[Transcript] Episode 078 – Noa Kageyama
Transcript: Episode 078 – Noa Kageyama
078 – Noa Kageyama on Building a Personally Fulfilling Business
Today’s guest got an early start as a violinist studying with none other than THE Dr. Suzuki – founder of the Suzuki method. Everything was on track for his performance career when he took a class at Juilliard that exposed him to sports performance psychology and the trajectory of his career shifted.
Today he’s sharing the startup story of his blog, The Bulletproof Musician. He talks about how he thought he had run out of content ideas after the first month of writing, but has managed to keep finding interesting things to share more than 10 years later. Today the blog has expanded into a variety of work and now serves as his primary source of income.
Here’s my conversation with Noa:
Andrea: Hi Noa. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
Noa: Sure. My name is Noa Kageyama. I am a violinist turned performance psychologist. I’d say that I’m now a retired violinist. I haven’t played in maybe 15 to 20 years at this point. But what I do mostly involves teaching musicians and other performing artists how to use all of the research and sports psychology to handle nerves a little more effectively and perform more up to everyone’s potential under pressure on stage when it matters.
Andrea: And people might know you from your blog and other outlets. Can you talk to us about how you have made a name for yourself in this field?
Noa: Sure. I started this blog in 2009 and it wasn’t even called the Bulletproof Musician back then. It had a bunch of hyphens in it and it’s really like version one of me trying to do something online back when it wasn’t common to be doing that. And eventually, it ended up turning into this blog called The Bulletproof Musician and then I started writing things and putting it online back in July of 2009. July 8 of 2009 was the first thing that went up.
Andrea: That’s my first day.
Noa: Oh, no kidding.
Andrea: Great day to start a blog.
Noa: Yes. And I was relatively consistent about writing the first month and then it was sporadic for a little while and it really didn’t become a regular weekly thing until maybe like 2010-2011. It took me a little while to build it up but yeah, I didn’t really know what it would turn into or what exactly I was trying to do but I saw that there were some other people blogging and they were using it as a way to help people and provide useful information or advice but also as a way to get clients and opportunities to do presentations and so forth and I was like “Oh, that will be kind of nice and I don’t really know anything about marketing or how to get my name out there and I don’t mind writing things that people might find useful so let me try to listen.
So I read some other blogs about that kind of thing and I read some books and I remember I was in the basement, the piano room. My wife is a pianist and she was practicing and I was on my laptop trying to figure out WordPress and had it like put together some sort of a home designed logo type of thing for the header and how to make that happen and she was like “Shouldn’t you be working or maybe trying to get a client” or something like that. This is like in the early days when I didn’t really have anything organized in my life and I was like “No, this is what people do I think.” And so she was sort of shaking her head and said, “Okay, have fun playing on your laptop.” And so we still remember that and kind of look back on it as one of those moments where we couldn’t know what we’re getting into but it was kind of the start of something interesting and fun.
Andrea: Yeah, well it has come a long way since that. And how about the field of performance psychology, I mean, you talked about you’re taking like sports things. Was anyone really applying sports psychology or sports performance psychology to music at that time or was that kind of your own addition to the field?
Noa: No, like this was certainly going on but I think quietly because there wasn’t– I mean, the internet existed obviously but it wasn’t quite as widespread as it is now and ubiquitous and like the iPhone didn’t exist yet and so forth. So Don Greene was the person who I first met who was really specializing more in applying sports psychology to musicians and he was teaching this class at Juilliard that I took when I was a student there and that’s how I was introduced to this field called sports psychology which I wasn’t aware of either.
And then as I started doing more digging it turns out there are other people who have been kind of pushing for a more general or universal application of sports psychology research to other domains. So Kate Hayes is another sports psychologist who is based in Toronto who had been writing books and papers and chapters and so forth on performing arts in particular and how sports psychology could be useful there. So it’s definitely happening. I just wasn’t aware of it and I don’t think a lot of other people were aware of it either.
Andrea: And the class that you took at Juilliard was actually sports psychology? They didn’t try to make it music-related even?
Noa: So I guess back then the division of the American Psychological Association that is devoted to this kind of thing was its division of sports and exercise psychology I believe it was and now Kate Hayes is actually one of the people that was involved in pushing for a more general title. It’s something now more like sport exercise and performance psychology. So they have incorporated performance into the kind of umbrella of what it is. And I think the reason why it’s generally known as sports psychology even though it’s all kind of the same is that there’s generally a lot more money to study athletics than it is to study musicians. So unfortunately, it is very applicable, I mean, to me it is. There is a little bit of translation required but even amongst different sports like you have to find a way to translate things that work for divers or to tennis players or Formula One racers. I mean, there are certainly many differences between the sports to say there are between instruments and like singing versus piano versus instrumentals. So yeah, I find that actually part of what makes it fun because then you get to kind of find ways of translating it in ways that are meaningful and useful to different people.
Andrea: So you started this blog and was it– what was your vision for it at the time? Was it to get clients in this field? Tell us about your vision.
Noa: It wasn’t a very clearly defined vision which is let me start doing this and see if it helps me get some attention that might lead to some clients. I think one of the things that helped me push myself to continue to do it is the thought that with nothing else, maybe someday if I force myself to write regularly that will turn into a material that I could turn into a book perhaps. That was kind of in the back of my head. Maybe that will be some motivation for the future.
Andrea: Can you describe what all is encompassed by your business today?
Noa: Now it still is largely centered around the blog, I mean, weekly posts. Once a month I now do an interview with someone in the music field or research field or athletic field, but all the other weeks are articles that are based off of studies that I find that seemed intriguing to me and potentially useful and applicable to musicians and teachers. Maybe a couple of years ago I started just recording the idea of those things in addition to the monthly interviews and turned it into kind of a hybrid podcast sort of thing. So now there’s the podcast and there also used to be just one online course but now there are a few different things starting to pop up that are devoted to essentially learning how to develop these mental skills that athletes had been using for many, many years and musicians, I think, are increasingly starting to use as well.
Andrea: You know you talked about how at the beginning, like you’re really motivated that first month to keep writing and then it kind of waned as sometimes these things do. Looking back over the last because you’ve been at this now a decade, have there been moments that you noticed points of breakthrough like “Oh, I got to this point. It took a year to get to this point and then I had this breakthrough,” or maybe just times when it seemed like it was maybe easier than others but your consistent work throughout the year was laying the groundwork for that?
Noa: Yeah, I think part of what was difficult in the early going is after I wrote for a month and I wrote like four articles and I wasn’t sure to write about anymore. I was like “How am I going to do this? I feel like I’ve written about everything,” that like 4,000 words later I think I’m done. And obviously that wasn’t the case but it took me a while to figure out what my structure was, not just even in terms of writing but what my process would be and figuring out what to write about and so forth. So that probably took a couple of years, I mean, if you look back at the progression of the writing that I did, you can definitely see things evolve. I actually took dates off from the very beginning because I didn’t want people to feel like this was specific to a particular time and hopefully find things and see that they’re still relevant months or years later. So there is a secret page that’s not published or linked anywhere where people can go and actually kind of walk through from the very beginning like with the day and month and so forth. That’s Bulletproofmusician.com/archive, so like from an educational perspective just to see like how crappy things kind of were in the beginning and can kind of see where things started to look a little bit more like they look now and it didn’t happen very quickly. It took kind of a while. That’s why it’s not like a publicly published linked page but it’s not hidden or anything like that. I just haven’t told many people.
Andrea: There are times when I noticed this in my own businesses where it seems like it’s a slog for a while like it’s just work, work, work, work, work and no reward seeming to come from that work, and then all of a sudden I’ll hit a point where it feels easy but it’s really all that work I’ve been doing is just paying off. But can you remember any significant moments and like when they happened along the last decade?
Noa: Yeah. So I think the main one, honestly, is when I started having what felt like a more meaningful number of people actually reading. I didn’t even track it at first. I didn’t know how to so I just wrote stuff and I was like “Huh, this is weird.” It’s like I’m writing stuff, putting it out into the internet and I have no idea if anyone is reading it or not. I didn’t have any social share buttons or anything like that. I just feel like this doesn’t feel particularly meaningful. Maybe nobody is reading it other than my wife and my parents so then I started tracking things. And then I think of a lot of the early traffic was just like search engine bots like just crawling the internet so they weren’t real people and so I was like “Huh, that’s kind of a bummer.”
And then, I think finally one day I found that there was an actual person reading the blog like from Kansas or something. I was like “Oh, it’s like a real person. Look, how cool is that?” and then I didn’t even have an email list or anything at that time. I was just using RSS feeds if anyone even remembers that. And so when I started an email list people actually subscribed. I was like “Oh” and this is so like PPLs like who are these people? So I like put their email address into the Google search to find out if they’re real people or not and if there was ever like an edu address I was like, “Oh, that’s cool,” like it’s a student or it’s a teacher and I get excited.
So yeah, after I got past that initial like kind of stalker mentality, then I stopped looking because inevitably people start unsubscribing, right, and that kind of hurts because I worked so hard. So maybe the first thing was having a real person reading and then having real subscribers. And then the next moment I think was when I had the first article go viral like it actually got a significant amount of attention and this was one of the very first things I’ve written and like two years later someone shares it on Facebook and everyone starts reading it and liking it and that goes a little bit crazy and it’s still the number one article on the blog to this day even.
Andrea: What is the article?
Noa: It’s “How many hours a day should you practice?”
Andrea: I wonder if that was my introduction to your blog.
Noa: So that was probably like the last– I think that sort of like turning 21 like that’s like the last really big huge thing maybe because increasingly over the years, actually, I’ve gotten much better at not even bothering to look at how many people are subscribing every week. No reminder who was subscribing, let alone who’s unsubscribing. A normal Sunday for me is like 60, 70, 80 people unsubscribing to say “I don’t want to hear from you anymore” and it doesn’t feel like nothing but it’s like “Okay, that’s normal,” like you’ve decided that this is not right for you. So I get it like you can go off and find whatever it is actually more right for you and I won’t worry about it so much.
Andrea: Yeah so just like your level of care over what the meaning is of people unsubscribing is over the years.
Noa: Right and I just really try to focus more if this is something that I believe in that I think is meaningful and useful and hopefully someone will find beneficial and their teaching and their performing and their practicing and kind of satisfy myself of the kind of internal locus of evaluation as a psychologist would say.
Andrea: When did you realize that Bulletproof Musician could be its own business like you’ve got courses, you have speaking engagements, all of these sorts of things. When did that seem like a viable option?
Noa: It took quite a while. I was looking back at some past history of emails and so forth to try to remind myself what the process or journey looks like and I did write this ebook maybe in 2010 that about a year and I was like “You know what? Let me see if I can write something that people might find useful that I could sell,” and I think it might have been priced like $19 or something so like I could get a pizza on this place down the street and it’s like really cool when somebody actually bought it and I was like “Oh, that’s a real person buying pizza from me,” in such a way like I can get a pizza for the family and now it’s kind of exciting.
And then when I got my first email from someone who have bought that who’s really thankful and grateful and found it really useful, that was like even better. It’s like “Oh, cool.” This is some stranger whose life I was able to make some tiny difference and without ever having met them or done things in a normal way like we normally have to teach somebody live in person in our geographic area in order to be helpful and I thought that was pretty cool. But even that, it was like I’d get pizza money once a week or once every couple of weeks and that wasn’t kind of pay the rent or electricity or anything so I wasn’t sure about that and it was maybe… it was 2011 when I started teaching class at Julliard and starts developing all this material and I remember sitting in the hallway because that’s where my desk and office was in our one-bedroom apartment and here I can talk to my wife who was in the kitchen close enough to my “office” and I was like “You know, I’ve seen people do these online courses,” and this is before the days when like Teachable or when all these actual things existed. It was I don’t know exactly how people were doing it. It was like a zipped file full of videos and PDFs and audio files I think. I was like, I mean, I have all this material but I’m teaching my students and they seemed to like it okay like what would happen if I put this online.
And I was asking because it was like this is going to take a lot of time and energy and I could see it being kind of all-consuming like I don’t know if it’s going to be worth it at the end of the day like is anyone going to buy this thing and she didn’t have any answer either but I was like “You know what? I’ll just do it. I’ll try it,” and I was thinking “Oh you know I’ll get it done over the summer,” and of course it took way more time than that. It ended up being like nine months of I’d be waking up at 5:00 in the morning to record while the kids were still sleeping so you can hear them in the background and work on other stuff and into the wee hours of the night. All this said, I did eventually put it out there and in that first month obviously launches are a little bit different where there is a lot more excitement and then it kind of stabilizes to normal but after the launch, I think I made enough that we’re able to pay rent with just that on that first month and so I was like I don’t see this being sustainable like this at all but that was pretty awesome and maybe there is something here. And it wasn’t sustainable at that level but it did result in recurring sales and it was interesting. It took a while for the sales to be enough to regularly pay rent like it might have taken a few years even to get to that point but there was consistent growth.
I think it wasn’t like a moment where I was like “Oh this is a business, this is a thing.” It was like a long growing up period of several years. It was like “Is this a thing? Is this not a thing?” Okay, I just can’t trust it like it goes up and down like is this going to ever get somewhere? It was very ambiguous for quite a long time before I started getting some promise like “Okay, I can more or less trust and I’m still like there’s a part of me that’s not sure but there are enough years now. I can look back at the rear view mirror to feel a little bit more secure and then more and more people are doing it and more people have been saying that this is kind of how these things work that have a little more confidence and trusting that this is actually a thing.
Andrea: So now, is Bulletproof Musician part of your financial plan personally like it’s something you rely on or is it extra? How do you see it?
Noa: This has now become like everything that is a part of Bulletproof whether it’s courses or speaking like workshops, individual clients, like that’s the primary source of income for me at this point and the teaching that I do and some of those other things are more like not extra like it’s all really necessary but like that’s not the primary revenue stream. At one point I had an administrative position and I had other more full-time reliable things like health insurance and so forth, but increasingly, I feel fortunate that this has enabled to allow me to do more of this kind of work essentially because this is the sort of thing that I get excited about and I enjoy doing and that it’s also sustainable financially is kind of fine.
Andrea: That raised up a really good point too just about supporting the people whose material you appreciate like buying the books or things like that or the compositions because it does make it so possible for someone to do it to spend more time on it.
Noa: Yeah, I mean, this is a personal thing like there are certain plug-ins or not so much service because there is I think always a membership model but you know how that is like whether that’s a theme or whether it’s a plug-in that does this specialized thing in your blog instead of it being a one-time fee, increasingly people are moving to this membership model. At first I was really kind of annoyed because that wasn’t typical and usually you pay $20 or $50 and you get this plug-in and updates forever is kind of the expectation but then they started moving to now it’s like $20 a year or $10 a year or something and it kind of rubbed me the wrong way but I started to appreciate it and looking at it. Yeah, that enables a person to continue to work on that particular plug-in and make sure that it tracks with past updates and other things that are happening in the business and so forth. Now I don’t resent it so much. I will gladly pay the $20 a year or the $4 a month to make sure I’m able to have this function on my website.
Andrea: Yeah, it’s really nice because you can say I rely on this plug-in or this little tool to run my business and by me paying that $20 a year it lets someone rely on their business to support them and continue working, yeah, so over the years, what kinds of financial investments have you made in your business? Are there plug-ins or are there any other big or small financial investments you’ve made?
Noa: Yeah, I mean, obviously computer and I don’t like waiting around for my computer to do things for me so I definitely, even if it’s painful at the time I’ve invested in RAM for instance, like I will max it up at around and yeah, like there have been some things like the mic that I’m using now and so forth. I think primarily, though, what I’ve invested in was kind of interesting for me to think about this because I guess I have thought of it as investments but I have a different connotation with it but I’ve certainly invested a lot of training and courses and things to try to learn the business side of things a little bit more. And most of my investments that I think and then like recurring software or online related things like higher quality WordPress themes. I used to use free things or cheaper themes that I would have to spend hours to CSS the crap out of them and make it work and going through the gazillions of Google fonts that are free, to find ones that go well together. So I spent a lot of time I think doing that sort of thing until I was like, you know what? I’m just going to buy something that when I use it and I look at it it makes me happy and it’s been so worth it like premium plug-ins instead of trying to hack the free ones to work. And even with hosting and mailing list services I’ve kind of sucked it up and just run for the pricier but more reliable, faster ones with backups and staging sites and so forth and that’s like I can’t go back now, even like web fonts and so forth instead of trying to find nice-looking Google fonts.
Andrea: Yeah, valuing things that save you time. Were there any investments that you made that you later regretted?
Noa: I mean I could probably think of some if I tried hard. Honestly, though, I’ve made so many mistakes and screwed up so many things that I feel like that’s just part of the learning experience if I try a theme that ends up being a complete waste of time. Part of it I think too is I just enjoy messing around with all of the stuff so even if it makes things worse in the short term and I have to go in a different direction, I still enjoy it like I would gladly do that kind of thing all the time. So to me I guess it doesn’t feel like a bad decision or waste, just a little frustrating at the time but I still enjoy the process of experimenting with it.
Andrea: How about anything that you may be resisted investing in when you talk of WordPress themes that once you finally did take the plunge like “Oh, I should have got this years ago”?
Noa: Probably all the things that I’ve paid for like I always try to get away with, whether it’s open source software or something like I just try to– there’s also part of me that’s a little bit contrarian so like if everyone is using this thing even though they say it’s nice but there’s this other like kind of funky, it’s sort of like when everyone was using Zoom I was like well there’s this open-source kind of thing called Jitsi Meet that nobody uses but a few people I’ve heard talk about and it has these benefits because the Codec is this or that. There’s a part of me that’s like I got to find a way to make this better, but then ultimately, sometimes the thing that everyone is using is better or the thing that people say is better is better and so, yeah, anytime I think I’ve finally went for something that makes things easy I was like, “Yeah, I should have just,” but then again I’m still going to do the same thing like the next thing that comes along I’ll try to find some alternative version and maybe see if that works better and then eventually kind of fall in line with the thing that I should have done first.
Andrea: I know exactly what that’s like. What are some of the things that have really helped move the needle on your business, helping it grow or getting the word out there?
Noa: I wish I knew that a little bit better. It used to be clear to me what was leading to what, I mean, for instance that first moment where someone shared something on Facebook, I’m pretty sure I know exactly who it was, I know when it happened like I knew a little bit more about it then but nowadays, I don’t quite understand, not that I ever really did, but it’s harder for me to figure out what is happening with Facebook or Twitter or like I don’t know how to track what is actually happening as much as I used to. I don’t know how the algorithm is doing things and making certain things appear and other things not and I think in the early going it’s a little bit easy for me to have like a strategy for getting the word out and one of the things I use to do even which was recommended and I believe it was in this book called Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk, I’m sure a lot of people listening to this are familiar with. He said one of the strategies that can be helpful is to just be present in other people’s blogs. Just leave comments that are helpful. Don’t ever reference your own thing that you wrote about it but like link to other people’s like just be a resource in other people’s preference as well. And obviously, when you do that, you leave your websites associated with your name and email address and so when people read your post it’s like, “Oh, that was a really helpful article on some other random site that this person shared. This person seems knowledgeable. I wonder what this website that they have is all about,” I mean, because that’s how I used to find a lot of sites that I was interested in following and that’s sort of one of the key strategies that seemed to be initially most helpful and within the needle. Nowadays, I think it’s a lot, it’s clear to me and I think a lot of it is more like word of mouth, forwarding emails to friends that they might get in their Inbox and things that are a little bit harder for me to track so I should probably know a little bit more if I really wanted to move the needle but that hasn’t, for whatever reason, better or worse than top of mind that they’re present so.
Andrea: And then, you’ve added things over the years like you started the blog and you’ve got the podcast now. How have you thought about incorporating those new things, whether it’s a course or a book or expanding, how do you think about and make those decisions?
Noa: Part of it has been kind of organic just like that course. The podcast happened because I had an eye injury a couple of years ago and I couldn’t really see for a while and so reading was kind of tough and I felt this sort of internal pressure to keep creating things. It’s on a weekly basis and so the only way I could really do that, given my limited time was to interview people, to talk to people and just kind of put that up. And so that happened and at the same time I was kind of stuck a bit like just listening to podcasts because I couldn’t read. I don’t really like to watch TV and so one of the podcasts that I was kind of aware for a while but haven’t listened to regularly was the Savvy Psychologist I think it was called. She’s now become a friend and a part of this Mastermind group and we meet every month to chat about business-type things and pass ideas out together and so forth, but her podcast format was the first time when I saw someone do basically a read aloud version of what they had already written and then sprinkling in actual interviews with other people intermittently as I go. I didn’t know you could do that. I could do that. So that was one of the podcasts in its current formats started because if it was something where it had to be interviews every week, I don’t feel like that would have been sustainable for me and so I wouldn’t have done it but that was like an organic thing that happened that would have helped me move in that direction.
And then, being part of this Mastermind group I think has been part of it too like we’re all kind of pushing each other and increasingly as you’d gotten to know each other we know where we tend to hesitate like things that we could do but we don’t because we feel insecure or we feel like a little bit of an impostor or we’re just worried what the response will be or like you know, we all have all these different insecurities and so forth so we started to get to know each other and we push each other a little bit to challenge our beliefs and insecurities and so forth. Some of the things that have started happening more in the last couple of years have been a result of that group, seeing what they’re doing and then, you know, from struggling with something they’ll say “Well, have you thought about this?” or “What if you try this?” and at first I’m like “Yeah, I don’t want to do that,” but then I think “Okay, you guys are right.” “You guys are smart.” I should probably at least entertain the idea and then it might grow into something slightly different but still kind of continues to help move me forward.
Andrea: Is there anything right now that you’re willing to share that you know you probably should do but maybe you’re holding yourself back?
Noa: Yeah, this has been pushed to the backburner for years, really, because one of the best ideas has come from people who send me an email or people I run into who said “Have you thought about this?” or “Could you do this?” and one of them was the idea of like a Teacher Certification Program where they would basically go through a lengthier process of learning some of these skills that I teach my own classes or my own students and kind of help their Life Coaching Certification Programs or Teacher Certification Programs and so forth. Back about a few years ago that’s something that is starting to move a little bit more into one of the front burners.
Andrea: Yeah, that sounds interesting. I noticed that one of your courses on your site right now is a “Pay what you can” model or a “Pay what you want” model. Is this something you’ve done before? Is this an experiment that you’re trying for the first time?
Noa: Yeah, that was totally an experiment. That’s a good example. I’d totally forgotten about that. So that came about because I got an email from somebody who wished that there was some tiny bite-sized not course but just like a little bite-sized kind of how do I put this in a practice during the week kind of thing. You know this has been a reader who has been a reader for years and wanted to support me in some way but didn’t want to buy the course because I wasn’t relevant to them and so they kind of asked, “Would you ever consider doing something like this.” And it wasn’t exactly what ended up happening but it was an idea that kind of prompted this idea in my own head so I was like, “Let’s try this out” and initially my idea was what if I came up with like an actionable packet like a 5-paged or 3-paged something every week associated with the post that I wrote, which also forced me to practice making sure that things that are ready about were actionable and potentially maybe it find its way into workshops or classes and the course and so forth. So everything ends up being part of the equation in my head and so it’s like it would be a good challenge for me.
And so I tried that out and it was an interesting experiment and I’ve kept it up and people continued to find it useful but it turned out that that was not sustainable for me. It’s really difficult for me to think of how can I make this actionable in a 6-day plan kind of way, like I can make something actionable in a general way. We’ll consider trying this but to make it worth paying the money for where it’s like, okay on Monday do this, on Tuesday do this, on Wednesday do this, that was actually more challenging than I expected given the time constraint of the week so I ended up stopping that after a little bit.
Andrea: So just generating that much content in an actionable way was the unsustainable part?
Noa: Yeah, yeah, and because that’s really kind of one of my metrics is probably not the right word but I’m really big on does this feel sustainable to me because if it doesn’t feel sustainable to me in terms of motivation or energy or time, I know that I need to find a better way so I need to prioritize my time on things that do feel sustainable otherwise I’m going to burn out.
Andrea: What have you learned from the pricing part of it like how have people paid for it versus what you thought it was worth and what have you learned there?
Noa: Well it’s interesting to look at the range and also the average number and I think I like that it’s a pay what you want so that people can, regardless of their level of interest or their particular financial situation, they’re able to feel comfortable, kind of like when you’re checking out you don’t necessarily think too hard about whether you’re going to buy, you know, as a kid it’s like you see all these interesting looking stuff at the checkout. They compared something too much about it because it’s like 50 cents or a dollar or something and it doesn’t break the bank too much one way or the other so I like that part of it. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it honestly at this point because I do like it being a little bite-sized chunk but pricing is, again, one of those personal areas of fear and doubt and insecurity. So yeah, I don’t have a great answer for what the future holds for that.
Andrea: Yeah, I appreciate the experiment because it takes some guts to just do that, and then as we wrap up, are there any books that have a strong influence on you as an entrepreneur?
Noa: Yeah, I mean, certainly I think maybe one of the first ones I read was Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk and it’s been years since I looked at that so I suspect it’s all very relevant but it’s been a while so I don’t remember. He’s written other things since and I think they’re definitely much more relevant to right now. Anything by Seth Godin, I think Seth Godin was certainly the first person, I mean, a book like Permission Marketing that was written I think in the ‘90s but it’s even more relevant now because I think you can see how things really have shifted. The idea of being instead of interrupting people that try to sell them things, the idea is to engage in marketing more as an education type of process where you try to teach people that the frustrations that they have in the practice room it’s not them, it’s not a talent thing, it’s not something that they can’t work on or experiment with they get better and so as people start to learn that they are capable of more than they might give themselves credit for, they become empowered and more curious and more engaged and more enthusiastic about trying new things and at some point they might ask you for help and they agree on what to try and how to do it and so forth, and that kind of focus on marketing as education as opposed to selling things to people and trying to convince them that you’re awesome. The education part mean a lot more so that was really helpful to me in moving in this sort of direction.
And beyond books, I think, there are some websites that were certainly very helpful and continue to be actually. I don’t read Copyblogger anymore or haven’t lately but that was one of the first websites that I think I didn’t know what copywriting meant and so learning how to write for basically writing in such a way that it prompts people to take action. That was a whole new thing for me and Copyblogger was hugely influential I think. Also IttyBiz, that’s still one of my go-to resources for understanding how to do marketing in a non-icky, gross kind of way and the person who started that has passed it on to somebody else but in a lot of the same materials are there and the tone is kind of the same. The person who founded it, she used to have a real potty mouth and would use a lot of maybe rated R words. I just love that these people are themselves fully online, so IttyBiz is another site that I found pretty helpful. And then Psychotactics is another one of the first sites that I bought some training from and read way back even maybe in 2009 and 2010.
Andrea: Okay. And you have a really fantastic website. Have you done or continued to do all that yourself?
Noa: Yeah, I mean, I just enjoyed doing it and so it’s been a learning process but also fun.
Andrea: Yeah, it’s very clean and focused and so it speaks highly of these places of influence for you. And what are your goals for the coming year?
Noa: I am hoping to make some progress on this idea of a Teacher Certification Course, I mean, I have a lot of kind of personal insecurities about the audacity of such a thing but yeah, my group is pushing me to consider it and I’ve gotten more requests for that sort of thing and so I just have to find out what is going to make sense to me like what am I going to feel strongly about and feel good about and feel provides some really useful value to teachers who want to be able to teach courses on their own or share things with their students and kind of supplement their training in ways that I don’t think any of us could have imagined 20-30 years ago, so that’s kind of a big goal but that’s the thing that I’m trying to make sure happens this year.
Andrea: I’m sure that listeners who are just ready to jump in as soon as you release that. And where can listeners get in touch with you and follow along with your work?
Noa: BulletproofMusician.com is probably the place to start but BulletproofMusician.com/subscribe will get you on to the list and the first thing that will happen is you’ll get a link to a PDF I believe if you sign up through there but also, you’ll get signed up for this one day for five days kind of course which will walk you through some things which do a pretty good job, I think, of illustrating the kind of thing that you’ll find on the site, little exercises every day, little things to try in your practice that help you not only practice better and learn more and have more of it stick from day to day but also be able to execute under pressure a little bit more like you want.
Andrea: Alright, Noa thank you so much for taking us through your journey and just sharing some of the things you’ve learned along the way and some of the challenges you faced. I really appreciate it.
Noa: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
[00:38:57] [End of interview]
CUT – The stereotypical entrepreneur If you’ve spent any time around entrepreneurially-minded people, you know that they tend to be a high energy bunch. This is great when it comes to putting new ideas into action, but the stories of burnout from trying to do “ALL THE THINGS” are all too common.
If you’ve spent any time around entrepreneurial types, you might be familiar with the feeling of pressure to DO ALL THE THINGS. Specifically what those “things” are varies depending on the business, but the pressure is the same: you need to keep up a blog, YouTube channel, Instagram and TikTok accounts, offer summer camps and group lessons, host extravagant concerts or recitals, you know what I’m talking about. There’s almost an assumption that because you can, you should. And, you know, I say “entrepreneurial types” like they’re other people. But if you’re listening to this podcast, it’s likely YOU are the entrepreneurial type in your own life. And it can be really hard to turn off that voice when it comes from inside your own head.
One of the things I really appreciate about Noa is his thoughtful, measured approach. He doesn’t immediately throw himself into doing everything and I think this serves him really well as a solo entrepreneur.
Rather than attempting to do everything, he chooses those things that will be sustainable in terms of his energy, motivation, and interest.
I wrote down what Noa said about evaluating new projects because I thought it was so great. He asks himself: “Is this something I believe in? That I think is meaningful and useful? And hopefully someone will find beneficial in their teaching or performing or practicing?” And then he said that he tries to satisfy himself with an “internal locus of evaluation.”
How freeing does that sound???
Besides helping to maintain sanity, I think having an internal sense of conviction that what we’re doing is personally meaningful, valuable and worthwhile is also critical for persevering through some of the harder stages of entrepreneurship, like when we’re just starting out and don’t always have results to show for our work AND even later on in the life of our business when we have to make a decision that might not be popular.
It’s clear, Noa has a really strong sense of his personal interests and goals, but at the same time, he doesn’t close himself off to suggestions and feedback.
It was interesting to hear him talk about how he’s approaching the teacher certification program. It sounds like he has a great group of trusted business colleagues that helpfully challenge him to pursue things that might be outside his comfort zone. This kind of support is invaluable!
Even still, when it comes to the actual implementation, Noa does his own processing to reconcile the group’s recommendations with what he finds personally meaningful and sustainable for his business.
I think this unfrantic, long-term perspective has helped Noa avoid the burnout that so many entrepreneurs face and build a very well-respected business.
I guess it should come as no surprise that someone who has dedicated his career to helping others perform at their best is also paying attention to how he can best perform as an entrepreneur.
One of my hopes for this podcast is that it isn’t too prescriptive…
One of my hopes with the conversations in this podcast is that they demonstrate the vast array of what a business can look like and give you the confidence or the permission to pursue your own vision for your entrepreneurial career, and not be held captive by all the things someone else is telling you you “should” be doing.
If you’ve learned something from these conversations, I would love it if you would leave a review and share the podcast with a friend. You could be the person to make this podcast go viral.
As always, the links for resources mentioned in this episode can be found at MusicStudioStartup.com/episode078
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening! I’ll be back next week.