If you haven’t read Tim Ferris’ book 4-Hour Workweek you have some homework to do. This blog post is largely inspired by that book. The book speaks of many ways to get more time back into your days and covers everything from eliminating unnecessary daily activities (like checking email several times every hour, or taking phone calls while in the middle of other projects), to automating as much as possible and liberating yourself from the constraints of needing to work in a specific geographic spot. All this comes after you define what it is in life that excites you so that you know why it is important to do all of the above.
Assuming you all want to be musicians making a living at your craft, I hope you will find some inspiration in the words that follow; inspiration to quite your day job, or whatever unexciting task you currently engage in for monetary gain that distracts you from your goal of a life that excites you.
Firstly, some background on me. I quit my last day job nearly three years ago to make room for building my career as a musician. At the time, I had two years of post-secondary education left ahead of me, rent to pay every month, groceries to buy and all the other life expenses. Clearly it was not an opportune time to let go of my steady dependable sources of income, but I decided that if I were going to succeed as a musician, I would have to start right away. Not next week, or next month…but right now. In hindsight, I have never regretted this decision and now almost three years later, am seeing more and more evidence that that was the right choice.
For those of you wondering if quitting the day job tomorrow is the right thing to do, here is some food for thought: In Tim Ferris’ book, he mentions “a very curious phenomenon. There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of each other:
- Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20).
- Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law).
Tim mentions this when he is talking about building personal task lists and getting things done without wasting time, but this principle applies to to quitting your day job too. Tim also suggests that you “use Parkinson’s Law to accomplish more in less time. Shorten schedules and deadlines to necessitate
focused action instead of deliberation and procrastination.” In other words, if you are thinking that you would like to give yourself a healthy amount of time in which to quit your day job, say 6-12 months, and you plan to use this time to get your music career in order so that you can make a smooth and successful transition from your current lifestyle into your desired career path, consider this: if you give yourself 12 months to make this transition, you will likely find ways to make that transition take up ALL of those 12 months. On the contrary, if you shorten your schedule to a borderline unrealistic time frame, you’re likely to make the same strides in a much more focused amount of time. I think of it this way: if I were to give myself 15 minutes to fold a load of laundry, I would probably be able to use every one of those fifteen minutes to accomplish the task whereas if I set myself a goal of 5 minutes, I could likely still accomplish the task. I might work up a sweat in the process, but sweating never killed anyone and I’d rather spend my time doing what excites me. Wouldn’t you?
I would also like to share with you one of my biggest pet peeves. From a very young age, most of us have had it beaten into our skulls that there is no way one can ever make a living as a musician and that “musician” is not a real career path. You’ll never be a rockstar, or a great performer, and you certainly won’t make any money at it. For some reason, this outcome is only attainable by people that are…what…better than you? More talented? More creative? More crazy? Whatever the case, we as musicians must first shake that way of thinking. You have to tell yourself and believe that you deserve to be a musician. Why not you? You are human, just like Michael Jackson and Beethoven. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. But boy, will you ever have to work for it. There is no lie there. So yes, quit that day job and get focused.
We have all heard the expression “desperate needs call for desperate measures.” This was another way I thought about making my transition to professional musician. Cut off your cushy income channels throw yourself into the deep end with whatever resources you have. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your resources will multiply when you really need them to…or how slowly the will multiply when you don’t. Bystanders will see that you are really making an effort and as long as you haven’t burned any bridges with them in the past (see my blog post The Don’ts of Networking) they may be willing to lend you a helping hand. You must have faith in your own ability to survive. If you can’t find this faith, can you realistically expect anyone else too? Surely, it won’t be easy, and you’ll never be able to see all the way to the top of the staircase that leads to the rest of your life, but what matters is that you take the first step. Don’t wait for tomorrow.
Learn to ask, “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?” -Tim Ferris
I’m not going to attempt to tell you how to manage your finances, living arrangements or career investments in order to make the transition away from your day job and into professional musicianship as I am not a career coach. I hope this blog can inspire you to act on your dreams sooner rather than later. I will write more in future posts with regard to some things I see as great building blocks for successful musicians.
Please post your comments or questions!