Do you want to have an enduring and significant impact on the world and its culture? Do you want to be widely admired by your peers? Do you want to build a track record of being successful in a variety of different ways? And do you want to be successful through multiple generations and industry cycles? If you’ve answered yes to these questions then according to Jerry Porras in a talk he gave on leadership at the Graduate School of Business Stanford University, you are talking about building a “built to last” company that will endure the test of time and remain significant and relevant.

Many musicians want to do these things.  Wouldn’t it be great to have your music make a lasting impact on the world, and win a Grammy?  What would it be like if your music touched the lives of people for generations to come? People like Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Etta James, and Elvis still have an impact on people’s lives and incomes long after they have “left the building.” The question is what things can you do to become the kind of artist and leader who will lead your company into becoming a built to last company and not just a company that does well while you’re around?  Mr. Porras suggests that the first thing you should do is define and express your personal vision.  He suggests that this task requires three things.

  1. You must clarify who you are and what you want. If you don’t know the “why” you are doing what you’re doing then the rough times ahead in your career may push your ship off course.My voice teacher Maestro David Kyle used to tell me that, “I must keep my goals in front of me like a ship sailing toward the horizon. The horizon is such a big goal that the ship never reaches it, but it always has a direction and a reason to sail in that particular direction.” The horizon is your “why” or the reason you keep sailing even in rough seas. Goals are a fine thing to have and in the short term, knowing your goals will work. However, in the long-term goals often fall short when it comes to keeping people motivated.  Why you are doing something becomes much more important to your success than the list of short-term goals you have set for yourself. If your goal is to become a star because you want to be successful, that may or may not carry you through the difficult times in your career.  However, if you want to become a star because you want to use your influence to help children or raise money to keep music in schools, then you will be able to keep moving forward through the difficult times in your life and career.  Your “why” is a much more powerful and motivational factor in your life because it involves something bigger than yourself.
  2. The second thing Porras suggests is that you uncover your core values. Core values are those things that you won’t violate for any reason.They are the things that guide and regulate your behavior.  If honesty is one of your core values then working with people or in a company that has dishonest business practices will be an uncomfortable and unimaginative place for you to work.  When you are building your team, you must surround yourself with people who have similar core values, or you will always be at odds and your internal communications will not be effective.  Let’s say you would rather be known as someone who quietly works behind the scenes in humanitarian organizations because humility is one of your core values, but your social media director values superiority.  They may blast your work with these organizations across all your social media platforms because they think they are making a positive statement about you.  To you, this may seem like arrogance and vanity rather than the real reason you do this work.  You may think this publicity puts you in a negative light where your social media director thinks this makes you look positive and uplifting.  Sometimes core values will limit your behavior and the actions you are willing to take.  It’s essential to understand what’s really driving you and the team you are building around you. A personal word about core values.  It has been my experience that many times peoples core values and their behaviors can be at odds.  Here are just a few core values: acceptance, altruism, balance, fairness, freedom, responsibility, ambition, generosity, comfort, compassion, health, joy, creativity, security, dependability, love, loyalty, passion, peace, enjoyment, excellence and power. You can see how holding some of these simultaneously might create a problem.  Peace and power. Security and Freedom. Dependability and enjoyment. Health and comfort.  Not only is it vital for you to know your core values, but it’s essential for you to figure out what your behavior is actually telling you about which values you are making a priority.
  3. And lastly, he talks about creating “big, hairy, audacious goals.” Goals that really stretch you and challenge you to change and step outside your comfort zone. I call those “horizon goals.”  Reaching them won’t be easy or quick, and it may require you to make drastic adjustments in your life.  I believe people are most happy when they are making progress.  The giant “horizon goals” may be unattainable in your present situation but setting intermediate goals or chunks of goals that keep moving you in that direction will fulfill your need for progress and improvement and will keep your ship on course. Many people use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. to help them develop a goal plan that will keep them moving in the right direction.
  1. S – Make it specific. Design a clear and detailed list of what you want.
  2. M – Make it measurable.If you can’t see your progress, you may get discouraged and give up.
  3. A – Make it achievable. The horizon goal may be too big, but if you divided it into manageable parts, you would consistently move toward the    ultimate goal.
  4. R – Make it realistic. You may want to focus on freedom, but to get that you must first focus on responsibility.
  5. T – Make it in a time-frame. Give yourself actual dates and times in which to achieve this part of your goal.

Besides knowing who you are and what you want, uncovering your core values and goal setting, Mr. Porras said there are two more things that “built to last” companies have in common. They have 1.) a well-defined core ideology and 2.) a passion for change.  He suggests that this yin and yang duality is necessary to build lasting success.  You must know who you are and be completely willing to try new things as long as they don’t violate your core ideologies. Core ideologies do limit your choices, but there is still a wide range and variety within the scope of what you can attempt.  The companies that are enduring and extraordinary do both of these things successfully. He suggests that core ideologies are your purpose and core values that are unchanging and make you who you are. They are the things that drive you and the company you’re building to keep fighting to achieve the goals you have continually set out in front of you.  A passion for change encompasses learning, experimenting, stretching yourself, and taking risks.  It’s been my experience that many artists view themselves one-dimensionally.  I am a singer or musician, and that’s all I do because that’s all I’m good at.  They put themselves into this little box, and they never venture outside of that vision of themselves.   It is important for artists to understand that they and their careers will evolve and change throughout their lifetime.  I have seen many unhappy artists who eventually leave the business feeling like a failure because they didn’t achieve that “one thing” they thought they should.  Even if you do achieve the “one thing” you’ve been dreaming of, it may be different than you thought when you actually get there.  People are always most happy if all of those things we do and achieve line up with our core values.  Careers evolve, and you can be in the music industry in many different ways.  Figure out what are your core values in life and what you must do to be happy and fulfilled.  Then look around at the multitude of things you can incorporate into your life that will help you achieve those goals.  There is no “one path” in the music industry that every artist will walk, but what a beautiful tapestry your journey will create; if you know who you are and are willing to learn, experiment, challenge yourself and take some risks.