It's All in Your Head

It's All in Your Head





I first noticed Russ when he kept popping up on my ‘Release Radar’ (a weekly playlist of new music that Spotify think’s you’ll like). He was putting out a huge number of singles - I later learnt about his journey and process.

Russ had released 10 albums and 80 singles before he broke into the mainstream. He changed his strategy to putting out a single a week - and it helped him break through. Here’s what I found incredible about his story…

  1. Grit → he kept going for years without getting any traction
  2. Work Ethic → the consistency and sheer volume of work produced
  3. Tactics → regular releases was a novel approach that seems well suited to how people discover music today

This book is short and insight dense. It was well worth a read for me because I’ve been so interested in his story since I first heard about it.

It turns out that Kanye style unshakable confidence is the driving factor behind his success (”I’m the best in the world at this S***” type of confidence). That together with a relentless work ethic (he got 10,000 hours in quickly). He didn’t just work hard though, being a student of his industry helped him succeed.

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Key Takeaways

The 20% that gave me 80% of the value.

  • Find something you’re passionate about and pursue it. Start where you find joy, follow your curiosity.
  • Russ needed delusional self belief to get through 10 years of sounding terrible. Russ attributes his success to his confidence
  • 3 things you need to make it
    • Delusion → can give you faith when there’s nothing that indicates you should believe
    • Persistence → gives you the strength to keep going
    • Gratitude → to appreciate all that you have → positive energy begets success
  • Imagine yourself successful → put in the work→ make progress and build belief
  • Confidence is a choice.
  • Defeating your own self doubt is the biggest obstacle to overcome
    • Doesn’t acknowledge his failures as such, treats them as stepping stones.
  • He made public declarations before they were true. Tweeted “$1m a beat” in 2011.
  • Everything is unrealistic - until it isn’t
  • Don’t seek outside validation, the belief needs to come from within you
  • He thought on any given day he could wake up and be a star. Get delusional.
  • Turn belief into action - don’t defer your dreams with self doubt
  • Trust the what, fuck the when. You can’t put a deadline on success. You must detach from the when. If you’re too attached to the when, you’re fighting the universe.
  • He loved the work so much that he lost track of time (a number of years). Time wasn’t real.
  • Play for the love of the game - fuck the points (accolades, money, etc). If you play for points you’ll get rich and stop trying. You need limitless enthusiasm.
  • Don’t let people who’ve given up on their dreams crush yours. It doesn’t matter if others don’t think your choice is credible, practical or lucrative
  • Passion is magnetic. Surround yourself with passionate people and everyone’s energy and success starts to inspire each other. Choose those around you wisely.
  • Always knew I had to put in work, always knew this was going to work
  • Dreams only work if you do
  • There’s somebody who wants what you do - and they’re working harder than you are
  • Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard Kevin Durant
  • Others might be further ahead and have more talent - out work and out believe them.
  • Friends left his group having lost faith, they were more talented but were focused on the when.
  • Pull the trigger, leaps of faith are essential, embrace the fear.
  • Never stop being a student of your game. Study your ecosystem, everything and everyone. You can’t expect to succeed if you don’t know what worked and didn’t work for people before you.
  • Captain your own ship, own the means of operation. Building his own studio meant the lights were always on.
  • Self reliance is a survival technique - Russ was writer, producer, wrapper, video producer, marketer. Freedom was power - when you’re not dependent on anyone to make a song you can constantly create. “I could go downstairs and make a whole album without picking up the phone”.
  • You need time alone - to work on yourself and your craft.
  • Don’t lose yourself in the arena of comparison.
  • Live in a state of urgency. Move with purpose. Try to make things happen now. Don’t put it off - stop waiting. Do it now. Don’t procrastinate. Understand the power of a minute.
  • There’s always more to do - move with purpose. Don’t be content - make better things.
  • The future version of yourself should be your inspiration
  • Don’t wait to arrive at success - the journey is success.
  • Get on your own side. It should be me vs the world (not me vs me)
  • The journey starts and ends with you.

His Journey in a Nutshell

  • Started making music at 14, dropped out of school at 17.
    • Created a studio in basement - made songs to play at school the next day
    • Made 1000 loops on GarageBand
  • Spent 10 years releasing music in anonymity - channeling delusional self belief
    • He thought on any given day he could wake up and be a star
    • First youtube video got 50 views overnight → made him determined to succeed
  • Parents were supportive - got by making $20 a month from uploaded songs for years
  • Some of his friends were more talented, they didn’t stick it out, he was one of the last to start rapping.
  • Didn’t sign with a label, but viewed offers as a sign he was on the right path
  • Had a map of everyone in the industry on the wall - they were students of the ecosystem.
  • Switched from making albums to putting out a song a week, each with it’s own artwork. Did that for a year and blew up
  • TuneCore earnings: June 2015 $600 → June 2016 $102,000
  • Learnt to do everything, the whole process end to end. Was told it would take 2 months to make a video, so he took on the work and shot 6 videos in the same day.

Deep Summary

Longer form notes, typically condensed, reworded and de-duplicated.

  • It’s all in your head - get out of your way
  • You have a flame - waiting for you poor gas on.
  • Music is a kind of manifestation
  • Pursuit of greatest passion - connects you to your best version of yourself
  • Connecting to your higher purpose is essential
  • Passion and self belief are paramount to any endeavour
  • Your success is related to your self belief
  • 10 years of sounding terrible - delusional self belief - anonymity

3 Qualities for turning your real life into your dream life:

  1. Delusion - gives you faith, when there’s nothing that indicates you should believe
  2. Persistence - strength to keep going
  3. Gratitude - appreciate all that you have - positive energy will bring more success
  • Started making beats at 14
  • Always had confidence - talked shit as if he’s the best
  • Confidence is a choice
  • I don’t believe I’ve ever failed (Despite having 11 albums flop) where you see failure, I see stepping stones - to win - you need to get out of your own way -
  • You decide if you’re your biggest obstacle or greatest fan
  • You don’t lose to a competitor, to the industry or to a boss - you lose to yourself - defeating your own self doubt is the biggest obstacle to overcome
  • At 17 - when he started on the musical journey with his best friend - they equipped themselves mentally by reading positive books - giving themselves immunity from self doubt and to wether the years of waiting for the rest of the world to recognise
  • He read those books because they offered him something that he could use
  • His confidence isn’t fuelled by cockiness or superiority or success
    • He is successful because he’s confident
    • He’s not confident because he’s successful
  • I want you to understand that I’m not shit - but I always believed I was the shit - and that’s the trick.
  • Look at me and know you can instil that confidence in yourself
  • 11 Albums + 96 singles → 10 years in the basement, he made it to the penthouse

Part 1: Delusion

Manifest → Speak your goals into existence

  • Your thoughts hold weight in the universe
  • Be careful what you think about because it comes true
  • Making music is a kind of manifesting - you take nothing and make it into something
  • Imagination → work → Belief
  • Before I knew who I was - I knew who I was
  • Building your dream brick by brick
  • Put yourself into the life that you want - immerse yourself in the moment
  • Can you feel the joy
  • Transmute those feelings of joy into the work you do everyday - feel the success so deeply
  • Feel the joy emanating from you and your family - from your success
  • They leave no room for doubt
  • You have to be proactive and put in the work - but once you tap into your potential - winning is natural
  • Got onto MTV by talking shit - made it happen whilst out in California for the first time sleeping on floors
  • I didn’t hope or pray - I simply believed
  • While I was waiting - I wrote signs around my room (I’m the biggest selling artist in the world etc) - I’m the most sought after producer in the world
  • I wanted to wake up surrounded by my goals - back then I had to hype myself up - I was broke, I had no results, all I had were the thoughts in my head
  • Those positive declarations - I put them on twitter - I externalised them - that’s part of the process
  • I wanted to document the before - because I knew there was going to be an after, I knew I was going to make it
  • Back in 2011 be tweeted $1m a beat
  • Loved his work before others noticed
  • A lot of those manifestations on the wall were in the present tense
  • It’s a mistake to say ‘I’m going to be x’ - you’re putting it off, the future never comes .
  • You need to believe you’re successful now, and the world is just waiting to catch up

Chapter 2: Since I was Broke - Be Delusional

  • Living off delusion is healthy
  • Everything is unrealistic until it’s not
  • Follow your dream despite it’s contradiction with the known reality and the rational expectations of other people
  • You must believe in what you’re doing before anyone else can
  • If you feel you need advice or praise - you’re the problem
  • If you’re seeking outside validation you’re already losing
  • Slept in a studio and could focus on music - met new people
  • Got to meet Joey Badass - made him feel closer to his dream not further away
  • He thought on any given day he could wake up and be a star
  • Get delusional

Chapter 3: The formula you vs you

  • Everyone needs something to believe in
  • That thing should be you - just believe in yourself
  • You need to turn belief into action
  • Don’t defer your dreams with self doubt
  • Negativity is like tying cement blocks to your feet
  • Insecurity will lock you in your own cage

Chapter 4: Boomerang - What you throw out will come back

  • Trust the what - fuck the when
  • I always thought I was going to blow up tomorrow
  • But I loved the work so much that I lost track of time
  • I didn’t have a routine - I got so lost in my passion
  • Time wasn’t real - just clocks -
  • You can’t put a deadline on success
  • You must detach from the when
  • If you’re too attached to the when - you’re fighting the natural flow of the universe
  • The universe already has the best plan - you’re not in control
  • Don’t get caught up in the when, just know the what
  • Know the why - bounce from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm
  • Trust the what, fuck the when, never forget the why

Chapter 5: The Game: Fuck the points

  • Play for the love of the game - that’s the passion
  • Points don’t sustain you (the accolades)
  • Play the game for the sake of playing
  • Without it you’re not living
  • You don’t find your love for life through money
    • You’ll find money once you’re loving life
    • The money will find you
  • Find your passion - what fills you up with the most enthusiasm?
  • Start where you find joy - start following your curiosities
  • You need limitless enthusiasm
  • People dismiss their intuition - out of fear, because they’ve been told there’s no money in it - don’t let people who gave up on their dreams set your boundaries
  • Doesn’t matter if others don’t think its credible, practical or lucrative
  • Believe in your passion - the pursuit becomes it’s own reward
    • Don’t worry about the money and the points
  • No job is beneath you - to pay the bills whilst working on your passion
  • If you play for the points - you’ll get rich and stop trying.
  • Play for the love of the game

Chapter 6: On the other side of your fear is your truth

  • On the other side of your fear is your truth
  • Have you ever seen a confident person be offended by somebody else’s confidence?
    • No - that’s not a winning mentality - when you’re consumed by your passion you’re not focused on anyone else
    • That passion requires insane amount of self confidence and thick skin - because in order to succeed you have to beleive in yourself more than the average person
    • The average person is offended by that confidence - you will piss some people off
  • Passion is magnetic - it draws people together
  • Transfer of confidence around passionate people is enlightenment
  • When you accomplish or work on an unrealistic goal, your energy will inspire one another, your success will prove to one and other what is possible
  • Home was always a good place to work on music. His parents passion for it - felt like it gave him permission to pursue it - that is enlightenment
  • The love for music was contagious
  • Thought of himself as a producer at first, but was always writing -
  • Asked his friend if he should start wrapping - and his friend was supportive - that was a pivotal moments - he was vulnerable
  • You’re vulnerable and fragile at the early stages of pursuing a dream
  • When somebody is confident and passionate it’s contagious
  • The energy of the people you surround yourself with rubs off on you - choose wisely

Part 2 Persistence

  • Always knew I had to put in work, always knew this was going to work

Chapter 7: Always knew, Hardwork > talent

  • Dreams only work if you do
  • There’s somebody who wants what you do - and they’re working harder than you are
  • Work harder than everyone else - don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re not good enough - get out of your way
  • Kevin Durant: hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard
  • The Xfactor is hard work - the public will praise you for what you practice in private
  • If you love it it won’t fill like work
  • The more you work, the more fulfilled, the more fulfilled the better the work
  • School work felt like work. Work work felt like work.
  • Despite not putting in the work at school or at jobs - he’s where he is because of his work ethic - music never felt like work
  • Worked on music all day everyday since 14
  • Made 1000 loops on GarageBand
  • First beat was really bad - uploaded to YouTube and dreamed about getting 50k views by the morning - couldn’t sleep at the thought that that was possible - it had 50 views
    • It became a challenge for him to blow up
    • Was going to do whatever it took
  • Played beats he made for his best friend in the park.- they’d go crazy for it - met up with rappers at school - made a bootleg studio in parents basement
  • We made a song on the first studio session - played it at school the next day
  • Second band… DIAMOND - Do it every day music or nothing
  • Others would join and leave - as they lost faith, they were too focused on the when
  • They had self belief to spare - but realised that others lacked belief
  • He was the last one to start rapping out of his friends, had less talent, the fact that he made it and others didn’t is as equally monumental as it is frustrating as they were all better than him
  • This world doesn’t bet on talent - it bets on people who bet on themselves - world rewards confidence and belief
  • You might be further along than me and have more talent. But I’m not going to stop, I’m going to out work and out believe you

Chapter 8: Pull the trigger: don’t hesitate

  • Jump off the cliff - embrace fear
  • You’re hesitant because you don’t have wings yet
  • You need to pull the trigger
  • Listen to your first thought the uncensored one - trust your instinct
  • Rash, impulsive and careless → leaps of faith are essential
  • Lost interest in school - and dropped out to make beats
  • Already knew what he wanted to do in life - dad was super supportive - mum gave him a year to be self funding
  • Made 20$ a month by uploading songs online and beats online
  • Did that for 5 years - whilst being fed by parents - didn’t have to pay rent
  • It was a nuts decision to drop out of college - jumping off the cliff was fuel - ‘oh well’ can free you
  • Stop focusing on the whole staircase - just focus on the stair in front of you
  • Choose to be inspired by fear -
  • Overcome hesitation - less think, more do
  • Intuition has driven his career → didn’t sign deals because they didn’t feel right
  • Took the offers as acknowledgments that he was on the right path - it’s just the universe saying keep going
  • Don’t hesitate - don’t doubt - wings will grow - jump

Chapter 9: Naked Keep your barriers down

  • Be sensitive and vulnerable
  • Be honest about vulnerability - disarms others and stops them being weaponised against you
  • I’m wildly honest - self aware
  • You can’t use me against me
  • Goodbye - was a breakup song
  • Each song is a 3 minute autobiography
  • Don’t downplay things - own your desire - say it out loud
  • Put yourself out there - occasionally you’re going to have to look stupid

Chapter 10: Stakeout : Plotting while being patient

  • Study the ecosystem - everything and everyone
  • Soak up everything - know who’s doing what, and who’s responding to what
  • You can’t expect to succeed if you don’t know what worked and didn’t work for people before you
  • Study your game
  • Patience was essential -
  • Patience isn’t just about waiting - it’s about how you handle it
  • When nothing works - keep working - lose track of time - find success
  • Have tunnel vision on a goal - keep your head down
  • He realised that the delivery of the songs was the issue - each song should get it’s own album and artwork
  • He had 26 songs - started putting out a song a week - always wanted to be 6 months ahead - so that when everything took off and he couldn’t’ get into the studio as often - I’d still have music
  • Even though it wasn’t working - he was learning what wasn’t working
  • A song a week until I blow up - that was the plan. Worked.
    • On tunecore
    • June 2015 $600
    • June 2016 $102,000
  • Keep going consistently and positively, pivot, never stop studying

Chapter 11: How to survive in the wild

  • Captain your own ship - stay in the cockpit
  • Navigate that choice on your own terms
  • Don’t shy away from the business side of your career - educate yourself
  • Business side should support the creativity
  • Own the means of operation -
  • Own the gym you’re practicing in
  • Build their own studio - the lights were always on -
  • Self reliance is a survival technique - learn everything you need to to get the job done - they learnt every part of making and promoting a song
  • Learnt to mix - a song
  • Trial and error - could go downstairs and make a whole album without picking up the phone
  • Freedom was power - you don’t want to be in a position were you’re dependent on anyone else to make a song - you want to be productive and impulsive - create at any movement
  • When you know every aspect of your craft - people can’t bullshit you anymore
  • Learnt to make a video - somebody said it would take 2 months and they did it in 2 days
  • Shot 6 videos in one day

Chapter 12: Don’t fall for it -Anti - Dogma

  • Follow your own path - you might look to others
  • Don’t fall for other ideas -
  • Don’t lose yourself in the arena of comparison
  • You need time alone - to work on yourself and your craft
  • Embrace the fear - don’t be lonely on your own
  • Don’t set relationship goals - set life goals
  • Put self love first
  • Being realistic is the worst advice - is limits you to what’s been done before
  • Social detachment allows to be comfortable with yourself
  • Humble is about lowering yourself to be among others.
  • Humility makes you your own worst enemy - don’t dim your own light
  • Question the rules, take risks, be open to discovery

Chapter 13: Emergency: Move with a purpose

  • Live in a state of urgency
  • Move with a purpose
  • Try to make it happen tonight
  • Don’t put it off - stop waiting
  • Do it now
  • Don’t procrastinate
  • Understand the power of a minute
  • Time is the one thing you can’t get back, spend it wisely
  • Time is a currency - spend it wisely
  • Spending time somebody is a big deal - if they want more they don’t value your time
  • Time over flowers
  • Think less do more - don’t overthink things
  • Keep doing, keep making
  • It’s about output - do it, so you can do it again
  • Get the reps in - it will become great through practice
  • Your work will never be perfect
  • There’s always more to do - move with purpose

Part 3: Gratitude

Chapter 14: Take it all in: the tornado effect

  • I created the storm - I knew the tornado was coming
  • You emerge from the basement and you’re still in awe at what happened
  • The reality of your success can still inspire awe
  • Gratitude is your way of telling the universe - thank you I’ll have some more
  • Celebrate what you want to see more of

Chapter 15: Look up to yourself

  • The future version of yourself should be your inspiration
  • A better version of you to be attained is what should keep you going
  • Future me is inspiring
  • The biggest motivation is your potential
  • Your potential has no ceiling
  • Become the best version of you

Chapter 16: The journey - Success is not a final destination

  • The dream is living it
  • Don’t wait to arrive at success
  • The journey is success -
  • Trust the process - move around the obstacles
  • Blind faith is your compass
  • You know the way
  • Don’t be content - make better things
  • Embrace new things as long as its in line with your purpose
  • The journey is forever enjoy the ride

Chapter 17: Bounce Back

  • you will fall
  • Fight
  • Me vs me
  • Should be me vs the world
  • Never ending battle
  • Don’t have to get it right everyday
  • Put your feelings and experience back into your craft
  • When you’re down and you rise up you feel more powerful on the other side
  • On the other side of Adversity is strength

Chapter 18: Keep on gong - main focus is to stay focused

  • The journey starts and ends with you
  • Keep the faith
  • I don’t believe you winning is going to fuck up me winning