Skip to main content

We’re advised not to do this when we’re young. And as adults, we no longer question this advice.

But it’s wrong.

Shortcuts are incredibly useful.

But many people have a misconception about what a shortcut is, and dismiss the very notion.

Which is too bad, because then they have to work harder to get what they really want.

Let me give you a concrete example.

When I was eight years old I saw the Beatles play on the Ed Sullivan show and became obsessed with the idea of playing the guitar. More specifically, I wanted to learn to play popular songs on the guitar.

As in: the ones I kept hearing on the radio.

I didn’t know anybody who even owned a guitar, and neither did my parents.

But my mom asked around and some supposedly knowledgeable people said…

If you want to learn to play music you should start with the piano. So, my mom found a piano teacher and I started going to this old lady each week for my music lessons.

I was hoping she’d start showing me how to play some Beatles songs, but that’s not how it worked.

The spinster had a well-developed teaching plan which was all about learning to read music. That’s what I was going to have to do first, and apparently it was going to take a few years. Because…

She taught you to read music by playing simple songs. Then you’d progress to more complicated songs.


Three months into my lessons I was still learning an obscure tune called “The Magic Froggy” and…getting a little impatient.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

There was this song I loved called Windy, by the Association. I really wanted to learn it, so I sat down at the piano and started plunking out the melody.

I was amazed that I was able to figure it out on my own. And so now I was excited to demonstrate my special talent to the teacher —figuring she’d fast track me and start teaching me to play popular songs.

But that’s not what happened.

When I showed her what I’d learned on my own she reprimanded me.

She said she was disappointed that I’d “taken a shortcut.”

And then directed me to continue playing the stupid froggy song.

I felt completely demoralized so I stopped taking lessons and quit playing the piano.

Flash forward ten years…

My brother and I were living in an apartment complex in Panama with my mom. Across the hall from our unit, there was a boy named David who was a year older than me and who played guitar.

He was really good. He played every kind of music, including classical pieces.

I asked him how he had learned to play so well, figuring he’d had a teacher.

Turned out he’d learned everything on his own. No teacher at all.

I was skeptical

I asked him how long it would take him to learn a new song. He said about 15 or 20 minutes if it was a pop song.

I gave him the name of a pop song and asked him to learn it right then so I could see if it was true.

Sure enough, he figured it out in 20 minutes.

I was shocked.

I asked if he could teach me to play guitar. But I wanted to learn to figure out how to play songs by myself. He said, no problem.

I begged my mom to get me a guitar for my birthday and she did (with a bit of reservation given my failed attempt to learn the piano).

But this time it was different

David taught me to play guitar and how to figure out songs on my own. And obviously I was ecstatic.

I finally had gotten what I wanted but in a totally unexpected way.

I continued playing guitar. And I still play to this day.

And so…

I learned a lot from this whole experience with trying to learn to play music.

Most of all I learned that there are indeed shortcuts to getting things you really want. Although, often, the shortcuts aren’t obvious.

And I learned that people have the wrong idea about “shortcuts.”

Of course, sometimes people use shortcuts because they lack discipline.

But sometimes a shortcut is actually a smart strategy for getting what you want faster.

Shortcuts in music

Eventually, I learned that, at its core, there are simple rules for how most popular songs are created. Even jazz tunes have simple frameworks that are used over and over again.

Learning those rules and frameworks are what I call “smart shortcuts.”

Because once you know those rules you can figure out songs faster, and —even better, understand how to write your own songs (which I also have done).

I don’t know if my old piano teacher knew about the simple rules of song structure.

But what I know for sure is that she was a poor teacher. Because she didn’t care so much about helping me figure out how to get what I wanted as much as forcing me to learn what she was determined to teach.

During my life, I’ve come across other “teachers” like her.

People who are dogmatic about “the way things are supposed to be done.”

I don’t want more teachers like that.

I prefer people who can show me a simpler, easier path to my goal.

Especially an important goal like marketing one’s business, which is something I struggled with for many years.

Business Shortcuts

Most of the struggles I had learning to market my business came from following the advice of supposed experts who taught me the way they believed it was “supposed to be done.”

But in most cases, it was just their rigid idea of how to do it. Usually, because that’s what had worked for them.

Eventually, I discovered that marketing (like music) has some simple principles at its core.

If you’re clear about what you want from your marketing then you can use the principles to get those results faster, with less effort, and at a lower cost.

For me, the goal of my marketing is to attract enough people who appreciate the way that I help them, and who are enjoyable to work with.

When you can reliably attract people like that in a steady stream, life is good.

I don’t need a lot of people like that, just enough.

So what about you?

Do you want to learn to market your practice using simple principles that attract really great clients?

Or are you following some dogmatic guru who supposedly knows how to market but really only knows one way that worked for them?

Maybe you’re like me and want to use the simple but effective principles of marketing.

Now, let me be clear…

What I’m talking about is not necessarily easy. At least not when you first start doing it.

Just like it wasn’t easy for me to learn how to figure out popular songs so that I could play it on my guitar.

At first, it took a lot of time to figure out a single song.

But I didn’t care because every one of those was a song I really wanted to learn.

It’s the same thing with learning how to get the best clients for your business.

There are some simple principles (i.e. shortcuts) that will speed the process up…

—although in the case of getting great clients it will take way more than 15 minutes.

But, who cares how long it takes?

In the end, you’ll have enough of the best clients for you. And I’m guessing that’s what you most want, right?

At this point, you might be wondering what those “shortcuts” are.

Well, from time to time I will do a free presentation to share some of them. But, before we get into all of that…

First, I want to know, exactly what kind of clients do YOU most want to attract?

I don’t want to waste time telling you how to get something you don’t actually want, right?

Oh, and if you wanna hear me on the guitar (and singing too 😳) here’s a Neil Young song I like to play.

P.S. If you're a practicing lawyer, check out this Law Practice Assessment . After answering a few questions, you'll get detailed recommendations for improving five key areas of your practice.
Skip to content