Brandeis International Business School

038: Being Multipassionate Today & Pursuing Your Interests Early

Lisa Loeb is a Grammy-winning singer songwriter who was launched into the spotlight with a platinum selling number one hit song, Stay. She is a trailblazing independent artist. She continues to publish records, she writes music for TV and film and she’s also the owner and designer of Lisa Loeb Eyewear.

Her main focus lately has been on music, but she is also a voiceover artist in certain animated TV shows like Jake and the Neverland Pirates. On top of all that, she also has two kids. There is certainly never a dull moment.

From the Dorm Room

Lisa was always a busy bee. Her senior year of high school she was in an independent film, president of the Student Council, playing in a cover band, DJing at the boys' radio station and at parties, in the school play and taking three or four AP classes. Whew!

She went to college at Brown, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish Literature because she loved Spanish. The majority of her time, though, was spent playing music, writing music and acting in plays. Even towards the end of college, she would travel to New York City and other places to play gigs and to record her own music.

In hindsight, Lisa says, she could have benefited in a gap year to think about what she actually wanted to study because college became more of a time to explore than to study. She thought that acting was going to be her primary thing, but the way things progressed in college, music became her main focus.

Brown University was a unique place: Lisa had a great support system, and she always had people to come and see her perform. But it was also a place where she was able to take music classes with people that she looked up to, and that she felt like I had a high standard to live up to as a musician and songwriter.

It felt like she was already being a professional musician while in college. Lisa and her friend were manufacturing tapes and selling them. They were travelling out of town to New York City to play in places that singer songwriters play when they're on their way to becoming professional musicians. They were already meeting music business people. In a practical way, she was already doing the thing that she wanted to do when she grew up.

“If you're graduating from college or a recent grad, take advantage of your time. Really, this is the time. Before you have serious relationships, and even if you are in a serious relationship, take advantage of your time. Take trips, explore things, take classes, take classes online. Like, really take advantage of that time. Have fun, enjoy yourself, explore, try to find time to step back and reflect on what you want to have your life look like, and do, and see and meet as many people as you can now.”

College is not just about the classes you take. Your life, as much as you can make of it, should be filled with passion, interest, continuing curiosity and becoming a better writer, student and communicator. It's not over when the bell rings.

To the Boardroom

Lisa wound up doing the professional work already in college. The transition wasn’t scary at all: Move to New York City, continue to play music and find a day job that could support what she was doing. She continued to get better at what she was doing, make more business contacts, playing at South by Southwest in the big music conferences and going to listen to people. She got as close to the profession as she could, always taking the next step.

It didn't all just fall into place, though. In the early '90s, to be a professional musician, you needed to get a record deal. You get a record deal, someone pays you, and you make a record.

The steps she needed to take felt so natural to her. You make songs and then you need to share them. You have to record them. And then, you have to get them out there, so you have to manufacture them.

When she started her career, it was so important to be focused. If you're a musician, that's who you are. You aren't a musician who also acts and teaches on the side. If you were doing more than one thing, you didn't seem like a renaissance person, you seemed like a dilettante. Lisa felt a lot of pressure to be taken seriously as a musician. She had all these other interests, but she couldn’t really pursue them.

Today, things have flipped around. If you're a musician, you want people to know that's your favorite hobby. Being a musician can be a brand. Many people grow their businesses as an entertainer by opening themselves up to people. And people don't frown upon doing several different things. Nowadays, it makes you a good business person.

“In retrospect, I am upset that I followed those rules because I did have so many interests, and ideas, and things that were important to me, and things that I loved that I felt like might make me seem not serious about my music if I were to follow other interest or do other things.”

Things worked out for Lisa just fine in the end, though the route there wasn’t as straightforward as it seemed.

The Entrepreneurial Edge

Every week, we highlight one piece of advice for aspiring, struggling, and successful-but-want-to-be-even-more-successful entrepreneurs:

When you start feeling over your head about technical things, like, "How can I get more followers? How do you crack the code of YouTube? How am I supposed to do this?" Look for the experts. Look for people who have more experience than you do, either by listening to their podcasts, by reaching out to friends and colleagues directly saying, "I think you might have more experience in this than I do. Can you tell me what you know?"


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