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A while back I posted this question on Facebook and Twitter:
What’s the #1 Thing That Keeps You From Reaching Your Music Career Goals?
I received a flood of great responses. Here are the top replies:
- Lack of time
- Lack of money
- Lack of confidence
- Not setting goals to begin with
- Not planning well enough
- Having too many goals
- Not prioritizing my goals
- Spreading myself too thin
- Popular trends not going my way
- Not knowing where to start
- My day job
- Not putting what I know into action
- Fear of failure
How many of these can you relate to? I hope this list makes you realize that you are not alone when it comes to distractions, resistance, and excuses.
The thing is, successful artists deal with these very same hurdles. Musicians who reach higher levels don’t have some secret code and aren’t immune to the everyday obstacles we all encounter.
What they do have is a different mindset and a different approach compared to the masses that get lulled into accepting stagnation as a way of life.
Since this is such a widespread issue (and one I wrestle with myself), I wanted to share my version of the Cycle of Success – a concept I first heard from Jack Canfield. It’s a bare-bones outline of the simple steps you must take to accomplish worthy goals. It may appear simplistic at first glance. But I ask you …
Honestly, how well do you embrace each of these steps … and on which ones do you typically get hung up?
The first step to reaching any goal is to know where you’re headed. The clearer the target, the more purposeful your actions will be. That’s why the first step to accomplishment is to set a specific, measurable goal (or set of goals). “Be a successful musician” is a nice idea, but it’s a fuzzy goal. A more concrete goal would be “Perform four live shows a month that generate $3,000 in total revenue” or “Sell $1,500 a month in live show CD/merchandise sales and $1,000 a month in digital downloads.” Decide what you want and be crystal clear about what it is.
Once you know exactly what you want, the next step is to craft an action plan that will move you toward it. Take some time to brainstorm on paper. Make lists of the different types of activities you will need to engage in to reach the goal. Who will you need to contact, what do you need to learn, and what tools will help you get there? Work backwards from the goal and determine the specific steps you’ll need to take.
Now it’s time to dive into the step that holds back most human beings: taking action! Look over your grand plan and ask yourself, “What’s the very first thing I need to do in each category?” Focus only on those initial things and … do them! Don’t worry about the entire project or the immensity of your goal. Just do the little thing that needs to be done today: make a phone call, send an email, design a web page, repair your equipment, or sit down to write a new song (or finish one you started).
Taking those initial actions in the Start phase may actually come easy if you’re exciting about the goal. Your enthusiasm is running high and you’re eager to get busy. But what happens after a week or two, when other life demands grab center stage or when you don’t make as much progress toward the goal as you had hoped? This step is another biggie that trips up many musicians. But people who succeed muscle through the distractions and “continue” taking action, even when they’re short on time and energy. If your goal is truly important, you will find time to chip away at it and make progress – on a consistent basis.
If you get this far, congratulations! You’ve accomplished more than the majority of creative people (as sad as that is to say). You have decided what you want, created an action plan, started taking action, and have continued to work toward it, despite many temptations to do otherwise. Now you must take a little time to measure the results of your efforts. Don’t just stay busy for the sake of movement without knowing how effective your actions are. Are you moving closer to the goal, or further away? What has brought the best results? Now is the time to evaluate your progress.
Once you look at the actions you’ve taken thus far and measure the results (as in the number of live shows booked, number of new fans on your mailing list, amount of music and merch sold, etc.), you’ll have a clearer picture of where you stand. Then look over your plan and tweak it. How you do that is super simple: Do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t working. Also, this is a good time to introduce a new goal or strategy that makes sense based on what you’ve learned from your actions so far.
Once again, consistent action and progress is key. So with your adjusted plan in hand, continue to move forward. Another trait that will help you in this phase is the ability to simultaneously see two contrasting perspectives:
1) Keep the big picture vision alive of where you are headed – the specific and measurable goal you have set, and
2) Focus on the micro task at hand and realize where you actually are on the path. There will almost always be a wide gap between where you are and where you want to be. But don’t let that disparity frustrate you. Instead, let it pull you toward the goal even more fervently.
Bonus Step: Repeat Steps 5 through 7. From here on out, your progress will be a series of evaluating your efforts, adjusting your goals and action plans, and getting busy pursuing them again.
There you have it: 7 Simple But Effective Steps to Reaching Your Music Career Goals.
Are you truly incorporating all of the steps? Where do you get hung up the most? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the Comments section below.
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