December 11, 2017
I’ve been thinking more about a conversation that I had in Leverkusen, Germany last month. I was having coffee with Ken and Deni – my bandmates on the Sarah Smith tour – and we were talking about how to be successful in the music business. We touched on this idea that we only have the right to our labour, not to the results of our labour. It’s been on my mind over the past couple of weeks as I’ve transitioned back to civilian life.
Confession: It hasn’t been an easy time in some ways.
Partly that comes down to this idea of labour vs. results. Things are a little quiet on the gig front these days, and when that happens it’s tempting to feel like you’re not getting the results you should. Not to suggest that the Sarah tour didn’t deliver as promised, because it did and more. I walked away with an incredible experience and three deeper friendships and great memories and a contract fulfilled. Terrific. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
But at the same time, you hope for doors to open when you put the work in. And the thing is I know that they will eventually. How do I know that? Because they always have. You get back what you put in, and my experience has shown that hard work creates more opportunities. The problems come when you start thinking more about the opportunities than the work.
Look, we can’t control what comes of our labour. All we can control is the labour itself. I think the better we are at letting go of the results, at giving up the expectations, the less stressed we become. Certainly the less bitter. For me, that means being satisfied with a job very well done, and then simply getting back to the work. It means going to the basement and improving my drumming. It means developing my confidence. It means talking with my mentors and learning about the industry. It means meeting other players. It means figuring out how I can add more value to the people I’m playing with. It means writing a blog post instead of sitting around wondering if anyone will read it. It means focusing my energy on things I can control and trusting that the opportunities will come.
Another confession: I’m not good at letting go or at trusting, but I’m learning. The lessons are hard sometimes.
So if you’re stressing about results, try to focus on the labour. If you’re a writer, write your stuff. If you’re a painter, paint your stuff. If you’re a musician, play your stuff. Practice. If you’re not getting hired or selling your art, think about whether you have shortcomings you need to address in your craft or your relationships or your marketing or your business. If there are, then there’s work you can do. Own it. Do the work and try not to worry about what you can’t control.
Oh, have I mentioned that I write this stuff for myself more than anyone else? This isn’t me having all the answers, because I don't. This is me working through some questions. I’m having trouble with this one, by the way, because it hits me hard in the self-doubt. Part of my labour is working on that too. I put these things out publicly because it forces me to face them and, hopefully, helps others face them too. At this moment what I know for sure is that I've been incredibly blessed with opportunities and no one on Earth owes me a damn thing.
And I’ve got work to do.
Looking forward to sharing the results.