4 Reasons to Stop Competing With Other Music Teachers
I was gushing to my mom earlier this week about my upcoming course for music teachers, and as is often the case when I hyperventilate about something, she had some words of caution.
“Aren’t you kind of shooting yourself in the foot though, honey? Helping other teachers?” she asked. She meant that if I helped you, you’ll eventually steal my students.
My mother is wise in many ways, but in this case, I had to disagree. In fact, I ranted. It struck a nerve, because many, many music teachers share this fear, and it hurts us all.
1. If You Value Good Music Education, Bless It
Years ago, a Hawaiian guitar teacher who followed my blog on heartwoodguitar.com wrote a kind note thanking me, saying I had the “Aloha Spirit,” which can be paraphrased as “Bless everyone and everything that represents what you want.” That phrase put into words an impulse I’ve always had: To cooperate instead of compete. In fact, it’s become one of my guiding principles.
The Aloha Spirit doesn’t just feel right to me--it’s logical. Do you value music education? Then why would you work against other music teachers? We’re all on the same team.
2. Competition Goes Against Our Nature
This past week, I spent three hours talking to beta-testers of my Totally Awesome Recitals course, asking them what role student concerts play in their teaching. One common theme: Music builds community. That feeling of a roomful of ordinary people making gorgeous music together--that’s what we live for.
And that’s why we feel so sheepish when we talk about competing with the other music teachers in town. We feel obligated to be smart business owners, so we force ourselves to be competitive, but it doesn’t feel right.
3. There Are Plenty of Students
The good news is, as music teachers, we get to play by different rules than companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart. No matter where you live and work, no matter how many other music teachers there are in your town, there is always a market for excellent music teachers. In a perfect world, every single human being would be a musician. Until that happens, there’s an untapped market ready to study with you.
How many times have you told someone that you teach music, and they said, “You know, I’ve got an old [instrument you specialize in] gathering dust in my closet. I should get that thing out….”? I hear this all the time, in a city teeming with other guitar teachers. Musical skill is something almost everyone values, but most people don’t act on it. This means that if you can inspire people to act on their own dreams of being musicians, you can create a market wherever you go.
So don’t worry about other teachers snatching up the "limited supply" of music students in your town. Instead, focus on being a great teacher, and communicating your value to everyone who will listen.
4. The Abundance Mentality Brings Success
In my favorite personal growth book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey says that most people have a Scarcity Mentality: There is only one pie, and if someone else gets a big piece, that means there’s less pie for me.
It’s understandable that a lot of music teachers would have this perspective. Even the most skilled among us usually work for low pay. We’re anxious when enrollment dips during the summer, worried that we won’t get enough students in the fall to catch up. It’s easy to get the impression that there’s barely enough students, money, interest in music education, etc.--to go around.
But it’s so wrong. And tragically, it’s self-fulfilling: When we have a scarcity mentality, we become uncooperative, possessive, jealous, and risk-averse. Not exactly traits you’d want in a music teacher.
On the other hand, when you truly believe that there’s enough pie for everyone, the doors of opportunity swing open. One example: One day I got a call from a guitar teacher, Joe Walker, who’d recently moved to Seattle from San Diego. He’d read my book Rob’s Totally Awesome Guitar Teaching Handbook, and just wanted to connect. We met for coffee, eventually became friends, and have since helped each other in our teaching businesses in immeasurable ways: He’s now part of the team of teachers that do the Coffee Shop Jam, he overhauled the Jam's confusing pricing structure, and he's a member of my mastermind group. None of this would have happened if either of us had looked at the other as competition.
Here's Joe ripping a gorgeous lead in a faculty performance of Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" at one of our recent Coffee Shop Jam student concerts. Such great musicians, such great friends.
...so how do you move from Scarcity to Abundance Mentality?
The curse of having a Scarcity Mentality is that as long as you’re stuck in it, you’re blind to the abundance around you. So how do you get unstuck? By learning from and associating with people who see the abundance. I was so touched when one of my pre-buyers told me yesterday, “It’s really helpful to just see another teacher who’s charging your rates. It shows me that it’s possible.”
I hope I can be that person for you too.