How To Innovate (And Change The World)

Budi VoogtEntrepreneurship, Life29 Comments

How To Innovate (And Change The World)

The world is at your feet

We’re all constantly drawn in multiple directions.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all places that constantly confront you with how things could be better, how others are living a more adventurous, worthy and attractive life.

This is something I struggle with every day. I aspire to be the best I can be, yet I am constantly confronted with how I could be better – or to be frank – how I am not yet good enough.

Each and every one of us is ambitious. We want to be the best, experience the most, extract the maximum value and enjoyment out of life. However in the process, we often forget to enjoy what matters the most: appreciating the present and being good to others.


Endless options.

When it comes to business, this confuses me tremendously. What we are doing with Heroic and Budi Voogt is so exciting. This last year has been great to us. However when I reflect on our position in the world, our progress, I am often left with a feeling that we need to do more. That I need to be more.

Pair that with the endless optionality of modern life, the fact that everyone could get started doing anything they want, writing, teaching, music, running a blog, beginning a start-up, it’s tough to take one thing and see it through to the end.

I think we’re naturally inclined towards shiny objects. The grass is always greener on the other side and it’s easy to look at other people’s curated online lives and become convinced they are doing better and are more fulfilled.

What we forget is that they are also left with that empty void. They too look at others and aspire to be more, thinking they are not enough.

The result is that we all spread ourselves too thin. So many options, so little time, yet we want to do it all. Ideally, we’d do the things that are most public, so the gratification is instant and your ego gets the validation it so craves.


We love the new.

The better we do, the more options present themselves. Many of them are enticing. And we all love novelty over the old and familiar. It’s what Nassim Taleb calls neomania.

I am so guilty of this. I want our artists to thrive, to grow the labels, management agency and the blog. But if I’m honest, I want more. I’d love to expand into writing on business and philosophy and add public speaking in there.

It is never enough. Makes me want to read another article with 12 more tips for increased productivity.

I am reluctant to believe that the solution is working harder or more effectively. Maybe I could squeeze more hours out of the day or improve my output, but that can’t be sustainable… can it? I mean, what is a life if all you do is work?


The power of focus.

When we look at history, the greatest contributions to mankind were the result of specific individuals and businesses committed to a specific vision.

Think of Albert Einstein developing the theory of general relativity, Henry Ford who brought the automobile to the masses and Steve Jobs disrupting the consumption of music (iTunes Store).

What strikes me are the choices of the greats. They committed all their time to making these visions become a reality. No side projects, no opportunistic diversification. They have gone all in.

That single minded focus allowed them to do what hadn’t been done before. To go from 0 to 1 and truly make a difference in this world.

Steve Jobs said it beautifully:


“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”


Yet when you are in the trenches, working hard on that one thing, it can be easy to lose perspective.

You will want to chase shiny objects. It will seem like what others are doing is better, more attractive. You will want to start new projects. Do new things. Travel, go new places.

But you must not forget that those moments are when the difference is made. All you can truly do in life is be great right now. Excellence at what you’re doing at this very moment. Bypass all distractions.


Focus leads to excellence, leads to innovation.

What does it take to innovate - Focus

Eliminate distractions.

Steve Jobs was a master of focus. Every year he’d get together with his Apple executives and they would outline the projects that they should work on the next year. They would filter these down to 10 items, after which Jobs would eliminate the 7 weakest – until 3 items remained. That’s what they would focus on for the year.

This also reduces decision fatigue, which is when one’s decisions deteriorate after having made many before.

This principle is why leaders such as Jobs and Barack Obama are in the habit of wearing the same outfits every day. It leaves more energy for other – more important – decisions.

We can all learn from this practice.

Sam from EDM Production covers the topic of deep work amazingly in his new article on crushing your goals which you can read here.


Align your goals with your values.

Instead of chasing a plethora of desires and goals, we should identify which align most with our personal beliefs and values. Eliminate everything else. It will allow you to go all in on the things that matter the most.

This method hinges on an important question: “What do you want to do with your life?”

The purpose is not to specify an exact destination, where you want to be, but rather a general direction, of where you want to go.

Many would answer with an ethically correct: “I want to add as much value as possible to the world”, “I want to be a good human being” and “I want to be happy”.

I did. You likely will too. Aren’t we all special little snowflakes?

The next level is to add a level of application to that answer. How will you add as much value as possible? What will you do? That’s where the intersection between responsibilities and desires can be found.

I established this: I want to help others be better and better myself in the process. The medium is the label, management and teaching. Call it altruistic selfishness.


My resolution.

That answer allows me to set my targets for next year and beyond. It will be all about focusing on what matter most, eliminating everything else.

So many people have told me to do this and it is about time I listen.

We are closing UnlockTHIS, the like-to-download platform that we launched earlier this year. It was incredible learning curve to start a tech company, however without our dedicated attention it will reach never its true potential and inhibit success elsewhere.

In that same line of thought, I am halting all consultancy and lectures, beyond the projects that I feel are truly worthwhile.

I want to invest in the success of our existing management clients, the labels and our educational practices. More reading, more writing. More focus on the creative process.

Yeah, it’s still too much. However it is a step in the right direction.

It’s not about doing more of more, rather doing more of less. Focus leads to excellence, leads to innovation.


Your turn.

What do you want to do with your life?

What can you do less of and what should you do more of?

Let me know in the comments below.

  • Thank you Budi. Your teachings are invaluable.

  • Key Melodics

    Continue to do what you do. The inspiration is gold.

  • Ah man, this post speaks to me in VOLUMES. With 2 labels, a course platform, a few blogs, my own production work, a podcast, a handful of design projects and a stack more things I’m trying to get off the ground, this post really put some of that into perspective.

    Interestingly I’ve been aware of it, but I can’t help myself when it comes to new ideas – with the ease of starting something, it’s hard not to “just do it” to see if it works. I guess I need to be quicker at cutting my losses though 🙂

    Thanks for the post Budi – pretty much exactly what I needed to read before 2016 🙂


    Another gem article, nicely articulated. I constantly gain tons of useful knowledge from you and it is greatly appreciated. Very inspirational.

  • It’s my pleasure.

  • Thank you. This is one of the most personal articles I’ve ever written and it’s great to see it resonating with people. Will expand more into this realm, beyond the strictly music-industry related topics.

  • It’s a fine line to thread between doing a lot and doing too much. Maybe taking too much on your plate is essential when getting started, however it’s so obvious that the best-of-the-best always conquer individual fields, before expanding elsewhere. Good luck with your endeavours!

  • This is so true where I am at right now, wanting to do many things.
    But it all comes down to priorities that serve your highest values 🙂
    Great article

  • Sky Stack

    Hey Budi,
    Love the mention of decision fatigue. What are some items you have automated to save your mental energy for what counts?

  • I’ve tried to eliminate unnecessary decision making and clustered activities together.

    A few examples:
    – I pre-plan all my days and cluster my times. I don’t have to think about what time I have to wake up, it’s the same every day. I don’t have to think about when I go to the gym, it’s all scheduled.
    – Restrict clothing choices to a limited few so you don’t have to ‘match’ outfits.
    – Eliminate all things you don’t frequently find utility in your life, house and office environment. Throw out old stuff. Less = more.
    – Restrict email to twice a day. Batch in the most occurring categories, then process the batches during set times in the week (e.g. Finances, Legal, Demos etc).

  • Appreciate it @disqus_DpaUDMLdwn:disqus, glad to be of help.

  • Little update here guys…

    We’ve decided to take the focus principle to the next level. We’ve discontinued the sublabels ‘Villain Recordings’ and ‘Heroic Hearts’ so we can focus all our attention on the primary label. The team is loving the freedom of mind and singular focus this is giving them.

    Just wanted to share that 🙂

  • Saw your link in twitter today,
    I see you upload it while ago, but still relevant for everyday of my life.
    articales like this keeps you focus.
    as always, aspiring and written great.
    10x for sharing this and remind me my track.

  • LowLinK

    What exactly was the deal with multiple labels? I mean, I always saw all them as one, just with a different name. Did they had different personal involved?

  • Ashkan Nouri

    I decided that i can not keep producing, recording, mixing & mastering for free, for other artists. I do have three artists i will keep working with for free, but other than that, I’m done with that crap.

    I need to think of my own career, that’s priority #1. So if it does not help me to get further, i will not take on the job. Does it pay me? Well OK, then i can expand my studio with the money, otherwise.. bye bye artists.. find an other engineer and/or producer!

  • We had started them with the idea of creating homes for different styles of music.

    Later we realized that it would be a much stronger proposition to have a single label, that just pushed ‘quality music’, with a bigger audience than the sub-labels combined.

    It takes trial and error to come to these conclusions, but sometimes you just have to kill your babies.

  • Good call.

  • You’re very welcome!

  • Akash Gupta

    This is an interesting perspective on how to focus and innovate and I do agree with what you’re saying.
    Although, its a little tricky if you to play, produce , record , mix and master your music. As in this situation you would have to shift your focus a lot in these areas : –
    1. Being a better musician
    2. Improving Production techniques
    3. Audio Recording/editing
    4. Mixing and Master
    5. Finally, being really efficient and fast in all these things combined.

    Would be great to get some sense of direction here, as the whole process of creating an awesome album ends up getting a bit chaotic.


  • Akash Gupta

    Forgot to mention one more point : – Networking with people!

  • Great comment. This is a topic that we’re receiving a lot of questions about and will definitely cover in the near future.

    The real art is continuously focusing on your highest leverage activity. That might not be a single thing at the start of your career; Create great music, mix and master it better, market it hard, work on a new release, repeat the cycle until you develop a team who can take the marketing and branding part out of your hands etc. The trick is to do what is essential at the current moment. One thing at the time.

  • Joshua Tyler Garrett

    Hey ive always been on the bottom and life has always served me steaming piles of shit i need a chance to be someone and was wondering if some one could help me use my music as a gateway

  • Eric Nielsen

    Received this article in your email newsletter and it rings so true. When I relate this to my producing journey it is really important to stay focused on the sound and vision I want to create, even if I see so many great producers and artists on the market with great sounds, I know I have to craft my own sound to achieve their level of success.

  • Joaquin Aldunate

    oh my god; now I feel so lost. I move between composition and production, making instruments, programming interactive experiences, and playing life, and of course that I am so far of the achievement level that I want as a minimum for each aspect. but in the other hand, I have no idea how to choose on what to focus. There seem to appear shiny opportuinities all the time that pull me emotionally and I suddenly change direction. I guess that I may need to move towards the opportunities that don’t shine, the ones that you have to dig from under. But in what direction?!

  • Isaac Bender

    I want to be world known musician that speaks life love and encouragement

    I could think less about social drama and the things that create stress and focus my thoughts souly on my craft and learning and growing myself.

  • joaquin aldunate

    nice! thanks for tje answer. Albeit I have little time to read I enjoy a lot what I maage to read. Now that I see your answer, this is officially an awesome blog

  • bob jackson

    A great piece, Budi. This post certainly resonates…Trying to watch, read and implement the plethora of information on the web and do all the business and create the Music becomes Mission Impossible. Learning to let go of some things and streamline one’s aims down to the essence has to be way forward…

  • Glad you enjoyed 🙂