What do I mean when I say that your unique experience + your personal passion = “Something the World Needs”? I mean that every great success story starts with this combination, whether we’re talking about home computers, handmade soaps, or even serious art. You probably know the story of Steve Jobs, and how his passion and experience combined to create some of the first successful home computers. But do you know the surprising success story of Philip Glass, one of the world’s best known and most revered contemporary composers? It’s a great example of what I’m talking about.
When Philip Glass was a child, his father was a radio repairman who decided to diversify his business by stocking and selling records. He brought home the records that didn’t sell so he could listen to them and figure out why people weren’t buying them—and this was when Philip was first exposed to a rich array of music, from bebop to hillbilly, as well as works by more offbeat composers.
Philip grew up to love and study music, but to support himself, he worked as a plumber and taxi driver. Even when his work was finally premiering at the Met, he was still doing plumbing, and he renewed his taxi license, just in case. In an interview with the Guardian in 2001, he said that one time while he was working as a plumber, “I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious I was installing his dishwasher, and I told him I would soon be finished. ‘But you are an artist,’ he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he could go away and let me finish.”
Today, Philip Glass is considered to be one of the most influential modern-day music makers. He not only performs, but he has also written operas, musical theatre works, ten symphonies, eleven concertos, sonatas, and film scores. Three of his film scores have been nominated for Academy Awards. “This is one of the most disciplined guys you will ever meet,” Godfrey Reggio told the Guardian. (Reggio is the director of the Qatsi film trilogy, for which Glass provided the soundtrack.) “He has literally one hundred things going at once and all with the same careful attention.”
Clearly, Philip Glass has combined his recipe of passion and experience to create something amazing. But he didn’t earn a living from making music until he was forty-two!
His story also provides a great illustration of another important ingredient for successful entrepreneurism; always have a side hustle. Do not quit that day job until you have the revenue in your hobby business to sustain you. The reality is that most people have an extra four or five hours a day outside of their work day and yes, you can successfully run a business that grosses good part time money in those ‘off work’ hours. Work that side hustle until making the leap to entrepreneur makes financial sense for you and your situation, like Phillip Glass did with his plumbing business and taxi driving. Having that income and the security it gives you makes it easier to concentrate in your off time on what matters – creating and perfecting your own “Something The World Needs”.