career

The Importance of Creating Good Habits

After taking a break from the blog while finishing school, I’m back into the swing of things. This post is all about the importance of creating good habits that set the stage for future success. An effective mindset is one that assumes the end result will be the culmination of all the small steps taken towards said end. Granted, life does throw us curveballs and failure is there as a teacher, however, in the end, you are what you repeat.

Here are a few habits I hold myself to every day that pay off whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out.

Practice Scales and Technique

This should be a no-brainer. Even just 10 minutes a day starting slow with the metronome will go a long way to developing ease and comfort on any given instrument. Remember – the purpose of practice is to make things feel as easy and natural as possible.

Send 5 Emails a Day

 If I want to be lazy and watch TV or wander down the YouTube rabbit hole, I ask myself “did you send your 5 emails?” If the answer is “No,” – I get straight to work. It’s easy to get overzealous with this one, but 5 emails everyday adds up to over 30/week and over 100/month. For me, I target local venues and past clients – anything more and you’ll flood the market.

With an investment of a mere 20 minutes, you’ll find it’s an easy way to get leads, keep in touch with past venues, and keep your fans updated on your upcoming projects.

Set Clear and Attainable Goals

Always refine what it is you are working on. Not just wishy-washy “I want to play at XYZ someday” or “I want to learn XYZ song.” Break that end goal into simple, small steps where results can be measured. As an example, I’m working on a new CD – both writing music and recording the songs. I set a specific schedule where I work on one piece every two-three days and set a firm timeline for the project. Therefore, “I want to play XYZ” becomes “I want to record XYZ by next Thursday.”

If you start with these simple steps and keep track of what you practice, who you email, and have a timeframe for any project you are working on, your work will pay off and the snowball effect will generate massive momentum. Remember that we’re often bombarded with “moments of success” on TV and media – someone wins American Idol, a video goes viral, a band gets a big break, a star athlete dominates a sport. What we don’t see is the countless hours of preparation that lead to that point – and this is where proper habits come in.

So are your habits hurting or helping you?

Everything is an Opportunity

Early on, finding success can seem like a total mystery. You hear about friends and colleagues winning competitions, recording a CD, or having a concert and you wonder how they got so lucky – “why can’t it be me?” And this is the problem. The competition or gig or CD was not their “success” – it was the manifestation of the fruits of their labor, the intersection of timing and preparation. It was the moment when their hard work paid off. Success is total commitment to the process of work and practice.

With that in mind and after working long and hard on your craft, only then will what seems like luck to the untrained eye will reveal itself as opportunity. Everybody you meet and everywhere you play has the possibility to lead you someplace new. You just need to keep your eyes opened.

A rather wealthy, older gentleman who comes to many of my performances took me to lunch one day. We ate and spoke and we tossed around the idea of putting together a CD release concert, with him playing Host and taking care of the audience. Over the course of lunch, I asked him what he was doing when he was my age and how he ended up in the position of being able to help young musicians. What he said has stuck with me ever since: “Instincts – I look at everything and everyone as an opportunity.”