This blog comes directly from my book The RockStar Approach to life, the universe … and business (working title – feel free to suggest alternatives).
“QJ doesn’t know he can’t”
Henry coined this phrase about me as she watched me create and launch my own professional symphony orchestra.
My wife, Henry, and I got together in the 90s.
At first, she was blissfully unaware of my RockStar Approach to life. She had come for a voice over audition at my studio in Canterbury at the suggestion of her sister, Phillipa. Phillipa had met me about ten years earlier when she came to my studio in Herne Bay to record a demo with her band, Little Luxuries.
By the time Henry and I met, I was no longer in the business of recording music, but had moved into radio and out again into the corporate field, where we used the spoken word to communicate within training programmes for corporate clients.
Henry had done quite a bit of radio presenting at Maidstone Hospital Radio [read Henry Lee’s 4 hours in a telephone box] and loved – as she does to this day – using her voice in a formal setting of radio presenting and voice-overs.
At the start of our relationship, I would take Henry to classical concerts in London – the Proms, the Festival Hall, et al – which was especially ‘romantic’ for Henry since her first husband had banned classical music from the house.
For Henry, these dates were a significant part of our courtship. To her, we were doing things that she expected couples to do: to share enjoyable experiences that bring them closer together.
Henry came to work for us in 1992, and so she and I ended up sharing our working and our personal lives together.
So it was to come as some surprise, or should I say, shock, to Henry that our excursions to classical concerts would turn out to be the pre-emptor of my next career.
Following a week in Lanzarote with my brother Nigel in 1993, I returned home and proudly announced to Henry ‘I’m going to become a conductor’.
Once she’d got her head around what that really meant – she would remain working in my business whilst I went off to learn the craft of orchestral conducting, followed by the putting together of my own ‘band’ and launching said ‘band’ in 1997 – it dawned on her that my approach to doing anything in my life was really very simple – “QJ doesn’t know that he can’t, so he just does it”.
It might surprise you to know that we are still together – it certainly surprises us considering how our worlds were turned upside down for some considerable length of time because of the orchestra.
But we survived, and I’m happy to report that our love and relationship are as strong as ever, despite my RockStar approach to launching an orchestra.
But this is not where my approach started. It’s just that Henry was the first person to clearly articulate one of the highest principles at play within The RockStar Approach.
No, this all started when I was at school. This is the origin of the story …
“Ignorance Really Is Bliss”
Just about every single personal development book, seminar or teaching I’ve come across advocates a version of this principle:
- You must engage with your passion
- Do the thing you love
- You’ll see it when you believe it
But for me, it was never any of these!
No – my belief is more basic. It’s not about discovering your passion or anything like that.
“He doesn’t know that he can’t” is not about ‘knowing’ or ‘believing’ anything. That’s the whole point.
It’s about not knowing. It’s about Ignorance.
I had never learned that ‘doubt’ existed. No one had ever taught me about barriers. So, for me, there was never any doubt, there were no barriers. They didn’t exist.
To my mind, if you wanted something, you simply went for it. You would just do it – no question, no doubt.
So let me help you to understand the difference, because you’re probably thinking, “But I have learned about doubt. I’m never absolutely sure. There are challenges that we face. I can’t just pretend that I don’t know. I can’t just un-learn what I’ve learned about life”.
So here’s the thing.
It was the ‘doing’ that I had no doubt about. How can you doubt something when you are already doing it? You can’t. It’s impossible – because you’re doing it.
Now I hope that you can see that this is a very different mind-set from having to psyche yourself up, to motivate yourself, to find your passion, and to start working on something.
I never had to work on anything. In fact, I fundamentally don’t believe in hard work. That’s not to say that other people don’t work hard – they do – and I know it. But with the RockStar Approach, you don’t have to work hard, and, in fact, you shouldn’t. But we’ll come back to that in the chapter ‘What is hard work – actually?’
Let me explain what happened to me.
I was at school – aged about fourteen – already loved music, had survived an incredible apprenticeship (choir school and piano lessons) and was pretty good at it – but now I wanted to be Eric Clapton.
Now when I say that, what I mean is, I saw Clapton as an incredibly good guitarist playing music that I loved, and I wanted to be doing the same thing as he was. I wanted to be playing guitar, up on stage, enjoying myself, entertaining an audience, and doing this as a lifestyle choice (we didn’t call it that back then, but you get what I mean!)
I never thought about making money. I never thought that I couldn’t get to be my own version of Eric Clapton. Now don’t laugh, but for a period of time at school, I insisted that everyone call me ‘Eric’. How’s that for role modelling?
I was at a boarding school, so in the evenings after ‘prep’ (I would spend most of prep looking at guitar magazines), I would go into the changing rooms with my guitar and amp and play, sometimes alone, sometimes others would join me, until bedtime.
I was already doing the thing I wanted to do – four years before I left school. So, when I left school, it wasn’t that I had to make a career choice, because I was already doing it.
This kind of illustrates Nike’s maxim ‘just do it’ rather well, I think, and clearly demonstrates one of the most important aspects of the RockStar Approach that actually works.
This is how you can apply it.
Don’t think about what you want to do – just start doing it.
Do it after ‘prep’ like I did, which for you probably means after work.
I had to ‘wait’ four years until I left school before I could be doing what I wanted full-time.
But because I had spent four years doing it part-time, by the time I ‘hit the market’, I was a ready-made RockStar and pretty unstoppable if the truth’s known.
In the same way that you probably can’t devote your every day to what you really want to be doing right now because you have to work, to put food on the table, etc. you can, at least, devote a lot of your spare time to it.
I hated school, lessons were boring, but my ‘inspirational dissatisfaction’ (the phrase comes from W Clement Stone’s book on Positive Mental Attitude), meant that I would absolutely do something I enjoyed instead and make it my career.
I was utterly captivated by wanting to be Eric Clapton. In every spare minute I had, I’d go play my guitar, listen to records, and learn the guitar riffs of Clapton, Hendrix and Jimmy Page.
By the time I no longer had to be at school – you’ll know when that time comes for you, too, once you’ve been practicing for long enough – I simply replaced my school hours with music career hours.
And because I knew that I had to make a living doing it, some of the extra eight hours a day that I now had at my disposal, I used to move forward with the practical steps I knew I had to take.
I knew that Clapton had a band, a manager and a record contract. I knew that Clapton gigged regularly. So I went out and got myself a band, a manager and a record contract, and the manager got us gigs at venues like the 100 Club and the Marquee.
Sounds easy: it is!
Look at it this way: could you move the sofa in your living room from where it is now to the other end of the room – or do you have doubts?
Well of course you can move your sofa.
Making any change in your life is the same.
You’d go into your living room, take a good look at what’s in the room, work out where you wanted the sofa to be and what you needed to move out of the way in order to put it there. You’d then make a space for it, either by moving or re-moving something else, and finally you’d move it into its new position.
You might have to ask other people to help you move the sofa. You might have to pay them.
If there were people sitting on the sofa, you’d have to negotiate with them. If, when you moved the sofa you discovered some staining or damage on the carpet underneath, you’d work out how to clean or replace it.
At no time would you doubt that the job could be done, would you? And whilst your life might be a little bit more complicated than that, the same principles apply to just about anything you want to accomplish.
I’ll be talking about ‘Transitions’ quite a lot in this book. Many life changes require a transition from one situation or circumstance to another. I’ve made at least three major ones in my life. Two were like the RockStar one I’ve just described and took place over a number of years. One was quite literally ‘overnight’, and I still managed to make it work!
I’m still blissfully ignorant. No one ever taught me that I can’t. I still don’t know what ‘can’t’ means. Maybe that’s because I’m doing it.
“Doing what?” you might ask. “Why, writing the book, of course!”