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Understanding the True Value of Time: !llmind Gives Producers a Lesson in "Sweat Equity"

Welcome to !llmind's weekly 'Mind of a BlapGod' column, only on DJBooth.
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My name is !llmind. I'm a music producer. I f*ck with everything and anything that has to do with music production. Over the span of 14 years, I've produced records for everyone from Kanye West, Drake and J. Cole to Lil Uzi Vert, Future & Lin-Manuel Miranda (the genius behind Broadway's Hamilton musical) and everything in between (movies, commercials, you name it). In 2011, I decided to release a "drum-kit" at a time when no one was releasing "drum-kits" and it turned into a six-figure per year business and ushered in a multi-million dollar industry. Along the way, I also managed to snag four GRAMMY nominations and more than 10 RIAA certifications.

Enough bragging. The real reason I'm here is that I'm passionate about sharing my experiences as a music producer. Things that worked, things that I f*cked up and what I learned from it all. No guidance and no mentor. I know what it's like to want to create music but not know how to start, where to go or how to turn it into a living.

I don't have ALL the answers, but what I can promise is that I will always touch on topics that I have personally experienced. At the end of the day, I hope to empower you to be your best self, regardless of what industry you're trying to pursue. For more inspiration, subscribe to my YOUTUBE channel and my PODCAST "BlapChat."

They say time is money, which I guess is true based on the way society is set up for human beings.

I disagree.

Time is more valuable than money.

Of course, money is required to maneuver through life, but time is something that we don't have control over. Once it's gone, it's gone forever. Money comes and goes. We earn it. We spend it. We earn more. We spend more. And this cycle repeats. Over and over and over again.

Money is a piece of paper that represents a "value." When we think of real estate, for example, we think of investment. Equity. Having ownership of something that has value. But what about "time"? We spend it, but it never comes back. Sure, we can schedule our lives to spend more of our future "time" doing the things we want and need to do, but once those moments are gone, they can never be earned back.

What type of perspective can we apply to give "time" a value? How can we ensure that the time we spend is worth something to us in the future?

For a moment, let's look at time as something we spend but will never earn back. Time is a "moment." It's the present. It is exactly what is happening now. Just as you've read this sentence, time has passed. You'll never get that moment back, but I promise you're not wasting your time. Just stick with me for a little while longer.

Time is a building block. Think of it like building a structure. Every minute you spend is a brick. The next minute you spend, you're laying down the concrete. You're learning as you go along. The minute after that, you're placing another brick down. After a few hours, you've noticed that you managed to build a few feet of what looks like a wall. At this point, your confidence is building. You're getting some validation. Your subconscious mind is getting excited. You start to really enjoy yourself. You feel like you're getting better at it, and so you continue to build. You're laying down bricks and concrete much faster than you did before. You feel like you're in "flow." 

Eventually, you become so good that you manage to spend enough time to complete an entire structure. From here, your brain starts to think bigger. You hire a few friends to help you build the next one. You act as a leader by guiding them through what you've learned from your own experience so they can grow more rapidly. It takes you half as much time to build the next structure. From here, you expand even further. Now you have your own construction company. The possibilities of expansion and continued success are endless at this point. For some, it's not necessarily to become hugely successful, but more to experience the joy and satisfaction that it brings. Or, a combination of both maximum joy and maximum success. (Disclaimer: this is not a literal portrayal of how to start a construction company or how to build a house.)

One way to describe our building scenario is "sweat equity," a popular phrase in the business world. Sweat equity is the amount of time that a person puts into something that eventually yields some type of payoff in the future. It can be spent on basically anything.

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"Sweat equity" applies to any and all industries. But for today, let's take a look at what this means for the aspiring MUSIC PRODUCER.

In the beginning, some outside force drives us to give music production a try. It could be a song. Or a beat. A curiosity. For all of us, the reason is different. The purpose is the same, though. To create music.

First, we acquire some initial knowledge to gather the tools we need to start creating. From there, the clock begins to tick on our "sweat equity" investment. We lay down our first brick and start to figure things out. We're getting better and more confident as we spend more time doing it. We try different things and take risks. We research more, listen more and build more. We're enjoying every moment of it. We finish our first 10 beats, and then we keep going. We reach a catalog of 100 pieces of music, but we are relentless. We build some more. We create some more. We reach 1,000 pieces of music, but that's not enough. 2,000. 3,000. 4,000. It almost seems infinite at this point.

Along the way, we've built a catalog big enough to expand. We want to maximize success, but how can we "populate" these buildings that we've created? 


At this point, we absolutely must meet people.

Keep in mind that the hundreds and/or thousands of pieces of music that we've made are increasing in value, over time. We have a catalog. We have equity. We have confidence. We possess a skill-set that has learned only by a select few of the seven billion inhabitants on earth. 

There is a demand. There will always be a demand to populate. There will always be people that exist who want to help you populate. It's your job to find the people. Some people will come. But you must do what you can to attract and find the people. You can't do this alone. If you're passionate enough, you WILL choose to not do this alone.

Start with the people right in front of you, and expand from there. This crucial step in "populating" is a huge turning point. You've decided that you want to maximize not only joy but success.

If you've been earning "sweat equity" value for what you'd consider a long time, and you have yielded no results, you've got to evaluate everything. Analyze your past and dig deep into the types of decisions you've been making. Are you pushing hard enough? Are you pushing yourself to meet new people? Are you spending too much time being frustrated? Are you spending too much time complaining and placing blame on others?

Maybe you just need to keep going and try not to over think things. Maybe more patience will help. Maybe you THINK you're passionate about creating music, but you've lost that passion and joy. Maybe you just want to lay bricks because doing so brings you joy but you possess no desire to populate.

This process is ongoing. It never ends unless we choose for it to end. Thankfully, for us, we enjoy every brick we lay down. And that is the beauty of our "sweat equity": every piece of music we make is a lottery ticket. Every brick we lay down is a potential opportunity. We enjoy every brick we lay down. Some of us are driven to maximize success. Some of us are driven to maximize joy in life. Some of us want both.

There's beauty in the idea of "sweat equity" bringing joy. Shouldn't every moment of our lives be spent being happy anyway?



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