Normally I write articles directly relating to the music and film industries, but today I wanted to talk about something that consumes many of our lives: the pursuit of "success." For many people success means money and authority, for others it's related to health and quality of life. In the music industry it's often getting signed to a label, scoring a hit TV show or blockbuster movie, or working with a company or individual we consider "successful." Some people are even willing to give up everything else they have just for a chance to be "successful" in the music industry, with no guarantees of course. In this article, I'll talk about some recent thoughts I've had on "success" and a few ways you can find it for yourself.
What's makes you happy?
One first step you can take when trying to figure out what your definition of success is is to start by identifying what you need to be happy. This could really be anything since we all have different needs. It could be money, family, friends, a certain career, palm trees, anything! There are no wrong answers here. You may also find out that, after some thought, what you really want or need isn't what you originally thought, and that's ok. Figure out what makes you happy, and keep doing that.
If you're unsure of what might make you happy, try to think of what is currently making you unhappy. Do you feel bored? Hate your job? Miss your family? Identify what is causing your feelings of discomfort, and that can lead to ideas of how you can find the things that make you happy. Let's say your feeling stuck with your composing or writing, maybe you're not challenging yourself enough. One solution might be to try writing in a completely new genre or use new instruments. You might discover that you love writing in this new genre and that's what your writing needed!
Create SMART Goals
Next, write down some goals. These could be related to career, finances, family, health or anything else you can think of. It's perfectly fine to have huge goals, it doesn't matter if they seem unattainable to other people, as long as they seem attainable to you. It's important that your goals include enough information that you can identify how you will go about accomplishing them. One very common tool for goal setting is using the SMART criteria:
Specific: Be as specific as possible, use the 5 W's (who, what, where, when, why).
Measurable: This is the "how" of your goal. How will you be able to measure your progress? How long will it take?
Achievable: Do you feel that you will truly be able to achieve this goal?
Relevant: Does the goal seem worthwhile? Does it reflect the things you identified as things that make you happy?
Time Bound: This is really important; put a deadline on your goal! Make milestones so that you can better measure your progress. The deadlines help you stay focused and motivated to accomplish the goal.
One music related example might be "I will sell 1,000 records, digital and physical, in the next three months by promoting my tour and record via social media and newsletter and selling my record at shows." Using the SMART criteria, you'll have a much better understanding of how you can achieve your goals.
Looking back and the cliche of "The Journey"
Most of us know the cliche "it's about the journey, not the destination" in one form or another. It will undoubtedly be what you spend most of your time on, so I'd agree that you should enjoy it. But another way you can measure your success is not just by "enjoying the journey", but rather in looking to the past and being able to be proud of what you've accomplished thus far.
Personally, I like a combination of the three (future goals, enjoy the journey, look to past accomplishments). I think that in order to grow as a person and in one's career, it's important to set goals - actually I'd say it's crucial. If you don't have goals, then what are you living for? Even if you think you don't have goals and you just want to "enjoy the journey", you still actually have the vague goal to enjoy the journey. Whether or not someone chooses to make decisions to enjoy the journey or sacrifice everything in hopes of a huge payoff in the end is entirely up to the individual, however it is my belief that since we have only one life (presumably), it's best not to waste any time being unhappy if you can help it. Finally, the ability to look back and feel good about the decisions and accomplishments that you've made already can remind you that you are able to succeed in the future, as you have already demonstrated in the past.
One final note I'd like to make about success and goals is this: it's ok for you to change your mind. It's not "giving up on your dream" if you decide that you have outgrown that particular dream. People change and grow, and so do dreams and aspirations. What you wanted 10 years ago is probably very different than what you want today, and what you want today might be different from what you want in another 10 years. In fact, it's essential for today's musicians to have the ability to adapt to an ever-changing industry.
So if you're feeling a little lost or that you may be falling behind, remember that everybody will travel very different roads and will arrive at very different places at very different times. I hope this article helps some of you identify what you need to get where you want to go, or reminds you to look back at where you've already been.
How do you define success? Tell me in the comments!
Film | Music
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