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Bruno Mars, Collaboration, & Why You’re Trying Too Hard


Bruno Mars & The Smeezingtons

Two years ago while in Los Angeles for some songwriting sessions I crossed paths with Bruno Mars.  With him was Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine who collective go by “The Smeezingtons”.  The three shared with me a short version of their journey in the music industry: Bruno getting dropped from Motown, their shift from songwriters to producers, and various tales of chaos they rained down on Hollywood.

See Bruno is only the tip of the iceberg.  It’s the trio that writes and produces the seemingly endless string of hits that land on your iPod. And not just the ones with “Bruno Mars” on the ID Tag.  Fuck You by Cee-Lo green was a Smeezingtons production. As was Far East movements Rocketeer.  And my personal favorite K’naan’s Bang Bang.  Together they’ve produced for Mike Posner, Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys, Neon Hitch, Ryan Tedder, Flo Rida, Adam Lambert, 98 Degrees, and more.

The Art Of Collaboration

See Bruno, Phil, and Ari understand one important concept: we all suck at something.  

When I got started in music it was as a DJ. And when I started making original music I was under this delusion that I had to do everything myself.  The song needed to be written by me. I had to play every instruments. I had to produce it, engineer it, mix, master, and market it all on my own.  Now I was pretty good at a lot of these things.  So it didn’t really throw me to have to do this all myself.  I just did it.  And It took me a few years to realize how absurd that was.  No matter how good I might get at mixing a record, there’s someone else who does nothing BUT mix records.  And someone else who does nothing but master them.  And as hard as I try to learn all these skills, I’m NEVER going to compete with the guys who delegate this stuff out.  So eventually I learned to embrace the art of  collaboration. And it changed everything for me.

Two Shitty Ideas

When you have a great idea it’s everything.  But when you have 90% of a great idea, it’s nothing but a shitty idea.  It’s not 90% of a great idea, it’s just a shitty idea.  It’s binary.  They are either great or they’re not, with no in-between.  The problem is MOST of us are walking around with 50 ideas that are %90 there. So we all think we just have shit ideas. But what if I could take my %90 and mash it with your %90?  Well now we have %180 of a great idea …and you only need %100. In other words, the only thing stopping you from having a great idea, is you keeping your ideas to yourself.  I mean two average people can literally become geniuses by turning to each other and exchanging ideas……now isn’t this a fucking cool world we live in????

When I go into a writing session I have a rule that EVERY idea has to be shared aloud.  Even if it’s terrible.  I’ve been in the room with major label songwriters who sit there with an idea on the tip of their tongue afraid to share it because it’s not fully formed.  But as soon as they do, I’m able to instantly hand them the missing piece.

We all see the world from different perspectives.  We analyze things differently and we think differently.  We’re all holding different pieces to the puzzle.  If you try to go it alone, you’re fucked.  You’re trying to solve a puzzle without having all the pieces. But if you let someone else into your head, things get exponentially easier, and the product is exponentially better.

Collaboration isn’t JUST for creative ventures though. Have you ever washed dishes while someone else dried them? Collaboration. And I guarantee they came out cleaner than when you did them yourself.

You’re Trying Too Hard

So many people seem to have this aversion to working with other people.  I’ve literally had people tell me collaborating is “cheating” (apparently I missed the part where life came with a rule book).  I see entrepreneurs who want to learn how to design their own graphics, build their website, do their own SEO, code their own stuff, do their own advertising, provide customer support, and write press releases.  They build their own business so they don’t have to work in an office from 9am-to-5pm and instead they stay at home and work 7am-11pm.

I write songs and I do it with other people.  And I hire someone to mix them and someone to master them.  I also run a company.  But on an average day I have nothing I have to do.  It’s all handled by someone.  There’s a team to handle support, a team to handle sales, an SEO team, a web guy, a graphics guy, and an assistant.  When I have an idea for business, I bring in experts and we brainstorm.  I never do anything by myself because I know there’s someone who is better at it than me.

And finally, I value my time above all else.  I never understood people who mow their own lawn.  If it takes you 3 hours to mow your lawn and you could pay someone 30 bucks to do it, that’s 10 bucks an hour you’re working for.  Is your time really worth 10 bucks an hour? Mine sure isn’t.

Hire someone to mow your lawn.  Order your groceries online and have them delivered.  Use a virtual assistant to book your flights, hotels, appointments etc.  And use that time you freed up to do something that actually utilizes your talents. What you’re BEST at. Not what you’re GOOD at.

We all have massive potential.  But if we spend our whole day dealing with the logistics of living, we never get to actually be alive.



How To Become A World Class Writer

Become A World Class Writer In 60 Days

How To Become A World Class Writer

So You Want to Become A Writer?

I write songs.  But this isn’t about songwriting.  This is applicable to all forms of writing:  Blog posts, novels, songs, scripts, plays… hell this could even work for code writing.  I’m going to share a simple exercise I used to permanently abolish writers block and dramatically improve the quality of my songwriting in a very short amount of time.

The Plan

Here’s what you do. Everyday sit down and set a timer for 15 minutes.  As soon as you press start you’re on the clock.  Begin writing.  Don’t worry about being perfect or even forming complete thoughts, just start getting ideas out. Keep writing until the timer goes off and then stop.  This is the important part.  Once you hit 15 minutes you MUST stop.  Regardless of what epic idea you had in your head. Even if you think you’re writing the first chapter of the next New York Times Best Seller, just stop.  Resume the process the next day, 15 minutes only.  Do this EVERY day for the next 60 days.

Why is stopping so important? It teaches you to work to a deadline and get ideas out fast.  On day 1 and 2 you’ll probably be struggling to get anything out on the page.  But by a week or two in you’ll be struggling to get all your ideas down before the timer goes off. And that is awesome!  You’re training yourself to start “saving inspiration”.  You’re going to walk around all day and things will pop into your head, most people would forget them.  But this is going to condition you to store them in a readily accessible corner of your mind, waiting to be utilized the next time you sit down to write.  I used to get major writers block when I tried to write songs.  Coming up with something simple would take me weeks.  But now I can dial-up ideas in seconds.  I sit down in writing sessions and instead of worrying about coming up with an idea, I’m worrying about which idea is right. That’s such an awesome position to be in as a writer.

It’s Not Just About Writing

Consistency, in my opinion, is one of the best skills you can have.  I know so many people who want to lose weight. They know what to eat and they know how to exercise, but they can’t consistently do either. I know people who want to learn a new skill but they can’t consistently practice.  I know people who want to save up for a vacation but they can’t consistently put aside the money.  If you can commit to writing for 15 minutes every day for at least 60 days, you have the ability to be consistent. If you can do this, anything you want to change about yourself will be easy.

By the end of this exercise you’re going to not only be awesome at consistent output but also quality output.  After this, writing daily high-quality blog posts will seem like nothing (which could be some great side income for just 15 minutes of work a day).  Want to write a book? You don’t need to become a writer full-time and sit in front of a computer at 3 am drinking your 5th cup of coffee….just do 15 minutes a day.  Want to become a songwriter??? Write a song a day for 6 months.  That’s 180 songs….. one of them is going to be great.

Bonus Tip

Want to kick it up a level.  Write FIRST THING in the morning.  Do you ever wonder why every brilliant idea is thought up in the shower?  Your sub-conscious is powerful.  If you set the intention to become a better writer, your mind knows it.  While you sleep there’s some crazy voodoo happening in your head, the product of which, is some epic ideas that will only sit around for about an hour or so after you wake up (try remembering a dream right when you wake up…easy.  Hours later? …no so much).  Writing when you wake up is literally a collaboration between two minds….they just both happen to be yours.

Take Action

So now you know what to do.  But that’s not enough.  How many people know how to lose weight, yet they let obesity destroy their lives?  How many people know how to get a better job, or start their own business but they still work for long hours for shit pay?  How many people know how to quit smoking or break free from an addiction but are still indulging it in right now? The point is, knowing doesn’t change anything.  You need to take action. You want to become a world-class writer? It will NEVER happen if you don’t pick up a pen RIGHT NOW.

Got a tip for someone wanting to become a writer? Share it in the comments!  Feel free to post links to your blog posts or things you’ve written!

Miami At Night

Why we got thrown out of a Miami hotel…

Miami At Night

This weekend I was in beautiful Miami, Florida.  Sunday night after ordering the WORST supreme pizza I have ever had (and no, it’s not just cuz I’m used to NYC, my Dutch friends thought it sucked too…sorry Miami your pizza is awful), I headed for the elevator and pushed “up” (my all-time favorite button).  I was going to a party in the penthouse suite.

OK, so right now your probably imagining the usual, drug and booze infused madness that goes on when a crazy artist like me clashes with other “crazies” in a raver’s paradise like Miami… this wasn’t that.

No, instead, I found myself in a hotel suite with the most successful people I’ve ever met.  Not just artists or musicians, but all types of entrepreneurs.  People who’ve found a way to monetize their passions and become MASSIVE successes. And we weren’t trashing the room, blasting music, dancing on furniture and doing lines of coke…  No, instead of drugs, there was a selection of healthy raw foods.  And instead of music, there was conversation.  Here in one of the world’s biggest party destinations, I got together with a bunch of rich and highly successful people to talk. This wasn’t a “party”…it was a mastermind.

See I’m on this mission to make myself the stupidest person in the room.  I want to learn and grow as an artist, as an entrepreneur, and as a person.  So I put myself in situations like this that make feel like a complete idiot, because as much I’ve accomplished it’s NOTHING compared to the people around me. If you’re surrounded by negative people in your daily life…or people who lack ambition, lack motivation and drive….that WILL hold you back.  And if you surround yourself with inspirational people, successful people, people who are out there KILLING IT everyday in any aspect of life, THAT will push you forward.

2 years ago I was at a another party in a Miami hotel room.  There was drugs and booze involved, lots of loud music (hell we had 4 DJs in the room) and it ended up with use getting our asses kicked out in the middle of the night.  But now I’m surrounding myself with  people who were on top of the world, who are all extremely successful and are so passionate about sharing their experiences and learning from others that they were THROWN OUT OF A HOTEL ROOM FOR TALKING!

So what do you do when they try to stop the party?  You move it.  The hotel bar was next, then the lobby…we were booted from both.  We took it outside to the street until two cop cars pulled up. (Yes they called the cops on us for having a passionate conversation!)

Eventually we took it to another hotel that was much more tolerant (probably because we had more hotel rewards points each than the staff had seen in their careers.)

That Sunday night taught me amazing things.  2 years ago a similar experience left me on the curb outside the hotel with nothing but a good story, but this night left me with stories and ideas that are changing the way I think about things.

I don’t tolerate negativity and I don’t associate with un-ambitious people.  There’s plenty of people in my past who will remain in my past, and that is one of the best changes I’ve ever made.  My one of my favorite lyrics from “Peaceful World”:

 If you’re not part of the future, then get out of the way – John Mellencamp

So stay positive and befriend those who do too. Life is too short to be with those who don’t embrace it.