A few years ago I was talking to Mike, a struggling producer in the music industry. Most of Mike’s income is derived from custom projects — independent artists paying for their own sessions while angling to get their big break.
Mike’s job, as producer, is to get the most out of each song, giving it the best possible sound. There’s more to a great song than writing a great song; the recording process — arrangement and production — also plays a vital role. That’s what Mike does.
However, he made a comment that took me by surprise.
He told me that once he finishes a project, he never goes back to it. It goes on the shelf and he never hears it again.
I asked him, “If you don’t listen to — and evaluate — your previous work, how do you spot your mistakes? How do you get better at what you do?”
He said, “To be honest, there’s not a whole lot left for me to learn in the studio. I’m already as good as I need to be. I just need better clients.”
Frankly, this is probably why he’s still in the “stuggling” category. He thinks he’s as good as he needs to be. Over the years he has amassed all this engineering / production knowledge — and now he thinks it’s enough.
A Lesson from the Best
In comparison, I recently read an interview with Bono (U2) in Rolling Stone, talking about their new tour. He made a comment in passing about the first few shows:
“I had some technical difficulties with my in-ear monitors…I’ve listened back and I did a pretty good job in pitch terms.”
Interesting that after more than 30 years of owning the pop world, after playing to some of the largest audiences ever assembled, Bono is still evaluating his performances.
Why would he do that?
My guess is that, even now, excellence remains a priority. And he believes he can get better. And he believes his audience is worth the effort.
What this means for you and me.
Many public speakers — preachers among them — are more like Mike than Bono. They honestly think that they’re as good as they need to be. They deliver a speech or preach a sermon and never look back, never consider how it could have been better.
The good news is that, as a member of this course, you’re more like Bono than Mike. I encourage you, then, to continue your pursuit of excellence.
Even the best among us can get better. And our listeners are worth it.