Why It’s Never Too Late to Reinvent Yourself
January 5, 2016
If you’ve ever met me in person or had a conversation with me over social media, we very likely discussed marketing and probably touched on music as well. Those are two of my passions and I never get tired of talking about either of them. If you mention the music industry, then you’ll probably hear me go on a small rant about how the major labels are to blame for the mess and how disappointed I was when I left the business back in 2009.
It was very depressing to see an industry that I loved so much completely fall apart. When most industries get disrupted they tend to adapt and it usually works out for the better. In this case, it was just a disaster all around. My point is that after 12 years at the only professional job I ever had, I was 36 years old and as Iron Maiden would say, “A Stranger in a Strange Land.”
I was living in San Francisco amongst a sea of innovation and a workforce lead by technology marketers. I was a small fish in a very big pond and I truly felt like I had no direction and that the last decade of my life had prepared me for nothing. The music biz fought digital instead of embracing it, and as much as I tried to change the business by bringing new ideas to the table, my efforts continued to fall on deaf ears.
So what did I do? I panicked. I looked to Gene Simmons who famously, or not so famously said, “It’s your responsibility to never stop learning.” I found out that Sony had a tuition reimbursement program and I decided to take advantage. I started to pursue my master’s degree online in business, but this was going to take several years to complete. I was in need of a more immediate solution. After a bit more research, I discovered that University of California at Berkeley offered extension courses. You could get a certificate in digital marketing in less than a year with their accelerated courses.
The decision was easy: stay in the music biz for another four years while pursuing my masters or dive right in and build up some digital chops that could immediately be applied to the current digital marketplace. Obviously I did the latter and it was the best decision I ever made. After I completed the program it was time to start networking. It’s not a cliché at all that relationships matter in the tightly knit community of digital marketing across the globe. I identified my marketing heroes and then went after them diligently. Going to conferences, meetups, and pretty much any other event where I could meet other professionals and build relationships.
It took a little while to get some traction with this method, but I will tell you that building a network from the ground up is the best way to do it. Because you have no expectations and every new connection is celebrated equally. Then when you least expect it, something magical happens and it all comes together.
That’s when someone took a chance on an ambitious marketer in their mid thirties who hustled to build up a digital online presence that started with a blog on the free Blogger platform. (Which has now evolved into www.rocknrollcocktail.com, but you have to start somewhere, and the important part is that you start now). One thing led to another and I was on my way. My first gig turned into my next and in just a few short years I was keynoting conferences alongside the thought leaders whose books I had consumed voraciously in my quest to master my craft.
There seems to be a trend of folks posting to social media, “stop telling marketers to hustle” which is simply not true. If you want to get ahead in this incredibly competitive digital marketing space, then you absolutely have to hustle. What does that mean exactly? Learn something new everyday, solve problems and write about it, then share it everywhere, network like crazy and don’t take no for an answer.
If you are happy with a 9-5 gig, binge watching Game of Thrones, playing video games on your cell phone, and periscoping all day long, that’s just fine. Have a great time. But if you want to transform your career and your life, then you have to hustle every day. It’s that simple. You are going to need two things in order to be successful: a very understanding, supportive partner, and a creative mind that never turns off. If you have the passion, everything else can be learned.
I had successfully reinvented myself and changed my life for the better. I met my beautiful wife, have a gorgeous little girl, a career that I am proud of, an Amazon #1 Best Selling Book (with another personal memoir to follow shortly), and I’m now teaching that very Digital Marketing course at UC Berkeley that started everything. The only regret I have is that fact that I am still deeply disappointed in the music business for not adapting quicker. But as my wife tells me every time it comes up, you have to let it go. I think I’ll do that now.
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