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Everyone usually knows their strengths, but how many recognize their limitations?  How many people go anywhere without helping someone else other than themselves?


I know my limitations because I have a lot of them.  I am not so much a creative person as I am a good problem solver.  This is because I was trained to solve problems in one way or another.  Usually this was either formal university training or being mentored by a professional who knew what they were doing.


I generally write in the first person about myself and my experiences because it is an easy way to explain things in an easy understandable manner.  This is not complicated academic theory.


Everything, every thing, I have ever had success with involved helping someone else to achieve what they wanted.  This is very simple but very important.


I was trained to be a lead guitarist by older musicians because I knew a little bit about it whereas they knew a lot.  I deliberately looked for a working band upon leaving college.  I never wanted to form another act like The Beatles.  This is because I had a realistic goal.  It was not becoming rich and famous but to travel, to have an adventure, and not work a day job.  Music was ONE of the ways I achieved my goal.  Being a backup player for someone else helped them and gave me a job at the same time.


You probably have noticed the word “Adventure” occurs quite often in my writing.  This is because all I ever wanted was to have a different lifestyle and I did achieve what I set out to do.  I retired 5 years ago at 65 comfortably, not wealthy, but secure.  I was happy doing what I did.


I play guitar, keyboards, bass, and added drums only last year after taking Sheila E’s online course.  I have known many technically better guitarists and can only barely play piano at a professional level.  I sing only well enough to do one or two songs to give the lead vocalist a break during a show.  However I can do one thing extremely well.


I can pick up a Les Paul, then lay down a very simple, but powerful, lead guitar line revolving around the melody of a song which elicits a good response from an audience.  This is what I was trained to do by older more experienced musicians.  I can support a vocalist with concise playing, step forward to lay down a strong, simple, solo then step back again to support the vocalist.  That’s it.  I know my place.  I achieved my goal by supporting someone else.


I am not a good songwriter, that was never my goal.  However I know how to make someone else’s song work really well.  This is not because I am brilliantly creative but it is a skill I learned playing live with better musicians and being university trained in Record Production at UCLA.  I know how to make an average song sound good and a good song sound great.  I did not invent the wheel, this was something I was taught how to do.


My primary skill in a studio is TALKING.  That is correct, not playing but talking about what to do with the song.  I have worked on many more studio songs than I have ever actually played on myself.  This is because I was taught in the traditional manner of production recording at a university in 1992.  What many people do now is different than the traditional method.


The METHOD I was TAUGHT is acting as a cog in a wheel.  This means listening to a song, then acting as an intermediary between the artist, the band, and the engineer.  Sometimes the artist and the band were the same but usually not.  My skill is to act as an arranger and musical director who knows how to tell an engineer what to do.


I have never worked with a name act or someone with a big budget.  I never cared.  I was happy  to let someone else have the glory.  I just wanted to work and go home knowing I did a good job for what I was paid.  There is a whole lot less pressure to produce some unknown’s debut than to having whomever the employer is expecting to have a hit record.   I also hope my dedication to doing a good job helped at least one of these artists.


Knowing your limitations works in your favor.  Having a small success is better than having no success at all.  Few people become music stars, but many people make money with music.  Music was only one of the avenues I used to reach my goal although they all were in sync with my original goal as part of a system.


Everything I have ever done is because I was trained to do it by someone else, learned from them, and then did it.  This is a very simple concept.  I added power to my package by being eager to help other people to succeed.


I know my limitations and built upon my real strength.  That strength is not Music.  It is I am an eager learner and can see the bigger picture.  Trying to achieve anything on your own, concentrating only on what you already know, being focused only on yourself, people usually go nowhere.  Learning, then doing, then cooperating with others to achieve THEIR goal works really well.


Edited by Clay Anderson Johnson

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Well said. Perhaps such insights can only percolate then crystalise after many years of experience and self-analysis.


It was only in my 40's that I gave up trying to 'fit in', career-wise and socially.  I realised my own strengths were in being:

  • a loner
  • a jack-of-all-trades (musically and otherwise),
  • comfortable with logic, planning and management,
  • able to work hard and all hours.
  • agreeing a job rather than just receiving instructions,
  • able to bank on remaining healthy enough to complete whatever I set out to do,
  • confident in my skills,
  • resolute and NOT biting tongue when discussing options
  • distant enough to see the trivial and funny side of everything, regardless of prevailing emotions

As a result:

  • the crippling headaches throughout my adulthood just disappeared
  • I slept well and looked forward to the day every morning
  • I finally embarked on a productive musical journey when I turned 50 (4 albums, 54 tracks)

It's such a shame that children and young adults aren't given the confidence to identify and work with their strengths.  Instead, society is still hell bent on hammering round pegs into square holes.  More accountants and lawyers, anyone?


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35 minutes ago, GregB said:

It's such a shame that children and young adults aren't given the confidence to identify and work with their strengths.  Instead, society is still hell bent on hammering round pegs into square holes.  More accountants and lawyers, anyone?


I had two Colonels in my parents generation, one Army and one Air Force, and my mother's family was deeply religious.  Their expectations of me were to be either a military officer or an evangelist.


I rebelled in an unusual manner by going into Fine Arts in Theater.  I had dual BFA programs one in Playwriting, the other in Stagecraft, a combination of Sound, Lighting, and Set Design.  I started playing Music because I did it for fun in college bands and other people thought I was good at it.


I switched directions after college uponI realizing Theater was even a smaller career opportunity than Music.  However it came useful later as I was trained in theatrical production for doing live events.  So I basically got "schooled" again by playing with professional people rather than attempting to start a band with amateurs like I had in college and fumbling around.


Most people don't realize that training, in its many different forms, is a shortcut.  You then can leapfrog over problems others struggle with for years.  What professional musicians taught me was not complexity and virtuosity but the power of simplicity.  Keep things simple but powerful to hit an audience on an emotional level.  Emotion is the name of the game.

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