An Opportunistic Approach

“Dear Optimist, Pessimist, and Realist. While you guys were busy arguing over the glass of water, I drank it. Sincerely, the Opportunist.”- Unknown

Why do we do what we do?

It’s a simple question that has perplexed behavioral psychologists and neuroscientists for centuries.

I’ve asked myself time and time again. Do I make life decisions for me or to appease external, societal pressures? Do I have something to prove? If so, to whom? Myself? My family? My friends? I’ve contemplated intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivators, my desire to make a meaningful contribution to the world, economic stability, my tolerance for risk and even broached the controversial subject of free will (i.e. is intelligence/consciousness a biological inheritance that predisposes what we’re meant to be doing?)

Frankly, do we even have a say in the matter? I think we do. But where do our ambitions come from?

Beginning in college and all throughout my 20’s, I pursued my dream of being a rockstar. No, like for real. See below and pay close attention to the brilliant drummer ;)

Attempting to be a full-time musician is not the safest or most secure career path. And trust me, I got many reminders about that from peers and family members who loved me and thought I was wasting my non-musical talents on a glorified hobby. You would think it would have taken months of deep contemplation, weighing pros and cons or applying the principle of affordable loss to make a life decision of this magnitude.

The reality was, it was the complete opposite.

It was a no brainer for me to go “all in” on pursuing my dream because when the opportunity presented itself, it stood out amongst all the rest. I had an unwavering belief in what we were doing despite the odds and the skeptics be damned. Nothing was going to stop me.

When we were first starting out, there were constant reminders that I was on the right path because I woke up every morning obsessing about it. In my mind, it was a foregone conclusion that we would achieve some level of success; it was just a question of when and in what form.

I’ve found that having that level of conviction is necessary to achieve, but acting upon your innate desires is necessary to be fulfilled. I think it’s very important to have an equal balance of both. Achievement without fulfillment can be hollow, and fulfillment without achievement can be self-serving. Having both allows you to contribute (hopefully something meaningful) to the world, while attaining a sense of completeness.

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both. –Unknown

I was not a thoroughbred musician like some of my other peers. Meaning, I knew I wasn’t going to be on the performance end of music for the rest of my life. I happened to be a fairly decent drummer (with some unique style) and I had hustle, grit, determination and some business skill sets that helped us in the early years.

However, I saw an opportunity, and I deemed it one I should take advantage of. It was my first Carpe Diem moment and I pursued it with no fear. Yes, I took a crazy risk with my band, but it was calculated. I was able to understand that what we were doing was different and special, but also had mainstream potential. I understood how we fit into the current landscape of commercial rock in the late 2000's. I was also able to identify talent in my “co-founder” who is a very gifted singer/songwriter. Finally, I knew my own business acumen would be a difference maker.

There were thousands of musicians in Los Angeles with whom I could have formed a band and gotten into business with, but I chose one that differentiated based on talent, taste, timing and work ethic. All things which I believed would help us maximize the probability of success.

A $1mm record deal from Sony, 50,000 records sold, Late Night TV appearances on Letterman, Leno, Kimmel and Ferguson, full spread in Rolling Stone for “Top Up and Coming Bands of 2008”, multiple National and UK Tours, a contract with Coldplay’s management company and going further than I could have ever imagined…the risk definitely paid off.

I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to experience this magic first hand. It was a critical lesson that taught me to never settle for anything less.

Since then, I’ve had the confidence and courage to continue exploring opportunities that would make me come alive. To continue listening to my gut. It has undeniably played a key role in starting my music management and licensing company, Lo-Fi Music, working on Immunity Project as well as forming my current investment fund, Ranch Ventures. Lessons learned from Low vs Diamond are absolutely still being applied today with Ranch VC.

It’s very easy to be pessimistic and negative about things in life. To list all the reasons why something won’t work using logic and rational analysis. But here’s a news flash….. Some of the best analysts in the world have been dead wrong about the future. No one REALLY knows anything.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing” — Socrates

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so” — Mark Twain

That said, what if, just what if all the miracles happen? What is the upper bound of influence and impact a project, team or company can have on the world? How big is the problem you are trying to solve? I apply this line of thinking time and time again when making career choices and now looking at potential portfolio companies for my fund. It encapsulates a central part of my investment thesis.

They say luck happens when preparedness meets opportunity. But it’s a bit more involved than that. The critical skill is being able to differentiate the good opportunities from the bad ones and then having the confidence to go all in.

In other words, when opportunity knocks, open the door, but be extremely selective about who you invite in.

I believe there’s an abundance of good opportunities out there that can change the trajectory of your life in an instant. The goal should be to source those opportunities, capitalize on them and not miss!