Preparing Yourself for Success

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Wasn’t it John Lennon who said, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans?” In my own life, I know that to be a true statement. Heck, I had three gorgeous daughters before I’d even known what it was like to be a father and dad. For those of you who are older, remember when you were a teenager and how the days seemed to last forever? The future seemed so far away, and the promise of your dreams becoming reality held no doubts that it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time; and time began ticking away, ever so sneakedly, until you became aware that the road to success was paved with disappointments, false promises, and dead-ends.

While it is true that life will throw at us a variety of circumstances that are unrelated to our music careers, there are things that we can do to help us stay on course, navigate the waters of life, and planning for success. Preparing yourself for success includes having a career plan, following that plan, and staying motivated for the long run when implementing that plan.

From a business perspective, creating a plan for your career is one of the most important things you can do. Defining who are you, identify the audiences you wish to target, and determining the products or services you will offer are just some of the questions may you will need to answer them. Establishing your vision and mission upfront gives you a focus on what you need to do to reach your goals and objectives. Participating in the various workshops and seminars provided by organizations like Indie Connect or Music Artists Network, will enable you to clearly create your career plan. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but does require some reflection on how you want to live your life.

You need to be disciplined to do something each and every day that will take you closer to achieving your goals. Even if you, like many of us who are independent artists, work a full-time “day job,” time must be set aside to execute your career plan. It could be something like practicing on your instrument, writing or refining a song, reading a book on the music industry, taking an online course, attending an open mic, or networking with some local musicians. Once again, it will depend on what you are trying to accomplish, both short and long-term.

For example, one of the activities that I perform quite regularly is to take a motorcycle ride away from traffic. When riding, I am able to let my mind drift which allows ideas or melodies to pop into my head. As the ride continues, I can usually come up with a complete melody and/or lyrics. Once I have it worked out in my head, I’ll put off to the side of the road, pull out my portable hand-held digital recorder, and sing the melody/lyrics so that it’s captured for later when I return home. You can see how this activity helps me achieve one of my goals, which is to write new songs. While it might seem an unorthodox approach, it works for me and helps me to execute my career plan.

One of the difficulties I face on a regular basis is how to motivate myself to implement my plan. Each of us have our own unique personalities and dispositions. Some people are always in a good mood. Some are quiet. Some are grumpy (especially in the morning before they’ve had a cup of coffee). I’ll leave it up to you to schedule your personal Myers-Briggs assessment and discover what personality type you are, but believe me; we come in many different shapes, sizes, and personalities. My motivation lasts about two weeks, after which I need to recharge and refocus. One way to stay motivated is to surround yourself with positive people and influences. Remove all negative influences from your life. Be around people that encourage you, inspire you, and believe in you. Above all else, believe in yourself. Let’s face it, the competition out there is fierce and the market is saturated with music professionals of all types (e.g., artists, managers, agents, promoters, lawyers); so by meaning saying that, does that make me a negative influence? The answer is no. I welcome the competition and enjoy the challenge. That makes my success ever sweeter.

Celebrate your successes. The celebration will provide you with the motivational fuel of a job well done and an accomplishment achieved. However, remember that when you wake up the next day, it is a new day, and the process begins anew. What’s next on the plan for moving forward? Revaluate your plan to determine if your strategy is working or needs fine-tuning. Just because you’ve had successes does not mean that you should let things slide. What’s next on the to-do list? Before long, and after many years, you may look back and be surprised to see a life that happened while you were busy executing your a career plan.

It Begins With a Dream

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I believe it all begins with a dream. Without a dream, you have little use for inspiration, determination, and perspiration (i.e., good
old fashion hard work).

Personally, for me, that came at the age of thirteen. I knew what I wanted to do and was determined to give it my best shot. I did not want to one day look back and ask, “What if?” “What if I had given it my all?” “What might have been?” Maybe you feel that way yourself.

Regardless of what your dream is, it is your dream that will make your life meaningful, especially on those cold, rainy, lonely days; and the road, seemingly, long and winding.

While it is your dream that is the source of your creativity, you cannot be a dreamer. The realities of life need to be dealt with and balanced by professionalism in thoughts, words, and actions when you are operating in the music business.

Can you be a dreamer and a realist at the same time? Sure you can; moreover, you will need to be. That is just the way it is. Life works that way. You live in that world. Trying to “do life” any other way, is not living in the “real world.”

Each one of us must get up each and every day, day in and day out, and live either our dream, or the dream of someone else. What will you choose? How true to your dream will you be?

Your dream is what will get you up each morning. Rise and shine! It is a new day of opportunities! A chance to do what makes your life
meaningful, purposeful, and engaging. Enjoy the journey.


jPaul is a songwriter, musician, and educator with over 25 years in the music business. He is the author of JC’s Video Guitar,Guitaring, and the Literate Guitarist. Formerly the director of the California School of Music and booking agent for A Band For All Occasions talent agency, jPaul is currently living in the Washington, DC Metro area.