How The Mighty Fall

I just finished Jim Collins’ truly enlightening book, “How The Mighty Fall”. It’s a short read covering the five steps to an organization’s decline, and is one of the best books I’ve read in a LONG time. It’s just too good not to share, so below are some quick notes I took while reading:

How the Mighty Fall


1. Hubris Born Of Success

  • Biggest mistake is confusing what and why
  • “We’re successful because of what we do so well” replaces “we’re successful because we understand why we do specific things, and under the conditions in which they would no longer work.

2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More

  • Leaders stray away from the key to success: disciplined creativity
  • The company dives into areas where they cannot be excellent or are outside the scope of work that made them successful to begin with

3. Denial of Risk and Peril

  • The company and its leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data

4. Grasping For Salvation

  • Leaders panic, and begin to take bold leads into unknown/unmastered territory, look for mergers/acquisitions, and pursue untested strategies.
  • Only hope left at this stage is to go back to disciplined creativity

5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death


  • You can be profitable and bankrupt. You pay your bills with cash.
  • The best leaders feel a sense of urgency in both good and bad times.
  • Recovery lies in sound strategic thinking.


“Circumstances alone do not determine outcomes. We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes or our staggering defeats. We are freed by our choices.”

“The point of struggle is not just to survive, but to build an enterprise that makes such a distinctive impact on the world it touches, and does so with such superior performance, that it would leave a gaping hole – a hole that could not be easily filed by any other institution – if it ceased to exist.”


1) Why Ignoring Labels is the Best Way To Get Signed

2) The Golden Circle: Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?


Learning From: The Airline Industry

At this point, people basically expect a bad experience when flying. The entire process – from your first steps out of the car to getting in your seat on the plane – is a truly frustrating, annoying, and often frantic process.

If you think hard about it, though, it really is not the long lines, expensive amenities, or high chance of a flight delay that makes the process so painful. Ultimately, it’s the customer service experience that does it, and there are two key factors we can learn from here.


Everyone knows how important first impressions are. In business, in music, in relationships, in anything. But for some reason most companies seem to ignore this when determining who their customer service reps will be. To put the most unintelligent, incompetent, or drained/defeated personalities at your front desks, answering your phones, and helping your customers (specifically in an industry full of customer complaints like this one), makes no sense to me. A first impression is so, so, so critical – and it’s worth investing in the people or materials necessary to make your brand’s first impression a great one.


If the entire frustrating travel process were identical, except you felt like the customer service representatives genuinely cared about you, it would not be nearly as bad. There is an overwhelming feeling of being a statistic when traveling. When a flight is canceled or delayed several hours, there is absolutely zero sense of apology or hospitality exchanged. The customer service rep understandably can’t care about each flight cancelation, and I’m not suggesting they put up an “RIP Flight 4950” sign when a flight is canceled. But I am saying that if there was even the slightest form of either systematic or personal apology from a brand when they cause an extreme inconvenience for a customer that is already paying tons of money to be there, it would make a massive difference.

If any airline were to truly step up and make changes in these directions, their customer loyalty would skyrocket, and they would immediately become everyone’s favorite airline.


1) “Your Customer Service Experience”

2) “Daytrotter: How Community and Value Can Trump Cheap”

A Few Reminders For Artists

  • Being a musician is not an excuse to be irresponsible or disorganized.
  • Music spreads through conversation and sharing.
  • The internet connects like-minded people, no matter how small the niche.
  • Managers can only work as hard as their artist.
  • The “average person” spends 40+ hours per week working.
  • You must give people a reason to listen to your music.
  • Social media is not a “necessary evil”. It is the best way to communicate with your fans.
  • Success = Preparation + Opportunity. Can you honestly say you’re preparing?
  • Do you have a story worth telling?
  • Focus on the key platforms that amplify your strengths – don’t try to do everything at once.
  • Press helps develop your story.
  • You are not entitled to paying gigs based on talent; you earn them as you build an audience.
  • Stop blaming record labels, other gatekeepers, or people who “just don’t get it”.
  • Don’t get lost somewhere in the middle; focus on the edges.
  • Fans love being acknowledged.
  • Managers are not assistants.
  • Transparent, authentic one-on-one interaction always win.
  • Real success comes from brave, painful, concentrated effort.

“Only Then Do We Sign Our Work”

The first two minutes of this video are absolute gold. This is poetry. Click below to watch.

Only then do we sign our work

if everyone

is busy making everything

how can anyone perfect anything?

we start to confuse convenience

with joy


with choice

designing something requires


the first thing we ask is:

“what do we want people to feel?”





then we begin to craft around our intention.

it takes time…

there are a thousand no’s

for every yes.

we simplify

we perfect

we start over

until every thing we touch enhances each life it touches.

only then do we sign our work.


1) A Body of Work

2) Exponential Habit and Fear

John Mackey: Conscious Capitalism

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, is known as an advocate for what he calls “Conscious Capitalism”. Here’s a fantastic summary video of his line of thinking, where value and purpose are the top priority, and profit is simply the item allowing you to continually expand those priorities.

This is similar to last week’s “Advice to Innovators” video from Jack Dorsey, in the sense that artists can learn from entrepreneurs. Some artists may have a tough time watching this and seeing the connections to their music, but the connection is definitely there, and it’s worth the challenge.


1) Advice to Innovators

2) Your Customer Service Experience

Horizontal vs. Vertical Strategy

I touched on this in yesterday’s post, but wanted to elaborate on when I claimed that premature expansion was dangerous. As a new artist/band, the variety of areas available to pursue often feels unbearable. Here are just a few possible priorities:

  • Writing music
  • Creating Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud, Instagram, Pinterest, and Bandcamp profiles
  • Holding consistent Twitter conversations
  • Designing merchandise
  • Rehearsing
  • Configuring Facebook apps
  • Booking shows
  • Designing logos, artwork, etc.
  • Recording
  • Filming music videos
  • Booking photo shoots
  • Determining image

A common mistake is when a new artist tries to do all of these things at once. This “horizontal” approach leaves you dabbling in each area, without seeing or feeling a true sense of arrival.

The alternative to the horizontal approach is, as you may have guessed, a vertical approach. With the vertical mindset, you begin by identifying the core areas you want to focus on. Once identified, create a thorough plan – both long and short term – for each area, and then devote all of your time to executing that plan, while consistently adjusting, learning and improving. [It’s important to note that the key to all of this is a combination of patience and focus. It might take a year before you are successful enough in one area to pursue the next.]

As you begin to see results in these first few areas, you can then stack a new piece onto that, and focus fanatically on the success of that specific layer. As this unfolds, you will find yourself making a large splash in each field, rather than dipping your toe in the water and seeing if anyone notices a ripple.

Water Ripple

The Power of Focus and the Danger of Expansion

A common reason small businesses fail is premature expansion. Expansion is dangerous until you have an infrastructure so solid that you are truly confident in your business model, and have proven success. For example, a local barber shop may have a single location for a few years before opening its second shop. This is because those first few years are an ongoing learning period to develop systems, and generally figure out what works and what doesn’t, for their specific company. Then, and only then, will they expand.

An artist is no different. If you start your band by making a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr and official website, while having shirts made, contacting blogs, filming music videos, recording, and booking live shows, there is absolutely zero chance you will be devoting enough time to any of those things for them to become a sturdy platform to launch from. It will hurt you in the end.

As an alternative, consider focusing on one or two aspects, and become the best in the world at them. Begin by identifying which of those fields represent the project best. Next, identify the key platforms, on or offline, that will amplify these fields. Finally, very gradually and only once results begin to shine, start adding new elements to the scope of your work.

Master one piece at a time, and slowly build your project, rather than throwing everything out there and seeing what sticks.



1) Two Common Gigging Errors For New Bands

2) Prioritizing the Minutia