Countless factors go into making a superstar: Talent, tireless work ethic, unquenchable thirst, and a dusting of luck, to name a few. But what keeps them so successful? How do they stay sane? Perhaps more interestingly, what can we learn from their habits? Music industry veteran Nick Cooper, vocal coach to A-listers like Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Kesha, has spent his career working with and learning from some of the most sought-after artists in the industry. Here’s what he’s learned from them about making it to the top—and staying there.
A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action
It’s always wise to look before you leap, but can one look for too long? Cooper says you can.
“Something that every A-lister I’ve worked with has in common is that they know there’s a time for talking and a time for doing. And the time for talking isn’t that long. They’re decisive, and they use their discussing and planning time very strategically, because when it comes down to it, time really is money, and you want to spend as much of your budget on the project itself as you can.”
Getting so bogged down in the details that you never get to the thing you’re planning to do is something we can all relate to. Being thoughtful about how much time you spend talking and thinking before execution is good advice for any project.
Mutuality is the Name of the Game
The top is an exclusive club, and when you’re there, you have to rely on the others who are there too even more than you compete with them. Cooper says, “For elite talent, there just aren’t that many people who know what performance at that level is like, so you have to lean into those around you for support and motivation. You’d think it’d be pretty cutthroat for them, but it isn’t. It’s a very collaborative atmosphere.”
It makes sense. People get better workout results when they have a buddy or a group to compare notes with and learn from. View the people at your level of performance less as competitors and more as colleagues. Support them and accept support from them in return, and it stands to reason that everyone’s results will improve.
You are Your Own Destiny
Waiting around for others to make a move may be a good strategy in board games, but it can lead to stagnation in life. “A-listers are the ultimate go-getters. They have that Rocky attitude. When you think you woke up early, they’ve already had a glass of eggs and run ten miles, and they’re ready for the next thing. They don’t wait for someone to tell them yes or no, they just do what they need to do and do it fast.”
The chances of catching lightning in a bottle are vanishingly small, and even more so if you’re standing still. Get to the storm early and come prepared to catch, and you increase your chances.
Lean into Feedback
Everybody’s gotten feedback that’s hard to take, and when it’s on a project you’ve poured your heart and soul into, it doubles the pain. But taking feedback is one of the most important skills you can have for success.
“When you give someone at that level of talent feedback, especially if it’s telling them something they need to improve, you expect them to take it badly at first. But that’s not how it goes. Being a prima-donna just gets you surrounded by yes-men. People who only praise you and don’t give real feedback don’t help you improve.”
Feedback is an important part of the puzzle when you’re striving for greatness. Cooper advises that you accept it, think it over, and work it into what you’re doing with an open mind.
Of course, these life lessons aren’t exclusive to celebrity talent. Taking personal accountability for your next step, acting quickly and collaboratively, and being open to constructive feedback are powerful actions that we can all incorporate to operate at a higher level.