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How to Eliminate the Obstacles Hindering Your Success

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There’s a great scene in the movie Hands of Stone about a Puerto Rican boxer named Roberto Duran, who had become a legend in his country, but never gained the skill to fight at the elite level. Duran’s trainer, Ray Arcel, played by Robert De Niro, gets up in Duran’s face and talks to him like he’s a child. This in turn causes Duran to react and make a careless mistake, to which Arcel reveals this powerful lesson: It’s all in your head.

When we think of mental health, or even emotional health, we often focus on peace, balance, and keeping ourselves from running into dangerous behavioral patterns. Addictions, broken relationships, lack of social interactions, and unhealthy lifestyle choices come into the foray. But the root of all of this lives right there in the mind.

And so the foundational place whereby you can begin to create success or failure is, you guessed it, the mind.

Your mindset largely determines what happens in your life. What you focus on grows. The more you think certain thoughts, the more congealed they become. This is where beliefs are birthed. That’s right. Beliefs and truths are very different — beliefs are thoughts you have so ingrained in you that they become the default mode of how you perceive life, the people in your world, your experiences, and yourself.

If you have struggled to build your audience and get people to come to your shows, those experiences have created beliefs that influence how you perceive success. When you see someone else succeed at something that you failed at, you might believe that other people are better than you; that you’ll never win; that it’s unfair and you’re always going to end up sucking at stuff. The belief is the thought that rings loud in your head, until you become aware of it and change it.

Wait, did you just say that I can become aware of my thoughts and change them, AND that THAT is going to make a difference?

Yes, self-awareness of your thoughts is the first step to changing things. And yes, you can change your thoughts, which changes your beliefs, which creates a different reality for you.

Let’s go back to the film I referenced earlier. Duran takes that “it’s all in your head” wisdom and ends up using it against a boxer who had more skills, speed, and prowess, in order to beat him. And he does it by getting into his head. We see this often in sports, especially in boxing: trash-talking and aggressive bantering. Maybe sports aren’t your thing, but whenever you’re able to get inside your own head and prevent yourself from focusing on doubts, worries, insecurities, feelings of unworthiness, you’re able to block those thoughts from becoming beliefs.

You create the world you live in.

Look at your journey in music up to this point. What has so far shaped your success, and why did you start your career in the first place?

You have a love for music. You learned how to play your instrument. Maybe you also had a love for lyricism and writing. You plugged yourself into that world. You picked up skills along the way that you didn’t have. And maybe also along the way, you realized how to double-down on the talents that make you you in order to take things up to a higher level. You started creating music and putting it out into the world.

But why?

Inside, it’s because you believe you have something to share with the world. Your music career has grown from a belief in yourself, your talents, your music, and the music fans of the world coming together in a powerful way. You began with a mindset that said, “Yes I can!” This is important to recognize, because that mindset is crucial to your success every step of the way. 

This is a good moment to mention that Soundfly is currently supporting the Profitable Musician Summit, a global online gathering of musicians and music industry experts aimed at giving participants the tools, the resources, and the motivation to overcome their fears and doubts and unlock significant available income streams for their music over ten days of streaming talks and panels. Learn more and sign up here.

Often times, though, we experience setbacks, challenges, and obstacles on the path to success. When these challenges are big — seemingly insurmountable — the mindset changes. Suddenly things feel difficult or impossible. And your dreams gets hit with a haymaker. What you choose to focus on while you’re experiencing challenges will determine a lot about your success. Don’t let the fear of failure, or the fear of success, or the belief that challenges mean you’re doing something wrong take you out of the game.

It’s all a part of the process.

Growth is a process; success is a process. Building your audience is a process. Getting booked at bigger venues is a process. Gaining media coverage is a process.

The key to going through these processes successfully is keeping your mindset strong every step of the way. Which is difficult if you’re trying to do everything on your own. Don’t. That’s why the music community exists. Join groups, build relationships, work with a mentor or coach. Have people in your corner to go to for advice, recommendations, to vent and deal with your frustrations with, and gain clarity on what you’re doing.

When you focus on what you want, and you don’t let anyone (or anything) take your mind off of that, you will experience it. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you telling yourself that it probably won’t work, that you’re going to fail, that people will reject you?
  • Are you telling yourself that you hope it works but it probably won’t, because of X, Y, or Z reason?
  • Do you have negative, pessimistic, and complaining people in your inner circles? Their negativity creates atmospheres that impact how you see yourself, your work and your growth.

All of this stuff is mindset. You become what you think about, so try to learn how to  recognize when you start taking yourself out of the game and thinking in negative terms. Those thoughts carry weight. And that weight can turn into an anvil chained to your legs, keeping you from moving forward into the success that awaits you.

What does it look like to change your mindset from negative to positive?

Well, unfortunately, this process doesn’t just happen overnight, but that should be familiar to you as a musician. Just like learning to play an instrument, or becoming excellent at producing your own songs, you have to be willing to build something from the ground up and motivate yourself. The good news is the process is really simple.

Start by making a daily habit of planting seeds of empowerment into your mind. It’s what I do every morning before getting up and every evening before going to sleep. All of my coaching clients follow this method, which I illustrated and detailed in the book, Growth Farming Affirmations for Success.

Start by writing down a series of positive affirmations about who you are and what you have — “I AM” statements are about your identity. You identifying with what you want in your life makes it true in your mind’s eye, and you’ll eventually find yourself enjoying more of it. Then, write down some “I HAVE” statements about your experiences, what to focus on, what you’d like to attract.

A few of my personal “I AM” affirmations are:

  • I AM love.
  • I AM successful.
  • I AM growing my business and serving more people today.
  • I AM highly sought-after in my field.

Here are a few “I HAVE” affirmations I use:

  • I HAVE clarity on how to grow my business.
  • I HAVE a growing fanbase and network of influential people.
  • I HAVE success in everything I focus on.

The key is to write these statements out every day and say them aloud. Something transformational happens when you write stuff down. Use pen and paper, not just a note on your phone or computer. Write it down, then say it aloud — it’s making both a verbal commitment and a written contract with yourself to become someone who values you.

You have to lead the way with yourself.

One of the obstacles all of us face is wanting someone else to go first, so we can follow. If someone else tries it and it works, then you won’t look stupid for trying something new. Especially something that seems silly, like writing down a bunch of positive one-liners and reading them. Who does that?

Turns out, some of the most successful people in the world have practices that look like this — folks like Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and Russell Brand to name a few.

Personally, I took on this practice after experiencing the most difficult pain in my life: the loss of my marriage. My confidence hit an all-time low. I felt unworthy and not good enough. I actually stopped doing the coaching work I had been building for a few years until I could believe in myself again. This practice is part of what brought me back. It’s part of my personal transformation story that I told in my next book, Be Solid: How to Go Through Hell and Come Out Whole.

I will admit that there have been times in the past year when I’ve not been as committed to this process and not as diligent in doing it. And when that happens, I experience a lot of negativity, fear, and anxiety. I get nervous about the future and worried that things aren’t going to work out. The more I stay in that darkness, the more difficult it is to move forward. But something powerful happens when I get out of that negative headspace and get back into focusing on what I want to have and who I want to be.

Focusing on what you want is such a powerful key to having what you want.

Want to change the game for yourself and your career? Start by changing your mindset. What you put into your head is what you see more of. What you focus on is what grows. And the more you foster thoughts about your growth and success, the more of that you will experience.

New to Soundfly?

Our community of mentors can help you set the right goals, pave the right path toward success, and stick to schedules and routines that you develop together. Whether you’re taking one of our acclaimed online courses or working with a coach on your project, the experience is like having a personal trainer for your music, with a series of musical workouts, a whole lot of feedback and support, and the chance to accomplish something you’ll be proud of. 

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D. Grant Smith
D. Grant Smith

D Grant Smith is the syndicated host of The Appetizer Radio Show, heard across the US on indie and public radio stations. He's also the host of The DIY Artist Route Podcast, a bi-monthly exploration in the successful journeys of creative individuals from musicians to authors to educators. His work as The Audience Growth Farmer is also the subject of his blog and debut book The DIY Musician's Radio Handbook. Relationship building and networking are his strengths, which he works with artists in coaching, training, and speaking to improve. Aside from music, Smith loves anything involving Batman and craft beer.