7 Life Lessons from a Three-Year-Long Blog Launch
Oh, me and this trusty Musicianing blog have shared a long and tumultuous history, we have.
I’ll be honest, this site was over three years in the making prior to its current incarnation, complete with several misguided attempts and failures. I actually decided to keep my very first post up, just as a reminder of where this whole thing started. There have been many other posts since then, but you will not see them anymore. This post marks a fresh start.
It has been a life-altering process distilling down exactly what I want to say. In order to really begin something, you must commit to a definite purpose and a clear path, and it can be a real struggle to figure those out when you let things get too complicated.
There have been several ways that I’ve over-complicated things over the course of this uncommonly lengthy blog launch, many resulting in the seven learnt lessons of this list. A lot of it comes down to prioritizing your time, keeping your audience in mind, and opening up to other points of view.
So, the first of my seven life lessons from a three-year-long blog launch… You guessed it:
1. Keep it simple
I can’t imagine a human being to ever walk this Earth that could make something more complicated than it had to be as I have with this blog. For real. But if I hadn’t gone through those experiences, I wouldn’t have found my way here, and I would have missed out on a lot of valuable life lessons.
As a self-professed chronic “dreamer,” I have always struggled to square the grandiose plans that form in my head with the small task that must be done right now. I’ve made out To-Do Lists consisting of a year’s worth of work, as if I’m going check them all off tomorrow with an errand run.
Things take time, and they happen in sequence. You have to pinpoint the small simple activities with the most leverage to enable the big complex activities.
I’ve made the mistake of focusing my efforts on the technical details like site design, social networks, email clients and analytics, when I should have been working on content development. I’ve aimlessly distracted myself with preparation and research rather than just sitting down to write what I know. I’ve directed anger and distrust at the mainstream music establishment and all manner of broader issues that have nothing to do with music.
It wasn’t until I honestly asked myself, “What is the ultimate goal?”, that I finally realized how counterproductive and self-defeating my efforts had been.
The ultimate goal is to build a culture where more artists are inspired to reach their musical aspirations, more fans are interested in discovering and supporting new music, and more communities are using music to bridge divides and promote respectful, open-minded discussion in the spirit of what’s best for the future. Put simply, the ultimate goal is to unite people with an optimistic interest in participation.
The most ineffective way possible to accomplish such a goal is by spewing negativity, hence my next lesson:
2. Stay positive
People have a hard enough time with life as it is. They do not want to be bombarded with any more bad news than they already are on a constant daily basis. Aside from a few grumpy scrooges and internet trolls that revel in bitterness and discontent, the overwhelming majority of people just want to be happy and uplifted as often as possible.
People respond to positivity positively and vice versa. Negativity is often easier than positivity. It takes less effort to pick a side and argue that perspective than it takes to stand in the middle and objectively negotiate both views.
It’s rather ironic that when it comes to voting for leaders or signing petitions, negativity seems to work quite well. But when it comes to motivating tangible action towards something beyond a digital hand count, only positivity will get the job done. If you want to build a comment thread, negativity works just fine. If you want to build a food share program, it probably won’t get you too far.
It can be really hard to stay positive these days. There are deeply ingrained aspects of American culture that drive us apart via political views, class, color and creed. We are often influenced by societal trends that play to the worst of human nature, like selfishness, deceitfulness, suspicion and hatred.
I went through a phase of accusing the mainstream establishment of inciting these habits in the public, just as I was employing the same traits against them to further my own motives.
That’s when I picked up my next lesson:
3. Everything has its place
I’ve reached a level of acceptance about where I stand in the world, and more importantly, a recognition that everything has its place. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
It is never wise to denigrate and disenfranchise those who have the greatest potential to affect the most change. Popular music has and always will lean toward formulaic songwriting with an emphasis on youth, beauty and materialism. Wanna know why? Because it works. Sex sells. Glitz and glamor sells.
And that has its place.
Big companies have to show returns to their shareholders. They are going to invest in artists with the highest potential for having a nice long career of looking good and staying relevant. They want them playing music that is committee-approved and focus group-tested to appeal to the widest audience possible. It makes sense. It’s just good business.
This is the world we live in.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of amazing artists contracted with major labels that I love. There are just certain aspects about the way majors operate that place more importance on things other than music. I can’t help but think that there must be a lot of great artists out there that don’t quite fit that mold, but still have something valuable to offer. They just can’t get through the noise.
The bottom line is everybody on the internet is talking about the mainstream. I’m interested in discovering the others.
What happens with the mainstream music industry is completely out of my control. What happens with my discovering the others comes down to my next lesson:
4. Focus on things you can control
We have power over our own actions and possibly some influence on our communities. If we make enough noise we can sometimes catch the ear of a representative that may speak on our behalf to the people who actually make big decisions.
Collectively, it is possible to sway private entities by creating a public demand, but we rarely demand much more than cost and convenience. Elected officials respond to opinion polls, but lobbyists likely have far more support to offer for their reelection than small local groups back home. Outside of a vote every couple years, the general public really has no control over what happens beyond their districts.
So, what are we supposed to do every other day of the year?
That’s when it dawned on me: Focus on things you can control.
In the midst of a previous unsuccessful attempt to save the world on my own with a music blog, I came across an organization called Transition Network. They have no central control or set agenda, it’s just a place to share ideas and get support for local development projects. I plan to use them for guidance.
The basic premise is shop local, eat local, bank local, consume less. As I stress on the About page, this is not at all about tearing down big business and banking. They both have prominent places and play critical roles. Transition’s main objective is to protect local communities from future uncertainties.
Right now we have a whole lot of our eggs in a few very large baskets. We found out in 2008 that sometimes these baskets get dropped, and when they do it can make a very big mess. Transition is the idea of moving some of our eggs to smaller baskets that we can actually have a grip on, so should the big baskets happen to take a fall, we don’t lose all of our eggs.
Transition is where I caught on to using the concept of resiliency rather than sustainability. Sustainable feels a bit too open-ended and vague. Kind of tree-huggy and pie-in-the-sky. Resilient is more measured and concrete. A town either survives the storm or it takes a bath.
Either way, I know the last thing I want to do is make enemies out of people and organizations with limitless potential to improve the situation. It’s all part of the next lesson:
5. Making enemies makes life harder
Making life easier takes effort, but making life harder on yourself is a breeze at any time. All you have to do is go out and make some enemies. Your difficulties will increase in direct proportion with the amount of power wielded by your chosen foe.
When you make an enemy out of a large-scale institution, you don’t just make enemies out of the executives. You make an enemy out of every employee at that company that takes pride in their work, you make an enemy out of every shareholder that does not appreciate what you have to say about their investment, and you risk making enemies out of every other organization that does business with that institution and every customer that happens to like what they offer.
It is a great big world out there with a lot of moving parts and varying opinions. The surest way to tear down your own credibility is to channel your energy at tearing down others while failing to present any viable alternatives. When it comes to the largest institutions, there often are no alternatives. It is futile and foolish to pick a fight with a functioning body that can not be removed or replaced.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t voice concerns or attempt to influence behaviors, it’s just the realization that constructive criticism via market demand works much better than solitary vitriol and vengeance.
As you may have gathered, one major focus of this website involves steering clear of politically charged issues in an effort to establish solid common ground. I believe the biggest hindrance we face in accomplishing essential progress comes down to the very nature of our public dialogue. We can’t reach consensus, because we’ve made enemies out of each other. Consideration for the opposition is treason.
We have to find a common thread that is able to pass through these thick walls of division, and I view music as a strong current of positive energy capable of sparking the right kinds of connections. Music is a natural neutral zone, ubiquitous throughout every facet of life on Earth and beyond. Music is universal.
You can gather the most hardline red-blooded conservative and the most hippy-dippy bleeding heart liberal, the most powerful corporate CEO and the most primal indigenous tribesman, put on the right tune and watch them merrily join together in four-part vocal harmony. Thus is the power of music.
I’m here to do two things – make music and make friends. I hope I never run out of either, which brings me to my next lesson:
6. There’s nothing cool about being a loner
Growing up as an only child of divorced parents, I’ve always been kind of a loner. I can make friends fast and become a welcome member of big groups for long periods if I stay in contact, but for some reason there always comes a point when I stray away to do my own thing or find something new.
This was never a problem, that is until I decided to try my hand at a little blogging project called Musicianing…
Long story short, I spent way too much time working by myself when I should have been collaborating and connecting with friends and savvy professionals.
This site has gone through several reinventions and even a few business partners, but for some reason I could never embrace these previous ventures whole-heartedly enough to dive all in. I could see the potential for profit, but there was always a hesitancy holding me back. Maybe I feared the unknown. Maybe I didn’t feel ready enough to start. Or maybe I just wasn’t meant to walk down those paths.
Maybe if I had reached out to ask more friends for feedback or more gurus for guidance, I could have side-stepped several of my setbacks and failures. Maybe all of them.
Whatever the case, I’ve finally found my trail and it’s definitely going to need some blazing. Not many pre-worn passages down this route at all. But that’s OK. I know there’s others out there blazing similar trails and I’ll meet up with them when our paths cross. What has me most excited about this project is getting to meet new folks doing cool things and reuniting with old friends in cool new places.
That will come in due time. The initial mission is to establish contact with some motherships.
Motherships, or predominate hubs of activity, are where you find your friends you haven’t met yet. They are schools of thought where everybody is already on your same page. They are where you discover the others. There’s too much static to succeed in anything these days if you’re starting from scratch. Almost every endeavor that gains serious momentum in this ever-complexing and convoluted world does so by latching on to some sort of existing network with like-minded ambitions.
That’s what I’m doing now, and that’s the crux of my final lesson:
7. People only care about what you’re doing now
Unless you have prestigious trophies sitting on your mantle, or your name has appeared in some “Top” list of an official capacity, people really aren’t interested in hearing about what you’ve done in the past. They also won’t find much concern in your plans for the future. The only thing that matters to most is what you’re doing right now.
I went through a spat where I thought it would be beneficial to go straight “storytellers” about every minute musical tidbit of my upbringing, songwriting and skill dabbling. Now, if I was someone people already care about, a little autobiography ain’t a bad thing. But if you’re introducing yourself to an audience, you may not want to lead with a regalement of your life story and professional bonafides. For as many people as you might impress, you risk just as many who may find it lacking. It is worse to raise expectations and not exceed them than it is to be yourself and suffer the consequences.
I’ve had a chance to weigh what I’ve done on a broad scale, and while it has made for an interesting skill set, I have yet to manifest a catalogue of commodities that I’m satisfied enough with to sell.
This is primarily due to a lifelong affliction of spreading myself too thin. People who accomplish great things concentrate on those things to completion. If you’re recording, record until it’s right. If you’re writing, write until it’s written. You can spend days fiddling with the details, but the heart is in the meat of whatever it is you’re doing. The ornamentation will enhance in relation to the quality of your work.
You have to start where you’re at and do one task at a time. There is no skipping. You can never be somewhere you’re not right now. There are always a series of steps to get there. The trick is to identify the steps you should be taking right now to most efficiently arrive at your preferred destination.
So, that’s what I’m doing now – producing a musical product that I’m proud to promote, contacting motherships for navigational assistance, and publishing a blog about it all, one post at a time. Nothing I put out will be perfect, and some of it will probably be pretty rough to start out. But professionalism is earned through on-the-job experience. Success comes down to consistent focused effort over time.
That’s all I have to give at the present moment, and I intend to put it forth.
I hope these life lessons help others as they have helped me. If you care to add anything I welcome your comments. Until the next step…