Sunday, June 21, 2009

What does "making it" mean to you?

Have you ever really sat down, turned the TV off, and asked yourself that simple question? What is “making it”?

What does it mean?

What does it look like?

What does it smell like?

How will you know when you’ve “made” it?

What is “it”?

You see, you can never make it anywhere unless you have a clear idea of your destination.

When you plan a trip, what’s the first thing you decide? Where you’re going, of course. The next step is to figure out the quickest, most efficient route for arriving at that destination. After that, you begin to plan what you’ll do once you get there, how much fun you’ll have doing those things, etc.

Why is it any different when we’re planning our careers?

I used to use this term freely…”One day I’m gonna make it in music!” This sentence makes no sense and its naïve… silly even…that’s right, I just called myself silly for talking like that. I had no clue what my career would look like, what activities with music that I would like to be involved in, or what quality of life “making it” would afford my family and I. Of course, in my mind, making it afforded me oodles of money, loads of notoriety, and the chance to have free time when I wanted it. But you see, I skipped step two…how would I get there?

If you skip step two when you’re planning a vacation, you’ll never end up having the vacation you wanted. You’ll end up lost, frustrated because you’re wasting your precious vacation time, and you’ll wind up settling for whatever city you happen to stumble upon. Settling is sad…

You absolutely have to come up with your definition of “making it”. And you can’t steal someone else’s definition, that’s cheating.

Do you want to teach full time? In a school or privately? Do you want to be a session drummer? Do you want to play on the weekends and hold down a great paying day job, completely unrelated to music? Would you like to start a high-end corporate party band? A bar band? Do you want to play with a noted jazz artist? Pop artist? Country? Do you want to make your own original music? All of these are simple questions, but far too many of us never even come close to approaching them or giving them the undivided attention they need.

Here’s the thing that usually happens…Learn instrument, move to a town with a good “scene”, begin to network, take anything that comes your way for the sake of networking and being heard, compromise your convictions about who you are as a player, take anything that comes your way just to pay rent, compromising the gig conditions you’ll accept, resenting that you have to take anything that comes your way just to pay rent, get married, take EVERYTHING that is even CLOSE to coming your way, get a part time job…and so on, and so on, and so forth…until you’re sick of playing in subpar situations, with subpar musicians, for subpar pay…so you quit and go work for someone else in a completely unrelated field, miserable because you never “made it”. Problem is, even if you’d made it, you wouldn’t have known it because you never defined what that would be like. Sounds miserable, huh? IT IS!!!

That’s what I’m trying to tell you…you don’t have to take that road. I’m all about happening to your career, not your career happening to you.

So what is “making it” to me? Here’s the definition I came up with…

I want to be well respected by my peers. I want to be more than proficient on the drums. I want to make music that people really care about…music that makes them feel something. I want to be respected as an educator. I want to release a solo album. I want to have a happy marriage. I want a great relationship with my kids. I don’t want to be on the road full time. I want to have my own studio. I want to live comfortably, pay for my kids’ college education, build wealth, and own a house. I don’t want to play in cover bands full time…

Ok, you get the drift. I could go on and on for pages….the point is that I got extremely specific with my list of goals and what “making it” will look like to me. I included professional goals along with personal ones and tried to figure out how they would work together. And I was realistic about it. I came to the realization that I wasn’t doing this for the fame, I could care less about that. The only “fame” I wish to have is in my circle of peers…I want the respect of other drummers and musicians. I also want to make a comfortable living. These aren’t unreasonable, they just require some planning…


What is “making it” to you?


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