OFFSTAGE: 10 Ways to Get Toby Keith’s Work Ethic

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

When the Hartford Courant newspaper in Rhode Island asked Toby Keith about the secret to his success, he said he just works hard. But then he got a little more specific. And even though his road to the top is full of the things he did as a songwriter, a singer and eventually a millionaire tycoon, most of his tips are relevant in any professional endeavor that rewards a strong work ethic. Tape this list to your refrigerator and see if it makes you want to work a little harder every day and maybe kick some sand in your sandbox.

“If I work hard every day and am productive, no matter what I’m doing, the light will shine on me.”

“I believe if you keep at it, your end results will always be positive.”

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

“If you can become your own island without doing it in some preconceived way, once you step out in that world, your music is going to reflect that.”

“I don’t live in Nashville, and I have my own label, so I answer to no one.”

“I didn’t get anything for the first six years. The industry didn’t help me in any way.”

“2000 came, and I busted through and finally became a household name. When that happens, you go from opening to headlining, and instantly, you realize if you don’t sell tickets, you’re not getting paid.”

“The business end got bigger than it had ever been, and through that transition, unless you’re born with it, there’s a certain amount of stuff you have to learn about going out every night and making fans say it’s awesome. When I finally got that figured out, then it became my sandbox, and then it really took off, and I learned how you kick sand in the sandbox.”

“Every step you take has growing pains.”

“It’s raw and organic, and that’s what we do — write all year, cut the best ones, and if the album sucks, we live with it.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.