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What Dave Grohl has taught me about entrepreneurship.

It is no secret that I am a massive Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters fan.  I have consumed everything that he has done. There have been a few things along the way that have directly translated to helping me run my business.

Dave isn’t only the best rock drummer of a generation.  He’s not only the frontman to one of the most successful and beloved bands of the last 20 years.  He’s a straight-up entrepreneur who learned just about everything by himself.  Did you know Dave was the 5th drummer in Nirvana?  I always think of that when I don’t feel like I have the right team in place in my office.  If it took Nirvana 5 drummers to get to their breakthrough album, I can be patient.

Did you know Dave recorded the first Foo Fighters album by himself, in a studio, playing every instrument by himself in 5 days?  He never took drum lessons or guitar lessons.  Actually, he took one drum lesson and the teacher tried to get him to change the way he held the sticks.  That was the end of drum lessons.

He made a movie called “Sound City” and knew two things about making movies.  Jack and squat.  One line from the Sam Jones, Off Camera podcast that should resonate with entrepreneurs is when he said, “I honestly believe that if you’re passionate, and you’re driven and focused, you can accomplish anything you want to do.” 

Find the episode here.  It’s tremendous.

That line sounds a little poetic and dreamy, but are you going to argue with someone as accomplished as he is?  He follows that up with something really important though. “And it’s to your standards”. So what are your standards?

His movie, “Sound City” is about a dive studio in southern California where dozens of iconic albums were recorded including Nirvana’s “Nevermind”.  They were shutting it down and he wanted to do an homage to it, so he made a historical documentary.  He took it one step further and bought the soundboard from it. He then recorded an album with other artists who have recorded on it.

One of the artists he recorded with was Paul McCartney who was the reason Dave got into music. During the recording of their song, Dave looks at Paul and asks, “Why can’t it always be this easy?”  Paul responds, “It is”.

I loved that moment.  It hit me right between the eyes.  It made me think. Do we make things too complicated?  Maybe we overthink things too much.   Good entrepreneurs are always thinking of their business and ways to do things better and more efficiently.  I know I do. They can get lost in processes and breaking things down.  It can be an exhausting process where you can get lost in a loop and never find the end.

Of course, he was talking to Paul freaking McCartney, who has been in the music industry for about 50 years.  Paul was also referenced in the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.  This book fascinated me because it tells stories of the people who made it HUGE.  People like Bill Gates and the Beatles.  I always wondered how people get to THAT level and that is what the book is about.

Turns out, one of the main premises of the book is it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert on anything.  10,000 hours of work is 5 years or 8 hours a day of honing your skill (I even factored in 2 weeks of vacation a year).  To reach the level of Bill Gates and The Beatles, timing plays a big role in their massive success as well.

The Beatles honed their live act before ever coming to the States by playing about 250 shows in a club in Hamburg over a two and a half year period from August 1960 through December 1962.  They would perform 4-5 shows a day and they will tell you it was during this time, they became experts at playing live shows.

I had put in my 10,000 hours and slowly realized, I was an expert in my field. I actually remember the time this feeling washed over me.  Something crossed over in me.  It was around the time I watched the Sound City movie and it’s why that line really stuck with me. I finally felt like I could handle anything that came my way in my business.  Every customer complaint, every sales opportunity, every objection that a person could throw at me, I had a confident natural response to.

Once I realized that my confidence grew overnight.  I did my job with more of a spring in my step.  I could look people in the eye with conviction and trust what I was saying was true.  Let’s face it when you first start your business, you are in the “fake it until you make it” mode, and that’s a dangerous place to be for too long.  It’s false bravado and gut instincts that you are surviving on.

I believe after the 10,000 hours are put in, those gut instincts and feelings you have about your business, become truths.  I stopped second-guessing decisions so much and stopped wondering if I was doing the right thing all the time.  Being able to make decisions without questioning them was very freeing and an important step in the next phase in my career.

If you have put the time in and are wavering on a concept or a decision, trust your gut.  It knows.  Listen to the voice inside you.  Even if it is telling you something you don’t want to hear, it is most likely the path of least resistance.  You will make fewer mistakes, and have bigger victories to celebrate.  Put things in motion that you have been wanting to do but have been gun-shy on.  They will probably work and possibly change everything for the better.

Just remember when you are staring down a big decision and asking yourself, “why can’t this be easier?”  Tell yourself, “It is”.


Find all Off Camera episodes here.   They are amazing.

Thanks to Sam Jones for allowing me to use a few of his pictures.


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