honest career advice: no matter what you do it will be painful
I love musicians. Don’t you? I especially love and respect musicians who are committed to their art no matter what.
Being a rockstar is an excellent dream, and not just because of the potential for fame and money.
Making music and putting it out there is incredible for many reasons:
MUSIC IS AWESOME.
You get to connect with people using what feels like a telepathic language.
You get to be seen as you are, in your full glory.
You get to spend time with other creative people and feel like you belong.
You get to transform your emotions and your experiences into art that people dance to. Or fight to. Or have sex to. Or cook to. Or--
You get to make people feel seen, feel known, and feel less lonely.
You get to feel seen, feel known, and feel less lonely.
People who love your music sing along.
People who love you get pumped up to something you made.
Your art can transport people back to an important memory.
Your art can save people’s lives.
And you get to be LOUD.
Of course, not all musicians feel this way.
A lot of musicians, artists, and writers never get to experience any of this.
Not even a small glimpse.
A lot of them hang up their dream early, before they’ve really given it a chance.
The reasons for killing a dream usually sound rational:
“The chances of this working are so small there is no point in trying.”
“I could never get paid to do this, so why do it?”
“What if no one likes what I do? What if they hate me?”
“I'll never be as good as my heroes.”
“The gap between where I am now and where I should be is too big.”
All of these reasons to give up are “rational.” They “make sense,” in some way or another. They all clearly identify something painful on the horizon, something painful you’ll have to confront if you decide to go for it.
I might get rejected. I might fail. I might waste time I could be using to make money. I’ll go broke! I might even die!!!!!!!111
They all amount to:
Pain is coming, can’t you see it? Let’s avoid it!
Unfortunately, avoiding pain is a really bad reason to give up a dream.
Here’s the truth: You are definitely going to experience bad feelings no matter what you do.
Sorry if that sounds really depressing. It’s still true.
No matter what you do with your life, you’re going to face things that feel impossible.
You’re going to do things that no one will pay you for.
You’re going to get rejected and feel lost.
You’re going to feel bad when you compare yourself to others who are more successful--
And you’re going to feel those things whether you go for your dream or not.
If you’ve put something off for years because the potential for pain, rejection, and failure felt too great-- my guess is that you’ve felt those things anyway, doing something you care less about.
If you’re working a job that doesn’t line up with your gifts, or a career that feels like a distortion of what you loved when you were young--
Let me ask you a question:
By not pursuing a more lofty, hopeful, bold, important career--
Have you successfully avoided feelings of rejection?
Have you successfully avoided pain at work?
Have you successfully avoided feeling like you can’t make ends meet?
No one has.
And more accurately: no one can.
What’s more likely is that you’ve had a few different jobs, maybe even promotions and raises, but nothing you’ve been able to give your whole self to. Nothing that left you feeling totally, and satisfyingly used up at the end of the day.
I’ve had a lot of different careers. I was a cashier. I’ve cleaned hotel rooms. I’ve been a telemarketer, a teacher, a manager, and a freelancer. I’ve sold crap door-to-door and mowed lawns. I’ve worked for psychos. I’ve worked for brilliant, lovely people. Every one of those jobs had its rewards. And every one of those careers was painful.
Tomorrow, you’ll probably wake up sometime before 9AM, and you will go to battle at your job. You will still feel all the rejection, confusion, and money-related anxiety that you thought you were “rationally” avoiding when you gave up a dream.
Yep. When it comes to how you shape your career, your dreams, your life--
It will hurt no matter what you do.
Does that sound really depressing?
I think it’s liberating.
Because once you realize discomfort is a part of anything meaningful, life can start to feel very urgent. And, if you sit with this idea for awhile, life can start to feel overwhelmingly open.
... like you could do almost anything.
Once you realize this, you no longer have to avoid doing something because it will be painful.
Now, you can start to do more of what you want, knowing it will be painful.
No matter where you are in life, you can get something important going. You can pick up an old dream at any time, and start taking small, affordable steps to get some momentum. You can start participating in something that used to feel “unrealistic.” Even it it’s just 5 minutes a day. Or even 5 minutes A WEEK.
If you start chipping away at something that feels important to you, you might surprise yourself with how much you can still accomplish before your time is up.
You might even be doing your life’s work.
And when it hurts real bad, because you aren’t good yet, because no one sees you yet, because “this will never work out, right?”-- just remember: You knew this would happen. Anything worth doing hurts a little. Discomfort and doubt and fear and pain are all part of it.
When you start taking small steps toward something you really care about, you may even ask the same questions people ask when they’re stuck in a boring job:
What the hell am I doing?
Is this even worth it?
Do these people hate me?
Except this time, you won’t be in the audience, wondering what could’ve been.
You’ll be on stage where we can see you.
A lot of us will even be cheering for you.
Will you pick up that old dream? Will you show us what you’ve got?
(It’s going to hurt either way.)