I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to develop my “day job” (in full disclosure: my piano teaching studio) to create a nice base that would help me pay expenses, pay for savings/retirement, etc. Ultimately, I reasoned, this would free me up to do what I most loved in the world, which is to create original music.
I hired an excellent business coach, and I thought I was set. I just needed to put in the work.
I worked for an entire year to make this happen. I focused almost exclusively on building my teaching business. I got a lot of great results. I had more students than ever, and made more money than ever. In fact, things were humming along just fine for quite awhile.
When all of a sudden…
Students started dropping like flies, taking breaks or just plain quitting for a variety of reasons. All of a sudden, I lost about half of my studio. Panic set in. What once seemed a fool-proof plan now seemed like a foolhardy one. I was stressed out and occasionally hard (for my wife) to live with. Mostly, I was badly spooked by the sudden downturn, and convinced things were not going to improve.
Yes… it… sucked.
Fast forward to now. In the aftermath of this experience, I have learned a valuable lesson:
You can fail while NOT pursuing your dream just as easily as you can fail when you ARE pursuing your dream! (So why not pursue your dream?)
Let’s examine this further. I think that as a society, we have been brain-washed to believe that we have to find work that is “secure” and “safe.” Most of us are encouraged to choose professions such as doctor, banker, engineer, lawyer, secretary, plumber etc. Very important professions to say the least…
But where does that leave the artists? If you want to be an artist… sorry, buster, you’re out of luck. Despite the fact that we eat, breath, and sleep the work of artists every single day, on every movie and every video and every book and every song and even every dish that we consume… the occupation of artist is thought of as just. too. risky.
Why is that?
It’s because the perception is that we may fail at it. Because the money might be hard. Because the fame might be a long-time coming (if it comes at all). As I see it, the problem stems from one simple fact: most people are not artists. Even if they have some kind of creativity in them (and I think most do), most people do not feel the call to devote their lifetime to creative work. I have no judgment of their decision. But because they don’t feel the call, they also don’t understand that call.
Their advice that we get a “safe” job is the result of their ignorance of what it means to want to be an artist. In many cases, they are genuinely concerned for our well-being and don’t want us to fail. What they don’t realize is that you can fail just as easily doing something considered “safe” as at something considered “risky.” You can fail living someone else’s dream just as easily as you can at doing what you love. In fact, you are probably more likely to fail at it if it’s not really who you are.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Certainly, when you follow your dreams, there are risks. Success is not guaranteed. But since when is success guaranteed in any walk of life? Don’t be afraid to risk failure on behalf of your dreams. You will be glad you trusted yourself, listened to yourself, and didn’t cower to society’s fear.
At least you will have lived on your own terms.
So you heard me: Go live your dreams!
One final note:
I think I should point out I love teaching and get joy and satisfaction from working with my students every week. What this experience has taught me is that I must not put off other things that matter to me (like performing, and putting out original music). After all, what seems “safe and secure” can still pose its risks, and if you don’t do what matters to you, you may end up both unsatisfied and unsuccessful at creating the security you thought you would have. Then you will really be kicking yourself (as I was)!