This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Jonathan Mann. I first met Jonathan at the Fireside Entrepreneur Retreat. I was curious as to why I saw this guy walking around everywhere with a ukulele in his hands everywhere he went. And then, one evening, at dinner, I was even more surprised to see him announced and come up on stage.
It turns out, Jonathan is known worldwide as the “Song a Day Man.” He’s been featured on CNN, Time, and a ton of major outlets as well as performed at various TED events, not to mention being hired by companies like Dr. Pepper, Novartis, Gartner, and others to create a unique memory for the events.
Jonathan has a written a new song and posted the video of it every day since January 1st, 2009. That is well over 3000 songs and by the way a Guinness world record.
Talk about Misfit Entrepreneur who created an awesome business by doing something people thought were crazy, I knew as I soon as I saw him on stage that I had to have him on the show the share his experience and what he’s learned on his journey.
@Songadaymann on Twitter
Jonathan has known that he wanted be a song-writer since he was 12 when he got his first guitar. He was obsessed. It was all he thought about and did. But, as he says, he “sucked at it for a long time.” He says he has no real natural talent, it just happened because he has stuck with it for so long. He kept writing songs all through high school and college.
He would struggle with writer’s block and finding inspiration. He would always have the urge to create and express himself, but would get blocked because of this. He would have moments where nothing good would come out. In the winter of ’08, he was 25 years old, it was the height of the financial crisis, he was unemployed, and Jonathan got handed a flyer for a thing called “Fun-A-Day,” a global art project where people make a piece of art each day for 30 days in January.
He decided to do a song and video on YouTube every day for January. It went well and he had a fun doing. He decided to do it for a year. Once he accomplished that, it became his life and mission. He is now over 3800 days straight (10 years!) and going and has received the Guinness World Record.
Talk to us about Discipline as it takes a tremendous amount to do what you do…
- People assume Jonathan has traits like being very well-disciplined or is obsessive-compulsive.
- As he says, he has no super power in either.
- What drives Song a Day is the lack of rules around it. Except for one – He will write and produce one new song per day.
- It’s the simplicity of focus on the goal for each day that makes it possible. There is not specific schedule or system or anything. It can be done at any time, just as long as it done that day.
- People put too many barriers in the way of accomplishing goals. They make it more complicated than it has to be.
- Go easy on yourself. Put as few barriers between you and doing the daily task you want to do.
- Jonathan does have a natural “desire” to keep things going. This is important as Desire is important to any goal that you would want to accomplish. If you don’t truly have the desire to accomplish a goal – it probably isn’t a worthy goal.
- It is not easy. Jonathan has days that are difficult, but some of these days produce his best work. So, he now knows from experience that even when he doesn’t want to do it, he should and see what comes out.
How has doing this helped you grow as a person? Anything changed?
- He has grown tremendously as a musician and song-writer.
- One thing that has improved the most is his voice has gotten better. It is practice. Everyday he gets better and his voice muscles get stronger. This is a lesson that can used for anything.
- Playing the long-game makes you better over time. Duh!
- Now, ten years later, he has realized that he has a musical and visual journey of his life which is very humbling. He has been through breakups, death/loss, to getting married, having kids, etc. and it’s all there.
What is an important business lesson you’ve learned from your journey?
- Jonathan says he’s still trying to figure the business side out.
- He has learned that he has a good gut instinct for seizing an opportunity and using the skills he has to make the most out of it.
- He’s learned that he needs to follow his instincts. It is not as precise or planned. But, it is about the curiosity of sniffing things out and seeing them through.
- Jonathan gives an example of how he landed business by making a song for a person he met…
- You must always be on the lookout for the those little moments and then use your abilities to get in the door and make things happen. Don’t’ let them pass.
At the 27 minute mark, Jonathan has a unique take on chances and creativity….
It is easy to shoot yourself down before you even start, but if you think of it this way. Each chance you have is precious and if you don’t take it you lose out on that chance. A lesson is that there are always more chances. If you take just one big chance a year, it has a tremendous weight behind it and in your mind huge ramifications. But, if you have 365 chances, they have less weight, but you have more chance to succeed in larger ways than if you miss the one big chance.
- There are two kinds of creativity: Generative and Editing
- Generative – Flows best when you are not under pressure. Just let it all come out.
Tell us about the business you’ve built around Song-a-Day?
- Jonathan will tell you this is the part he is not as good at.
- The long game has helped because he has been around so long and stayed with it so long, he gets a lot of word of mouth.
- He is always networking and open at events he does and finds new clients there.
- Social Media helps as well
- He has expanded his services for clients. It is easier to sell them more, when they are already buying you. He also now offers personal songs for special occasions as well as explainer videos/songs for clients.
- There is no magic bullet – he struggles like anyone else with generating consistent leads and he takes advantage of all the opportunities he gets.
How do you find inspiration?
- Inspiration is BS
- You cannot sit around waiting for it to strike.
- That is the secret of not having “writer’s block.” All writer’s block is - is a fear of failure.
- The trick to not ever having writer’s block is that you cannot wait for inspiration and you must be OK with making something bad.
- Practice the 70-20-10 rule: 20% of everything you make will be bad anyway, 70% will be mediocre, but 10% will be truly great. If you just accept this, you can start getting to the good stuff.
At the 40 min mark, Jonathan tells us about his latest project, the ISO. Initial Song Offering.
Over 3000 songs, which one is your favorite?
- No idea. It changes constantly.
- Every year he releases an album of the songs and refines them (editing) and those are the songs that are his favorites.
Best Quote: “It is easy to shoot yourself down before you even start, but if you think of it this way. Each chance you have is precious and if you don’t take it you lose out on that chance. A lesson is that there are always more chances. If you take just one big chance a year, it has a tremendous weight behind it and in your mind huge ramifications. But, if you have 365 chances, they have less weight, but you have more chance to succeed in larger ways than if you miss the one big chance.”
Jonathan's Misfit 3:
- Embrace 70-20-10. 20% is going to be bad. 70% is mediocre. 10% is truly great.
- Beware making things too precious. Don’t put too much stock in one chance over another. Realize that every chance is an opportunity and take them and see where they lead.
- Develop a willingness to be open and follow your nose. You never where an opportunity can turn up.