For Musicians, Failure Is Part Of The Optimization Process

This piece was originally published in Music Connection’s ‘Tip Jar’ series on October 5, 2020

Do me a favor real quick. I want you to take a deep breath… Breathe in through your nose. Pause for a few seconds. Then exhale slowly but forcefully through your mouth. Maybe repeat that one more time for good measure.

Now that we’re here. I want you to do something else. I want you to take a minute to give yourself some credit. If I had to guess, you probably don’t do that very often. Probably because you’re too busy focusing on what’s ahead. Stop for a second, though, and remember something very important. You are a rare breed.

When faced with the critical decision: “What am I going to do with my life?,” you made a choice very few make. You trusted your gut and followed your passion. Maybe against the advice of people you respect. You understood pursuing a career in the music business was risky. But in the end, you believe more than anything that loving what you do is important.

No one pursues a career in following their dreams because it’s a safe bet. It takes a serious degree of confidence and fearlessness to take the plunge and do what you’ve already done. Do yourself a favor, don’t forget that.

Stop Avoiding Failure

Fear or, specifically, fear of failure, is what keeps most people from pursuing their dreams, or just simply trying new things. We’ve already established you’re not like most people. That doesn’t mean you won’t still have to push yourself every day to get up and fight the same fight.

So, what exactly is failure? And why are most of us so afraid of it? If you dig deep enough, more often than not, it’s the perception of failure that’s so terrifying. There are two sides to it. From the outside looking in––we don’t want people to feel bad for us and our failure. And from the inside looking out––we never want to feel like our friends and peers are doing better in life than we are.

Funny thing, though. Working in the entertainment industry teaches you a lot about perception. It’s rarely a realistic picture of what’s behind the curtain. We have a surprising amount of control when it comes to perception. When you approach your work with confidence and excitement, you’ll be surprised by how much other people will follow your lead and consider you “successful.”

Accept The Struggle

My journey as an entrepreneur started over a decade ago. After college, I decided to pass up the relative stability of life with a degree and a steady job. Instead, I chose to follow my passion: music. In retrospect, that choice was relatively easy. It was just the start of an ultramarathon.

When you spend more than a decade on your own without a safety net, trying to build a business, you gain a number of invaluable life skills. Arguably the most important one for me has been getting comfortable with failure. Maintaining self-confidence through the years has always been a day-to-day struggle for me. I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to avoid failure. Wondering if I really have what it takes. I’ve also spent a lot of my career buying time and anticipating an end to the struggle. Waiting for the day when I could finally relieve the burden and enjoy “success.”

In case you haven’t lived long enough to know better, spoiler alert: there is no end to the struggle. As you get older, the struggle only morphs and changes in ways you never expected. Amazingly, though, your ability to control it gets easier. But only once you settle in, you accept an important fact –– life is struggle.


After years of practicing, one deep breath can reframe an entire world of chaos in just a few seconds. This skill is fundamental for me at this point. Focused breathing, mindfulness and meditation are all tools I’m eternally grateful for learning when I did. It doesn’t matter who you are, controlling the inner dialogue in your mind is a struggle.

Realizing you have control over your inner voice(s) is just the beginning. It’s important to challenge yourself every day to improve your control. There are a lot of benefits to having tools like this at your disposal, too. Breathing, meditation, relaxation and sleep are available at a moment’s notice. They don’t require a prescription, and you’ll never forget to bring them with you.

Control What You Can Control

At this point, you’ve probably at least realized that maintaining a career doing what you love isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ve also realized that certain factors determining your success are completely out of your control.

Even during the best circumstances (i.e. global pandemic aside) the entertainment business is thankless and demanding. It’s an emotional roller coaster that tempts so many with success that so few ever actually attain. This year COVID has brought us a whole new set of nightmare-inducing challenges. In the process, literally removing the soul of what makes our business unique –– human connection. With that said, there is still opportunity everywhere you look. You just have to be willing to stay open, and control what you can control.

Figuring out the lines of what you can control can be tough, especially right now. Losing your job or your livelihood because of a virus isn’t something any of us were prepared to face. As much as it sucks, it’s not your fault.

Also, you’re smart enough to already know –– holding a grudge over things you can’t control gets you nowhere.

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