Anybody that has chased their dream long enough knows that there are days when it gets tiring. Those are the days that you wonder why you do what you do and the thought of quitting enters your mind. Over the years, I have found myself leaning on several phrases that keep me inspired and help me keep going. I would like to share these with you. If you have any please share yours in the comment section.
1. “Clear mind, clean body, pure heart”
The first thing I usually do when I wake up is spend ten to fifteen minutes stretching. Although there are usually a lot of things that need to be done as soon as I waked up, I try to consider the fact that none of them can get done if my mind, body, and spirit are not in the right place. So while I stretch I tell myself “clear mind, clean body, pure heart.” It doesn’t mean that I have any of these things, only that I strive to have these things every day, and that I understand my success in accomplishing my goals is dependent upon their presence in my life. A clear mind will allow me to be singularly focused on the task at hand. A clean body will allow me to be healthy enough to work on the task at hand without interruption, and a pure heart will allow me to move with a moral compass in my tasks–where I can look in the mirror and know I haven’t done anything harmful to anyone else along the way.
2. “Work when others are sleeping”
There came a point during the time I was making my Adventures in Counter-Culture album where I started to finally get into a set routine of working on music. Prior to that, I would work only when I was inspired. As I got into a routine, I started noticing how much further into my projects I was getting, simply because I now had a schedule. Things that would take me a year or two to complete were now taking months or weeks. My confidence started to grow as I understood the relationship between the amount of time you put into your craft and the results you get. I found that most of the people who weren’t seeing the results they wanted seemed to have irregular work schedules and didn’t put in as much time as I was putting in. Whenever I was up late working, in between 1 and 4am, I would tell myself that none of my competitors were up that late. They were all sleeping comfortably, but I was practicing my craft, getting better and better. And that commitment would be the reason I would have success. Whenever I’m feeling discouraged about working, I remind myself that to even have a chance at success you have to be willing to do what others are not willing to do, and a large part of that is to work while they are sleeping.
3. “The only person who can stop you is you.”
Many of us were dealt a tough hand in life; whether it be being born into disadvantaged socio-economic circumstances or having an unsupportive family. I could write pages about all the depressing and discouraging things I’ve seen in life, but all that would do is paralyze me from focusing on the only thing that I can control, which is me. Out of all the chaos in the world, all the hardships we face, and all the bad hands we were dealt in life, the only thing we have the ability to control is our own lives. We control what we do every day. Only we have control over what we choose to spend our time on and what we choose to ignore. And as such, we are the ones with the most control over whether we are successful or not. I have heard many people say they want to be successful and that they are tired of being broke, yet these same people spend more time watching television than learning skills or reading information that can empower them. They may not have gotten themselves into the rut they are in, but they are certainly keeping themselves there by not spending time on things that can improve their lives.
There has to come a point where we realize that just as we are powerful enough to achieve any goal we set our minds to, we are also powerful enough to hold ourselves back.
This is not to say that I don’t believe other people and forces can make achieving your goals more difficult. Not at all. But what I am saying is that the only way to become empowered against these forces is to control and build yourself. Understand that all you have is you and, at least in your day to day activities, you are more likely to sabotage your own success more than anybody else.
4. “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it”
As a person that has been putting out music since 1999 and been a full-time artists since 2002, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. When I started out, there were many dudes who were more talented than me and more well-connected. These guys were “supposed” to be successful–I wasn’t. Fast forward to today and most of these guys are nowhere to be found. Why? Well, unfortunately being successful isn’t just about being talented. Talent is an entry point, but doesn’t guarantee anybody success. In fact, it’s often harder for people who are naturally talented to find success because they spend too much time relying on their natural talent and not enough time working on the other skills they need to be successful like discipline, strategy, work ethic, and professionalism.
I saw an interview with the founder of Subway the other day and he said, “Learning how to make subs was the easy part, learning how to run the business was the hard part.” In the interview he revealed that subway had been open over 8 years and had over 20 stores and still wasn’t profitable. His wife was secretly hoping he would give up, but his break came when he decided to franchise. That was when they became profitable and business finally took off. Now they are the largest franchise on earth.
Natural talent is the easy part, everything else is hard. Waking up and putting in work towards your dream is what separates the naturally talented from the skilled and successful. Being willing to push through those tough times is what puts you in the position to reap the rewards later on. Now, every year that I see less and less of my original peers doing this, I realize just how difficult it is and that it’s not for everybody. And that’s ok, because it makes me being here more special.
5. “It’s my job to make them understand”
Artists have always been and will always be misunderstood. It’s only natural since the nature of art is that it speaks to our imaginations, not to what is always visible or tangible.
The average person sees a blank canvas as what it is, a blank canvas. An artist sees a blank canvas and imagines what should be there. The problem isn’t that one perspective is right and the other is wrong–it’s that both perspectives are right, but the way the two parties communicate needs to be improved. Unfortunately, this disconnect leads to a lot of artists getting discouraged and upset when people don’t understand their vision or ideas.
As an artist myself, I have found that I do my best work when I take the position that it is my job to make people understand, not their job to try to figure it out.
If my goal is to be understood, and they don’t understand, then I have to shoulder that responsibility. It is not their job to try to figure out what I am trying to do–it is my job to execute my ideas well enough that they can understand and appreciate them.
Too many times I hear artists speak about being misunderstood, but taking no personal responsibility for it. Artists blame the “uneducated” or “unsophisticated” masses for their lack of appreciation. They blame the corporate institutions for having too much marketing and too much influence. They blame everybody for their art being misunderstood and unappreciated–except themselves. I recently realized that this frame of mind is unproductive and doesn’t empower me. In fact, the assumption and belief that people won’t understand what I’m creating paralyzes me. So instead of telling myself that they wont understand, I tell myself that it’s my job to make them understand. Telling myself that it is my job to make them understand puts me back in the drivers seat. Instead of feeling like a powerless passenger that “hopes” people get it, I feel like an empowered driver that “makes sure” people get it. And since I have started telling myself that I have been able to push through those difficult times much easier.
Word is Blog
p.s. My new book What A Night will be available November 18th. The book is about the worst shows of my touring career and is pre-ordering here: http://bit.ly/1vVF38T. The paperback version is signed and comes with a free 11×17 poster and sticker. Please support me by ordering your copy now.
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