The numbers are in. Adele's '25' has broken every first-week sales record imaginable. According to Billboard magazine, her first week U.S. sales came in 3.38 Million copies. This record doesn't just shatter recent sales records, it is the largest week of album sales since Nielsen Music started tracking them with the Soundscan system in 1991. With this kind of a running start entering the Christmas season, look for the album to continue to shatter records. I wouldn't be surprised to see it be the fastest selling Diamond record (10 Million Album sales) in history. What makes this even more amazing is the atmosphere in which she has accomplished this incredible feat. Albums continue to sell less and less overall year after year. I'm not a data expert, but I can spot a declining trend.

So, is Adele just a statistical outlier? Or, are there some actual, tangible reasons why she's enjoying this incredible success? Many of us, like Adele, compete in industries with ample competition and tough market conditions. What are some lessons we can learn from Adele to skyrocket to the top of our industries?

1. Put in your 10,000 hours developing your craft. I recently gave a lecture at a local university, and I was amazed that none of the students in attendance had read Malcolm Gladwell's classic, Outliers. If you haven't read that book, stop reading this blog immediately, and go read that. From Bill Gates to The Beatles, Gladwell highlights the hidden work of preparation before the world's biggest successes went to the world stage. To many, Adele was an overnight success. We first discovered her when she happened to be the musical guest on the SNL episode with Sarah Palin. However, she put in her time long before that. "Adele left public school at 14 to attend the BRIT performing arts school, where musicians like Leona Lewis and Amy Winehouse also honed their crafts." (Mic.com) They must be doing something right at the BRIT performing arts school because both Amy and Adele were/are completely original artists. When she launched onto the world stage, she was ready. She was poised and confident and comfortable in her own skin. She discovered her original voice. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and Kelly Clarkson who developed, and continue to develop, on a very large stage. If you're given an incredible opportunity to go to market, it would be hard to say no, but in the meantime, hone your craft and find your original voice!

2. Don't rush your follow up offering. Adele's last album, '21,' was a monster hit. It has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, and 11 million + in the U.S. alone. After that kind of success, Adele could have very well released a 21 part 2. But, she didn't. As someone who has been in the music business, I know firsthand the pressure from your entire team to bring out your next offering. You have a touring crew whose livelihood is on the line, and business partners budgeting on your contribution. But, it's always worth it to make your next offering truly remarkable. Adele took a 3 year hiatus after 21, and spent that time being a new mother. (Work/life balance anyone?) Practically speaking, she doesn't need to work anymore. She didn't cave into pressure to release her next album before she was ready. Instead, she got to the place where she was making the record because she wanted to, not because she had to, and the results are worth it. She could have worked with all of the same producers and 'copied and pasted' the template from '21,' but she didn't. She challenged herself. She wrote from a place of honesty, and it drips from every track, with stellar production.Don't rush your next offering to market just because there might be demand. Take time to get it right. 

3. If your product is truly worthwhile, you can defy industry trends.Music has been moving steadily away from album sales. With the advent of iTunes, it has moved toward single sales. With streaming services, such as Spotify and Apple Music, it's hard to even make a sale at all. I work in an office full of millennials, many of whom have never bought an entire record in their life. Conventional wisdom is there is nothing that can be done about it. These are the market trends. However, thanks to the bravery of Taylor Swift leading the way, Adele took the big gamble of not making her songs available to streaming services. I know firsthand that streaming services are a pretty bad deal for artists, but I never had the courage to even suggest fighting the trend. Well, Adele's gamble has paid off and makes her sales numbers even more impressive, as Soundscan does now allow for streaming to count toward sales. Here's my point for you. If you have something truly incredible... If you make something real... If you make something of undeniable quality, people will pay for it. Maybe there's a challenge for all of us no matter our business.... Maybe the time spent complaining about market trends would be better spent making something truly extraordinary.

4. Don't speak ill of your competition. I like the show the Voice. I love the blind auditions when the judges turn around for an aspiring artist based solely on their vocal talent. I hate the following round they call the "battle rounds." The show stages it like a boxing match between two artists. How stupid. Art is not competition. It's about connection with your fans, not competing against others. The media has tried, and will continue to try in the coming weeks, to create feuds between Adele and other artists, especially Taylor Swift. So far, it's not sticking. When you speak ill of your competition, you seem small. It's beneath Adele to speak ill of another artist, and it's beneath you to speak ill of your competition. The next time, even in a sales meeting, someone tries to get it out of you, don't do it. Instead, talk about the connection you have with your customers. Ultimately, Adele really isn't in the music business. She is in the Adele business.Take this lesson to heart, even in internal meetings. Does any of the time you spend comparing yourself to your competition make you better able to serve your customers? You won't see Taylor Swift bashing Adele either. Do you think she spent this weekend crying in her hotel room over Adele's success? Nope. I bet she bought the record herself. She spent the week playing for 70,000+ fans in Sydney, Australia and serving her customers whenever she could. You see, Adele and Taylor are not really in competition with one another. They are competing with all the other noise in the world for their customers' attention, and they're both winning.

5. There is nothing as attractive as humility and gratitude. Here is Adele's tweet going into street week.

It feels genuine to me. It's an artist grateful for the support of her fans. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving weekend, and in an attempt to keep that spirit alive through the much more commercial Christmas season, express the same kind of gratitude to your customers in this season. They allow you to have your life and livelihood just like Adele's fans allow her to live her dreams. If you're not living your dreams, maybe it's time to go back to step 1 and start focusing on your 10,000 hours all over again.

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