Today, I’m going to give you my top 7 mindset tips you need as a musician to make 2021 the year you’ve been waiting for.
Today, I’m going to give you my top 10 mindset tips you need as a musician to make 2021 the year you’ve been waiting for.
While working 9-5, having a social life, and having a family to support and cherish, life can surely get in your way multiple times throughout the day, preventing you from spending time on your craft.
However, there’s no easy way out of your normal life. Instead of restructuring your whole life, everything in your music career will have to start with a mindset change.
From huge tasks to simple, mundane tasks, how can you shape your mentality and your life so you’re able to do what you love, while working and having a social life, etc? To help you with that, here are 7 mindset shifts that can help kickstart your year the right way:
- Focus on Yourself, Not on Results
- Avoid Working on Auto-Pilot Mode
- You Need Systems for Your Goals to Work
- Let Fear of Inaction Drive You
- Willpower Doesn’t Work, Period!
- Every Minute Counts
- Stop Working All the Time
This post is all based on my personal experiences. With the methods in this post, I have shaped my life to not only have time to produce, but also to WANT to produce at all times, and I’m always motivated to do my best work, even when I don’t want to. Now, let’s get you into this mindset!
Let’s dive right in!
Focus on Yourself, Not on Results
Focus on doing the best you can, regardless of the result you’ll get. Focus on doing things that will make you say “I did the best I could with what was within my control”, and not “I didn’t get that because that A&R is a jerk”, or you’re setting yourself up for future frustration.
Epictetus once said, “(…) there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice”. In other words, don’t base your expectations or goals on things beyond your control since you can’t really act on it and might end up without what you desire, which could leave you anxious and frustrated.
Here are some examples of goals beyond your control:
- I will sign a track by the end of the year to label XX;
- I want to have at least one track accepted to Spotify Editorial Playlists;
- I will play at Ultra Music Festival by the end of the year.
However, these aren’t 100% in your control, since:
- A label A&R has to like your track for him to sign it;
- Spotify’s algorithm has to deem your track suitable for you to get playlisted;
- A promoter has to like your tracks to hire you for a gig.
Instead, focus on doing the best work you possibly can and progressing with each and every song you make. This is the only way you’ll be able to stay away from frustration with something you don’t really control. Therefore, instead of the previous three goals, focus on:
- Analyzing the tracks within the desired label, get feedback from A&Rs from the label, befriend the A&Rs and seek to make the best song you can according to the info you got;
- Analyzing your desired playlist and its tracks to make a tune that you feel could be more cohesive to that playlist;
- Befriending the promoter, complimenting his events, making him notice you’re his ally, and attending his events to help him.
Ultimately, your goals could end up depending on others, but always think about how you can act on them without external help.
TIP #1 Focus on yourself and developing your craft, and results can start to show up naturally. If you focus on results, not only will you not deliver the best result you can, but you could also end up frustrated and full of anxiety over something that you have little to no control.
Avoid Working on Auto-Pilot Mode
It all starts with your goals for this year! What do you want to achieve this year?
Goals are the compass of your life. They will guide you towards what you need to achieve to be able to get the life, job, relationships, etc you want.
This is a question within a bigger question which is “What do you want to achieve in the next 3-5 years?”. This will guide you towards what you need to achieve this year, so that you can then achieve your 3-5 year goal.
As said in the video above, forget about setting ONLY setting up SMART goals. Of course, you can set goals that are SMART ish like:
- Release an album this year with 12 songs;
- Create one track per month;
- Attend one major electronic music event (ADE, Miami Music Week, etc).
But they can also be goals that are not measurable or specific:
- Get better at mixing and mastering;
- Develop my sound designing skills;
- Strengthen my network;
Having these goals will help you guide yourself into what actions you need to take to achieve them. Without them, you could fall into:
- Auto-pilot mode: You’re doing stuff you think is important to you, but which isn’t necessarily important to your career, and you’re just going with the flow;
- Denial mode: You think goals limit you, so you don’t set them. However, since everything we do is outcome-based, you’re just denying having a plan over fear that it will constrain you.
TIP #2: Start your year by setting your goals, ideally ones that align with your long-term goals. If you don’t have long-term goals, you have a longer task at hand. These will give you a roadmap of what needs to be done this year and help you avoid wasting your time with unproductive tasks that won’t get you closer to your goal.
You Need Systems for Your Goals to Work
Your goal-setting strategy doesn’t end with setting goals, period.
Take the NBA Playoff Finals, for example. The final two teams were the Miami Heat vs Los Angeles Lakers. What was the goal of each individual player on the court? Win the title, right?
Did everybody win? No! Only the team who was best prepared for that moment with the best systems to make them a better team won the title.
Reaching goals is not only about the goals you set since most of the top contestants have the exact same goal. It is more about the systems you put in place that guarantee you are working on tasks that will ensure you reach your goal. If goals are the destination, a system is the journey.
In other words, systems are the set of repeatable actions you have to do to achieve your goals, and they could be the following:
- If your goal is to release a 10 song album in one year, your system will be producing a set amount of hours each day that enables you to deliver a track every month, while having two extra months to work on marketing aspects of your album;
- If your goal is to get better at sound design, your system is sitting down every day to recreate one or two presets and understand the synthesis behind it;
- If your goal is to attend a major electronic music event to improve your music career by meeting up with labels and attending labels’ VIP parties, your system will be to network with label owners, managers A&Rs, and produce a lot of tracks for this label throughout the year so you can build a relationship that will get you these meetings.
TIP #3: Setting goals is important so you have a target, but you also have to create daily habits that ensure that you’re working towards your goal on a daily/weekly basis. I highly recommend you read the book Atomic Habits to get a clearer vision on this concept. Or, watch the video below:
Let Fear of Inaction Drive You
Everyone thinks about what would happen once you have achieved your goals, but I’ll ask you the opposite:
- What would happen to you if you don’t achieve your music goals in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years?
- Going a bit deeper, what would happen in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, if you didn’t pursue your goals right now? In other words, what is the cost of inactivity?
Turns out, as humans, we respond better to risk aversion than gain opportunities. In that sense, shifting your goals’ perspective could be a great way to give you a reason to pursue them.
This idea came to me with Tim Ferriss’ fear-setting exercise, which he explained in this TEDxTalk:
With this exercise, you’ll be able to face your costs of inaction directly, that is, what would happen to you if you don’t take action today. With that picture in mind, the cost of inaction can be just too unbearable to you, and action would be seen as the only way possible.
TIP #4 is to inverse your goals. Instead of thinking about what you would achieve when you reach them, think about what you wouldn’t achieve if you don’t reach them. If the cost of inaction is higher than the cost of action, just go for it and you’ll know what you’ll have to do.
Willpower Doesn’t Work, Period!
In 2012, I got rid of all the games on my computer because I didn’t want to let myself succumb to temptation, and it has worked wonders.
Willpower is like a muscle. It’s expandable, but it also gets exhausted, i.e., it’s a finite resource. Strengthening your willpower could work, but it’s limited. Once you reach its limit, if a craving appears, you will give in.
That’s why limiting your environment is a better option instead. That’s why games are not allowed on my computer, even though I have a PS4. The difference, however, is that my work environment is temptation free, and I don’t have to rely on willpower to sit down and do the work. I don’t get distracted by a game because there are no games there.
If you’re a sugar addict, for example, saying you won’t eat sugar for the next 30 days could work, but the best option to prevent this from happening is by limiting yourself, which means throwing sugary food away and not buying it for 30 days.
TIP #5: Instead of relying on willpower, design an environment in which temptation will not play a role. Of course, this comes with the necessity of having goals and systems since “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, but given that you have work to be done, limit your options so you don’t have to rely on willpower to work. Willpower alone will most likely fail when you most need it.
Read more about this in the book “Willpower Doesn’t Work”
Every Minute Counts Mindset
One of the greatest productivity tips I’ve ever received was that every minute counts.
If you only have time to work for 10 minutes, then another 20 minutes later, that’s 30 minutes where you could put in some work. Some people could say, “meh, I can’t do anything in 10 minutes, or in 20 minutes… I’ll just watch a video on youtube.” However, that sums up to 30 minutes and now you’re 30 minutes further to achieving your goal than what you could have been if you had decided to work.
In addition, and more importantly, you kept your daily working streak and momentum going, something that could soon become a habit or a value for you. When it does becomes a habit, it aligns with your core values and you do that because you see an upside on doing it:
- You go to the gym consistently throughout the year because it’s in alignment with your health and physical goals;
- You change to a Vegan/Vegetarian diet and follow-through because it’s in alignment with what you believe in;
- You sit down to work on music, producing or not, every day because it’s in alignment with how you view yourself and what you want to achieve.
After 364 days worked in 2020, and 330 days worked in 2019, I can safely say that the benefits of working every day are:
- You don’t view music work as a burden, but as a normal part of your normal day just like eating or sleeping. After that many days worked in 2020, it felt REALLY weird to take a day off in October;
- You’re a lot more productive when you sit down to work because you know every minute counts. Not only are things fresh because you’ve worked the previous day, but you also stay motivated to achieve your goals, since every day you get a little closer.
- The more days you work, the less painful it will be to sit down and work. One 30-minute sprint per day during the week is a lot more manageable than working 3,5 hours once per week, in addition to being more easily handled with your daily tasks like family and work;
- If you miss one day, you can easily recover the next day. However, if you miss one 3,5 hour sprint, recovering could be painful or even lead to you giving up since 7 hours in one day could be tough for someone who’s not used to working that long.
Tip #6: Work every day with your music until this becomes a habit of yours. This has a powerful effect of transforming a task you like into a daily routine, making you get used to working with music.
Over time, “Small, unsexy, but smart decisions consistently made every day that are in alignment with your big vision lead to seemingly incomprehensible and incredible results that you can be truly proud of one day.” (from the book, The Compound Effect)
Stop Working All the Time
As someone who has worked with music for 364 of the 366 days in 2020, I can say that working all the time is not as productive as it sounds.
Working every day is something I highly recommend, but working all the time is highly rejected by me since you need to do other activities to be able to perform well when you’re working. In 2020, for example, I spent on average:
- 4-5 hours weekly playing games with friends;
- 4-5 hours weekly exercising (running, gym, walking, cycling);
- 5-10 hours chatting with family and friends or networking with other producers, etc.
Why did I do that when I knew and just said that “every minute counts”? Well, first and foremost, you have to recharge at some point. Secondly, creativity comes from constantly experiencing new things. Third, I had to take care of my health since it’s KEY to creative work, as said in this post.
In other words, even though I wasn’t directly working, I was somehow fueling myself up to be productive when I did work. In addition, if I didn’t stop working, that would most likely lead me to burnout & stress, which would lead to anxiety, and, as said in this post, would be even worse to my music and my health long-term.
TIP #7: The amount of work you put in has to be balanced with social events, exercising, and leisure moments, otherwise you will burnout. If you do, it would be far worse to you, eventually leading to a permanent aversion to music, as has happened with former producer Joey Suki.
Now It’s Your Turn!
As the year starts to unravel, every inactive day is pushing you further away from your goals, since not acting now may lead to never acting at all.
Therefore, I hope these mindset tips gave you a boost of motivation to help you move forward and progress in 2021 like you’ve never done before.
Which of these mindset shifts will you try first in 2021?
Let me know in the comments below!
amazing, thanks for this!
Thank you Merkie!
Thank you for this article brother!
Welcome buddy! Thank you!
Awesome article. I can especially relate to willpower being a finite resource. When Im in my flat I can easily do everything Im supposed to do. However once Im at my parents house on the weekend there are sooo many temptations to slack about. Thats when I have a cheat day usually.
Exactly!!! Your environment play a KEY role in your productivity and that’s why you have to optimize it for that!
Best article yet Leo! Lots of value