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Opportunity > Money

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

By Justin Gray (Songwriter/Producer/Founder

In my many years of making music professionally, I’ve discovered that the more you chase money, the faster it runs away.

I also realized that every single time I took on projects specifically for the money, all I got was money. No growth…no advancement, no real long-term upside. I came to understand that all I was doing was selling my time for cash.

AND…I was never actually earning enough to justify the time that I was selling to those projects and artists. They weren’t moving the needle. I was miserable and honestly…felt like a (literal) sell-out.

The artists were not AMAZING, and all I was doing was damaging my reputation and long-term earning ability.

On the flip side…

When I said yes to artists, managers, and labels that may not have been able to pay as much as I would’ve liked upfront, almost always did those turn into some of the most meaningful needle movers in my career. Because I loved those artists. Being in the room with greatness was way more valuable than the $$$.

Spending time with Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, James Bay, and others were some of the most rewarding sessions of my life.

Investing my abilities in writing and working for free over and over led to cuts with Mariah Carey, Avril Lavigne, and John Legend. It also garnered several global #1’s and actual real, and tangible “success.”

Yes…I have been doing this for 25 years. Don’t judge your 1 year against my 25. That’s unfair to everyone. But conceptually, this works at every level. Find people whose opportunity benefits you as well as themselves and grow together.

Making thoughtful decisions as it pertains to your career requires consideration of so many different variables.

Approach every decision from the macro rather than the micro.

The micro… How does this affect me today?

The macro… How does this affect me in 1, 2, or 10 years' time from now?

Here are four things to consider when making career-defining decisions based on opportunity, validation, and money.

Short-term - There’s a fine balance between offsetting long-term opportunities with short-term gain. Anybody can admit that. But sometimes short-term gain can have real negative implications on long-term success. So when making decisions that impact your career, it is just as important to understand how short-term decisions affect long-term growth. Is it worth winning the battle to lose the war? Patience is too underrated these days. Be patient, plotting, and persistent. It’s worked for me.

Long-term - I am personally a huge fan of playing the long game. Looking at the pieces on your professional chess board and strategizing 3, 4 even five moves ahead has been my modus operandi for more than my 20 years in music. It is guaranteed that a long-term outlook sustains careers. Pride goeth before the fall. Stick to it, be patient, and in the long-term, you will be in a much better position.

Reputation - How do you present yourself, and what do people say about you? What you put out there echoes loudly. And reputation is typically developed by what other people say about you. Not what you say about yourself. Your actions, good or bad, resonate throughout the community in a way that creates an uncontrollable narrative for who you are and what you are about. Approach every decision that you make as if 10 people will be discussing it without your presence, approval, or knowledge.

Personal benefits - Does saying yes, or saying no have an effect on your personal relationship with the person who is bringing in this opportunity to you? Sometimes in order to manage relationships we should say yes to things that perhaps feel like they are short-term sacrifices in the interest of long-term gain. A huge skill is knowing when to monetize those personal relationships, and how to monetize them. Too often I've heard people say “I don’t like doing business with friends.“ But think about it… Who better to find success with than a friend? And who better to empathize with if things don’t go as planned?

The Coda: I know I know…you can’t pay your rent with opportunity. But you can buy that beach house with the rewards from well-executed outcomes stemming from the RIGHT opportunities.

See you next week, and keep writing them hits!


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