Average of Five

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
–Jim Rohn

Make a list of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Then make another list for the 5 musicians you spend the most time with. Look at both lists and ask yourself what a person who didn’t know you but was acquainted with the people on your two lists might think of you. Do your associations define you? While we always say, don’t judge a book by its cover, we are always doing this because it’s an easy way to assess a situation.

For example, we meet and you introduce yourself as an accomplished bass player. I say, “I’m looking for a bass player for a new project, who have you played with recently?” Or the reverse, you ask me, “I’d be interested, what are some of your previous projects?” If you answer the local blues bar band and some artists I don’t know, then you are going to need to prove to me with your playing that you’re worthy to contribute to the project. Or, if I let you know about some projects I’ve played in that you’ve never heard of, then you may have less interest in participating in my project. You get the idea. Connections matter. Our associations are a form of social currency that we use to evaluate anyone we meet.

Now, look carefully at that list of musicians you just wrote down. Can you give yourself an honest self-evaluation of what another musician might think of your ability? Does that honest self-evaluation jive with your current self-image and what you want to project?

Keep an open mind about moving into better musical situations. It’s a good way to increase your contact with other musicians in your area and to strengthen your network. That doesn’t mean that you are turning your back on old friends and relationships, it just means that you are open to new situations that can help improve your level of musicianship and your standing in the local musical community. The possibility of landing better gigs, if that’s your goal, increases with more connections and exposure.

Billy Sheehan allegedly said that he would never leave his first band, Talas, except if Van Halen called and asked him to join. Just as Talas was breaking big, he got a call from David Lee Roth asking him to join his band. Billy had worked hard for years on his playing and his band, Talas, had worked to position itself for success. Billy chose the path that he thought would give him the best opportunity to achieve his goals. While I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Billy or the other members of Talas, Billy followed his path and has become the face of rock ‘n’ roll bass.

While you may be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, you can work consciously to improve the quality of the people around you. If you find yourself in situations where you are the best musician, consider challenging yourself and jamming with musicians more accomplished. Audition for other bands or interview for a new job. Look to expand your circle of friends by adding people further along the path than you.

Bottom Line: Connecting with the right people creates opportunity.

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