We had a pleasure of chatting with amazing Michelle Golden, who is currently on a mission to promote and organize events on behalf of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in New York to engage the talent and help it bring the creativity to a whole new level.
Success is such a personal concept – we all see and define it differently. How did you personally define your success?
To me, success means impact. When I think of success - whether it’s on a personal or professional level - I think about if I made a positive impact on someone else’s life or even someone’s day. Did I open a door for someone and provide opportunity?
What advice would you give women who want to enter your side of the industry - What are your top three tips?
There are days you’re going to compare yourself to everyone else, from a family member to the person at your job getting a promotion to the person who seems to have it all “figured out” on Instagram. Tip #1: Train your mind and re-frame thinking. Tip #2: If you’re passionate about something – anything – let that shine through in all you do. Whether that’s at work, a side hustle, or in your everyday life, tell your story and declare your ‘it’ factor. Tip #3: Don’t be afraid of falling short of meeting expectations. We’re taught to “succeed” and “make it big” and we often forget that we’re all humans and we’re not always going to get it “right” the first, second, or third time. Society puts so much attention on succeeding, so when we don’t meet expectations, we often think this means failure. And you know - that’s okay, too.
How have the personal and professional experiences in your life contributed to your success today?
I did thirteen internships back in the day - sometimes two internships at a time. I commuted from Boston to New York on a Megabus 4.5 hours each way to intern at Cosmopolitan Magazine. I did free work for many, many years. I was designing decks left and right for executives and artists I dreamt of one day meeting. Even though my dad was incredibly supportive, I also made sure to work. From the Cutler Majestic Theater and Dunkin Donuts in Boston, to Subway in New London, CT, to Oh Boy Diner just near the subbase in Groton, I worked. I learned early on the importance of working hard. Giving your all is important. Success is defined differently for everyone, but I’ve been able to meet a lot of people along the way who have taught me the importance of working hard and carving your own path.
Can you share with us some of the challenges you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge I’ve experienced is knowing my value. Imposter syndrome – it’s a thing. It’s only when I left a company that I realized I actually DID provide value, I DID do enough, and I DID give my all. Whether that’s recognized or not is another issue.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
Standing up for yourself is very hard. It’s hard when you’ve spent your life never doing so and thinking other people will bat for you. It’s a tough lesson to learn but once you know, you know. Think you’re worth more? Ask for that raise. Throw out a number. Do your research. Write out notes. Practice having that conversation with your best friend on Facetime. But stand up for yourself. No one will write you that check out of the goodness of their heart.
What do you think is the most pressing issue women in the music industry face in your region?
I think the most pressing issue everyone is facing is feeling like it’s okay to have a voice. Funny how in the music industry, the voice is our biggest asset. Across the nation, across the world, we all have to come together – no matter who we are or what we look like or where we’re from – let’s use our art, our voice, our creative, to make some much-needed change.
Who inspires you, and why?
My dad inspires me. He had to play the role of two parents and when you’re talking about raising girls… that can definitely be a tough one! Jokes aside, his father (my grandfather) escaped Lithuania the night before the Nazis invaded during World War II. My dad was born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He went to the University of Cape Town and eventually spent a few years in Israel working (where I took my first breath of air) then brought the family to the United States. Here he built his own business and for 30 years has kept it up and running, serving the Southeastern CT community. After a tumultuous divorce, he still kept his head up and encouraged us to fight the good fight with grace, kindness, and love. “Be a mensch,” he always told me during the car ride cross the Niantic Bridge to high school. It means to be a good person, be courteous, be considerate. Be a good citizen.
Family aside – my best friend inspires me. When we had just entered the sixth grade, we were all standing with our fresh textbooks, no cellphones in hand during that time, and hefty backpacks dragging us down. I remember she had her initials embroidered on an LL Bean backpack as she declared she was going to Harvard. I was this little Raggedy Ann doll wearing my Harry Potter glasses wondering who this kid was who thought she was going to Harvard. I hardly knew what after-school activity I would attempt that year, let alone what school I was going to in 8 years. We hadn’t even completed middle school! But from that moment, I wanted to be just like her. She inspires me because she’s always been the exception. When odds weren’t in her favor, she always pushed through. She interviewed Michelle freakin’ Obama – on TV! Her career path has been linear in that she knew from day one what she wanted to do, and she’s done it all. I’m proud of her and everything she’s done – so if I can be a quarter of what she is, I think I’m doing something right.
What do you look forward to accomplishing at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in the next year?
I recently transitioned positions and am now spearheading events on behalf of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music here in New York. I’m really excited about this role because my passion is building experiences for youth and empowering the next generation through music. In this position, I am a part of reshaping the conversation of leadership and success from inside one of the most established music institutions in the country – let alone the world. That to me is how we create greater change and instigate conversation.
Tell us more about how you got involved in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music? What is your ultimate goal and what do you need to take it to the next level?
In April 2017, ProjectNextUp (an initiative I co-founded) hosted HEROES (HER Original Empowering Stories) at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. We were working with an incredibly passionate events lead at CDI and when I heard she was transitioning positions, we had the conversation. I think it’s always important to be a student and this program is really an incubator of talent. I want to bring in people, artists, and companies who are breaking the mold. These students are the future of the industry, but most importantly, of the world. Within these corridors, you’ve got talent from all over. Diversity is what drives creativity and that’s how I want to take our efforts to the next level.