Early in my music career (lol), I got a chance to play guitar for a church youth group. In the months that followed, I had a blast being the sole musician each week, playing for a small crowd of 20-30 students.

Being fairly new to guitar, I was a bit raw and inconsistent with my playing, but it was a great confidence boost for a shy kid with a dream of playing music for a crowd.

After a few months of being the go-to musician, I was joined by a fellow guitar player, John. We spent the following several weeks playing together, but it wasn’t an immediate success. John came with new ideas, but I had an ego, which led to me causing trouble and stalling progress towards better music each week.

One evening, before we started playing for the night, John pulled me aside and gave me some advice. “Brian, you tend to play your acoustic guitar a bit too loud and forceful. Try softening it up a bit and go for a clearer sound.”

Wow, I thought, I’ve been doing this wrong for so long now! It was a tough pill to swallow, but I quickly realized John was right. What he was really saying was, “you don’t have to play loud to be heard. Just play well.” Simple. Effective.

Taking John’s advice that night, he and I played a round of songs better than we had in all the weeks prior. After our set, he gave me a thumbs up. “Much better,” he said.

I always respected John for giving me that advice, and I’ve carried variations of it with me throughout my (non-music) career.

You don’t have to work so hard. Just do good work.

You don’t have to speak loudly to get your point across. Just speak clearly.

You don’t have to do everything. Just do one thing well.

Thumbs up, John.