About 2 years ago, I had this really ambitious idea for how a band could use the internet to completely change how music works. And how they could make a ton of passive income by ceding a little bit of control and abandoning old ideas. I told it one of my friends, someone I’d always thought was really smart, and is response was (quote) “If that could actually work, someone would have done it already.”

And so I went ahead and did it anyway. At 18, I ended up signing a major label musician onto an early incarnation of the idea and launched a site around it. It did ok for a while but I ended up shutting it down about a year later because I hadn’t thought it all through and was an abysmal failure as an organizer and a motivator. Mostly, I learned how all the components worked and where the future was going to a level that frankly, the heads of most labels do not comprehend. And he and I are still friends.

Since then, I’ve been kicking the idea around in my head constantly. I took what Tucker taught me about publishing and leadership and the internet and I wove that in. I took what I learned from Godin about monopolies and marketing and giving up direct ownership and added that in. I took some of the ideas that Mark Cuban threw out a year ago for HDNet and adapted them. I took what Robert said about attacking strategy and the dynamic as confirmation that I was heading in the right direction. Umair’s post about love and math recently codified the core of it. And for the last week, TheExecutive had me break it down and reconstruct so it from its flowery and hypothetical roots into a pragmatic, real product that could be stand-up to the skepticism of an inert industry. It would have been nothing without that.

Then it got pitched to the biggest band in the world on Friday. And the reports are looking good so far. This was just some idea I had when I was running when I was a freshman in college. It could have just been that if I’d listened to my friend who is apparently incapable of thinking of the bigger picture.

Vision is one of the few skills that can’t be outsourced. Do you have any? Or are all your ideas derivative of things that already exist?”It’s like Facebook but for people who love cats.” Are you able to understand where things are going well enough that you can combine converging trends into a cohesive and comprehensive conclusion? “This industry is leading this one, and what we see there will matter for this reason. Here is how we can draft of that energy.” And probably most importantly, are you in an environment that incubates those ideas instead of stifling them? “If you have any ideas, Ryan, now is the time…You’re on the right track, but it’s tell me how and why–not what.”

I’m sure vision has always been important, but today, when we’re no longer just dealing with getting trucks from one state to another or putting asses in seats, it’s just about the only competitive advantage left. You really can’t be more efficient on the internet–websites load at about the same speed and Google is hard to game–so you have to be better at scope, scale and vision. Because really, that’s all you have.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.