This is the abridged version of Chapter 1 of The Musician’s Masterplan by Lee Ness specially edited for Headlights and White Lines. The full version can be found on Bands on Demand here.
As you read this series there will be chapters and statements about what you have to do and what you have to go through to achieve success in music, as a person and as a musician. It all starts with a dream.
The First Step
This chapter is the start of your journey to success. It is about separating yourself from other people’s reality. Their reality is not your reality. Their success and, more importantly, their lack of success is not yours. Their jealousy cannot become your limitation. Their lack of a dream should not detract from your dream. You need to separate yourself from the negativity of others. Isolate yourself from the performance of others. Use their story to fuel your dream, not detract from it. Someone else’s failure does not mean you will fail. It means you should learn from their failure and use that to drive you, to make fewer mistakes, to take a different path, to work harder.
Pick the right dream
You are going to have to work very hard for success, go through pain, suffering, and sacrifice to achieve success. To do this you need to be clear what dream you are chasing and what it means to you.
The first principle is to dream big.
The first thing you need to do is define your dream. Everything else is built on this - every drop of sweat shed, every chord played, every moment of anguish endured - so you need to make sure you have put some effort into this stage. The better you define it, the more it will endure and drive you. It need not be complicated; it just has to be clear.
There are a number of mistakes people make with their dream. Usually these involve getting the ‘What’ (this is the dream) mixed up with the ‘Why’, the ‘Who’ and the ‘How’. To avoid these errors, lets start with some examples of the things that are not your dream.
Do not try to be the next anyone. Be the first you. You are unique, your journey is unique. Why would you want to be someone else? Aim to be better. It is perfectly reasonable to emulate someone else, to be inspired by one of the greats. This is covered in Chapter 2. You can want to achieve what they have achieved. That is a good way to define your dream. But do not just decide to be someone else, because you will end up disappointed.
It isn’t the ‘Why’
The ‘Why’ is an important one and will be covered in a later chapter, but, for now, for the purposes of understanding how to define your dream, this is about where your drive comes from. It may be getting away from a situation, pulling yourself from poverty, making a better life for your family. These are all good examples of why you are motivated to achieve your dream. But they are not your dream.
It isn’t the ‘How’
Another mistake is to confuse the ‘How’ with the dream. This is mixing the journey with the destination.
Do not define your dream by what your selling point will be. These might be how you get noticed, or what you use to sell yourself, but the end result that you are trying to achieve, your success, is something different. In the remainder of this book I will guide you in the ‘How’, but first you need to understand the ‘What’ your dream is.
‘What’ is your dream?
I have covered what your dream isn’t, so now let’s cover what it is.
What are you really dreaming about? It should be simple and not too specific. “I will perform in front of a 10,000 crowd (or in the West End or at Glastonbury)”. It is that simple. That is your dream. KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.
If you wanted to play Broadway but ended up writing for Lana Del Ray, would you turn away? Or if you wanted to play guitar in front of a 10,000 crowd but ended being a lead singer at a medium sized festival would you think you had not achieved your dream? So your dream need not be specific. If it helps you to dream of a particular instrument or playing at a specific event, then by all means do so, but understand that you do not have to hang your entire dream on it. Your “what” might be a feeling.
Bringing Your Dream to Life
So once you have your dream, what then? You need to spend some time on it, nurture it, make it live, speak it into existence, commit to it. So how do you do this? First you have to write it down, make sure you are happy with it, that it inspires you, and that it is big enough to push you through the sacrifice and the pain. Make sure it can stand the test of time and that it will be the same 10 years from now. Make sure that you will be able to keep getting up after being knocked down because you want it badly enough. Once you have it, find a place where you can spend some quiet time nurturing your dream and then stick what you have written in that place, somewhere like the back of your bedroom door, or on the mirror in the bathroom, in the garden shed, or somewhere that you practice. Anywhere that you can take a few minutes out of your schedule to spend time to remember what you are doing all this for, what you are striving for.
To Share or Not To Share?
The next part of making your dream come alive is the trickiest and will change from person to person, or from musician to musician. It is about other people knowing about your dream. This is where your support system of family and friends come into play. How will they react? Will they be 100% behind you, or will they laugh and belittle your dream or your chances of success? Some people feed off negativity by setting out to prove the doubters wrong, but others will be completely crushed by it, especially if the negativity comes from someone you trust or respect. On the one hand, sharing your dream so others can encourage and support you is very important. However, if the person being negative is trusted, like a best friend, a coach, a teacher or a parent then this can be catastrophic, so you need to take care with your choice.
Dealing with Negativity
Not everyone will be positive; some will be jealous and derogatory. Some will actively try to prevent you from pursuing your dream. In some cases, all you can do with these people is to ignore them. At best, you can cut this negativity from your support circle, find new friends who perhaps share your interest in your chosen discipline. This is not possible if the person is a sibling or a parent though, and, in this case, you have to build a support network that can overcome this. Share your dream with your training group, or others who share your passion. Find an online forum, find like-minded musicians. You might be surprised by how many share a similar dream but just do not talk about it for the same reason that you don’t, through embarrassment or misplaced modesty.
Understand that wanting to be successful is not immodest or arrogant. You have a dream and you are prepared to work for it. Having belief is not the same as being arrogant, but negative people will see it that way.
Once you have your support network or group, and when you have shared your dream with them, then use them. Friends, bandmates, and family are there for you as you are there for them. Be prepared to give to them what they are giving to you. Support each other.
The steps to take away from this chapter are as follows:
1. Define your dream. Identify what it is you want to achieve, keep it simple, out of reach but not out of sight.
2. Write your dream down. Make it real by speaking it into existence.
3. Stick what you have written down somewhere you can spend time with it.
4. Make your dream live in your mind. The sights, sounds, smells and feelings.
5. Identify who will support you. Be realistic about what you expect from them.
6. Share your dream. Get the support for your journey.