I’ve been posting a lot of content lately strictly related to licensing, so I thought I’d take a moment to write a blog post about a slightly broader topic that’s been on my mind lately. It’s not directly related to music licensing or the music business, per se, but it’s a mindset that’s applicable to anything you do in life, including, of course, making music and pursuing a career in music, if that’s your thing.
This is a concept that author and entrepreneur Seth Godin introduced me to, and it’s the idea that in business, and life in general, we have a tendency to take things personally when things don’t go our way. If our music or business venture fails, we feel like it’s somehow a reflection of our value. If the market rejects our ideas or music, we feel like they’re rejecting us, as people. We have a tendency to take our success or failure very personally.
Godin likens the process of starting a business or launching a new venture as being a bit like playing Monopoly. Only, instead of just playing with several people, it’s a game that we’re playing with several billion people. Every move anyone makes affects everyone else’s position on the board. But, like in the game of Monopoly, if you don’t land on Park Place, or you’re not the first one to buy up all the utilities, you shouldn’t really take it personally. After all, it’s just a game.
Of course, it’s easy to look at life and business this way when you’re sitting comfortably atop your multi-million dollar empire, as someone like Godin is. But, what about when you’re starting out, or when you’re still struggling to “make it” in your chosen profession?
Like the game of Monopoly, the game of life is a game you get to keep playing. If you lose at Monopoly today, you probably aren’t going to take it personally, throw the game away and refuse to every play again. Unless you’re like 4 years old. Maybe you got a few bad rolls of the dice and perhaps you made a few strategical errors. But, you still can play the game again tomorrow and you could still win again tomorrow.
The game of life is a lot like Monopoly. Just because you didn’t make the moves you wanted to make and haven’t arrived where you hoped you’d arrive, doesn’t mean the game is over. You get to play again, every single day you’re alive. Your past doesn’t define you and you can always make different moves today.
It’s not a perfect metaphor. After all, this is real life and our success or failure has real, tangible consequences. But, in a way, it’s a pretty accurate way of looking at the situation. Just look at the winners and losers in the music industry. It’s pretty clear that those who have “made it” commercially are not somehow inherently better people than those who haven’t. They might be better players, but even that isn’t necessarily true.
I think we can all agree that the Justin Biebers and Katy Perry’s of the world are just people who happen to have the right combination of looks, talent, hard work and timing. It’s a game and they got a lucky roll of the dice. That’s it. It doesn’t mean they’re better than you, or more talented than you, or even smarter than you. They just rolled the dice and landed on Park Place before you did.
Of course, like in all games, some people are more driven to win than others. Some players practice more and study the game better than others. Some players spend more time playing and get better than their opponents. Some players come to the realization that the game isn’t even worth playing and find a new game to play.
But the most important realization, regardless of whether you win or lose, continue to play or quit playing, is that, in the end, it’s just a game.