This is it………..Life……….
All we each have is just one (relatively) short life made up of a series of fleeting, chronologically connected moments, and during those moments, some stuff happens. That’s it, nothing more and nothing less, we are all surfers on a sea of stuff. However it is the quality of the stuff that happens that determines the quality of life we experience.
So, much of the “stuff of life” is determined by the decisions we make, and the decisions we make are a fundamental action mirroring the beliefs we hold.
Furthermore, it’s possible to distil pretty much all decisions down into two categories, those made in fear and those made in faith. Most of us default to fear based decision making, we cling on to relationships because we “fear” that we might not find another partner, we struggle to maintain the status quo because fear of the unknown paralysis’s us. Yet the irony of letting go of fear and making decisions based on faith is that the unknown actually BRINGS things to you that you could never have dreamed of achieving nor would you have actually had if still acting in fear.
Acting on faith could also be expressed as “making a commitment” to something, and as soon as you make a commitment in life, unseen forces come into play to help you. It is the very act of belief that allows the Universe to arrange these things to make a difference for you. Don’t just take my (rather new age) word for it. Think about all the wonderful opportunities you may have had through the act of accepting something on faith value (pun definitely intended)
We musicians HAVE to act in faith, constantly and passionately because that is ALL WE HAVE. Without faith in our selves, faith in our talent and faith in our dreams there would be no music in the world, no stars to fuel the “business” of music in fact there wouldn’t be much of a business at all.
What sets us creatives apart from everyone else is the dogged determination to try and succeed in a world where there are no guarantees and even less opportunities (if you can get less than zero!).
In order to reach for the stars we have to let go of all harnesses and safety nets and we have to put ourselves out there. Out in the rarefied atmosphere where others fear to fly.
At the beginning of our careers no one believes in us, even close friends and family are often unable to see beyond the blinkered views they have of how life should be lived. The ability to foresee the (potential) future, to have true vision and know where an artist can go and how much they can achieve is a rare and precious quality and very few people posses it.
Most of us know the modern folklore story that Decca Records rejected The Beatles, saying that “guitar groups are on the way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business”
What would our world be like now if they had listened and given up, if they had let go of their faith and decided to get “proper” jobs because they feared that Decca maybe right.
This, of course, is not an isolated case, there really isn’t a single super star today who hasn’t had ritual rejection at every stage of their early careers. Prince was turned down by labels in New York, Billy Joel was ripped off and nearly committed suicide, Elton John was about to be dropped after two albums on his publishers label if it hadn’t been for a believer in the USA, in Los Angeles to be precise, who begged for Elton to come and play a show in town so he could share his enthusiasm for the artist with a room full of highly influential people, who agreed and the rest became history.
The real truth is that in order to be an artist at the highest level ( and we are assuming that talent, songs, voice and stage presence are already part of the picture) we have to be so focused, so determined, so driven that nothing else must dilute or distract this energy and momentum.
It is nigh on impossible to do all this and have a plan B, because that simply sabotages your mind, based on the fact that you have “something to fall back on” – When it is ALL or NOTHING – when success is the ONLY option, then we bring something deeper and more powerful to the table. If we HAVE to succeed to survive, it marshals our thoughts and sharpens our animal cunning. Now all we have is our talent and our self belief as weapons to beat our way through the jungle and find the safety of financial security through our own skills and creativity.
For most musicians as well as great achievers and entrepreneurs, their heart tells them what to do. Their head collates the thoughts and organises their plan of attack, but their gut instinct powers them forward. For many, they know that college and higher education is not only a waste of time (they don’t have a plan B) but it is also a negative drain on their positive energy, to be stuck in an environment they don’t want to be in (and often hate). They prefer to get on and do it, to live in the moment and to embrace the challenges.
Bob Lefsetz is a renowned music industry commentator whose regular newsletters not only shoot from the hip with brutal honesty, but he strives to offer alternatives, examples and stories of those who have gone their own way ( thank you Fleetwood Mac) and created success.
Here is an extract from one of his newsletters:
“I want you to read this story by Michael Ellsberg from Sunday’s “New York Times”:
Will Dropouts Save America?
it says what I already know, college is bullshit.
Oh, I learned a bit in college, but almost none of it was in the classroom. When I go to the east coast, where they care about such things, I can whip out the name of my alma mater, but Middlebury did its best to strip away my creativity, wanted me to be like them, part of the establishment, the great fabric of this country.
What a bunch of b.s.
In order to make it in music you’ve got to conjure up ideas out of thin air. Not only as an artist, but as a businessman too.”
I know I may be controversial here, but those of you who know me will be aware of many of the things I have done in my life, and none of that came with an education behind me. I left school to make music and I have an exciting, eclectic and beautifully fulfilling career ever since.
I am even on the faculty of The Institute (www.icmp.co.uk) and have been for 3 years as a lecturer, not bad for someone with a couple of O levels.
Don’t get me wrong, for many people qualifications, degrees and awards are important, not only to their chosen career path but also for their personal satisfaction, However, for the (above) average musician and creator, we have to just get on with it and MAKE our own luck, our own future our own success.
It is often easy to equate a lack of income and educational standards as meaning that you are not going to be successful and that you should get a job, but we don’t live by those simplified rules.
The musicians who tried and didn’t succeed and realised that their talents ( and future) lay in other directions, that they had had their moment and ( for the most case) are happy in their lives, because THEY TRIED.
Because, if you never try, if you listen to those who would talk you out of your dreams and offer you conformity instead,then you may lose something so precious and valuable.
Bryan Adams left school at 15 to join a band and go on the road. He knew what he wanted, he knew that he had to just do it ( as Nike might advise)
Here is a letter that Bryan Adams wrote to Bob Lefsetz
Thanks for the generous tribute, very kind.
I wrote ‘Straight From The Heart” and “I’m Ready” in 1978 when I was 18, (“I’m Ready” was written with Jim Vallance)
I spent hours on a piano that i’d bought from savings my parents had put aside for my education, just trying to figure out chords and arpeggios. It was good fun and the result was a few decent songs which I still play today.
Back then I was looking for a foot in the door, and I knew that songs were the only way in, Jim would lend me bus fare so we could meet up and write.
The result eventually was I signed an extraordinarily poor deal on the premise that I would get myself heard and our songs would get released.
Years later, after the platinum success of “Cuts Like A Knife” which you revere in your email, my royalty statement was next to zero.
This was due to my paying back the record company for the three records I’d made in three years on a very low royalty, plus paying for some tour support which Bruce Allen my manager had arranged they contribute to.
Being skint and undeterred is one of the beauties of youth, I was doing what I wanted and I could see the possibilities out there if we kept at it. I had resigned myself to the fact that If we were able to write a few more decent songs, we’d work the business out later and luckily…the songs kept coming.
There is no shame in his story, he didn’t feel any lack of dignity for not having any money, for having to BORROW the bus money from his co-writer…he just believed, threw himself into his career.
I have worked for many years supporting – encouraging and offering opportunities to new artists. I like to think that my instinct for those with magical potential has been recognised many times as I am proud to have been right at the beginning with artists like Damien Rice, KT Tunstall, Imogen Heap, The Feeling, Tom Baxter, Paolo Nutini, James Morrison, Newton Faulkner, Ed Sheeran and happening right now, a new band called The Dunwells.
Many of you already know much of this story, but in essence, after a year or so mentoring a band that I believed in from the moment I saw them, who I had absolute faith in that they would one day be massive, I told them that they had to come to Memphis where I wanted them to take part in a music conference called Folk Alliance. I knew they had to come, because they were so good that I was convinced something would happen because of it. Once again, no guarantees , but my faith was unshakeable..
This band had to fight and struggle and beg to get the enormous amount of money needed to fly to the USA and stay there a week. The generosity of friends, family and fans allowed them to make their dreams come true – and on the back of that trip a deal was signed a record made and, just a few weeks ago, a critically acclaimed debut tour of the states made…
If they had all been working in day jobs, this could never have happened for them – but they had made a commitment, they had laid it on the line – they had FAITH..and of course, no Plan B!
So…I encourage you to follow your hearts, enjoy every second of your lives and not to worry about those who discourage, criticise or are unable to see your true potential. they mean well, and they don’t want you to struggle in life…But it is the struggle that creates the friction that ignites the fire in our bellies to succeed – without heat there is no work and without work there is no life ( second law of thermodynamics, more or less)…
There was no Plan B for Bryan Adams, and so Plan A became the only option…helluva a Plan A, Eh?
What is your plan A? – Make it so ! ( thanks Captain Luc Picard who was boldly/baldly going where no man had gone before – it’s all about faith, innit !)