Celebrating 6 years at Make Music Count (6 things I’ve learned over the years)

Celebrating 6 years at Make Music Count (6 things I’ve learned over the years)

It is such an amazing feeling to say that this month celebrates 6 years of operating Make Music Count! From the first time writing a math equation with musical terms to now operating in 60 schools in 8 states. I feel so humbled to have an idea that actually helps students improve in their math understanding while also planting seeds to hopefully create future piano players. I wanted to take some time to encourage everyone that hard work, perseverance, and prayer always pays off. If you have an idea it is your obligation to pursue it. Always remember, it came to you for a reason. The world needs your ideas to make it a better place.

To celebrate 6 years I wanted to share 6 of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the past 6 years that have helped me reach this point.

Original sketch of Make Music Count’s logo

1. Write your ideas down

This is the most important lesson on the list. This practice is what gives you permission to start. You may think this is common sense but you can easily forget a great idea because our minds are always moving. Write your idea down to save it. It doesn’t have to make sense right away. Just get it out of your head first. You can then organize it later. Making sense of an idea is crucial because you’ll have to explain it to someone else at some point. I have a whiteboard right next to my piano in my office because when I get a new idea for how math and music connect I need to make sense of it quickly. Some keep notepads next to their bed to record dreams they’ve had. Ironically, the design of my app literally came to me in a dream. The point is you never know when an idea will come so be prepared and write it down.

Winning $72,000 from WeWork in the creator awards pitch competition to develop Make Music Count.

2. It’ll never be a perfect time to take a leap of faith

This part is never comfortable. Taking a leap of faith is very crucial and actually the hardest part. Most of us have a comfortable consistent paying job that provides security. Will you give that up to pursue an idea that MIGHT work? It’s a tough decision but just know that no matter how much you save or prepare nothing can prepare you for actually turning in that 2-week notice. But if you’ve written your idea down and begun to it into action, you can be confident enough in your decision to leave a secure job. Now I believe in taking calculated risks, there was no way I was going to quit my corporate job without having other income coming in. In addition to my corporate job I also was a church musician for a megachurch in Atlanta that paid very well. Then lastly I didn’t quit my job until I was literally forced to make the decision to take the leap. A summer camp called me asking for me to teach my curriculum which conflicted with the time I’d need to be at work. That’s when it was decision time. Do not quit your job if you aren’t ready to put your idea into action. So be smart and prepare as much as you can to make a confident leap of faith.

First time on CNN!

3. Be genuine (tell your story)

As I stated earlier your idea came to you for a reason. Your life experiences prepared you to take action with this idea. And that story is what people want to hear to know that you’re the right person to take this journey. Having a genuine story about Make Music Count being my personal testimony for how I overcame my math phobia is what allowed principals and teachers to trust me with their students. Just being a salesman is not enough in my opinion. So don’t be afraid to share your story, it’s actually necessary to look back for motivation when times get hard. If you don’t have a personal connection then it’ll be easy for you to give up.

Make Music Count’s First Check!

4. Have a flexible mindset in business (moving from afterschool program to app, find a way to generate revenue and scale)

I would never have thought that my business would start out as an after-school program and now provide the same instruction as an online application. All I wanted to do was teach as many students as I could. You have to be open and flexible in business. For 5 years my class was an after-school enrichment course until I realized that business model was not scalable and was limiting the number of students I could actually help. But this came through growth and learning the business of education. So just like I had to adjust so will you with your idea. I wonder what new direction we will take in the future. Virtual reality? Selling data? Providing lessons on new instruments? I’m open to all of it.

Make Music Count’s first volunteer opportunity. I was still working in corporate America.

5. Creativity isn’t enough, you must have impact

Creativity isn’t enough. At the end of the day you have a business, and that means it needs to make money and have an impact. No one will invest in a nice idea. It’s important that you have a solid business around your idea so people can take you seriously. Then, more importantly, your work should improve the area that you are working in. We are a math company, so it’s my job to make sure we are improving students math understanding.

First business cards i made on the spot at a networking event. The grind was real!

6. Stay humble (never get satisfied — the power of broke)

As my grandmother says “Stay Humble so God can use you.” Meaning: Don’t ever get satisfied with your success. There’s always more you can do, a new angle, greater impact. Celebrate your victories and move to the next mission.

“Just because something works perfectly doesn’t mean it can not be improved” -Shuri — Black Panther

Last day in corporate America

Keeping this mindset will keep your energy up, keep you motivated and always looking for the next idea to take your business to the next level. Daymond John has a great book called the power of broke which talks about remembering when you had nothing so you can tap into that drive. When you stayed up all night getting your business together when you went out and knocked on doors to get your first sales. Stay hungry, thank God for the ideas, and keep in mind that your idea is greater than yourself. So if you don’t pursue your idea then you are in fact selfish because there are people you don’t know that can benefit from your idea.

A special thank you to all the students and supporters of Make Music Count. You all have made my dream possible and I’m looking forward to another 6 years reaching and working with people just like you.