I gave a talk to a group of aspiring young songwriters at a school in San Diego last week.
The youngest of the songwriters was 11 and the oldest was 15.
Other than the caliber of their songwriting, two things impressed me the most: their bravery and their level of support for one another.
At any age, putting your heart and soul into a song and then sharing it takes tremendous courage and bravery.
Most people say that they want to be songwriters but never muster the courage to try to write a song.
Others write their thoughts and feelings in a journal but never commit to the work it takes to turn a journal entry into a song.
Some actually write songs but never share them with anyone.
Having gone through the process of writing and sharing their songs, these young students are already leaps and bounds ahead of so many others who haven't.
The second thing that impressed me most was their level of support for one another.
One of them said to a fellow student, "She's so talented, she can play any instrument," another said "She has such an incredible voice!" and they all encouraged each other, singing along to each other's songs.
A genuinely supportive creative environment (family, school or creative partnership) is the key to creative success.
The music business can be an ultra-competitive, cruel and cold place, especially at the highest level, but that doesn't mean that you have to be ultra-competitive, cruel and cold to succeed at the highest level.
In fact, I've found that the opposite works best: always act with integrity, never take more than you give, genuinely wish the best for others, build real friendships and do your best, day in, day out, to grow and improve.