Passion. It’s what drives creation, inspiration and growth. Passion is the foundation of your favorite songs, your favorite instruments and, I would argue, the foundation of the most successful business leaders in our industry. Many of our industry leaders are driven by their strong desire to improve and grow both personally and professionally.

In this column, I’m asking, what drives you? What are you passionate about? What motivates you and pushes you forward in your business? I’m writing this column to get back to the basics. Let’s focus on the foundation of our businesses. Let’s focus on ourselves.

Take a minute and think about the late legendary guitar man Les Paul, Sweetwater founder Chuck Surack, and NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond. These are three heavy-hitting names in our industry. Les Paul created one of the most iconic guitars in the world. Chuck Surack started a four-track recording studio in the back of his Volkswagen that he grew to the largest online music retailer in the world. Joe Lamond has helped lead the MI industry to an all-time high through the collaboration of manufacturers, retailers, engineers, educators and pretty much anyone else involved in the music business.

What do each of these industry leaders have in common? They have a contagious passion that drives them to wake up every day and improve upon yesterday. Their forward-thinking attitude has helped them stand out as clear leaders. I would argue that each of their teams, although vastly different, have often looked to them for inspiration and ideas. So what makes Les, Chuck and Joe stand out? Their passion.

Let’s break down what I mean by passion. It can be easy to confuse passion and emotion, but it’s important for business leaders to separate the two. Emotion feels, and passion does. Emotion is a reaction, and passion is a commitment to goals and plans that cultivate actions and create results. It’s possible to have emotion, but not have passion. What I’m referring to is the force that drives you to improve personally and as a business leader. Why do you show up every day to work? Is it because you have to clock in in order to pay your bills? Or is it because you love what you do and you want to share your passion with others? Our emotions rise and fall throughout life depending on current events and experiences, but passion is a steady force that drives you forward.

Although I’ve only been in the business for seven years, I’ve had plenty of days where my emotions held me back. Even in difficult times of long hours and grueling days, there’s an unmoving desire to press forward. That’s because I have a deep passion for sharing music with others. I have seen the power music has to touch lives firsthand, and I want everyone to experience the joy of playing an instrument.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of business leaders struggling to keep their passion alive. I’ve lost count of how many people have strongly encouraged me to “find another industry” throughout the years. I’ve had many conversations with people covering topics like, “Our industry isn’t what it used to be” or “Online sales have choked our margins.” I remember a specific conversation at an industry event a few years back. I was told, “Kids these days just don’t get real music.” I bit my tongue and smiled and nodded as I let the gentleman inform me of all the reasons I shouldn’t own a brick-and-mortar retail store in today’s world. Looking back now, I regret not speaking up in the moment. I disagree with the mentality of these statements. Although potentially grounded in some truths, I think the key point is being missed.

Of course our industry isn’t what it used to be. Which industry is? Of course online sales have changed the way products are sold in quantity and in price point. Of course, in an everincreasingly digital world, the way music is created is changing. The world is changing, people. Get with it. Change isn’t always bad. The emphasis should be on our passion as business leaders, not on complaining about change. Are we passionate about our companies? Are we passionate about seeing the next generation fall in love with making music? If so, let’s focus on that. Let’s look for inspiration with online sales and in current music. Let’s adapt our business models to better serve the musical needs of the next generation.

If you feel like the passion you once had has faded, maybe it’s time to plan a sabbatical. Maybe it’s time to look for new ways to get reenergized. However it may look, I challenge you to think of tomorrow. What is going to drive your business forward? Tomorrow will come whether we are ready or not.

As I typed this column, I’ve been telling myself, “This is much easier said than done.” I hope I am many years from slowing down. I hope I never lose the passion I have now. But more importantly, I hope I have the strength and courage to step aside if that time comes. I know my business and its impact on the world will be much greater if I do.

Lastly, I don’t think this is a “set-it-and-forget-it” topic. Life events can change in an instant, and that can alter our passion and sense of direction. I believe it’s important to constantly rate our passion on a scale of one to 10. Take note if the scale begins to shift. If it does, spend time focusing on taking the correct next steps.

Where is your passion right now? Does something need to change in your business? I would love to hear your input. You can reach me at

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