Is It You, Or Your Strategy?
Whenever we feel like we're working really hard, giving it all we've got and yet we don't see results it's hard not to take it personally. All around us, other people are succeeding and getting the opportunities we'd love to have, when we're working harder and doing better work.
After a while, we start wondering if it's us, if it's because [insert your greatest insecurity here].
I've already written about the real reason people are ignoring your work, but sometimes it really is nothing to do with you, and everything to do with your strategy.
We often confuse strategy with short-term plans, work-around solutions or just plain hope. Your strategy is your compass.
It's the tool you use to navigate towards your long-term destination when all of your best-laid plans inevitably go awry. It informs your decisions, the skills you need to develop, the audiences you need to cultivate, and which parts of your work you really need to focus on. It tells you which trends to ignore, which battles are worth fighting, and when it's simply not your time.
If you don't know where you're going and you haven't thought about how to get there, it's likely you'll end up somewhere else.
I've been working with artists in the music industry for ten years. The most common pattern I see is an artist who just wants to be successful.
In that context, successful usually means;
Respect from industry peers
Not having to fight for press, gigs or opportunities
Being signed to a supportive (and preferably very cool) indie record label with huge budgets that wants no say in what the artist does
A manager who takes a very small percentage whilst doing all of the work they don't enjoy
A career which can last a lifetime
Only having to work on music
To get to that point, you'll probably have to experience a whole lot of the opposite of this list for a very long time.
The artists I've met who are the most successful are prepared to go without all of this in order to fulfil their vision. Their strategy is to do whatever it takes to make something amazing, and they're willing to do things they don't want to do because it's too important not to.
That "whatever it takes" includes; overcoming shyness, learning to get good at things that don't come naturally, talking to people they don't like, risking rejection - often, investing their own money, listening to feedback, doing the jobs they can't afford to pay other people to do, playing to empty venues, and the list goes on.
A real strategy is about far more than just your career goals, it's about the kind of life you want to lead and the person you want to be. It's about the people you want to inspire, the beauty you want to create in the world and the experiences you want to have with those around you. Your strategy should be defined by what you want to achieve that's bigger than you.