How Rob Thomas Gets Inspired

I’ve yet to meet Matchbox Twenty singer and Grammy-winning songwriter Rob Thomas but I’m sure learning from his music, songwriting, and success.

In reading everything I can about this talented young man, I found a 2009 article in Keyboard magazine that made my head spin.

The real secret of Rob Thomas’ success might surprise you.

It did me.

Here it is:

Rob doesn’t wait for inspiration. He works.


He takes massive action, which of course is the important hidden key word in the phrase “Law of Attraction.”

Rob said “…half of art is getting out of f***ing bed and doing it.”

He said he doesn’t recall the last time he worked a 40 hour week because he works 18 hour days. (!)

He went on to explain that he often spends entire days, one after the other, trying to write a song, and turning up nothing.

But then one day a hit (such as Her Diamonds, Push, Lonely No More) is there. He admits it’s the work before the hit that enables a hit to be born.

The article quoted visual artist Chuck Close as saying, “Inspiration is for amateurs.”


“Inspiration is for amateurs!”

Made me think of the famous Jack London (author, The Call of the Wild) quote where he said he doesn’t wait for inspiration. He lights out after it with a club.

You may be wondering how all of this flows with my own philosophy of honoring inspiration and taking action.

I love it.

What Rob Thomas is doing is inviting inspiration with his working. There may be a time or two when a whole song comes to him as a gift, all written and ready to be sung. But I doubt it.

Inspiration comes when you show up and knock on its front door with work, and then when it gives you a peek, you take it and mold it into life.

Many authors have admitted their secret to inspiration was simply sitting and typing.

Ray Bradbury said writing a story a day gave him some classic sci-fi literature.

Jack London wrote over fifty books with his work ethic of writing 1,000 words every day.

How easy is this?

Consider —

A friend misread the Jack London quote and wrote 2,000 words a day. He wrote and published a dozen books before he realized he had accidentally doubled Jack London’s discipline.

I write virtually every day, maybe not as relentlessly as Rob Thomas, but maybe I should. He’s far more famous than me, and has far more girls after him.

The point: Don’t sit around and wait for inspiration. Discover the prayer of work, which invites inspiration. Yes, you may perspire along the way, but if you’re doing what you love, you won’t care.

Let me repeat that:

When you’re doing what you love, you may “work” longer hours than anyone else, but you won’t care because you’re doing what you love.

It looks to me like the success formula of Rob Thomas is this:

1. He follows his passion. He openly says all he knows how to do is sing and write songs. He’s focused.

2. He shows up to work. He says he works 18 hour days.

3. He continues to work. He shuns the parties and distractions and continues inviting inspiration through the discipline of work.

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

Do what you love by working at it every day and your intention will meet inspiration along the way. (Hey, that sounded like a song lyric.)

Rob is so clear about his purpose that he used to identify himself at airport security as “rock star” before he was one.

Finally, there’s another quote in the same interview with Rob that I like. He said don’t be afraid to screw up. To be exact, he said…

Dare to suck. That changes everything.”

Now get to work.

Ao Akua.


PS – If you personally know Rob Thomas, please tell him I’d like to meet. He’s been an inspiration, and several of his songs are in the jukebox in my head and won’t stop playing, which is just fine with me. I love them. He also has a movement to help homeless people, so he might want to know about Operation YES.

Bonus: Here’s Rob Thomas singing the 1999 chart-busting hit Smooth (which he co-wrote for his wife, Marisol) as Santana smokes:

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  1. January 7, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Joe–I have met Rob once. I also have a friend who used to play in clubs with him years ago. I doubt I could get a message to him but I’m sure there are people out there who can! Good luck!

  2. January 7, 2011 at 8:54 am

    It’s true that work brings inspiration. When I begin my work it usually transforms into something completely different than I had originally envisioned. The divine works through our flow and our action. Sometimes the *work* is clearing and cleaning the blocks. If something is bothering me it blocks inspiration. If I’m not feeling well inspiration can be blocked. Sometimes it is a mind over matter when inspiration must come in so I will *ignore* what is bothering me for a moment and take care of my work and then come back to clearing. It is a continual process and we have the choice everyday how we are going to play. It really does involve our choice which will invoke action which invokes the law of attraction. It is really is a simple idea. I am getting better and better at it myself 🙂
    Thanks Joe!

    • January 7, 2011 at 11:27 am

      I guess I do not want to WORK for 18 hour days! I want to play and have fun and work as little as posible. I work so I can have nice things and do fun stuff. That’s why a hate when I here things like pro football players are at work! I think being a rock star should not be work. So I missed the point! So I guess the point is find something I like to play at and have fun at. Turn that into a pay check??? I am just going back to my vision board! Lol

  3. January 7, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Hi Joe,

    most of what you are saying has truth.
    It’s a bit tricky with “inspiration” however.
    We often call inspiration what isn’t.

    Emotion and passion are still from the ego and the LOA movement is mainly not very careful about or able to distinguish.

    Picasso already expressed the same insight about the need to work for hitting a piece of genius quality,1 our of hundreds.

    With love and best wishes!

  4. January 7, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I couldn’t agree more! Great post!

  5. Patty-Reply
    January 7, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Thanks for the inspriation to get inspired by getting to it — yes! This world is about work — the work that we love — so I gotta go — I’ve got things to do! Much Love!

  6. January 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Joe, thanks so much for writing this about Rob. No coincidence. I’ve been drawn to learning more about him just recently, and now to discover (through you!) about Rob’s wonderful foundation with his wife Marisol. What a blessing he is to this world, as you continue to be in mine!

  7. January 7, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Corrected URL.

  8. January 7, 2011 at 10:03 am

    That’s great advice. “Dare to suck.”

    Sometimes that’s hard to get past when all you want to do is write something perfectly. I can hear people gasp. “Dare to suck, what are you taking about? That’s crazy.”

    But it’s crazy not to do it. If you never let yourself off the hook and try something, you’ll never do it at all. That’s what happened to me. I was so paralyzed by wanting to write it all perfectly, I ended up writing nothing at all. It wasn’t until I dared to do it unperfectly, badly, sucky, that I actually began to accomplish something.

    Great advice. Thanks so much.
    Toni Walker

  9. January 7, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Dare to suck.

    I love it. Along the same lines You have to put yourself out there and be willing to suck before anyone will know that you exist.

  10. January 7, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Wow! Simple, yet, I’ve never thought about it this way. I really need to learn to “dare to suck”
    Thank you, Joe

  11. Ken-Reply
    January 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Great post Joe!! Luv it and THANK YOU for that gift !!

    I love discussions on the topic of ego verus inspiration…

    I believe inspiration (and love) are really the same thing as “letting go” of the ego and receiving from the divine instead.

    Anything we can do to let go of the ego makes space for love and inspiration. Rob Thomas found a way for sure!!

    I’ll never forget the day I first experienced letting go of my ego and throwing caution to the wind. It was the day I frist met my wife. I wasn’t even planning to meet here because a friend had explained to me how she was “all wrong” for me. My ego agreed that “on paper” she was not what I wanted so we were never introduced.

    SURPRISE, I “bumped” into her anyway. It was completely unplanned. I didn’t even know it was her. I felt something in that moment we first met that I had never felt before. It was something that felt like it came from outside of me. So I did something I had never done before…. i totally let go of my ego and fully received whatever was coming my may. It freaked me out. I was bonkers over this woman and still am today over 10 years later and always will be.

    Whenever we have a small upset between us, my ego jumps up and says, “See, I told you so!!! Just divorce her and go find a better person”. My ego nags at me trying to tell me how she was not and still is not the “correct” person for me and that I am making a mistake.

    For me, when my ego is up, my love is down and vice versa.


  12. Margaret-Reply
    January 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Love the music – thanks. Comment here: I am a visual artist (living in Wimberley by the way). Waiting around for inspiration is day-dreaming your life away. You work, hard, lots, and inspiration comes during that process. And sometimes not, but more often so. And then you go through a time-out or you will burn-out. Like waves, in and out.

  13. January 7, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Joe, great post. I experienced this as recently as today. I knew I wanted to work on preparing for an upcoming radio interview but I just wasn’t feeling it.

    I took a quick walk to clear the cobwebs in the mental attic, returned to my desk and just began writing with no particular attachment to the quality.

    Sure enough, before I knew it, I was feeling lively and inspired and the words were flowing easily. An appointment to move to the next segment of my day came due so I had to momentarily put down the inspiration, but I left my work smiling and feeling empowered.

    And yes, the first leap from the ledge was in daring to suck; that detachment from the outcome. Had I waited for the inspiration first, I might never have begun.

    Thank you for bringing the lesson home.

  14. January 8, 2011 at 5:38 am

    But it’s crazy not to do it. If you never let yourself off the hook and try something, you’ll never do it at all. That’s what happened to me. I was so paralyzed by wanting to write it all perfectly, I ended up writing nothing at all. It wasn’t until I dared to do it unperfectly, badly, sucky, that I actually began to accomplish something.

  15. January 8, 2011 at 9:46 am

    This is so simple, yet so powerful. It brought back memories of the early success of rock singer, “Tiny Tim”. When he first appeared on the tonight show he was made fun of because he sucked. But People soon were paying to see him suck. He always delivered as advertised. Thanks for this article as well as many more that you share. ” attract money Now ” is always on my desk.
    Much Love.

  16. Nila-Reply
    January 9, 2011 at 1:56 am

    As I know Rob from his youth I can relay my impressions of him as a proud parent would. He always,always,believed he was destined to be a rock star. Even though he had the regular trials of a young man in his teens there were two things he never wavered from. 1) He was always polite to me and grateful for a place to rest when it was needed. 2) he always thought, talked , wrote his music..his passion was his daily walk. He carried tapes on him to give out, always trying to connect and create. His words flowed as heartstrings and light and his rhythm was and is still very much one of a kind. I have not seen him for many years but I believe he knew The Secret before it became main stream. I am proud to have known him as he was maturing and every time I hear one of his songs I smile and feel the connection to an inspiration of a man that followed his dream. Blessings to all. As he would call me Ms. Keyes

  17. Sangeeta-Reply
    January 9, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Dear Joe,

    I’ve read your book on Ho-oponopono and really wish to have an email chat with you about something that’s spiralling my life out of control. Could you pls respond to this? PLEASE??

  18. Leslie Gould-Reply
    January 10, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Just today Rob tweeted “i feel like you have to write 5 or 6 not so great songs for every one that you think other people will like.” and “gots to work out and hit the studio. gotta keep on writing”.

    He seems very focused and very grounded. How lucky you were Ms. Keyes to see that developing in his early life. I love his music and the work he and his wife do to give back – in particular through their charity Sidewalk Angels or supporting Pets Alive, a no kill shelter in Middletown, NY.

  19. February 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Joe – how TRUE this is brutha, it’s ALL about blending focused work and the right mindset, together, it is a VERY powerful combination!

    I am hoping to see you in Austin my friend, with brutha Scotty York! Super Excited…. actually, excited doesn’t cut it, I am BEYOND fired up!!!


  20. March 20, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Hi! Joe

    traveled here via a list of your blogs. the pixel connections dancing on the electric screen partner us again and again for the same waltz. the quote about the dragon/princess caught my attention. i take pix of the dragon/angel displays in the sunset over the mountains where i live. received Letters to a Young Poet in a box of treasures but i haven’t opened it yet.
    didn’t meet Rob Thomas but spent the day as an extra filming the Imax version of Smooth with he and Santana. it was electrifying and getting a lite five from Carlos at the end sent a shock through me that charged my heart with light and energy. i hope/know you will get your wish. Rob is amazing.

  21. March 20, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    and…thank you! so much for your help. thought i’d run out of space to thank you! so thank you! e

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