Back in 1993, I began working in our industry. I was both very young and very determined. Over the last quarter century, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and have received assistance in more than a few successes. Two things have been constant over the course of my career thus far: I’ve loved what I do each and every day, and I’ve never stopped learning. In this month’s column, I’d like to share a few of the things I’ve learned over the past 25 years.

Don’t compete and compare.

It turns out that when you spend your time and energy comparing yourself to your competition, concentrating too much on what they’re doing, you lose sight of your own calling. Instead, focus on why you do what you do in the first place. Embrace what makes you and your business unique and build on it. By supporting your uniqueness and your own musical vision, you will separate yourself, and your store, from the competitors you used to be so worried about.

Disagreements in the workplace are inevitable.

Any healthy workplace has a diversity of thought that will, at times, lead to conflict. Occasionally, we find ourselves at an impasse where a disagreement doesn’t have a clear resolution. It is my view that clarity is the most important factor when a consensus can’t be achieved. Endeavor to be transparent and explain where you are coming from as clearly as possible. In these situations, ensuring that there is no confusion about what everyone is thinking can bring its own kind of resolution. Even if someone doesn’t agree with you, be sure they understand you.

You set the tone.

Speaking poorly about a client or co-worker can trickle down into your company’s entire culture. Keeping it positive is not always easy, but it is necessary. The first step toward breaking a negative cycle is to learn to be purposeful in choosing your words, especially when speaking about others. Understanding your role in setting the tone is not just important for managers and supervisors, but for everyone. So, arrive early, stay late, pick up your teammates, and always be mindful of the things you say and how you say them.

Focus on learning, not results.

If you want to improve your productivity, concentrate on growing your knowledge. I’ve found freeing yourself and your co-workers to be curious is a far more effective way to boost workplace performance than by setting targets and deadlines. Encourage those working with you to learn with you, too. Cooperative learning can set off an avalanche of positive results, not the least of which is better performance on the job. When learning is a prime goal, we are free to explore and get creative. This pays huge dividends in our overall performance.

Never be afraid of being vulnerable.

It’s wise to encourage a culture where an honest exchange of fears or concerns is possible. Being honest about your weaknesses empowers you to better work on them and, in the end, emerge better at your job. Admitting your weaknesses to your co-workers gives them the opportunity to provide input, and also empowers them to step in and lift you up when they can. Ultimately, showing, sharing and reckoning with your areas of weakness are what will make you strong.

Never stop asking why.

Have you ever noticed that a toddler’s favorite question to ask is “Why?” As we grow older and more confident in the way things are, asking why often becomes an afterthought. We are often not sufficiently mindful of why we do what we do. We simply repeat a standard procedure and accept the orthodox, and we do this because it usually works. But in doing so, we can stifle growth and innovation. By asking why, many times we find a better way, or a new direction entirely.

Liberate your co-workers.

Give your staff the freedom and responsibility to make decisions on their own. Empowering your co-workers has the effect of making them more engaged and drives improvement in your business. Focus on coaching, not bossing. Offer guidance, clear obstacles and foster learning so your co-workers have a clear path to do what they do best.

Happiness is not a destination.

We tend to think of happiness as a fixed state, a destination that we can reach by following the right directions. I believe happiness is about how we travel the route. It can be found in the daily steps we take. With each daily task, try to make a joyful connection to the passion for the music business that has taken you to where you are today. Instead of chasing happiness, take a break and allow yourself to just be happy.

Believe in your intuition, vision and yourself.

In many ways, a child is a great model for anyone wanting to be successful in business. Children can be tenacious, adventurous and fearless of failure. These are characteristics that have been crucial in my career. Embrace your passion for music and pay attention to the role it plays in your vision. Trust your intuition; you spent a lifetime building the experience that powers it. Above all, believe in yourself. I have a friend who is an extreme sports athlete. Once, after seeing him do a seemingly impossible stunt, I asked him, “How do you do that? How is it even possible?” He replied, “Well, I’m sure someone could explain the math and physics of it, but for me, I just believe I can. I believe it can be done, and I do it.”

Value your time.

I think we all know that time is an asset that once spent can’t be replaced. To perform your best, you must recognize the full gravity of spending your time. Hustle is important, but allowing yourself to live in the moment has equal value. Perhaps the idea of work-life balance is not as important as work-life harmony. To better understand the value of time, try monetizing it, then ask yourself how you can bring the most value to the present moment.

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