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A Successful Musician

How do you define success as a musician? Do you compare yourself to those you admire in the music biz in order to determine if you are successful? Do you compare yourself to your peers in your town and think, “Yeah, I’m as good as so-and-so.” In other words are you looking at others to determine whether or not you are good enough to make music?

If the above describes you, even to some degree, then you are stunting your development as a musician. Here’s why: the moment you compare yourself to others, you open the door to doubt. You begin to question whether or not you have what it takes. This type of mindset creates resistance and hinders or even stops a person dead in their tracks. 

If you look at your favorite musician or band, you are likely seeing them at the top of their game, not in their development stage when they were still playing small bars and clubs. This is important to take into consideration. If you want to learn from your “heroes” it’s best to look at what they were doing when they first started out, not when they are at the top. The “top” looks impossible because you cannot see the path to get there. But if you rewind a bit and look at their beginnings, that paints an entirely different picture. That is where you can gain the most insight, by seeing what they were doing when they started out.

A True Measure

However, there is something even more important than the above, and that is this: YOU, should only compare yourself to you as a musician, not to others, ever! The only measure of your musicianship is this: are you better than you were last week/month/year? That’s it! That is the true measuring stick by which any musician should ever make comparisons! This also happens to apply to every other area of your life. 

The time to look at your musical heroes should only be for inspiration. If you really enjoy a certain musicians playing style, try to emulate that. That is a much more productive method that will bring you closer to reaching your fullest potential as a musician. After all, the goal is to make music! 

Music is Not a Competition

Remember this: music is not, nor ever will be, a competition! Music is an expression of the soul, a reflexion of who you are inside, all your thoughts and feelings. And no one can compete with that because there is only one YOU! The moment you step into the competitive mindset, you have stepped away from creativity, because now you are trying to be “better than” something which you did not create! This is a formula for stress which establishes huge resistance from the start. Put the competitive mindset away!

To recap, the proper mindset is that of the creative mind, one which is free from competition, for competition in music is really an illusion. If you happen to be someone who thrives on competition, then compete with yourself and see how much better you can become, based on where your abilities lie now. Make sense?

The moment I began to adhere to this mindset, my playing, songwriting and singing all improved dramatically, because I was motivated by the desire to make the best music I can make. Having a recording also allows me to make that self-comparison by which I more easily hear my improvements. This inspires me to continue on the path towards mastery and the sense of fulfillment that comes from a regular practice and performance regimen. I practice and perform because it’s what I love to do, not because I am in competition with others.

Can you see where you are perhaps operating from a mindset of competition? Can you see where this can create stress and anxiety around making music? Do you think it’s possible to change that? I, and many others, have. The rewards are worth it.