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Panos Panay Headshot

Entrepreneurs, Pick up the Guitar

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It's important to remember that launching and building a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Finding ways to stay energized, focused and motivated through the highs and lows of startup life is vital for success. Preparing yourself for the long term game can make all the difference in the world. Your well-being, success, relationships, productivity and employees' enjoyment and enthusiasm all depend on your ability to stay creative and avoid burnout. This is even more important during the crucial early days of a startup.

Given that my pre-startup formal training was in music, I'm a big advocate in seeking an escape from the daily pressures of entrepreneurial life by picking up a musical instrument. For me, that's the guitar. Not only is learning and playing an instrument a great psychological release, but in the process of practicing and performing music as an escape, you may also learn some invaluable lessons that will translate well into your startup endeavors.

Focusing on learning and mastering a musical instrument rather than constantly obsessing at the task at hand shifts your thinking and opens up your neural pathways in ways that can boost your creativity, problem solving skills and even provide that spark of inspiration that will inevitably trickle over into your business leadership.

Playing an instrument teaches you to slow things down, develops patience, builds discipline, and forces you to focus on both the task at hand (that "riff" or "lick") as well as the way that it fits into the bigger picture (the "cut" or "composition"). All are immensely beneficial lessons in the art of launching a startup. You simply cannot rush the learning process when it comes to playing music and the same can be said about life as an entrepreneur.

Music performance requires the development of excellent listening skills (whether, say, transcribing a musical piece or performing with others); fosters collaboration (being part of a band or group is a lot more fun than playing solo), develops one's understanding of where they fit in the broader picture (being the guitarist vs. the bass player, drummer, vocalist etc.), puts a natural emphasis on the collective end-product rather than individual parts, and helps hone creative thinking in ways that, again, carry over into and bolster one's entrepreneurial instincts.

And, don't get daunted. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, all you need is a red guitar, three chords and the truth.