Mark Cuban has this terrifying saying that I once heard him throw at a budding entrepreneur on Shark Tank:
“Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you.”
Now, I know that might inspire some people, but for me… it made me want to quit instantly. Not because I’m weak; not because I don’t have what it takes; but because it makes the work sound miserable. To be honest, sayings like that are what lead to burnout and unhealthy habits like working constantly with no breaks and running yourself, your finances, and your hopes and dreams into the ground.
Needless to say, when I first heard that, it nearly paralyzed me with fear. And I was already running a successful business! I was working as my own boss to pay the bills, but still it made me feel awful and like I could be doing more.
The fact of the matter is, however, that this was just what the music industry had been telling me for years. We come into this industry so fresh, so excited, so full of passion and bursting with excitement at the prospect of bringing our contribution of art or expertise into the world, that when we begin to see just how tough it can be to “make it,” it’s easy to become discouraged.
Oftentimes, to remedy the anxiety of not making it, we begin to run ourselves ragged. We go without sleep, we push our bodies and minds to their limits, and we begin to trod the dangerous road towards burnout. Working hard isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that the idea that the harder we work and the more time we put in, the further ahead we’ll get in our careers, isn’t always the case. In fact, the opposite can actually be true.
All work and no play makes you a dull music maker.
When you force yourself into an existence of all work and no play, what you’re really doing is tightening a vice on your creativity.
While it’s good to have a strong work ethic and hustle mentality, we (as creative individuals, music makers, and human beings) need play in order to thrive. There have been countless studies done that support the notion of incorporating a healthy dose of fun into your routine, and the truth is that while bouts of intense work are natural, if you go too long without allowing a bit of fun into your life, your career (and your overall wellbeing) will suffer.
When you get tunnel vision, you lose sight of the big picture.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have a million to-dos on your list, but no matter how many times you try to tackle them, you find yourself distracted with never-ending emails, obsessing over social media, putting out proverbial fires, or consumed by any number of other tasks that seem at the moment urgent, but do nothing to get you closer to your larger end goal.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. There’s a false sense of urgency in nearly everything we do, and while it’s great to have the world at our fingertips, it’s also a bit of a curse in that it can keep us away from focusing on our long-term goals.
When we’re so focused on the day-to-day that we barely have time to come up for air. We’re surviving, not thriving; and living in that mentality can only hurt you on your path to achieving your dreams for your music career.
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Stay busy — but with purpose.
As I’ve said, having a certain amount of hustle is definitely a necessity, especially when you’re just getting your career off the ground. But there’s a big difference between being busy in a way that progresses you towards your ultimate creative vision, and keeping busy just for the sake of it; that is, staying busy so you feel productive, but never really moving any closer to your goals.
Not sure what the difference is? Ask yourself these questions:
- At the end of the day, can I point to specific accomplishments or do I just feel as though I’ve been busy?
- If someone asks me what I want for my future, can I give them a specific, detailed answer?
- At the end of the day, do I feel exhausted or invigorated?
If you answered those first two questions with anything other than a resounding “yes!” or the last by saying “I feel totally inspired and invigorated to keep going!” then you may not be working in a way that benefits you in the long run.
While it’s normal to have off days where not much gets done, or a few days where you just can’t seem to get past feeling “tired” and on to “excited,” if this describes how you’re feeling more days than not, it’s time to re-evaluate the way you’re working.
Set a few goals for your day — no more than three, ideally closer to just one or two big goals, and make those your top priority. If your goal for the day is to work on social media, then don’t open your email until that’s done. If you want to write five pitch emails to publications, don’t allow yourself on social media until that’s done.
It takes discipline, but by setting clear, focused goals, you’ll find you not only progress towards them much faster, but have more energy to continue towards them.
Don’t work more, work smarter.
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