My friend Chad Jeffers comes from a musical family. His father, Doc, was in the music business, and he and his brother were raised with a love of music. When Chad was eight-years-old, he was already playing drums for his fathers band. The eldest Jeffers and his two sons went on playing shows around Eastern Tennessee.
The next year, Chad decided to switch from drums to guitar. He quickly started a band with his brother Michael called Raney Nickel, where they went on to play events at different theme parks (including Dollywood), fairs, festivals and events.
Jeffers’ music career was off to a quick start. During college, he continued learning, hustling and building his career. Not only did he study music at Belmont University, he also dove into learning marketing. A few years ago, Jeffers and I met for coffee in Franklin, Tennessee and he explained a turning point in his life that happened back when he was in college.
He had landed a sweet gig interning for country music star Reba McEntire’s company. That major steppingstone not only advanced his knowledge of the industry but also the networking aspect of his upcoming career. At the same time, he was met with a challenge. Does he pursue a full time job with benefits to support himself and prop up his career? Or does he give it everything he can to make it as a full time musician?
Not sure what to do, he turned to his father. Chad asked his dad his opinion on what to do. We would hope that all parents want the best for their children and would give advice that would be beneficial to their children. Jeffers dad obviously is one of those fathers. Chad asked his father, point blank, his opinion on what should be his next move.
His dad asked his son if he wanted to make a career in music. The younger Jeffers was adamant that making a career in music was his goal. His father gave an answer that was not only powerful but it was one that many fathers wouldn’t be bold enough to give.
“If you want to make a career in music,” Doc Jeffers stated, “do not get a job with benefits.”
I heard that, and I mentally applauded his dad for his boldness. My dad did something similar for me when I was at a career crossroads. When I was accepting a low paying photography job in the newspaper world, he boldly made one statement that changed the course of my career.
“You have a skill, but you aren’t using it correctly,” he said.
That was the day that I realized my skills were applicable in so many ways that went beyond working for someone else. My entrepreneurial journey started that afternoon.
For Jeffers, the impact was similar. His dad laid it out for him. If you accept a job with benefits, you will never allow yourself out of that comfort trap to actually chase your dreams. Once you have those benefits, they are extremely difficult to give up. His father saw the trap of comfort. The music industry is a difficult one. You need all of the grit, tenacity and connections to make it.
It’s not easy. But it’s easier to do when you aren’t entrenched in the web of benefits. Jeffers listened to his father and decided to go all in on his music career. I haven’t asked him yet, but I wonder when it hit him that he made the right decision.
Could it have been when he was asked to tour with Keith Urban? Maybe it was when he landed a gig with Kenny Loggins? Maybe it was in 2007, when he began a thirteen year run of touring and working with Carrie Underwood? I wonder if, when he is performing at the American Music Awards, the Country Music Awards, the Grammys or in front of 80,000 people at Nissan Stadium in his hometown state, he wonders what life would have looked like if he took the safe path and gave up all of his dreams, goals and desires for the comfort of a full time job and those prized benefits?