If you are like most people who want a career as a professional musician, the first question you ask is probably, "What do I have to do?" You ask this because you are not sure what you need to do first, second, third, etc. And it seems obvious that you must actually do things in order to move forward and launch your own music career.
Whether you are just starting out, or already have some experience in the music business, there are important steps you must take and many things you will need to do. However, the order in which you take each step will make a big difference in the results you get.
Some years ago, I had a great mentor who was a very successful entrepreneur. At that time, I was not yet very far along in my own music career. I asked him all the usual questions like, "How can I get on a world tour?", "Where should I send my CDs to?", "Who do I need to talk to at the record company?", "How can I make more money with my music and talents?", "What do I need to do to sell my music in other countries?", etc.
He replied, "Tom, you aren't ready for any of that yet. You might be ready as a musician, but you haven't really prepared yourself mentally. When you "do things" now, you will make some progress along the way, but that isn't success - that won't create a lucrative and stable career over the long term. Successful people are successful not because they are intelligent or talented, nor do they succeed simply because they 'do the right things'. When you become 'success-minded', you will have the power to achieve success in anything you want to do. Don't worry now about 'doing things'. Let's begin working on 'who you must become'. Your success needs to be built from the inside first, then the external things you must do will fall into place much more easily.
I only proved him to be right when I reacted by saying, "I already know all this positive thinking stuff, I need specific advice on what, when, where and how to do things now." His response back to me was, "Ok Tom, if you really know this then I challenge you to show me at least 25 ways in which you have already implemented these mental concepts (on your own) into your music career." I didn't have an answer to that. He continued, "The entrepreneurs and business people in any industry will know you are not really ready. They will smell your inferiority like a lion smells fear in its prey. And when they do, it generally won't be good for you. It would be like going into the jungle without a weapon, without shelter and without a guide."
After our discussion, I became convinced it was time to work more on who I needed to become before concerning myself with what I needed to do. Our first major task was to define exactly where my mental skills and preparedness for general success were.
To discover your mental preparedness for launching your own music career, take this 3-minute quiz to find out.
1. Don't get caught speeding. Listen to the advice already given above. Focusing first on who you need to become is more important to your long term success than focusing on 'what actions you should take'. Don't get caught speeding through step 1 in order to get to step 2 faster. Who you will become will dramatically influence the results you receive when you are busy doing things in the future.
2. 'Inspect' What You 'Expect'. What do you expect from yourself? What do you expect from life? What do you expect from others? Your entire life, up to this point, is a reflection of your own expectations. You alone control your own expectations. Only You can choose to expect greater things out of yourself, your life and your surroundings - when you do this you will become ready for the next step...
3. Demand and Command. To expect greater things from yourself and life is an important step. But expectations won't have real power until and unless you demand from yourself and command yourself to do what is necessary for you to move forward no matter what obstacles, challenges, fears and setbacks you may encounter along the way. More importantly, you must demand and command even more from yourself when things ARE going well. Success often causes some people to lose their momentum. This happens to people who are not truly 'success-minded' but have only been granted some shorter term success. When you become 'success-minded' you will maintain high levels of demand and command in your life in all situations. This is key for long-term success (especially in the music business).
4. Shoot Fire! How do other people perceive you? As a quiet, private, introverted or reserved person? Or as someone who is so filled with passion, intensity and commitment that they can see flames of fire shooting out from the back of your head? You already know that passion is the fuel which drives your actions to move toward what you want. Beyond this obvious point is another important component. When you are on fire, other people notice it and become attracted to you, what you do and what you have to offer. Highly successful people have an intensity about them which most people do not possess. Many successful people will look for this quality in you as an indicator of what they perceive your success potential may be - this is especially true when you first meet a person who may be in a position of power to either help or hurt your career.
Of course, be cautious not to come across as arrogant or obnoxious. Show people your attitude of expectancy, confidence, passion, determination, conviction and... FIRE!
5. Get Congruent. It should be your goal to align all (or most) of your daily thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, plans and actions with what you want to be, do and have. Although this might seem obvious, very few people truly focus on this in their daily lives. Typically, we may want to manifest a particular outcome, but we divide our mind into opposing directions. Here are two common examples...
1. A guy constantly thinks about becoming a touring guitar player, but does not really expect it to actually happen. The lack of 'expectance' leads to further incongruity, because, by wanting but not 'believing' he will really become a touring guitarist, he won't make the necessary plans, contacts, and other actions which could take him there.
2. College students, who want to become musicians, often major in a non music related (and non entrepreneurial related) subject. In this case, most of these students' time and energy are spent doing things which take them only further from their musical aspirations.... As a general rule, the more congruent you are, the faster and easier you will get where you want to go.
6. Weed your Garden. You might not always have the freedom to choose the physical location of where you live, but it is not always necessary to relocate your home. You can find success from virtually any physical place. In addition, not all of us have been blessed with supportive family environments. Although we cannot choose our family, we can choose our friends and other people we associate with (both on and offline). If the friends you have don't support you, find new friends who will. The environment where your mind lives is very important. You must find supportive, positive and empowering peer group environments. People who have similar aspirations, ambitions and experience in the areas you seek are like good soil for which your career can develop and grow. Negative, pessimistic and disempowering people are like weeds. Do people around you build you up or tear you down? Associate with other success minded people, surround yourself with them.... It's hard for flowers to grow among weeds..... so weed your garden.
7. Don't Depend on the Sun and Rain Alone.... use Fertilizer! Your musical skills (no matter how great they may be) will not be enough to create and sustain a significant level of success in the music industry (sad but true). You may even already have a reasonably decent understanding of how the music business works today (though most people don't). Becoming a successful professional musician is a lot like being a gardener. To be sure your career grows, you need high quality seed (your mental preparedness), lots of sun (knowledge and skills), rain (physical action), and fertilizer (a mentor). Yes it is possible to grow a blooming flower without fertilizer, but the chances of long-term life and maximum healthy growth go way up when you use fertilizer. The same is true with your level of success as a professional musician.
The average person's score on the assessment mentioned above is 4 out of 10. Take the assessment yourself to find out what your score is.
It matters little where you are now, it matters greatly what you are willing to do now...
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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