John Lennon wisely observed that “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. I’ve always loved this line and how astute this observation is. You can set all the goals you want for the future, but that won’t change the fact that your life has to be lived moment to moment and day to day. Having goals is great and can help give your life a sense of direction, but life unfolds in the here and now.
Many of us seem so overly focused on accomplishing certain goals that we completely neglect the process of becoming who or what it is we’re trying to become. We romanticize the idea we have of what it means to be successful in the music business to the point that the process and journey of becoming successful feels like a burden. In other words, we want success, we just don’t want to work for it.
The great thing about goals
Goals that have meaning to us, give our life a sense of purpose and direction. Setting goals can be a powerful motivator to start taking action and taking the steps we need to take to move forward. More than just a specific outcome, goals are a powerful vehicle through which we can grow and improve ourselves.
For example, without my adolescent goal of becoming a rock star, I never would have learned to play the guitar, learned the craft of songwriting, learned the art of performing, learned how to market myself and book gigs and so on. I needed a goal in order to embark on a path of learning and growth. Without goals, it’s all too easy to just sort of wander through life aimlessly, never really moving forward.
The Problem With Goals
Even though having goals and a sense of purpose can be motivating and is certainly more healthy than destructive, sometimes having goals can backfire. If we’re not careful, the very goals we set for ourselves, can become expectations of a future not yet here that enslave us. I must be a successful musician, we think to ourselves, and I won’t rest or be satisfied until I am. I am going to “make it” come hell or high water, we think, as we fail to enjoy our day to day lives. We become so fixated on our goals and what we’re trying to accomplish that we neglect the process of becoming who it is we’re trying to become. We end up feeling miserable when we fail to achieve success quickly enough to satisfy our egos
In other words, we desire the end result of “making it” so badly that we look at the process of making it as a burden. We rush through the things we need to do to try to expedite our path to success. We look at practicing our instruments as a pain in the ass. We look at recording our music as work that we have to do. We look at marketing ourselves as a completely uncreative task that we shouldn’t have to waste our precious creative time with. We fail to see the art of business and as a result we fail at the business of art.
It reminds me of single people who are so fixated on trying to find a partner that they end up coming across as needy and repel the very people they’re trying to attract. Like the old zen proverb says. “the hungry don’t get fed”. When you fail to embrace the journey towards whatever you’re trying to accomplish in life, you miss out on the true point of life.
Love The Process
The last couple years or so I’ve really adopted an attitude and philosophy of simply loving the process of whatever it is I’m trying to achieve. I’ve reached a point where, although I still have lots of goals, I don’t feel burdened or weighed down by them. My goals are simply an arrow pointing me in the direction of my desires. They give me a direction to walk in. I love the process because I know it’s the work I need to do to get there. I also realize the process and end result are intricately connected. I can’t reach my destination without walking the path. The path is a part of the goal!
What Happens When You Achieve Success
If you think about it, achieving any goal in the music business is simply going to require that you do more of what allowed you to achieve success in the first place. For example, if your goal is to license your music in a major tv show, if and when you reach this goal, you’re most likely going to keep going, which will require you keep doing the things that led to your success in the first place.
Sure, certain things will become easier the more successful you become. But it’s not like you’re going to reach some sort of magical place where you have “arrived” and you can just kick back and do nothing. You’ll have to keep doing the work that brought you success to achieve more success.
Again, using the analogy of single people looking for a relationship. When you enter into a relationship, if you want it to work, you have to keep working on yourself and the relationship. Most relationships don’t just run on auto pilot. You have to keep doing the things that attracted your partner to you in the first place and you have to work on growing together as a couple. In the same way, if you do achieve success in the music business, you’re going to have to keep doing the things that led to your success in order to maintain your success.
Think of it this way, if you don’t love the process of being a musician then why are you trying to become a professional musician? If you don’t love the work, why are you pursuing it? If it’s money you’re after, there are certainly easier ways to make money. If it’s fame you’re after, there are probably more sensible ways of trying to become famous.
The good news is, when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. When you love the process and the day to day reality of what you do, reaching your goals becomes inevitable.
Point yourself in the direction of your goals, walk in that direction and enjoy the journey!
Speaking of enjoying the journey and having fun, I’ve been practicing improvising on the guitar a lot lately and working on my chops!
Before I was a songwriter, I was simply a guitar player.
Check out this clip I made recently for my Facebook page.