Lou Holtz gives advice about Winning Every Day At Football… or is it Songwriting

Updated: Dec 14, 2019


From the first lines of Lou Holtz’s book Winning Every Day, it’s obvious that the advice he gives and the stories he tells are about more than just football.

The first sentence of his award winning book is “Winning is never accidental.”

Holtz’s premise is that by setting goals, being disciplined and moving forward every day with a definite strategy, one can achieve anything one sets out to do.

That’s good news for songwriters who often struggle to find the next right step to take, or even the right person to listen to for advice.

For Lou, it all boils down to correct form and fundamentals.

Lou tells story in his book about how strict he was with his team when it came to practicing even the most mundane aspects of the game – including how to get into a huddle.

Some of his players complained to him that they didn’t want to practice huddling, because they thought it was a waste of time.

He explained to them that it’s attention to the correct form and fundamentals of the game that leads to the greatest improvement.

He went on to say that if you encounter a team that is so well disciplined that their huddle is perfect, you are bound to be intimidated because you know that if they’re that good at huddling, much of the rest of their game will be perfect too.

Applying this to songwriting, we can use this sage advice and put more practice toward our correct form and fundamentals.

We’re not going to have to practice our huddle, but we may well need to look back at some of the fundamentals of language – from literary devices and rhyme scheme, to reviewing the steps of the formal writing process.

A lot of what we study in grade school and high school language arts also applies to songwriting, if we think about it.

Holtz breaks down the book Winning Every Day into chapters where he explores his main points. His plan for winning is broken into ten steps:

  1. The Power of Attitude

  2. Tackle Adversity

  3. Have a Sense of Purpose

  4. Make Sacrifice Your Ally

  5. Adapt or Die

  6. Chase Your Dream

  7. Nurture Your Self Image

  8. Foster Trust

  9. Commit to Excellence

  10. Handle With Care

These same steps make a great framework for developing a winning strategy with songwriting.

The Power of Attitude

Most people understand the power of our attitudes to make or break us.

It’s so important in the music business to have a positive attitude. The bars near Music Row are littered with disgruntled songwriters and naysayers talking about how bad the business has gotten, how there’s no hope for the little guy, how you have to give up everything to get anywhere and they still want more blood, and so forth and so on.

Nobody ever got anywhere with that kind of attitude.

If we take Lou’s advice (and we should), we start with a positive “I can do it” attitude, and let our actions support our decision to make it no matter what.

We can focus on the negatives, and if we do, we’re sure to find plenty wrong to complain about.

But if we focus on what we can do every day to build our sustainable careers in the new music business, pretty soon those same naysayers will be complaining about us and our successes instead of all the old stuff they’ve been complaining about for the past decade.

There’s plenty we can do every day to build our careers without looking at all the bad stuff. The power of a positive attitude can help us get to where we want to go with our musical careers.

Tackle Adversity

Number two, “Tackle Adversity” plays right into this as well. We know the songwriting business is full of rejection, no’s and crooks, right? Or so we’re told.

But when we see challenges as an opportunity to cultivate excellence in ourselves and with our craft of songwriting, we can use adversity to help us keep going, instead of seeing it as a stumbling block.

Have a Sense of Purpose

Point number three “Have a sense of purpose” is very important for songwriters. Music is important! Sometimes, when we’re pursuing songwriting as a career, we’re likely to get lost chasing trends and commercialism instead of writing about what’s important to us.

Sure, it’s important to write commercial songs, but not to trim away everything that makes us unique in order to fit into a tiny box.

When we find what is truly important to us, and write about that, we often unlock hidden genius in ourselves that might never come out if we’re just trying to write about trucks and gun racks, that girl, or whatever is the trendy subject of the time.

Writing for a cause is a great way to use our gift of songwriting to help others in our communities, and to unite songwriters with organizations who are trying to spread a message.

Remember, not so very long ago, entire histories were passed down through songs and story telling. Maybe it’s time we get back to that kind of thinking with our songwriting.

Make Sacrifice Your Ally

Point number four “Make Sacrifice Your Ally” is a tough point for us to accept sometimes.

However, anyone who has ever pursued songwriting as more than just a weekend hobby knows that this point is very true for songwriting as well as football, maybe more so than other professions.

We sacrifice time with our families, spend our hard earned dollars, and even allow well meaning consumers to share our songs for free with no compensation to us whatsoever except for the joy of sharing our gift of song.

Anyone who is not prepared to sacrifice something to achieve their goals isn’t really vested.

The real meaning of sacrifice isn’t some grim bloody ceremony like we think of in the movies, the kind of sacrifice we’re talking about is giving up our desires for what is going to benefit us in the long run.

For example, an early sacrifice might be not going out on the town on Friday night with your buddies, but instead staying home and working on your songwriting.

When you’re doing it consistently, it hardly feels like sacrifice, because the rewards are more than enough to justify what is lost.

Adapt or Die

Adapt or die. Wow is this ever a big part of what it means to be a songwriter in today’s market.

It’s like the great book Who Moved My Cheese that talks about the same concept.

We can’t expect things to continue in the same way forever. We have to keep our eyes focused on the marketplace, and learn new methods and techniques to keep our work and our commerce relevant under the current conditions.

Songwriters would do well to think about this “adapt or die” mentality with the current epidemic of illegal downloading and file sharing, and even legal streaming threatening our industry. Only by adapting can we survive.

Chase Your Dream

Chase your dream – finally, advice songwriters know all about.

The very nature of doing what we’re doing is chasing the dream of being a successful songwriter.

Of course, we all want a hit song, but what does success really mean for you?

Is successful being able to make a living with your songwriting? Is it selling out Madison Square Garden? What does your dream look like?

When we write out our goals, we solidify them in our minds, and the very act of writing them out helps to clarify what we expect to achieve.

Then we can chase our dreams with greater confidence that we know where we are going. The challenge then becomes getting there.

Nurture Your Self Image

We songwriters could really use a lot of this next point, to “Nurture Your Self Image.”

This point applies to songwriters in a couple of ways.

One, songwriters are notoriously insecure.

We are sensitive folks who have learned to cope with our intense observations of human nature, our environments, and ourselves by writing songs.

Is it any wonder most of us are emotional basket cases reeking with insecurities and self-image issues?

We songwriters can really benefit from some confidence building exercises like Lou prescribes to his players in his book.

Another aspect of this point “Nurture Your Self Image” applies in a unique way to songwriter – artists.

This goes along with the whole idea of branding ourselves according to our true core values. If we aren’t sure who we really are, or what we’re trying so say, how can we ever let our audience and fans in on the secret?

As we build and nurture our self image, we are able to project a positive and consistent message with our music, and in the new millennium of music business, knowing what makes you unique is as good as currency when used properly to attract organic search traffic, and thus, our natural fans on the internet.

Foster Trust

Fostering Trust is important for every profession, but especially in songwriting.

For one thing, the old adage “Write what you know,” comes in to play.

For people to resonate with what you write about, they need to see some authenticity in what you are saying.

If you’re making everything up, it’s harder to build trust with the audience, and thus, it’s harder to make and keep real fans.

A big way to is to foster trust with our fans is through our marketing and branding.

Nobody likes to have someone selling to them all the time.

The new model ways of doing commerce online are to 1) educate, 2) build trust, and 3) sell.

Many of us try to sell first and forget about the first two steps. Building and fostering trust is an integral step in fostering a sustainable career in the new music business.

Commit To Excellence

As we pursue songwriting excellence, we show our audience that we care about what we are saying to them, and how we are saying it.

Doing that projects respect, a principle found at the heart of right relations among our fellowman.

When we commit to excellence, we don’t put out half-baked material, and we don’t go along with trends when we don’t agree with them.

Committing to excellence is a noble ambition, and one that definitely applies to the time honored craft of songwriting.

The more we pay attention to what we are doing in the songwriting community, the more other people will pay attention, too.

Handle With Care

“Handle With Care” reminds us to treat other people how we want to be treated.

When it comes to the music business, we sometimes forget that all the people involved are people just like us. The industry folks, the stars, the people reading your press kits – they’re just people, just like you.

When you think of the way you’d want to be treated and addressed, what kind of promo pics and bios you’d like to read, it suddenly becomes ever so much easier to pitch your ideas and promotions to others.

Conclusion

Lou Holtz may never have written a song in his life, but the ideas he laid out in his book Winning Every Day are some great principles to consider when building your sustainable career in the new music business as a songwriter entrepreneur.

Recognition

Thanks to my business mentor, Mr. Moorer of Nashville SCORE for recommending Winning Every Day to me when we first started working together in 2013. It has been a pleasure to work with him these years, and to benefit from his sage wisdom in business, and in life.

SCORE is a national organization that provides free and low cost business mentoring to small businesses of all kinds.

If you’d like more specific mentoring on the music business, and how to make it in the new millennium of music business, consider applying to join our Songpreneurs group online, or get started with the fundamentals by ordering our workbooks.

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