This is a rambling account of how I came to redefine what it means to me to be a musician and so become Musician 2.0. To do this I had to redefine what success means to me. I spent many years fluffing about in the “wilderness” instead of getting on with it and that’s ok, it all added plenty of character! Regardless here some suggestions for how you can avoid the same “mistakes” (if that’s what they are).
When I started out in music I had some pretty simple goals, make awesome music, get wildly popular, have a blast. That was about it and pretty soon I had accomplished this to a big enough extent that I suddenly found myself feeling empty inside and aimless. I then succumbed fast to all of the usual cliches of the young popular rock musician: drugs, booze, cheap sex.
Which was fun to an extent but was also dissatisfying.
Well fast forward 15 years and it seems I have really only now, as a musician, finally found my way out of the darkness and back into the light (to put it in a cheesy way).
I don’t mean I haven’t made any great music or enjoyed playing any great gigs, but I certainly do mean that my non-career as a musician since my early successes has been a direct result of first a misguided sense of entitlement, then a despondency that waking up to the falsehood of the former brought about.
By the time I was in my late 20s I started to believe that I was too old and had missed the boat. I felt bad inside about my self-worth and my music career chances in general.
It was a weird thing, because inside my heart I have never stopped being a musician (and have always continued to compulsively write songs and play gigs). And neither have I ever stopped (privately) nurturing the dream of becoming a professional working muso, but this dream has for years been held at bay by other factors, namely:
- lack of focus and work ethic
- lack of self-worth (due to a faulty self-identity model)
Lack of Focus
When I publicly started out in music, at the tender age of 18, I was very focused and there was little to distract me. I barely drank at all, I didn’t smoke weed, didn’t do harder drugs at all, and I was content with my steady girlfriend. I could also live off a very low income quite easily, due to life being cheaper then plus just being young and easy to please (i.e. wasn’t as soft as I am now, could sleep on a filthy old mattress on the floor in a damp and drafty old house and eat beans on toast and not mind a bit).
This keen focus brought me a lot of initial success but then as I said above, the lack of a deeper meaning in my life left me with an empty feeling that I tried to fill with drugs, drink and one night stands. Predictably the band and my relationship with my girlfriend fell apart and my life descended into a very feral stage. I was having lots of fun and adventure on the surface but underneath it lay a shallow sense of despondency.
Yet despite this lack of focus on the work I should have been doing, being a musician (who was focused) I still thought that my early success was all the proof I needed that all I had to do was get up on stage and sing here and there and I would eventually “be discovered” and rocket to true success and glory.
Sounds naive now … and indeed, it was.
Eventually, around the age of 27, I found a deeper meaning in my life. At this point I might have gotten things back on track, but no sooner had I pulled my head out of one pit did I promptly plunge into a different hole in the ground.
Lack of Self-Worth
I used to have a very strong sense of self-worth, but then as I pushed thirty and still hadn’t “made it” as a musician (read: Rock Star) my sense of self-worth as a musician deteriorated rapidly.
Why? Well, because my paradigm was all wrong. The model I had based my self-worth on (sad as it may sound) was the young-rock-star-in-the-making model.
I have always enjoyed the first part of the rock star (movie star, entrepreneur, etc) biography where the young star-to-be had to struggle and fight and hope and pray that one day their talent would get noticed and they would make it to Easy Street. And this is how I saw myself, as the young star in the making, who could happily look forward to hitting thirty as a well known and wealthy musician. Sounds stupid I know, but this fantasy kept me going and made me feel secure. It was in fact my whole self-identity.
So when I left my twenties behind and this fantasy hadn’t materialized (due to point above about lack of focus and work ethic, duh) I found myself at the wrong end of a defunct self-identity model and I quietly stopped telling everybody that I was destined for musical greatness. Even though a little voice inside me still claimed it was possible if I would just readjust my parameters, a louder voice inside me pointed out the fact that I had missed the rock n’ roll boat. This fearful voice said I should shut up about it and try to find other ways to make some good money.
Then five years went by very quickly. Fine years, happy years on many levels, but not on a career level.
Then one and a half years ago almost to the day, I was holding my brand new baby daughter in my arms, marveling at the miracle of Life, when a voice – a higher aspect of my own voice – spoke to me quietly (in my mind).
“What are you going to teach her? That it’s ok to just give up? Or that dreams can come true for those who persist?”
Well, I knew the answer straight away and recommitted myself to achieving success. BUT I had to go back and construct an entirely new model of success because the old one (young David Bowie style rock star) was completely out of date.
So I was thinking about this, soon after the baby holding incident, and was thinking about the age thing and suddenly, sitting in the sun one day eating my lunch, I suddenly thought “What if my goals took me another fifteen years to materialize? What if it took me another 30 years? Would this be so bad?” and the answer was “No – not as long as I enjoy the process.”
And I do enjoy the process, and you are never too old to be a successful musician, and success is something that you get to define your own way anyway.
Analyze what’s going on inside your mind and see if you are holding yourself back with your own lack of focus or with limiting self beliefs.
And here I am one and half years later, well into a protracted, inspiring process that has brought me nothing but deep satisfaction. I am not the musician I once was, I am a new model, Musician 2.0!
Hope this helps somebody out there!