have out there, the risks you make will likely show. If you are shy, your skills will not strengthen and your work will not develop. Don’t let a bad performance, on stage or in the office, get you down—instead, turn it into a learning experience.
3. Surround yourself with the best people.
To be a successful musician or business executive, you need to have support. If you can, find a good teacher or mentor or attend a good school. As a musician, I learned how valuable it can be to have someone to work with who understands my journey and will allow me to make my mistakes while teaching me what they know. This is true in business, too. Learning from the best at your job or leaning on your coworkers for support will only make you better.
4. Don’t forget to listen.
In the executive coaching sessions I’ve participated in, I have learned that listening is often one of the biggest weaknesses in team-building exercises. Humans naturally want to talk more than they want to listen, and often they do not take the time and energy to understand others. As a musician, I had to practice listening. I learned to listen for details in order to understand what a composer was trying to accomplish. By doing this in music, I naturally became a listener in business, too. Over the years, I have learned not only to listen but to convey my understanding of what I have heard—something that is also of great use to me in the corporate world.
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