Figuring out the difference between someone who is successful and someone who isn’t – not just in music but anything – is probably my mission. Understanding success and defining what the ‘X-factor’ actually is has always been interesting to me. But as I watch more bands I’m close to starting to have the success they dreamed of for years, I’ve become even more infatuated with the concept of success and whatever that means to the individual experiencing it.
One term I’ve always had a problem with is, ‘luck.’ The idea that someone is successful mostly by chance and not through their own accord. I think this term is largely thrown around by people outside the creative industries looking in, who only see a polished and finished product and people having success seemingly overnight. But as discussed in a recent blog post 5 Music Industry Facts No One Tells You, it has been proven that it takes 10 years to become an “overnight success.”
The concept of what some people perceive as, ‘luck’ can be summed up nicely in one of my favourite quotes, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.” Or if you like:
“Opportunity moshes with those already in the mosh pit.”
This can be further explained by a quote by Roman philosopher, Seneca, that states “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Success happens when you are prepared for success. It’s a pretty simple yet powerful concept and to me it signifies more of a mental shift more than anything else.
So what does it mean to be prepared? Being prepared not only refers to being good at your instrument, well-rehearsed, having a strategy for your releases etc. But also mental and emotional preparedness. As spoken about in a live stream a few weeks ago with my guitarist, Travis, when he was offered the opportunity to go from being guitar tech of top-40 rock band, Burn Halo, to touring member, he initially said no! He wasn’t mentally prepared to take the leap and still had limiting beliefs.
Many people are so afraid of success (which is really just a fear of failure) that when it comes and taps them on the shoulder, it feels uncomfortable. Part of being mentally prepared for success is feeling worthy enough to have it. Feeling worthy is a lifelong journey for many people and probably deserves a blog post on its own.
No doubt there’s a certain mental strength required of individuals who have their eyes set on goals that seem intimidating to most. This mental strength comes in many forms. Apart from feeling worthy, it could also be resilience. The ability to get back up when our bands have been rejected or we lose a band member or the entire band breaks up is paramount. They say the only sure way to ‘fail’ is to give up. As Thomas Edison says, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”
Resilience is naturally ingrained in our DNA. When a baby is learning to walk, it doesn’t fall down a few times and think, “Oh well, I guess walking isn’t for me.” No, it keeps going until it’s running only months later.
Mental strength is also learning to say no to things that aren’t in line with our goals. This can mean cutting ties with people in our circle who don’t believe in what we’re doing, saying no to a weekly bender in order to put that $100 towards merch for your band or having unwavering faith that if you just keep going, you will eventually reach your goals.
Which brings me to my next point, consistency. On a micro level, this is consistently showing up for your audience on social media, regular rehearsals, continuous output of new music or playing shows etc. On a bigger scale, it means consistently putting one foot in front of the other to keep progressing forward. Sometimes that progression will feel like running, sometimes you have to take a few steps back to see the way forward. But consistently working towards your goals is the number one thing we can do to achieve whatever we define as success.
Without clearly defined goals, we don’t know where we’re heading. But whilst goals are important in progressing as a human, it’s also important (and cliche, I know) to enjoy the journey. The thing is, once we achieve a goal, we’re pretty much going to straight away set a bigger one. If we have the goal of opening for a local festival such as Download or Unify, once we achieve that goal we’re probably going to next want to play a festival overseas. Then rinse and repeat. Life is a never-ending cycle of building upon what we already have and if we’re not careful we will never be satisfied.
So finding ‘success’ in the journey is in some ways more important than hitting the goals. You don’t grow as a human the moment you achieve your goals, you grow throughout the process of working towards it. Here is where you gain that mental strength and resilience. It’s where you learn to say ‘no’ and train yourself to be consistent. It’s where you learn the skills that you can apply to the next chapter of your journey and also where the memories are made.
There is no magic formula for success. Being prepared for success by working on the above areas is the only way to be successful. I have come to see with my own eyes that success can come at any moment and you need to put yourself in the situation where it can find you and be motherfucking ready.