Most of us get hooked on music in a similar way. We hear a song, a singer, or a band, that we fall in love with and we pick-up the drums, a guitar, bass, piano or other instrument to learn the songs we are obsessed with.
Either we take formal lessons or end up teaching ourselves through tabs and repetition (I did a little of both). We familiarize ourselves with chord progressions, scales, and song structures (ABABCB). We find other people that like the same type of music we do but play different instruments and start practicing together. Very quickly you realize that unless you want to just perform as a cover band, you need to write your own music. The songs start out sounding almost exactly like the bands you idolize until your sound matures and you are able to get the wide exposure, confidence, and self-awareness to write with your own voice.
I’m convinced that my experience songwriting is the single most-powerful practice I use as an entrepreneur.
Songwriting is all about transcending your influences and finding your own voice. You need to study the greats, but ultimately you need to blend them with your unique style and create something that’s authentically your own. Marcel Proust would translate entire novels into other languages to become intimately familiar with the author’s sentence structure and story composition. But it wasn’t until he wrote In Search of Lost Time that the world paid attention.
Similarly with a startup - you are meeting with mentors, advisors, peers, co-founders, customers, and team members each and every day. You are studying the companies that are farther ahead than you and reading about company cultures, teams, and practices that are working for other businesses. Ultimately, however, you can’t just mimic Google’s 20% time or any other headline. You need to make your own decisions, transcend your influences, and find your own voice.