Who loved the show "Mythbusters" when they were younger? I TOTALLY did - especially when the experiments the hosts conducted were dramatic, full of fire, or explosive.
Ok, ok, I loved the explosion episodes the most. I am a bit of a mild-mad scientist at heart (daughter of a chemistry teacher), so "Mythbusters" was my jam for a while.
Anyway, as I began to dig deeper with my career in the arts over the last few years, I realized that my interest in experimenting and myth busting did not end when I stopped watching the TV show. In fact, I found that the MORE I experimented with different ways to build my career, the more myths I busted in my own life. It was like, once I figured out the truth about my own beliefs and mindset, I was able to craft out a career that is unique, interesting and totally my own.
So, I wanted to write a quick post today about a couple of big myths that I have "busted" in my journey as a working musician!
I'd also LOVE to hear about any myths you've busted in your own career journey - the more the merrier I say!
MYTH #1: I MUST suffer for my art (and my work) in order to be successful.
Let me start out by saying that this one is MAJOR! THIS myth is one that needs to disappear from our minds right now. The idea of suffering for art is often coupled with the idea that artists can't make a reasonable living from their work, and together, they form "THE STARVING ARTIST MENTALITY".
*insert sinister music*
Art takes many forms, and just because someone suffers for their work doesn't automatically make it more valuable or legitimate than another person's.
Many artists use their art to make themselves happier. I quote Elizabeth Gilbert a LOT, but as a creative writer, she makes her art with her words, and she is one of those artists who makes art that makes her happy. Her book "Big Magic" was written because it brought her joy to write it - not because it brought her great pain.
You don't have to make yourself miserable to create "worthy" art. Many artists have tragically been lost to this idea, and just think - if they had realized they didn't need to suffer for their art, what else might they have contributed to the world? I think of people like Jackson Pollock, Vincent Van Gogh, Tom Waits, John Coltrane - and so, so many more.
Make art that is meaningful? Yes
Create a life that brings you creative and financial freedom? Of Course.
Suffer for the privilege of being an artist? Never.
Don't do it to yourself. You CAN be successful AND happy!
MYTH #2: I don't deserve money - I'm just an artist
Henri Murger did us all a bit of disservice in the 18th century when he published his novel Scenes de la Vie de Boheme. This novel unfortunately romanticized the idea of the bohemian artist living a life of squalor (in Paris), but being fine with it because they were artists and just loved to make art. The worst part? Society hasn't fully realized that this is not at all ok, and has apparently forgotten the end of the novel which mentions this lifestyle is only temporary for the artist - it should not be permanent.
Sidenote: you may be familiar with an opera based on this novel - La bohème by Giacomo Puccini
You NOW know you don't need to suffer for your work, so why should you suffer financially in order to do your work?
One of the biggest challenges we face as musicians and artists in general is that we don't understand how to value our work and our time. Because we love what we do, a lot of the time, we believe we shouldn't make money off of it. If its a joy to make, or teach or perform, should we really be asking people to pay for us to have fun?
With this in mind, I have a couple of questions for you:
- How long have you worked at your music?
- How much money have you spent learning?
- What if an accountant told you they loved their work? Would you refuse to pay them?
Sure, we love what we do. I don't know your personal story, but I decided to pursue music rather than study law because I loved it and wanted to really stretch and challenge myself for the entirety of my career. We get taught by society that making a decision like this means that we are choosing between financial stability (and abundance), and happiness, when in reality you CAN have both.
You have worked hard to become a professional at your craft. You offer something valuable to the people around you. You have the ability to produce so much, but by believing you don't deserve to have an abundant life, you will limit the impact you can have on people around you.
I mean really, by not believing in your own value and worth, you're doing a disservice to the people out there who are dying to work with you, purchase something from you, be inspired from you.
I could go on an on about this point alone, but let me say one more thing on this topic. In other fields, barely making ends meet each month isn’t “successful”. That’s called scraping by, and unfortunately it has become normal for many to view the musicians and artists who are able to “scrape by” as those who are achieving great success. Imagine if we could make this mental shift as a community and show that we can be artists AND financially abundant!
MY money motto? Courtesy of Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation - "I don't like 'or'. 'Or' makes you choose".
MYTH #3: I know NOTHING (Jon Snow) about business
I always love a Game of Thrones reference. And in this case, its extra fitting. Did Jon Snow know how to lead the Knight's Watch when he was "elected"? No! Did he throw himself into it and do it anyway? Heck yes!
I have three things for you to know here.
- You know more than you realize
- Most people don't know what to do until they just get started and do a little research (aren't google and youtube marvelous tools!?)
- You don't know what you don't know. If you feel really stuck, there are people all over the place who can help you. Find a mentor, a coach or just someone who has done it before and ask them for help. People are generally nice when you ask for help, and its WAY smarter to ask for help than to give up because you didn't know what to do.
You don't need to have an MBA to start a business. You don't even need to ask permission to start a business (or an organization, non-profit, performance series, etc. etc.) You can actually just go and DO it.
You can figure it out.
Check out this podcast interview with Kendra Scott of Kendra Scott Jewelry to find out how she went from creating her first line in the back room of her house, to owner of one of the most popular jewelry brands on the market! (Even though she knew NOTHING about business when she started)
MYTH #4: The only "real" jobs have benefits, a regular salary and an office
To this I say "meh". Look around you. People are making their jobs work for them in SO many different and wonderful ways. Sure, a salary and benefits can help, but they're not what makes a job "real".
Guess what? Your career belongs to no one but you. A "real job" can mean anything YOU want it to mean.
Do you want to be a freelance performer as your job? Go for it!
Private teacher? Great!
Professional unicycle air guitarist? Who am I to crush your dreams?!
The main thing to remember here is that as long as you're being a responsible member of society (paying your taxes, bills etc), and aren't bothering anyone, its no one else's business what you define as a "real job".
Challenge these ideas and come up with something that is uniquely YOUR job/career.
MYTH #5: There isn't enough to go around
We live in an abundant world. All around us, new things are made, grown, explored, created and shared. One of our biggest challenges as artists is that we worry that we won't be able to get our fair share of the *insert some sort of commodity*.
One of the things you need to realize is that there is no limit on how much you can do, have, be, or desire.
When I start to worry about whether or not there is enough for me, I give myself a little nudge and remind myself to stop thinking so small.
It usually sounds something like this:
"JVP (I call myself JVP when I need to start thinking bigger), what are you doing? Why are you so worried about this? Are you thinking competitively or creatively? It sounds like you're competing. Or at least trying to compete, which you know is totally boring and average. Get back to thinking bigger - think creatively - its way more fun. Think bigger. Stop limiting yourself. You've got this!"
I say boring and average when I talk about thinking competitively because there are only so many ways you can compete with the world (And the world usually wins). If you can move beyond the competitive thinking scarcity mindset, you find something much more fulfilling and interesting.
Train yourself to think bigger rather than smaller when you're worrying that theres not enough to go around. Be creative in your thinking and you will always find a solution.
MYTH #6: I SHOULD want more than "just" private lesson teaching
Ok. I'm going to stop you (me) right here. Do you know what the biggest issue with that sentence is?
Using the word "just".
NEVER say you "just" do something. You never know how you're impacting others by the things you're doing, and the word "just" is going to keep you small. Instead, own what you do.
"I'm a private lesson teacher" is so much more powerful, and when you consider what it is you're doing in this line of work, there's nothing "just" about it.
Be bold in your ambitions and dreams. If you want to have the greatest private studio in the land, get going! Make it happen! Other people might try to make you feel bad that you aren't aiming to teach at a college, play in an orchestra or join the military, and career shame is REAL people, but don't let that discourage you from YOUR dreams.
Do what makes you happy, and what you know suits your lifestyle, interests, talents and passions. And don't let other people's opinions make you feel that your work is "less than". Ever.
Also, this is not only for the private lesson teachers out there. Whatever you're doing, planning to do, or are in the middle of finishing, never say "just".
You are valuable, you are impacting the people around you, so you never need to be "just" anything.