Frustration. How to move forward

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Daniel, I need your advice. I’m a music producer and for the last few years I had a couple of successful releases on various labels, if getting into Top-100 charts counts as a success. But being honest the only thing I got is some “likes” on my social profiles, I mean, I don’t feel a “real” success. 

Meantime I look at the other producers, and they have that real success, tours etc. I feel jealous, and realizing the fact that I’m jealous makes me feel even worse. You know, I release music and stuff, but all my efforts seem meaningless, and it’s depressing. I’m stuck on progress and don’t know how to move forward.

Jovan 

I understand you perfectly Jovan, I’ve been in the same boat. Perhaps, this depends on a type of personality, but I assume that everyone went through this. After self-analysis and study a little bit of human social behavior, I’ve come up with the understanding of three problems that cause such frustration. And three solutions.

Firstly, the problem is that we compare ourselves with the others through the prism of their success. Social media as a looking glass shows only positive sides: when you look at the other artists, you see their successful tours, releases that hit top charts, and so on. You set high expectations, like if I’ll do this → I’ll get this. And eventually it makes you upset, because after such hard work you expect to get no less success than the others, but for some reason you didn’t. The reality looks unfair to you. 

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy by Tim Urban

However, not many people seems realizes that success of the others is like a tip of the iceberg: you see only 10% of the whole picture, while the rest major part is hidden. You don’t know how many efforts other people put to reach the point where they are at this moment. Or maybe they just get lucky, or maybe they have the right connections. Either way, you don’t know it. So here is the tip #1: stop comparing yourself with the others, it’s toxic. Don’t look around, just do what you do.

Secondly, like at every negotiation, you cannot force someone to make a decision (unless you have a gun), your opponent always has a right to say “no” regardless of how good your proposal is. Will label release your track? Will you get that particular gig? The right answer is: you don’t know.

Imagine a running competition with hundreds of participants. Regardless of how good you are, you cannot be sure that you win the race. Will you win the race? Well, you don’t know. But if you gonna run and think about the other runners, you lose attention, time, focus, nerves, it all makes your mind literally heavy, slowing down your progress. So here comes the tip #2: stop worrying and being upset of the things you cannot control, and start to focus and do your best on the things you can — your own thoughts and actions.

Thirdly, sometimes we feel busy like a bee, and being completely captured by routine it’s easy to miss important things out of your sight. It’s not easy to get out of the circle, so it might be a  good idea to make some break, take a vacation. Try to get above to look at the entire picture of your career. Let’s say, you might be obsessed with writing more and more tracks, but release of music is just one of the many ways to get an audience, there is much more. Hence why it is so important to work and grow in all directions simultaneously: production, marketing, management skills, and so on. 

Getting audience

The key here is to think global, act local. Keep in mind the whole picture, but split it into small, do-able actions. Keep divide projects and goals until you get easy-doable tasks, for example: Write an album → Write track number one → Day 1. Record a melody; Day 2. Record drum section.

Recap:

  1. Don’t compare yourself with the others, it’s toxic. Just do what you love to do.
  2. Don’t try to control things that you cannot control, it’s a waste of energy. Instead, focus on what you can control — yourself.
  3. Don’t fall intro trap of routine, it blurs your vision. Take a break, look at the whole picture, and follow the plan by small steps.

I believe in a “Zen” way, as I call it: work hard and do it daily, be honest and open-minded, keep growing as a person and professional, enjoy everything you do, and sooner or later you’ll reach the success.

On cover image: Zen monk at Wenshu temple. The path to enlightenment is made of hard work, but slowly and surely he moving forward. Photo © moniqca

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

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