When I was little I got to hamster-sit. It was thrilling. I watched the little guy run around on that wheel like his little life depended on it. I had the idea that he may have a lot more fun running around in my room. He was not interested. I’m guessing that my room, filled with new experiences, textures, sights and sounds, was too scary. Obviously, this hamster hadn’t met the two mice from “Who Ate My Cheese?”.
I sat down to write an article about taking action through making requests, and this hamster was the first thing that popped into my head. Instead of figuring that out, I’ll just assume that my life has been a little bit like his. I feel busy. I run on that wheel like my life depends on it. I stay busy. But busy in the way that keeps me from getting big. The big that I know I have the potential to be. The logistics of staying small are quite voluminous.
We all know this type of busy… Booking small tours at coffee shops and ski resorts, making calls to get on-air radio performances at community colleges near my gigs, sending useless emails to labels and management companies, trying to enroll people in my awesomeness, or at least, the potential I have for making a profit because of my awesomeness, spending hours editing my live videos, thinking that a good edit will get me my next big gig. Spending hours perfecting charts that don’t need perfecting, vacuuming (too often), organizing, stressing, facebooking, day jobs, part time jobs. Need I go on? All of it is busy for the sake of being busy. Even being a perfectionist is a form of procrastination. This busy isn’t really going to make a difference, in the long run. When have I ever gotten a big gig from someone watching my video?
What this kind of work does for me is it makes me feel productive, but in the end I feel empty, unsuccessful and lazy. Yes, lazy. Because what I have figured out over the past few years is that I, like the hamster, am avoiding what is really out there for me to do. The comfort of “being a starving artist” is overwhelmingly powerful. I don’t know anything else. Who would I be if I actually did succeed? That is scarier than struggling with paying rent each month. It sounds stupider than anything I’ve ever written before, but it’s true.
Living into my potential has been a goal for as long as I can remember. The first line of my first song off my first album is “orphaned by potential”. Get good grades, go to a good college so you can stand on your own two feet. Well, mom, does standing on my feet count when I’m standing on a melting iceberg?
Before this thing melts for good, I’m determined to take the leap I needed to take years ago. The thing about leaps… it’s not a process, it’s a complete 180 degree shift that happens now. And now. And now. I have started closing the deals, asking for specific results, being effective in my requests. Not just inspiring people and getting them “very interested” in my and my music so that over time we’ll build a relationship, but actually getting them to sign the deal, have the meeting, show me the money. Instead of just calling the management company and say “I’m a good artist and I work my butt off”, I call them and say, “when can we meet”? I send my composing reel to ad agencies and film directors and ask them when they anticipate their next project to come in and what is the easiest way for me to get them my music. I ask my fans to help me make my music, specifically through monetary donations. I keep an organized database of people I’ve met at music conferences and every six months, I get in contact with them and ask if they any projects I could collaborate on with them. This kind of “asking” has resulted in my music playing on 10 different TV show episodes, editors placing my music on nationally-airing ads, and invitations to perform on tours that are already booked. The real result? I’m doing less work for more rewards.
I’m becoming [gasp] successful.
The breakthrough was when it registered in my little hamster brain that if I kept spinning my wheels, nothing would change. I would continue to miss opportunities, feel left out, frustrated, underpaid, under stimulated, overworked, and generally uninspired. As a sense of urgency for change crept in, I got clear that I had to create a context of fearlessness, creativity and freedom for myself and let this new context propel my next actions.
That wheel was really getting boring, and getting me nowhere.