"Professional musicians have my eternal gratitude."
It's one of the world's most complex and challenging occupations. Because the audience is incredibly sensitive to both good and bad music, there is very little opportunity for error. A developer may provide mediocre work, but their peers may be unaware. As a musician, your professional product is visible and empirically validated to the rest of the world. That's part of the joy, but it's also a challenge to cope with.
At the same time, the musician's daily existence is full of uncertainty and instability. In one month, a musician may be too busy to sleep, while in another, they may have no employment at all. In the midst of all of this, a musician must discover the legendary thing that enables them to constantly play at a world-class level.
A buddy, who also happens to be one of the most gifted musicians I've ever encountered, just informed me about his experience with the pandemic. He was starving for excellent work as an artist, and with everything going on around him, he claimed he 'let himself slide.' This meant he had to discontinue his regular practice. That means he willfully abandoned developing and learning.
But who can blame him? With the world turned upside down, it's impossible to expect someone to continue with their inner work, development, and progress! The entire globe is on fire! Isn't it possible to take some time off?
Unfortunately, a musician does not have this privilege. My friend eventually informed me that the 'big concert' had arrived - a rare occurrence. It was a tremendous show, a fantastic audience, and a dream crew. And he wasn't prepared for it. Concerts are similar to races in the world of music. You have to prepare for weeks, months, and years, but it all has to come together at that last, magnificent moment, otherwise, it's all for nothing.
To his credit, my friend stated that even though he failed that concert, he was able to pull himself out of a slump and restart his routine. He's back out there, ready for the next 'big concert.'
But what impressed me the most was how beautifully he described his encounter with disappointment. Disappointment is such an integral part of the artist's life that it never seemed to me that coping with disappointment is one of the most crucial qualities a professional musician must-have. Over the course of a career, one performs numerous performances, with just a handful of them leading to genuine work. I know how anxious people get while preparing for job interviews: imagine having to do that.
How do you deal with disappointment? What are your techniques and mental models that help you tackle it?
Few people are aware that I have also worked as a musician for a number of years. I am well accustomed to disappointment. My reaction is to simply shut down for a few hours. I take a break from work, prepare some sinful food, and sink deep into self-pity. It's not good for you, but it only lasts a few hours. I've discovered that whether I attempt to shut it out or postpone it, it enters my brain and impacts everything I do for days on end. As a result, my answer is to let it happen. Allow it to wash over me, to drown me. So that when I come out, I'm through with it and ready to go.
Anyway, to all the artists who are reading this, I congratulate your entrepreneurial drive, hard work, and thick skin in the face of criticism and rejection!
If you are feeling low and want some motivation, then please give this article a read.
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