Stop Following Others. Be More Like Yourself. An Interview With Will Ackerman

I want you to imagine something. That you take the unique creative vision that is inside of you, and you pursue it. You obsessively go “all in” with it.

You stop following the advice of the gurus out there, and you double down on honing your craft and sharing it with others.

After awhile, people notice. In a big way. Then, in a couple short years, you are so successful that you are earning tens of millions of dollars a year because of what you create.

That is what happened to a hero of mine, and he and I had the chance to chat for an hour this week. When I asked him about the journey from playing his guitar in an alcove in college, to earning all that money, this was his description of what happened:

“If you begin something that is inspired entirely by heart. You are not chasing something that is indicated in the current market to be viable. Because of the love of it, you are willing to do something whether it has economic potential or not. That it is something you love. In so doing, you end up being a unique thing, that happens to hit the world between the eyes.”

Can you imagine this? Not following trends, not constantly checking social media, not worrying about gaining followers, but instead: following your heart. Focusing on your craft. Becoming MORE LIKE YOURSELF, and less like others.

The person I spoke with is Will Ackerman. You likely haven’t heard of him, but he looms large in my life. This is why:

  • He is a guitarist who has recorded GORGEOUS music. I’ve spent hundreds of hours listening to his albums. Have a listen.
  • He founded a music label, Windham Hill Records that released dozens and dozens of albums of beautiful music, often instrumentals.
  • He pretty much discovered George Winston, the A-MAZ-ING pianist. And Michael Hedges. And so many others. I mean, without Will, the world would truly have missed out on some of the most beautiful music ever recorded.

That is the “what” of Will Ackerman. But the “how” is what fascinates me. How on earth did he do this? In my hour-long interview with Will, I was kind of blown away by his message. Will took me through each step of his career with incredible honesty. What he shared is so instructive for any writer or artist who hope to share their work with the world. 

Will also opened up about something very important: coping with depression, and how he found his way through it. For Will, who had spent a decade helming a label which was earning tens of millions of dollars a year, his solution was simple: remember who you are. He sold the label, bought about 1,000 acres of wilderness in Vermont, and went back to his first love: building. He said to me, “I easily spend 20x more time with a chainsaw in my hand, than I do with a guitar.”

Today, he produces about 15-20 albums for others in his studio, and he recently played Carnegie Hall with a new group he formed called Flow.

You can listen to my interview with Will here:

You can find Will at