June 28, 2018
“Go all in.”
That’s the message I seem to be hearing lately as I’m looking around at things. It’s in the podcasts I’m listening to. It’s in the articles I’m reading. It’s in the memes I’m seeing on Instagram.
Go all in on what you want.
Stop messing around.
The great Gary Vee says you should triple down on your strengths. That if you’re lucky enough to be good at what you like, you should go after it with tunnel vision. Complete focus. I know he’s talking about entrepreneurship and I’m mostly concerned with art, but let’s get real here – at a certain level art becomes commerce. If you aspire to be a full-time artist, you need to make a living. You need to create a business. I think a lot of artists lose the plot at that point, either because they don’t know how to make money with their work or they have a mental block about it or they buy into the starving artist mythology (which is romantic in theory but flat-out painful in reality).
The equally great Philip McKernan says he doesn’t believe you can fail if you commit to the thing you’re truly meant to do with your life. The as-great-as-the-other-two Geoff Thompson says if you turn toward your potential, your potential will run toward you. If you surrender to your dreams, your dreams have no choice but to surrender back.
Who am I to argue with Gary Vee and Philip McKernan and Geoff Thompson? Who am I to argue with greatness? Those men have all achieved extraordinary success in unconventional ways. Each of them will also tell you they’re not special. They just went all in. They tripled down on what they’re good at. They made mistakes and they suffered and they had setbacks, but it was all good because it was all them. They got there in the end.
But boy, it’s hard.
I’ve seen the other side of greatness. I’ve taken a shot at businesses that didn’t work out like I hoped. I’ve tried things that failed. I worked hard, but in retrospect, I know that those ideas didn’t fly because I wasn’t all in on them. I never really wanted them in the first place. I was either running from something else or using them to prop up a different dream, which meant I wasn’t going all in on anything – the dream or the business.
Going all in on music at my age, at my level, where I live, is pretty daunting, and yet the dream persists. I want to do that, even though I know how hard it could be to find musical situations that can work for my life and family and wallet. Hard, but not impossible. Fragile as it is, naïve as it may be, I hold on to my belief that the right things will come to you if you do the work and have the right intention. I have to believe that. I don’t see the point in believing otherwise.
I’m thinking about all of this now as I’m looking at the end of a work contract and then some pretty extensive touring in the fall (which is a wonderful and affirming opportunity). When all of that is over, I’ll be where I was last December, home from a tour and trying to find my way forward. The one thing I haven’t tried – not really – is going all in. Why? Fear. Guilt. Lack of self-belief. Years and years of buying into the story that says success in music, in writing, in the arts, is impossible. If not impossible generally, then impossible for me.
This blog is mostly about personal development. It’s about encouraging people to chase their dreams, face their fears, change their lives. Truth is there’s a ying to all of that yang. Doubt is part of it. This particular entry is perhaps a bit self-indulgent but it also illustrates the practical reality of some of the stuff I’ve been trying to write about, and maybe it helps you to know that I still struggle every day with the limits in my own head.
But here we are. The dreams persist. The hope remains. The possibility is still present. We take a look around and we see that people are doing it. Whatever we want to do, people are doing it right now. The role models are there. The evidence is there. The potential is there. What if it's just waiting for us to tell a different story?
What if it’s just waiting for us to be brave enough to go all in?
Here's what Geoff has to say about it.