Last week I met John Ford Coley at a party and really enjoyed talking with him. John is an interesting guy who told me that he gives two pieces of advice to musicians who are new to Nashville. The things he said could be beneficial to a person in just about any industry, so I thought I would share them here.
He said that there are basically two rules that you need to follow. My apologies to John for not remembering his exact wording, but here’s the general sense of what he said to me:
1. Don’t say anything negative about anyone else.
You might think that you’re “safe” talking about someone behind their back, but these things have a way of coming back on you. The person you’re talking with might even agree with you or might not have contact with the person you’re talking about, but it’s very likely that the person you talked to will talk to someone else. Nashville really is a small town and word gets around. Even if you work in a larger city, most professions have small communities and if you badmouth one of the members of that community it’s likely to get back to the person or to someone who knows the person. If you talk negatively about other people you may be burning bridges you didn’t know existed because eventually no one wants to talk with you.
2. Don’t get upset if someone less qualified or less talented gets a job that you thought you deserved.
This is a difficult one because in just about any profession you’ll see hacks making a lot of money doing poor quality work while more talented individuals get ignored. However, griping doesn’t change the situation and only makes you look bad. You may not like the work that someone else is doing, but calling attention to that person’s deficits will only make you bitter and appear less attractive to work with. Let it go and realize that your time will come. We can’t all be successful at the same time or in the same way, so be glad for someone else when their star shines. Eventually it will be your turn and hopefully others will be just as gracious with you.
John has a lot of maturity and wisdom. He knows that it takes more than talent to make it in any industry – it also takes being the sort of person that other people want to be around. Take the time to develop your skills, but also develop your character because even the best qualified people can’t be successful alone.