James Newcomb is a professional trumpet player in the Raleigh, NC area. He is host of Trumpet Dynamics and MusicPreneur podcasts and the author of the newly released book, Everything I Really Need to Know as an Entrepreneur I Learned Playing Music.
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- Trumpet Dynamic – James’ Podcast
- Secrets of the Millionaire Mind – James’ Top Business Book
- James’ website where you can find a gift for Fire Nation!
- The Mastery Journal – Master Productivity, Discipline and Focus in 100 days!
3 Key Points:
- If you want to be successful, sometimes it takes half steps or small steps to get there.
- You are entitled to that abundance, when you are doing the hard work.
- “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together”
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [00:52] – James is in California and continues to be a musicpreneur
- [01:35] – James spent a day with JLD in Puerto Rico
- [02:27] – James started his podcasting venture while he was in the army
- [02:53] – James learned from becoming a musicpreneur that the value of a mentor and teacher cannot be overstated
- [03:02] – James never had a music teacher and he never got a degree in music as a trumpet player
- [03:26] – James knew he needed mentorship and guidance
- [03:58] – 10 minutes before the end of JLD’s Kickstarter Campaign was when James decided that he would take that $10k/day with JLD!
- [07:19] – What was your goal for The Freedom Journal and how did you crush it? James’s goal is to launch a musicpreneur podcast “The Goal”
- [09:05] – James defines “Half Steps to Success”
- [13:27] – James joined the army because he wanted to play music
- [13:35] – James became more disciplined while in the army
- [15:24] – James would give himself an 8/10 on discipline
- [17:04] – You can self-evaluate using The Mastery Journal
- [17:39] – The Lightning Round
- What is something that you’ve changed your mind about in the last 6 months – something that you used to believe but that recently you no longer believe? – “Believing that I’m entitled to the blessings and abundance that come with hard work”
- Who do you admire most in the online space? – Tom Woods
- If you could ask B.B. King one question, what would it be? – What is music and what does it mean to you?
- Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew no-one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500 dollars. What would you do in the next 7 days? – On the 1st day, James would take $400 and go to the nearest pawnshop to find the best trumpet. James would buy a nice hat for $25 and change the $75 to $5 and $1 bills and start playing at the corner of the street. James would also add a pen and clipboard for people to sign up for an email list.
- [22:36] – Reach out to James via his website and snag a free e-book for Fire Nation!
- [23:06] – “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together”
James: JLD, I’m always prepared to ignite!
John: James is the host of the Trumpet Dynamics and MusicPreneur podcasts, as well as the founder of “Half Steps to Success: A Musical Mastermind”.
James, take a minute. Fill in some gaps from that intro and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
James: Well, it’s been just a short time since we last spoke –
James: – on your podcast, so not much has changed on my end.
I’m still here in Holly Springs, North Carolina, which is in the Raleigh-Durham area. And we just moved here and I’m makin’ it happen as a musicpreneur in my own right. I’m playing trumpet in the area – played for the symphony, played for a – got a good little gig with a rock band here in town and life is good; makin’ it happen here.
John: Love it.
Well, why I brought you back on, James, is because you’re just one of the studs. You’re one of the stars from The Freedom Journal. I mean, you are the guy that’s – on the last day of the Kickstarter campaign, you were hangin’ out online. We were doing this live Hangout. And you said, “You know what? I’m gonna drop $10,000.00 and I’m gonna spend a day with JLD in Puerto Rico” and you did that.
We had some fun. You know, we came up with some good ideas. We came up with some bad ideas. But overall, I think you left with a little bit of a vision and you’ve since grown that. You’ve just done some really cool things. You’ve been incredibly active in The Freedom Journal Facebook group.
So, kind of take us on your journey a little bit there specifically, James, because I think it’s fascinating. And I remember when I asked you, I was, like, you know, “What made you decide to grab that $10,000.00 day?” and your answer was just kind of like, “Well, you know, I saw it. I was, like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ and I did it.” And I was just, like, “He’s pretty casual. I like this guy.”
Now, what is that journey like? How did you hear about The Freedom Journal? What was a goal that you set during it and how did you crush it?
James: Okay. I’m going to back up a little bit.
I was just out of the Army and I started my podcasting venture while I was in the Army. I was a musician in Korea. And I knew that I was leaving the military and I knew that this was what I wanted to do: Be a podcaster. Not just a musician but a podcaster, podcasting about music.
And, you know, one thing that I’ve learned with – in my time as a musician – is that the value of a mentor and a teacher cannot be overstated. And I missed out on my opportunity to have a teacher in a college environment. I never got a degree in music as a trumpet player. But all of my peers, everyone that I know, always talks about that “one” person. And it’s not that I was expecting that type of a relationship with you when I made that financial commitment but I knew that I absolutely need mentorship and guidance if this is going to work.
And looking back, if I didn’t have that time with you – you know, an accomplished veteran, very successful – if I didn’t have that time with you, there’s no way I’d be where I am right now. Absolutely no way I would be on your show (1); and, 2) have the bio that you just read.
So, as I remember, it was, like, ten minutes prior to the end of the Kickstarter campaign.
John: Yeah, it was right there.
James: It was, like, I saw it on the Kickstarter thing and it’s, like, eating away at me for weeks and weeks and weeks.
John: And I’ll even step in here for a second too.
John: Because it was kind of eating away at me as well.
John: Because we launched the Kickstarter campaign. The first day, both of my $10,000.00 speaking gigs gone – both of the $10,000.00 days gone – and then, on the last day, six hours before the Kickstarter campaign ends, I get an email from a guy that says – because, you know, nothing’s locked in till the campaign’s over – the guy says, “Hey, John”, you know, “I just wanted to let you know that I’m withdrawing from the $10K day but I wanted to give you enough time” you know, “so other people could snag.” And I was, like, “Dude! You’ve been sitting on this for 33 days and now you’re giving me (quote/unquote) ‘enough time’?”
So that was kind of eating at me a little but, you know, I’m a positive guy, so I wasn’t going to let it get to me too bad. I mean, you know, we were at like $440K at that point so I wasn’t, like, crying, you know, in my sleep or anything. But I was still frustrated. So, yeah – continue. Sorry.
James: I just remember, I was living in my mom’s house at the time because we had just moved from Korea. And I was there, in the kitchen, and I just pressed “Submit” on my phone. And it was like that “moment”. It was like – I felt like I was a kid jumping off the deep end of the pool – into the deep end of the pool – not totally sure how to swim but I was, like, “I’m gonna figure it out. I just know that I’m going to figure it out.” That’s exactly how I felt when I did that.
And so I showed up there in Puerto Rico and, you know, I was an open book. I had an open mind. I was, like: This is the day that I’m going to decide what the next ten years of my life are going to look like. Not to put any pressure on you.
John: Yeah – no pressure on me, by the way.
One thing I remember about that, that Kate and I actually still fondly – whenever we talk about the place that we used to live in, out in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico – or now, “the other side of the islands”.
But it was a great little spot that we had and you whipped out your trumpet. And as you were playing, I remember just looking at Kate and thinking to myself, “Man” you know, “this guy is gonna make it because he’s so passionate about his music and about” you know, “being a trumpet player and he knows that there’s just a path to generating revenue.”
And to be honest, James, like, it kind of, like, brought me back to 2012, when everybody was saying to me, “John, there’s no path to making money in podcasting.” Like, that can be, like, a very, very side side-gig that you do and you do all of the other things to generate revenue. I said, “No. I know there’s a way.”
Like, I saw the same thing in you. Like, you knew there was a way to make money making music. And you knew that so many people were struggling doing that thing. And I remember seeing you play and just being, like, “This guy is so passionate about this topic; about this, you know, instrument; about music in general. I just know he’s going to be doing some great things.”
So I’m just excited to see what these next ten years do bring. And let’s maybe talk about some of the results that have happened post you crushing that goal. Like, what’s been going on recently?
James: The goal that I’m doing right now – I’m on Day 89 of The Freedom Journal – and I just decided I was going to make the launch of the MusicPreneur podcast the goal; like, a very broad statement. I mean, I’ve launched a podcast before, so I know the technical end of things: getting a logo, intro and everything. But I had the Trumpet Dynamics podcast, which was going well, and if I didn’t quit that, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would be successful and I would be a rock star in that niche.
But I just decided – or I think I’ve just realized – that my gifts and my abilities extend more than just one instrument. So, part of launching the MusicPreneur podcast was finishing up the Trumpet Dynamics podcast for the year, which was I set a goal of doing 100 episodes through the end of December. And so, all of that was part of the goal.
So the daily entries that I would make for – say Day 32, for example – would be, “Okay. I’ve got this to do for Trumpet Dynamics podcast” and that was like my No. 1 focus for that day. Not necessarily focused on MusicPreneur but just – that was my goal for this hundred days, was just wrapping things up with the one podcast and then ramping things up for the new one.
John: Now, something we haven’t talked about yet – but in your intro, here – “Half Steps to Success: A Musical Mastermind”. Can you kind of break down how you came up with that idea, what it is and how you hope that it plays out?
James: Yeah. This is something that is a new development since we last talked, like, 35 days ago.
James: If you’re not a musician – if you’re a musician, that makes sense to you; that title – but to just briefly explain: A half step is the smallest interval that you see on a – in the musical – in the scale. Like, for example, if you look at a piano, one white key to a black key to a white, to a white to a black – that’s called a half step. Okay? So it’s the smallest interval of pitches that you can find in musical lingo. Forgive my shoddy explanation of it. But –
John: I get it.
James: Yeah, okay. So it’s just – The message is that: If you’re going to be successful, you have to take half steps. You have to take very little, baby steps – sort of a baby-step type of thing.
And I always knew that I wanted to do “A Mastermind” with the MusicPreneur podcasts. I have the podcast sort of advertise and let people know that this is available.
And I was just driving along one day and all of a sudden, it just came to me: “Half Steps to Success”. Perfect.
John: Now, how do you see this playing out? Like, who’s your avatar for this and, kind of, what does your perfect vision look like, maybe a year into it?
James: It’s still a new concept, so not everything is –
John: Yeah, let’s talk it out. This will be a good time to talk it out right now.
Musicians who are – they just want to make it happen. They don’t know the tools that are available to them. Maybe they know of them but they don’t know how to use them to their best advantage. To get those people on the same wavelength because musicians, they tend to be a little – how do I say it? – musical. You know? And they want – It’s one thing to get coaching from John Lee Dumas, who knows about music but he’s not a musician. But it’s another thing to be around other musicians who are going through the same – they have sort of the same psychological struggles.
So really, the whole message of “Half Steps to Success” is you just – birds of a feather flock together. You hang out with people of like mind and you hash out your problems; help each other out.
John: Now, have you been thinking about costs? Have you been thinking about investment? Have you been thinking about, again, like total numbers; what it’s going to look like six months to a year, in a perfect world?
James: Well, my initial goal is to have 20 people. And I believe that you said you might be willing to help out with that.
John: Oh, really?
James: You don’t remember that email last week?
John: I get a lot of emails. I’m sure we’ll talk about that.
Now, six months to a year, though, like, what’s perfection for you within that?
James: I don’t know. I can’t tell you right now.
John: Something that we’ll work on, maybe, in Freedom Journal No. 2.
James: Very good.
John: Moving forward: Productivity, discipline, focus.
You know, the Army really does a good job, in my opinion, with discipline; something that I definitely understood when I left the military. I had a hard time transitioning that type of discipline to entrepreneurial discipline. But I was able to make that transition and then also work on my productivity and focus over the last four years until I have mastered these three skills.
Where do you think you are on these three skills right now? Are they something that you’re good at, that you struggle at? Where are you at?
James: I’m getting better. It’s funny that you said that the Army is good at building up discipline in people because you ask anyone that knew me while I was in the Army and they’d say, “James Newcomb is disciplined?”
John: Maybe I should say it does good with its officers in discipline.
James: Well, a couple of officers disciplined me but –
No – but the thing about the Army is that I knew – I had a plan. Like, I joined the Army because I wanted to play music. That was my goal. And when it came to playing music, I was more disciplined than anyone that I worked with. I’d put myself on par with anyone that I worked with. As far as being disciplined, I practiced every single day. I would take a day off every week just, you know – just to have a rest because that’s good. But the things that were important to me, I was very disciplined.
And that’s why I left the military before my 20 years because I just knew. I reached a point where it was like, if I continue with this, they want me to assume a role that I don’t really want to do; that being a non-commissioned officer. And that’s not why I joined the Army. I joined the Army so I could play music. And –
But when it came to doing what was important to me, I was very, very disciplined. And since leaving the military, I’ve become more disciplined than I ever was in the military. I have to because I’m an entrepreneur, making it happen. If I’m not disciplined, I’m not going to succeed.
John: The check’s coming on the 1st and the 15th when you’re in the military. Not when you’re an entrepreneur.
James: Yes, very well put.
And so, yeah. I’ve adopted a morning routine – not exactly like yours but sort of using yours as a model.
James: And using Hal Elrod –
John: I love Hal.
James: His Miracle Morning is sort of a template and sort of customizing it to my own unique skills. But yes, it’s definitely something that has come a long way in the last year.
John: So let me put you on the spot here. Give yourself a self-evaluation, scale of 1 to 10. Where are you at right now with productivity, discipline and focus? Break down each three and just give yourself that number.
James: Discipline: I would give myself an 8. I feel like I’m – there’s always room for improvement but I feel that any time I gave myself a deadline, any time I gave myself an objective to accomplish, I accomplished it. A lot of early mornings, a few late nights – I prefer early mornings – but a lot of drama with who’s gonna watch the little kid in our house. But push comes to shove, I made it happen.
Productivity is – I’m going to give myself a 6 there. Yeah, 6 is – I get distracted on Facebook a lot. I spend – I’ll just be doing something and then I’ll distract myself on Facebook or Twitter – mostly Facebook. So I’m going to give myself a 6 on that.
And then “Focus”, I’ll give myself an 8 again. Because I left Puerto Rico with pretty clear-cut goals to accomplish in the next six month and – I’m not going to be bashful – I met them and I exceeded my expectations.
John: Well, I love that.
And this self-evaluation, Fire Nation, is something that we all have to be better at because there’s not always going to be John Lee Dumas, like, huffing over James’s shoulder or, you know, fill in the blank – you know, whoever your coach is. I mean, it’s just not gonna happen. You need to understand how to self-discipline, how to be productive and how to focus on your own.
And so, The Mastery Journal, I implemented this incredible section where you are self-evaluating yourself. You’re giving yourself scores on these things and it’s just making you think about it. It’s just making you aware of where you actually are at with these things and then, of course, tracking it over those 100 days.
And if you want to learn more about what we have going on with this, we are crushing it over at themasteryjournal.com. I would love to see you over there.
And James, just like you recently did, you’re going to crush The Lightning Round after we thank our sponsors.
James, are you prepared for The Lightning Round?
James: I’m always prepared for The Lightning Round!
John: What is something that you’ve changed your mind about in the last six months? Like, what’s something that you used to believe recently that you no longer believe?
James: This is not something that is like a 180 reversal but it’s, inwardly, just believing that I am entitled to the blessings and abundance that comes with hard work. I recently read Harv Eker’s book –
James: The Millionaire – Secrets of the Millionaire Mind.
John: T. Harv, baby! Past guest of EOFire.
James: Ooo, awesome. I want to listen to that one.
Reading that book – and I want to attend a seminar if he still holds them – but I just realized that –
John: He does.
James: Oh, good. There was a lot of just, I guess – my financial blueprint, as he puts it – was sort of programmed for mediocrity and really settling for less than what I am entitled to; what I deserve with the hard work and the effort that I put in to what I do.
John: Fire Nation, you are entitled to the abundance that comes from hard work. If you’re putting in the hard work, you’re entitled to the fruits of that labor.
Now, James – present company excluded – who do you admire most in the online space? And by the way, I wasn’t saying that you would’ve said me but I just didn’t want you to feel pressured.
James: Well, I would’ve.
No, I want to give a shout-out to Tom Woods.
James: He is a great guy. He’s a former academic and he is just absolutely crushing it as an online entrepreneur. He – Five-day-a-week podcast. He’s got, like, 10-15,000 downloads every day. He’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever known and he’s just a shining example of someone who – I guess he had a career as a college professor and he just decided: I’m going to make it happen as an entrepreneur. And yeah – a lot of love for that guy.
John: But the real question is: What’s he doing with those other two days that he’s not podcasting?
James: I don’t know. He’s got five kids and he’s writing books. So maybe that has something to do with it.
John: The Tom Woods Show. Here it is right here. I have just subscribed because if you’re into it, I’m willing to check it out. “Your daily serving of liberal education.” Ooo, okay. There we go. And he’s done 807 episodes. That’s a ton! Love that.
John: If you could ask B.B. King one question, what would it be? Now, side note – I know this is a super-random question and don’t even ask me how I came up with B.B. King but for some reason, I just, like, thought – like, who would James admire in the music world? And I have no idea if you do but that’s who I came up with.
James: I’m not that familiar with B.B. King.
James: Just to be honest with you, he’s a blues guitarist – which is not my forte’.
John: I thought he was a trumpeter. I don’t know why.
James: That’s okay.
But my first podcast was called, “Outside the Music Box” and something that I like to ask – I think I started each interview by asking each guest, “What is music and what does it mean to you?” So I think I would ask him that and just sit back and enjoy his answer.
John: Wow. Love that.
James, this is something that we weren’t able to hit last time because, you know, our interview was running long and I just wanted to, you know – just get to the meat and potatoes. But this is the last question of The Lightning Round and it is a doozy.
Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in this brand-new world – identical to Earth but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge that you currently have; your food and shelter – pssh – taken care of. But all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
James: What I would do the first day is take $400.00 of those $500.00, go to the nearest pawn shop and find the best trumpet that I could find for $400.00. So I’m gonna take that and then I’m gonna take the rest of the $100.00 and go to the local store and buy a nice hat – that’s $25.00 – and then I’m gonna go to the bank and change the rest of the $75.00 into 5s and 1s; find a street corner. Put the 5s and 1s into the hat, start playing; have a little clipboard with a pen and paper for people to sign up for my email list, as well as their zip code – which I just found out is a good tactic to use if you’re a musician touring. And that is what I would do.
John: Love that, for all the obvious reasons. And James, I love ending these interviews on Fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say goodbye.
James: Best way to reach me is, well: musicpreneuronfire.com – I’ve got that special –
James: – domain, just for listeners of your show. And that’s got all the information that we just talked about – the “Half Steps to Success”, the podcast; everything that you want to know about what I’m up to.
And it just so happens – talk about a moment of serendipity – that the quote that you had on Day 89, which is the day I’m on The Freedom Journal right now, is: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” And what a great quote. So I want to leave you all with that.
John: That’s killer. Love that. That is serendipitous.
And Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you’ve been hangin’ out with JN and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, type “James” in the search bar. The Show Notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. The other conversation we had will pop up. Listen to both. They’re very different interviews – very different and very valuable. Time stamps, links of everything that we talked about on that Show Notes page.
And of course, if you’re interested, check out “Half Steps to Success”, which is that Musical Mastermind, because James is gonna make sure that you know how to make money making music. And musicpreneuronfire.com is where you can find all that and more.
And James, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch ya on the flip side.
James: I appreciate the opportunity.
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