Recently I had a conversation with a talented young musician living in Los Angeles. Many of you know I got my start as a touring musician, so these conversations always energize me. Like many young artists he’s working random odd jobs, sleeping on friends’ couches, recording, performing, creating, collaborating, networking, and doing anything and everything he possibly can to keep his dream moving in the right direction.
If you happen to know anyone that fits this description, then you probably also know just how difficult this journey can be. It’s layered with second guesses, and self-doubt, and should I do this, or should I do that? Am I good enough to make it, or am I fooling myself?
I know this because I’ve lived it, and by the way you don’t have to be a struggling artist to have this conversation with yourself. You may be having this exact conversation in your head right now in your current role with your organization. The reality is some self-doubt can help fuel your motivation and help spark the fires of creativity. Wanting to improve, wanting to get better, wanting to achieve greatness, is the hallmark of a high performer and crucial to success in any field. Too much of this negative self-talk and the inner critic becomes paralyzing to the point where you get stuck in a rut.
Success and the confidence to achieve it takes time, it takes falling down a few times, and most importantly the resiliency to get back in the game when things don’t go the way you planned. It just so happens this young musician has put in the time required to start building momentum and is just starting to see the fruits of his labor. Things are beginning to happen that could place him squarely in the path of bigger and better things.
The challenge is there is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes years of sweat equity to create the opportunity that may get you to the next level, and there are no guarantees in any business, especially the entertainment industry. What happens during this period is people around you start to second guess your decisions. They start to question if you should be doing what you are doing, or maybe start doing something else. They mention that your friends and peers are already doing more, have more, buy more, because they have chosen a more conventional path.
I asked this young artist about those comments and those judgements, and who he felt they were really about? He looked at me a bit puzzled, so I asked him again, who does he think those comments were really about? It finally hit him… those comment were about THEM, not HIM.
When we see people out there doing what they love, chasing down their dreams, taking some risks, it makes some people very uncomfortable. These are the choices that maybe they chose not to make either out of fear, inadequacy, judgements of others, or any multitude of reasons. Now when someone out in the world is doing exactly what they themselves were afraid to do it forces us to take a hard look in the mirror. For many that’s just too uncomfortable and the only reaction they can think of is to lash out, shut it down, make judgements or dismiss it completely as unrealistic. It’s as if they are saying to the person “I never did that, and I never went for it, so who the hell do you think you are to believe you could ever accomplish something so amazing.”
You see friends, those types of comments have nothing to do with YOU. Those comments are about THEM and their inability to come to terms with the fact that they didn’t take that shot, didn’t trust themselves enough, or allowed that self-doubter to take over and make the decision for them.
Ask anyone later in life and they would probably tell you the only things they ever regret are the times they DIDN’T go for it, said no when they wanted to say yes, didn’t take some sort of perceived risk when everything in their core said they should have. It’s not the failures and the disappointments that are remembered down the road, but rather the avoidance of failing that leaves such a bitter taste and much harder to come to terms with.
Look I realize that we all aren’t talented musicians and artists, and maybe we aren’t all cut out to be the CEO of a company. I also know that everyone has a unique talent and ability, and if we don’t take the time to nurture that talent and cultivate our abilities to our maximum potential, then all we are left with is regret.
I never made it as a musician. In fact, I failed spectacularly, and you know what, it hurt. But the lessons I learned during that time are invaluable and I wouldn’t change a thing. Mostly though I can sit back here later in life and be proud of the fact that I got in the game, got a few bump bruises and broken bones, and I’m still here to tell the story.
When you are in the middle of running down a dream, there is no timetable, no road map, no book or video you can purchase that will get you there. It’s just YOU, and at some point, you get to trust yourself, put in the work and see where it leads. I wish I could tell you that success is always around the corner and things will always work out the way you plan, but that wouldn’t be truthful. Life is about choices, and those lead to new choices and new experiences, and that’s what makes it so damn interesting.
My favorite poem in the English Language is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” It talks about life and those proverbial forks in the road when you have to make an important choice. One road is nice, easy, and well worn, the other looks daunting and filled with uncertainly. He ends it one of the greatest lines in English literature “I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference”
Ask yourself this week:
Am I on the path that I am truly passionate about, and more importantly putting in the work required to succeed?
When that proverbial fork comes in the road of my life, which path am I going to choose?
How am I allowing others to impact my confidence and my commitment?
Where have I taken some comments personally that are really aren’t about me but are about them?
How will I respond to these people the next time they share these comments?
Looking forward to our next connection
Thoughts for the week:
We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us. –Ken Levine
Make a living doing what you enjoy, and you never have to work a day in your life. -Mark Twain
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest if merely tenacity. -Amelia Earhart
Write your own book instead of reading someone else’s book about success. -Herb Brooks
An overnight success is 10 years in the making. – Tom Clancy