SEVEN DEADLY SKILLS
Ok folks strap in cos we're going to town in this one.
There are some things which, rather than being taught, need to be driven by the individual. There is a point when the teacher has to relinquish their guidance, and say to the student “now, over to you”. The great teachers of the world provide the students with the tools they need to go on and flourish. They plant the seeds in fresh, fertile soil, and water the seedling until it grows roots. But bursting up through the turf and reaching the cold light of day to get all the sunlight we need to grow? This is down to the individual. This is where we can choose what kind of tree we want to be. This is where we experience our own hunger for sunlight, our own desire to expose ourselves to the elements where all the risk awaits, along with the real world and thousands of other plants fighting for sunlight. This, is our Self Drive.
The journey we face as a musician is a very, very long one. Really, it’s an endless one. It is one rife with failure, with rejection, and unbelievably difficult discussions. There will be times when you will feel helpless, lost, and confused about where to turn. This is something you need to accept simply as fact now if you’re going to make a career out of it.
But how do we push through this sludge? How do we always make sure we’ll come out the other side stronger and ready to march on further, regardless of how much more failure we may encounter? We give ourselves the gift of Self Drive. It costs nowt so why not. We choose to think positively where others see only negatives. We believe that we have something to give - no, we KNOW that we have something give, unique and valuable, to the world. This is something you can choose.
Irrespective of my source…I try and live by this quote. What does this quote mean and why as a musician is it important? Well, to be completely, super duper honest with you - it means that really, until you show people why they need to, the working world really does not care about you. If you stay in bed for a week, the world will carry on in it’s merry way, time will go by, people will carry on doing what they do, babies will be born, new musicians will start practicing. The world will progress whether you’re a part of it or not. The other trees that have burst through the turf will happily soak up that sunlight and carry on growing. “Hold on Ben why the f**k are you telling me no one cares about me in a post about self drive??!!”. A fair question to ask at this juncture. But bare with me.
One of the most potent ways of nurturing Self Drive, is the liberating realisation that if you really want to create the life you’ve dreamed about since you were a kid - that is to say, if you really want to be a well paid and earning musician - you need to get up out of bed and start making your mark. You need, by default, by job description, unbelievable amounts of Self Drive. Yes - I’ll stick my neck out here, as a self employed person running your own business, you need much more self drive in a week than the vast majority of working people will have in a month. This is why we need to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals, so as not to absorb the habits of those less self-driven and less inclined to pursue a professional life quite so full of challenges. Through your action you MAKE the world care about you. Through your action, you MAKE people pay attention to what you have to offer. Through your action, you don’t give people the option to ignore you. KNOW that you are unique and unbelievably valuable, and show this to the world! If you don't believe in yourself, how can you expect others to?
PROCRASTINATION: THE ENEMY OF SELF DRIVE
Procrastination is rooted in the fear of failing the task being greater than the fear of simply not doing the task. It is Self Drive at it's lowest point.
Why would we fear failing a task? Because:
1 - We haven’t fully come to terms with failure as being an integral, and positive part of life.
2 - We just don’t believe in ourselves enough to go through with it.
LET'S TRY AN EXPERIMENT
Forget about everything you associate with the word 'failure' for a second. Literally. Give yourself a second to forget the definition. Wipe it off your memory hard drive. Clear out the RAM. Go on. I'll wait.
Now we’re going to reprogram this meaningless, blank word ‘failure’, and insert a new meaning in to it. We’re going to program it to simply describe the ‘positive process of learning’. A word meaning that when we've tried our best and we encountered a result we weren't expecting - we see it as a positive opportunity to GROW OUR PLANT taller, reaching higher ground where we have more access to the sunlight that will only help us grow FASTER. It is now a word associated with happy, fulfilling emotions of self worth.
This is how we need to think of failure. This is how we procrastinate less and less; we are utterly unafraid of encountering an unexpected result.
For a good deal of us, our definitions of ‘failure’ were programmed for us when we were very young, under a definition associated with negative emotions. We were encouraged to perceive it as something we need to avoid. Can you think of anything in our education system that may have contributed to this? Can you think of any teachers who made you feel like this?
PROGRAM YOUR MIND TO BEHAVE THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO
Back to something I touched on in the first post: INNOVATION. To recap: the more you allow yourself to do something, the more connections you build in your brain that are associated with that. Quite literally, the more positive, self-believing thoughts you practice in your mind - the more often you will find yourself feeling this way. The more we allow those default negative thoughts to creep in, the more connections our brains are building to make it easier to access those thoughts.
Try removing the phrases “I can’t”, or “I’m not very good at” from your language right now. Every time you allow yourself to say these things, your brain roots itself further in to actually believing it. Know someone that says these sorts of things all the time? They’ve simply convinced themselves to believe it.
Think about the greatest sports people who ever lived. Can you really hear Mohammed Ali saying “I’m not very good…”. Can you hear Lionell Mesi saying “I don’t really think I’d be great at”. Before any sportsperson engages in a competitive event of any kind, in their mind they have already won it.
IN TOUCH WITH REALITY
Look, among all the positive thinking, the self motivating that we can muster it’s also really important to remember that we are only human. If we forcibly rid ourselves of any negative thought whatsoever and externally display that we’re in this permanent state of happiness - well then we’d be denying ourselves our natural instincts. Just gently accept that negative thoughts will inevitably get the better of us from time to time. One of the worst things we can do is think that there is something wrong with us when these thoughts occur. It’s the most natural thing in the world, so don’t fight it, no matter how ridiculous or outrageous the thought may be.
But what I want to really drive home in this post about Self Drive - is that it’s largely about learning to manage these thoughts, learning how to gently steer your mind out of it’s old lazy negative habits, and in to a state which focusses on the great things. If you feel you are prone to negative thoughts and would like to reduce them, this can initially take a little energy to steer, because you are literally remapping your brain. The key is not to fight these negative thoughts with all of your energy; you’ll exhaust yourself and in turn make yourself more susceptible to them. When negative thoughts arrive, simply let them enter your mind, observe them, think about why they may be there, let them do whatever their business is - and allow them to leave when you feel ready. Remember, you can choose these things - it’s your frickin' brain.
An extremely effective way of keeping ourselves motivated and Self Driven, is to remember how grateful we are for the positives in our life, however small. Practicing Gratitude helps us to realign our perspective, zoom out, and see that there are many things in our life that are good, and that maybe we’ve just forgotten about. It maps your brain to jump to the positives. Whenever I walk on stage, whenever I teach a lesson, whenever I earn anything from doing the job I love, I remember how unbelievably grateful I am to be in that position, that moment there and then, doing what I love to do and earning from it. What is it to practicing Gratitude? Just think about how grateful you are for stuff.
You will be surrounded by negative people at many stages in your life. People who are delighted to give you THEIR opinion on what you should be doing. People who have lived a life running away from failure and, without even realising it, project this on others.
IF YOU DON’T SET YOU OWN PATH, SOMEONE ELSE WILL HAVE ONE FOR YOU
By practicing self belief, having the Self Drive to continue working hard on what you love becomes easy. The people you meet in life who project negativity (think of any?) - sadly, these are the people whose minds have crafted their own cages. Their minds have become the birds that have never flown, knowing only the surroundings of their cage. They’ve dug themselves in to such a deep hole of reinforced negative thought, they've completely forgotten what it feels like to believe in their own INNOVATIONS. Through not learning to manage their own negative impulses, or allowing themselves the strength to reject them, they've prevented themselves from flying in the way they once dreamed of.
This does not make these people bad people by any stretch of the imagination. It simply makes them victims of the myth that failure is something to be feared. It makes them victims of an system that can leave people feeling like they owe the world nothing. WE ALL OWE IT TO THE WORLD TO EXPRESS OUR VOICE - so get out bed and get into action. Since coming out of the womb, we are bombarded with imagery, sounds, ideas - that all drag us in to falling in to someone else's idea of how we should live our lives.
Trough practicing Self Drive, we make ourselves immune to any negative projections from others and maintain a clear vision of how we want our life to become.
Music is a form of Sport & Sport is a form of music
Train your mind like a athlete trains their body.
...and their mind! In music, there is this sort of widely assumed opinion that when we're performing on stage...well, 'We love our job so of course we're not going to get nervous! Of course we're going to perform at our absolute best each and every time, because well, playing music is a hobby! OF COURSE we’re going to practice 40 hours a day because, well, its super fun!'
It couldn't be further from the truth. Why do the top athletes of the world have specifically employed sports psychologists to work with them? Because when we perform, remaining in control of our state of mind vital. Why are drugs so prolifically used as a coping mechanism for music? Many of us are encouraged to think that we'll never encounter any hurdles, because our jobs are perceived as recreational. Some understandably find the pressures of being a musician extremely difficult, especially the more successful they become - when more financial, logistical, and technical considerations stack up. We’ve been taught to think there’s something wrong with us if we aren’t enjoying ourselves all of the time. So, some turn to the only option they can find: numbing the mind with booze.
Sorry Musicians, but Sportspeople have been rather more quick to realise this than we have.
LET'S WRAP THIS UP
Self Drive applies to every single part of you, and your business. It gets your to practice. It gets you to auditions. It gets you up at a respectable hour in the morning (c’mon 7am really isn’t that hard). It makes you get out there and Publicise. It encourages you to have respect for yourself and your equipment. It makes you friends! But as with every one of the Seven Deadly Skills - it takes work to improve at, and if you feel like it’s something you could be better at, get to work now! Remember the wise words of American philosopher Ryan Seacrest - 'the world will keep on turning whether you get out of bed or not'.