What drives you?
Do you want to make a lot of money?
Do you want to be famous?
Do you crave attention?
What drives you to do what you do?
Even though I have had my share of success I really don’t think about any of that. I chose to be a musician because I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else! Some one once said of me: “You didn’t choose music, music chose you”. My motivation wasn’t derived by anything in the material world. I was obsessed by the process of making music…that was where I wanted to be. Consequently I did everything I could to put myself in situations where I could satisfy that desire. I practiced, I studied incessantly, I listened to music constantly all the while thinking that if I was the best I could be…then that was all I could expect of myself (Thanks Mom!). I kept my standards high…focusing on making the rewards of my journey intrinsic and unaffected by the outside world.
There are no guarantees in life, or in art.
Call it ignorance or naivety…the beauty of being young is that your lack of experience is actually a benefit rather than a detriment. It’s easier to take risks simply because you don’t know any better!
At 18 I joined a quartet (2 were my high school counselors) that worked a lot doing weddings, parties etc. The third member was a jr. high school band leader. He was one of the most bitter, disillusioned people I had ever met. How did that happen? He didn’t have the courage to fail. Rather than risk being rejected or failing he chose to take the “safe” way out. In the process he gave himself a lifetime sentence of self doubt. Poor guy. It just ate him up. At that moment I knew that I would rather fall flat on my face than not know if I was good enough to make a go at being a professional musician. I applied to Cal State Northridge and promptly left the small town I lived in. I figured: “Better to fail spectacularly than to never try”.
In my early twenties I was terrified by the prospect of having to make a living in music in the big city. It was my first time away from home. I had no idea how to get a job. I was uncomfortable in social settings. I had no concept of business. I asked my mentor early on one day: “how do I get a job”. I was desperately trying to figure it out. His response:
STAY HOME AND GET GOOD!- people will find out about you.
That made absolutely no sense to me at all. Gee thanks!
Even so, I had no reason to doubt him so I accepted his comment and went about my business. I decided to work as hard as I could to be the best I could be and let the chips fall where they may. Soon enough, people started to pay attention and opportunities arose…strictly because of my obsession with being the best I could be. In hindsight I understand the wisdom of his remark. all too well.
It would be easy for me to say that if you followed this advice you’ll find success in the music business…that all your dreams will come true. Truth is: no one knows. There is too much that is out of your control.
Success all depends on your definition
Success can be defined in many ways. Looking back at my 43 years as a professional musician, and 53 years as a pianist I can honestly say I am rich beyond words. I have been fortunate enough to know and work with more creative geniuses than I can name. .
Will you be rich and famous? I have no idea. But,
I do know this.
The first step towards success is to know who you are and why you want to do what you do. For anyone else to be able to understand you, you have to understand this in yourself at a very deep level. AND, be able to articulate it to others.
If you listen to your heart and stay true to what it is telling you it matters not whether you are filthy rich or a pauper. It matters not whether you have fame or live in obscurity. No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy peace of mind or a happy heart.
Life happens from the inside out….not by looking outside for validation, self-worth or satisfaction.
So…whatever it is you are dreaming of, just go for it. There is no shame in failing…only in not trying!