From Unemployed Orchestrator To Startup Founder, Part IV

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(UPDATE: Check out the CBS feature on’s tribute to Amy Winehouse).

This series chronicles the experiences of Walt Ribeiro after he was laid off and started his new company, For Orchestra, while on unemployment (Prior installments: Part I; Part II; Part III).

It’s funny how things are so much clearer the further down the road you go. I’m beginning to learn that business is kind of like a pointillism painting, where up close it looks like a bunch of senseless dots, but if stand back you can see the picture beginning to take shape the further away you are.

We all have a desire for things and we all have the ability to make our ideas come to life.

For there to be a risk, there must be a reward. Sometimes that reward isn’t obvious, but as you look back you begin to see things much clearer.

So, looking back, I learned a lot of new things — not just about business, including:

1.) Get Offline. I used to think that the internet was the be all end all, but it’s simply a tool, not a place. You can still get more done in one happy hour than you can sitting behind a computer for 3 months.  That’s not to say the internet isn’t the greatest invention in the world – it is – but ultimately don’t forget, perhaps now more than ever, that hugs and handshakes make the difference.

2.) If it’s not working, give up. This might sound dramatic, but the idea is that if you’re spending 18-hour days and don’t see any gain in your product, then you’re doing something wrong. When I released my CD in 2006, I spent endless hours trying to make it work. But, when I reworked that idea in 2009, it all seemed effortless and there was immediately demand that I couldn’t keep up with. I started learning that “you can’t create a market” and, so, the market should never have to be so heavily convinced.

3.) Just publish it. Life is too short and everyone’s worse enemy is themselves — especially artists. I’m not saying to publish unfinished works, but the reality is that you can spend years fine-tuning something because it’s never truly finished. Just publish it, listen to your community, and fine-tune it as you go. Besides, you learn by doing.

4.) Be patient. Nothing is successful overnight.  In fact, if it’s an overnight success, then I would be somewhat cautious. A community that takes a long time to grow takes a long time to break.  So, that’s something to aim for.

5.) Be Weird. Stop worrying about what others will think of you and start doing work that is remarkable. When I arranged my own music for sale no body wanted it, but when I started arranging popular artists then everyone thought it was fun, a novelty, and interesting. They like it because they identify with those artists. In today’s world,
the ideas that are further away form the center of the bulls eye are the one’s that grab the attention of the public and become successful.

6.) Fail. It’s the only way to learn. So, if it scares you, do it.

At only 27 years old, I understand that 5 years isn’t a whole lot of time to look back from unemployment to an idea coming to fruition.  But, it’s a lot further away and makes a lot more sense than it did when I was 22 — and that’s the point.

Being successful isn’t about making money, it’s about being happy. A lot of people, myself including, feel that they “made it” when they are self-supportive making $20,000 a year, paying $1,100 in rent and having a few bucks leftover each month. That’s the signs of success, entrepreneurialism, and happiness.  When that happens, then all you have to do is scale the idea – if you can make $10 from your idea, then you can make $10,000 from your idea.

These past articles have been interesting for me because most personal business perspectives are from people looking back decades, but mine is more about looking ahead. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, the ideas we’ll have, the challenges we’ll face, the laughs we’ll have, or the decisions we’ll have to make. But one thing is for certain – that we will all eventually die. And that’s a sobering thought because the time I used to spend obsessing about the little things don’t hold importance when compared to the big picture.

Obstacles should motivate us, not keep us knocked down. They’re there to weed out the people who are dedicated and driven to make things happen from the ones who aren’t. No road is a smooth surface and that’s the beauty of traveling down the road in the first place.

And in whatever you do in the long road ahead, always remember that there is a worthwhile story that you’ll find at it’s end.  But, never forget that behind you is a beautiful painting whose image gets clearer with each step you take.

Walt Ribeiro arranges pop and rock songs for orchestra, an idea which he jumped into after being laid off and collecting unemployment.  Since then, he has done it full time, orchestrating songs by Lady Gaga, Pearl Jam, Aha, Owl City, and more.  To learn more about Walt and to check out his work, visit his website at  You can also connect with Walt via his iTunes, Twitter, and Facebook pages.