Imagine a world where the majority of your time was spent working to just pay for your existence. Imagine that after a long day spent working at a job that you were less than passionate about, that at the end of the day you went home and had more errands and responsibilities waiting for you. Imagine living in a culture that was consumed with materialism, status and running the rat race in some sort of manic attempt to appear “important” and to “keep up with the Joneses”. Imagine a world where most of your time was spent pursuing a future goal or goals that promised to bring you happiness once you achieved them, but that even if and when you did finally achieve your goal it left you feeling empty inside, longing for something more.
Not a very hard world to imagine right? To one degree or another, we all probably live in a world that at least somewhat resembles the above scenario. Now imagine living in the above world but take away things like music, art, cinema, poetry, literature and so on. Imagine a world void of all the things that gave life meaning and beauty. Imagine if there wasn’t any love or kindness and that instead we were reduced to simply living an essentially “robotic” lifestyle going through the motions and playing the role that society and government dictated to us. Sounds like a pretty horrible scenario, right?
The sad thing though, is that the above scenario isn’t really that hard to imagine either. It’s all too easy in life to lose our way and get swept up in the currents of culture and society and forget about the things that really matter in life. We all have a lot of demands and expectations placed on us by default. We don’t choose the family, culture or economic system we’re born into. If we’re not careful, our entire lives CAN easily be reduced to lives that our essentially us being slaves to a system that wasn’t of our design or choosing. If we’re not careful, it’s all too easy to let years go by as we try our best to appear as a “responsible” and “productive” member of society, while deep down inside we’re longing to do something more meaningful and contribute something more profound to the world that we’re a part of.
The good news though, is that we have a choice. We can choose to focus on the things that excite us and that bring more meaning to our lives and the world around us. We don’t have to buy into “the system”, at least not completely. In many ways, we’re living in very exciting times. It’s never been easier to connect with people around the world and share ideas via the internet and social media. It’s never been easier to create a rewarding and independent lifestyle if you have the will and determination to do so. We have access to more tools and more knowledge than we ever have before in history. It’s really amazing when you stop and think about it. The world is far from being a utopia, but in many ways it’s never been better.
But yet, despite all this advancement, many of us still feel stuck. Many of us are still trying to figure out how to break free from the chains that bind us. Many of us still feel like we’re slaves to the system and society we live in. We have to work, we have to pay bills, we have to feed ourselves and so on. As artists, we can see there is a “holy grail” out there. We can sense it and feel it. We know deep inside it’s there. But…still…. life happens and often gets in the way. How do we reconcile this conflict?
Well, I don’t think it’s as hard as we make it out to be. It really comes down to a matter of perspective and what your priorities are. So many of us complain about the harsh realities of life and how things are unfair and then we perpetuate the very issues we complain about. We say we value things like art and beauty, but then we spend all our time and energy focusing on things we say we don’t care about like trying to raise our status or by seeking fame and fortune. So many of us say we don’t value these things, yet we constantly chase them, like they’re somehow the answer to the very problems they create.
I was watching a video recently of my former lyric writing teacher from Berklee College Of Music, Pat Pattison, and he had a great quote about the music business and the pursuit of money. Pat said, “If you want to be rich, Harvard has a great business school, maybe you should go there. But if you want to be rich in your heart and learn who you really are, learn to write songs”. It’s such a poignant idea that it almost brings tears to my eyes. Songwriting and great art are not innately about money. You might get rich pursuing these things if you’re really, really good and you work really, really hard and you’re really, really lucky. You might, and if you do, that would be amazing. I have nothing against money or fame, per se. But art is not about money, it’s about moving people and affecting people in a positive way. Trying to get rich writing songs or making art is probably one of the dumbest ways to try and “strike it rich”. Obviously if you choose to make music a profession you need to figure out a way to get paid for it, and that’s more than doable (See my video on how to make $60,000 a year as a musician for more). But music and art are first and foremost a means of expressing yourself and connecting with other people. There are much simpler ways to get rich than from making music, if getting rich is your goal.
I do things like make music, write blog posts and make videos because it brings me joy, and I hope it brings others joy and that when they’re infected with that joy they go create something that brings them joy and they share that with the world and that it brings other joy and so on…. Doesn’t that sound better than just being slaves to corporations so we can earn enough money to buy designer clothes and genetically modified foods to feed our kids so they can go on surviving and have children who end up doing the same? Life doesn’t have to be a meaningless series of events culminating in our inevitable deaths. Life can be a beautiful dance filled with passion, joy and meaning, if you want it to be.
We’ll never completely break out of the Matrix we’re all born into. But what we can do is change ourselves, which will in turn change the world we’re a part of. Like Gandhi said, “be the change in the world you wish to see”. After all, humanity is simply the sum total of billions of humans, one of which IS YOU. Maybe we can’t single-handedly change the entire social structure and political system we’re born into, but what we can do is create beauty and meaning within the system we’re a part of. Maybe instead of trying to change the world, we can work within it to create meaning and art that lead to change. Maybe if enough of us do that, the entire world will change.
You could say I’m a dreamer, but I know I’m not the only one.
I recently started attending a weekly self development mastermind where I live. It’s a group of twelve fairly like minded people who all share an interest in personal development and growth. We’re all interested in improving our lives and so we get together once a week and share tips and ideas on ways to improve our lives by improving ourselves. I really like these meetings and find myself leaving feeling inspired and motivated. There’s something powerful about getting together with like-minded people and sharing ideas with people who have similar goals in life.
A theme that often comes up during these meetings is the idea of “The law of attraction”. It was a concept made famous in the movie The Secret a few years ago. But it’s certainly not a new or novel idea. Authors like Napolean Hill And Wallace Wattles were writing about essentially the same concept decades earlier.
When I first heard of the concept of The Law Of Attraction I really resonated with the idea. It seemed to make such perfect sense. I never really bought into the idea that you could just visualize millions of dollars and it would somehow magically appear. But the idea that to a large extent our thoughts and perspective on life will dictate how and what we experience in life rings true to me. If we go around focusing all our energy on negative things, it’s going to be pretty hard to maintain a good mood and attract the people and situations we want into our lives. Conversely, if we focus our energies on the positive aspects of life, the “sunny side of the street” if you will, then it makes sense that you’ll have an easier time attracting the situations and feelings you desire.
However, I think there’s a tendency in the “self development” community to over emphasize the idea of the law of attraction and place far too much importance on it. It’s awesome to have a really positive attitude about life and think happy thoughts about what you desire, but I think there’s much more to real transformation and success than simply positive thinking. If all it took to achieve our desires was focusing on what we want for extended periods of time, I would have become a rock star and married Natalie Portman years ago. Clearly, just thinking positively about our goals isn’t enough.
I’m really interested in the idea of success and mastery. I’m inspired by people who find something they’re passionate about and figure out a way to become successful in their chosen field. Life is far too short to spend our time doing things we’re not passionate about, or even worse despise, simply to maintain our existence and survival. I don’t claim to have the universal formula for happiness, but I think over the years I’ve discovered something pretty close. In a word, growth.
When I look back over my life and reflect on periods where I’ve been the happiest, those moments are almost always related to experiencing some sort of personal growth. Some of these periods were preceeded by periods of months or even years of frustration, until I was able to finally push myself out of my comfort zone and move forward. Whether it has been experiencing breakthroughs in relationships, business or music, the common denominator that has led to the most fulfillment throughout my life has been the process of growth and development.
Which leads me back to the “law of attraction”. Again, it’s a great idea and there is something to it. But it’s just one part of the equation when it comes to success and happiness. The most important part, or at least equally important part, of the equation is simply time. To become really successful in any field, you need to develop a high degree of skill or mastery in your chosen endeavor. Developing skill takes time. You can’t just visualize yourself becoming a great guitar player, you have to actually practice and put in the work required to become great.
There are two great books on this subject. One is “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell that I read a couple years ago. The other, that I just recently finished, is “Mastery” by Robert Greene. Both books do a great job at explaining the path to mastery and they both allude to the “10,000 Hour Rule”. The 10,000 hour rule is the idea that on average it takes most people a minimum of around 10,000 hours of experience in their chosen field to reach a level of Mastery. I’m not talking about Kim Kardashian level of Mastery, although you could argue she has mastered the art of publicity and promotion. I’m referring to people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, John Coltrane and so on. Both authors cite numerous case studies of people throughout history who have achieved high levels of success and concluded that one of the biggest factors that contributed to the mastery of their chosen field and subsequent success, was simply the sheer amount of time they devoted to the pursuit of developing their skills. It takes time to attain greatness.
We live in a fast paced world that loves instant gratification. We want a quick fix. We’re attracted to shortcuts. We all want to take the path of least resistance. There are no shortcuts to mastery. This is why I think devoting yourself to something you’re passionate about is so important. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing you’ll probably just give up way before even getting close to mastering your craft. Here’s how Robert Greene, the author of Mastery, explains it:
“To really become an expert or master requires the infamous 10,000 hours, or even 20,000 hours—perhaps the difference between being a chess master and a grandmaster. To apply yourself to a field or to a problem for that long a time means there will inevitably be moments of boredom and tedium. Practice, particularly in the beginning, is never exciting. To persist past these moments you have to feel love for the field, you have to feel passionately excited by the prospect of discovering or inventing something new. Otherwise, you will give up. In my chapter on creativity I discuss what I call the primary law of the creative dynamic: “Your emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated directly into your work.
If you go at it with half a heart, it will show in the lackluster results, in the laggard way in which you reach the end. If you are doing something primarily for money and without a real emotional commitment, it will translate into something that lacks a soul and has no connection to you. You may not see this but you can be sure the public feels it and will receive your work in the same lackluster spirit you created it in. If you are excited and obsessive in the hunt, it shows in the details. If it comes from a place deep within, the authenticity of the task will be communicated.” There is no getting around the law. There is no mastery or power without passion. Through all of my research, that much I am certain about.”
When you devote yourself to a path, whether it’s becoming a great musician, or a great business person or a great anything, you will confront obstacles. If instead of quitting, you learn how to overcome and transcend those obstacles, you will grow. If you keep moving forward and keep growing you will attain a level of mastery. Whether or not you become the next John Coltrane or the next Michael Jordan isn’t really the point. As cliché as it sounds, it’s really about the journey and not the destination.
When you learn to not give up and push yourself to new heights, you grow as a person. This sort of growth and transformation leads to a type of happiness and fulfillment that’s very different than the fleeting type of happiness many people seem to pursue. Unlike the fleeting thrill of a one night stand or a few glasses of wine, the happiness that comes from personal growth is much more stable. Maybe happiness isn’t even the right word, it’s more of a sense of contentment and stability about your place in the world that becomes a permanent part of your character. It’s about being able to look at life square in the eye and say “bring it on bitch, I got this.” When you develop that sort of mindset about your life and your goals, it’s hard to not have a smile on your face when you wake up.
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For 10 out of the last 20 years I’ve been more or less single. The other ten years I spent in two long term relationships. During my single years I was sometimes in short term relationships and sometimes wasn’t dating anyone at all. I recently ended a relationship that has been off and on for the last five years. As I find myself single again and contemplating the road ahead, I can’t help but to think of all the similarities between dating and pursuing a career in music. Although the objective is different in each pursuit, there are striking similarities between both endeavors. I believe they both require a similar mindset to do well in and I think if you can learn to do well in one area, you will by default develop an attitude and mindset that you can apply to the other.
Let me explain….
There is no roadmap
Both dating and pursuing a career in music are objectives that don’t really have a clearly defined road map on how to achieve success. Sure there are books and instruction on both topics and there is a lot of good advice available. But there really isn’t a fool proof formula that will guarantee success in either area for everyone. Both pursuits require a certain amount of preparation on your part, but ultimately require taking a leap of faith towards an objective that isn’t completely in your control.
For example, if you’re single and want to meet someone, there are obviously things you can do to increase your odds of success. You can go the gym, invest in a new wardrobe, get your teeth whitened, go out and socialize more and so on. There are things you can do to make yourself more attractive to potential mates, but ultimately it’s a combination of both actions you’re taking and luck or fate. You can choose to go out more and put yourself in social situations that will increase the odds of meeting and connecting with someone, but you can’t really control who you meet and who happens to be in these settings or their reaction to you. When I’m single sometimes I just get lucky and happen to meet someone I hit it off with right away, other times there are periods where weeks or months go by that I don’t seem to meet anyone I connect with, despite socializing frequently.
The music business is similar in that you can write songs and record them really well, promote yourself aggressively and work your ass of trying to move your career forward and still not have much success. You can’t, after all, control who likes your music, who wants to sign you and work with you and who wants to buy your music and support you. All you can do, is do your best job perfecting your craft and learning about the business. Of course you can make progress by taking action, in the same way that you can meet more people and improve your social skills, but you can’t ultimately control who gives you your big break, or even small break for that matter. Since success in the music business requires the actions of other people, you can’t ultimately control the outcome. You can’t make people like your music any more than you can make someone of the opposite sex feel attraction towards you. Ultimately all you can do in either endeavor is increase the odds of achieving the goals you set for yourself by focusing on yourself and the things you can control.
Ultimately both dating and the music business is a numbers game. However that’s not a reason to not take action. Just because you can’t directly affect the outcome of something doesn’t mean you can’t influence the outcome. Dating might be a numbers game, but that’s not an excuse to hibernate in your parent’s basement and play World Of Warcraft all day.
Dating is a numbers game, but that’s the exact reason you need to take more action. The more people you meet, the greater your chances of success are. In the same way, just because there’s an element of luck and timing involved in the music business doesn’t mean you should just sit back and wait for your “lucky break”. The exact opposite is true, you need to take more action, connect with more people in the business and take more chances. If we accept that both pursuits are at least to a certain extent a “number’s game” then logically the more you take action towards either endeavor, the more likely your number will come up.
Love Is What Happens When You Least Expect It?
Like a lot of clichés, the idea that you’ll meet someone when you least expect doesn’t really ring true in my experience. However, like most clichés, there is an element of truth to this expression. In every relationship I’ve had with someone I was, at least on some level, looking to meet someone when I met them. Sure, sometimes you meet someone more by chance than other times, but at least in my experience I’ve always been at least open to meeting someone new when I’ve connected and ended up dating girls in the past.
However, I think the real meaning behind this idea of meeting someone when you least expect it, is that often times when we want something really badly we pursue it too aggressively and with an energy of need and lack. I think when people feel really desperate to meet someone, it’s as if they’re really trying to avoid and run from what they fear (being alone) as opposed to going after what they really want, to meet and connect with someone. There is a subtle, yet very distinct difference between these two approaches. In my early twenties I was a pretty desperate and needy guy and learned very quickly that this mindset is counter-productive. It wasn’t until I learned to just relax and go with the flow that I ended up connecting with more girls, and people in general.
In the same way that it doesn’t pay to be overly desperate when looking to meet a partner, it’s also detrimental to apply this mindset to pursuing a career in music. I think it really boils down to just having a positive mindset and not letting rejection get you down in either pursuit. If every time someone rejects your music you think to yourself, “I suck, my music sucks, I’m never going to make it”, you’re going to have a really hard time moving forward. But if you just take rejection for what it is, one person’s opinion, and keep going, you’ll eventually realize your goals. Not everyone is going to like your music, just like not everyone is going to like you in a romantic way. It just is what it is, reality. You can go cry and a corner and quit being an active participant in life because you don’t like this aspect of how the world works, or you can get up and get out there and keep going after your dreams and goals.
Doing well in either the romance department or the music business, in a lot of ways depends on how well you market yourself. You can be the greatest, funniest and coolest guy in the world, but if you’re not conveying those qualities to potential girls, you’re going to spend a lot of nights alone. Conversely, you can write the greatest, most amazing and groundbreaking music in the world, but if no one knows about it, you’re not going to sell much music or attract that many fans. The world needs to know about you and what you have to offer in order to be interested in you.
In order to do well in love or music, you need to somehow set yourself apart. There is a LOT of music out there, and the vast majority of it goes unnoticed by the vast majority of people. In the same way, there are a lot of single people out there unlucky in love that may or may not be great people, but just haven’t figured out how to present themselves in quite the right way to the right people. If you’re an unknown artist and write an amazing song and upload it to youtube, chances are not that many people will hear it. But if you write an amazing song and make a really interesting and unique video and present it to the right demographic, you have a chance at generating a lot more exposure.
In the same way that you need to know your demographic and target market in the music business, you also need to know yourself well and in what situations you shine in order to attract the right people. For example, I hate loud nightclubs with packed dance floors where I can’t hear anything. I tend to do very bad in these environments because I just don’t enjoy myself. I’m not a super high energy guy, I tend to feel much more at home in more laid back environments where I can engage people in interesting conversations and hear myself and the person I’m talking to. You need to know yourself and who you’re trying to attract in both romance and the music business.
Meeting “The One”/The “Big Break”
Striking it big in either dating or the music business involves an element of luck. My favorite expression about luck is that “luck is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet”. Whether you’re hoping to meet the love of your life or you’re trying to make it big in the music business, you’re not going to be able to control the exact circumstances of how things play out. What you can do is prepare for when opportunity inevitably comes along.
Opportunities to move forward in both dating and the music business are all around us. There are new people you can potentially meet every single day and there are an abundance of opportunities and ways to move forward in the music business. But in both cases, you’ve got to take action and go after your goals. If you’re single and you want to meet that cute girl (or guy) at Starbucks you’ve been eyeing for the last few months, why not just go up and talk to them? If you’re trying to get a record or licensing deal, why not send your music to that label that specializes in the style of music you make? You might get rejected and you might not, but if you don’t at least try, nothing is going to happen.
If you’re trying and not having success, you just need to prepare more and keep trying. It’s really that simple. I believe the universe favors the bold. Just look around and you’ll see evidence of this everywhere. I’ve met so many guys over the years with great looking girlfriends who are complete assholes with very little drive and ambition. But, they have confidence and they go for what they want and so they reap the rewards. The music industry is filled with people with very little or mediocre talent, that still “make it” because they’re just incredibly motivated. Look at someone like Kid Rock, I’m not a huge fan and find his music very mediocre, but the guy oozes confidence and drive and he achieved what he set out to do, become a famous musician.
Here’s the bottom line, whether it’s dating or the music business, there are no guarantees for when or how you’ll reach your goals. But in both areas of life, there are things you can do every single day to have more success. So, give up trying to figure everything out perfectly, embrace the uncertainty and go for your goals with all the passion, confidence and drive you can muster.
Oh, and if you’re a single woman between the ages of 25 – 40, send me a message and let’s get coffee.
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Music is a calling. It's where our divine nature meets our fallible, flawed and imperfect selves. Inspiration is divine and perfect. We are mere channels for the higher part of ourselves, the universe, god, whatever name suits you. The inspiration that calls us is perfect, yet we are not. Music, in my opinion, is a place where our divine nature and humanity intersect. We sense there's something more to life than just work, bills, survival and so on and so we attempt to tap into this and express these feelings through music.
The pursuit of music as a career can be frustrating, because we are constantly bumping up against these imperfect parts of ourselves and the world around us. Like when you have an idea for a song that you can't quite get out. Or a vocal line that you can't quite execute perfectly. Or when you know deep down that you have what it takes to "make it", but you're forced to deal with the business side of music and the personalities that the business world consist of.
This is why, to me, the pursuit of a career in music is so noble and humbling. We're forced by our very limited, human nature, to deal with all these obstacles that are a part of being human. We have to figure out a way to make money, provide for ourselves and our loved ones and navigate our way through life as mere mortals. Yet we know, perhaps intuitively, that there's something more. There's something special about being alive that goes beyond the mere superficial aspects of life. Music, at its finest, reflects and taps into this aspect of ourselves and the world around us. There are some feelings and ideas that can't be put into words. Language is a great tool but it has severe limitations. Music is a language for the soul.
Maybe this sounds a bit woo woo and "out there". But think about it. Where do songs even come from? Can you really explain how you "write" a song or "harness inspiration"? Words fall short in terms of really explaining the creative process. Sure we can articulate to a certain extent what we're doing when we write songs. We pick up our guitar and sit down, perhaps have a glass of wine and wait for inspiration to strike. But where does that inspiration come from? From other songs and other musicians? Where did there ideas come from?
I have had my share of frustrations and setbacks along my path, but I've noticed very clearly that when I'm true to myself and I pursue life with courage and I trust that inner voice that quietly is there leading the way, I never go wrong. Things don't always turn out the way that I want them to, but they always work out. Conversely, I've had periods of my life where I have ignored my intuition and guidance and things at times have gone very wrong. There is a price to pay for ignoring our dreams and aspirations.
I do my best to teach other musicians how to make money and understand the business side of the music business. I do this, because at the end of the day, I think the world needs music and musicians as much we need air and water. As much as I do my best to educate musicians about how the business works, I can't guarantee anyone success. As much as I think that it's dangerous to ignore your dreams and intuition, this doesn't mean that you'll immediately find massive success by following and pursuing your passion. However, what I do believe with absolute certainty, and what life has taught me over and over again, is that when you're true to yourself AND you work hard at your goals with a sense of conviction and trust that things will work out, they do. It's sort of hard to put into words, but I guess Mick Jagger said it best when he sang. "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you might just find, you get what you need".
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.