I can still recall returning to Canada as a teenager after living in Japan for eight and a half years.
I had a brief stint as a student in Barrhead, AB before moving to Calgary, AB.
I always got along with my cousin, and I was glad he was around. I was also introduced to some of his friends.
At one point, I observed a bit of a dynamic developing.
I thought of myself as being athletic and physically capable, but my cousin was more so.
I thought of myself as a nice guy, but my cousin’s friend was more so.
So, it wasn’t long before I felt like a third wheel. I felt extraneous, like my presence didn’t even matter.
It’s funny what we make things mean.
I had no scientific basis for this thought. It wasn’t even pointed out by anyone else. There was no consensus. It was a personal observation, no more.
But in that moment, I made up something about my identity. And from that day forward, there have been plenty of opportunities for me to feel like the third wheel, like I’m extraneous and don’t matter.
How about you?
Have you ever felt like there’s nothing redeeming about who you are?
There must be something you bring to the table, though, right?
Have you ever felt like you were getting nowhere with a project?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt that way!
I suppose it’s only fair that I lay out an example…
Back in the early days of my band, I organized a postal mail campaign.
I spent hours digging up addresses of potential venues, writing a form letter and printing it up, stuffing and stamping envelopes, etc. I even enrolled my sister in stuffing and addressing hundreds or envelopes.
When we finally sent out the first batch of letters to Canadian venues, we got three responses, only one of which even had the potential of becoming a real opportunity (unfortunately, we lost touch with our one enthusiastic contact in Hope, BC).
Clearly, the postal mail campaign wasn’t working out. I still wanted to send out the 1,500 envelopes we’d prepared for U.S. venues, until I realized just how much that was going to cost.
Nowadays, for Canadians, postage rates for mail addressed to the U.S. starts at $1.30.
1,500 letters x $1.30 per letter = $1,950!
It might have been a little cheaper back when we were thinking about sending out those letters, but not by much. This is what happens when you don’t think everything through…
So, not only was I experiencing the frustration of not getting anywhere with booking a tour (let alone a few shows), I even had hard evidence to suggest our campaign was going to be a dismal failure.
Who knows what would have happened if we had sent out those U.S. letters. Maybe we would have booked a few shows. But $2,000 would have been a big risk to take on when the initial response to our campaign was so underwhelming.
Knowing what I know today about postal mail, direct mail, and direct response marketing, this campaign would have gone very differently. But sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.
Finding your path as an artist may feel like navigating a minefield, but it’s critical to realize that outcomes are out of your control.
What is in your control is being in action. Doing something.
Copywriting legend Gary Halbert’s favorite saying was:
Motion beats meditation.
Marketing expert Dan S. Kennedy says:
… a bad decision or wrong decision is better than no decision, because if the decision leads to action, it is easier to correct the course of someone or something already in motion than it is to get someone or something into motion from inertia.
We obsess over right actions and right strategy, when really, the trick to getting going is – surprise! – getting going. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and that’s the point we want to get to as artists.
If you really want 2023 to be a breakthrough year in your artistic career, this is what you must focus on – getting into action. Producing as you have never produced before.
If you can’t control the outcome anyway, focusing on work ethic is word to the wise. And now is the time to find your stride.
If you want to produce as you never have before, both in terms of quality and quantity, then you need a copy of my Productivity, Performance & Profits Blackbook, which features an articles anthology along with everything I’ve ever published in a book on the topic of productivity.
Normally, the book costs $57 USD, but you can pre-order it until February 28, 2023 for just $10 USD.
Learn more here >>
I know that July 1 doesn’t necessarily represent anything special for my friends down south (Independence Day is coming though), but in Canada, July 1 is Canada Day, the anniversary of Canadian Confederation.
So, to all my Canadian friends, I’d like to wish you a Happy Canada Day!
I went to eat some delicious Indian food in Chilliwack with a friend from Vancouver, and later played a card game with local friends in Abbotsford.
What did you get up to? I hope you had a great time.
As for me, I’m going to go start winding down for the day. It’s what I need right now.
For more inspiration, be sure to sign up for my email list.
Part 1: Surprise, Uplift
Part 2: Art
Part 3: Sports
Part 4: Writing
The exhilaration of performing in front of an audience simply couldn’t compare to anything else.
Nothing about the environment was perfect. There was no Rockstar lighting or fog machines, no jumbotrons or backup dancers, no backing band or DJ.
It was just my friend and I and two microphones delivering a rap at a youth camp talent show. And as we finished the rap, walked off the stage and out the front door (as we had planned to do), the sound of cheering and applause could still be heard outside.
What makes the experience comical is the fact that the song we performed was “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Twister” – basically his take on The Beastie Boys (not parodying any song specifically). And it’s not as though my friend and I were professional rappers. We just liked to write rhymes and freestyle in our spare time.
It didn’t matter that there wasn’t anything fancy about the performance or setting. In that moment, I had a newfound sense of what I wanted to do in life – I wanted to play music and perform for audiences everywhere!
Music had always been a part of my life. And I was a bit of a critic, even as a child.
One time, I remember sitting in a car listening to my dad’s music going, “I wonder why the band chose to write such bland music? They could have made it catchy.”
I actually liked most of my dad’s and mom’s music, whether it was “Weird Al” Yankovic, Daniel Amos, Stryper, Idle Cure, Chicago, The Nylons, or otherwise.
And, in Japan, I listened to a lot of J-Pop and J-Rock too. CHAGE&ASKA and B’z were my favorites, but bands like Bakufu Slump, Luna Sea, and Wands were also great.
Video games also had such great music. I was so impressed by the soundtracks for Dragon Quest V, Final Fantasy VI, Seiken Densetsu 2, and the Mega Man series. I’d often find myself humming the tunes to myself in school (while putting things on paper).
I didn’t have much interest in playing music early on. But as most grade schoolers do, I had to learn the harmonica, triangle, and eventually recorder.
I never wanted to play the triangle though. I wanted to play the big Taiko drum. I never got the chance to do that and I suspect it may have had something to do with being only one of two Canadian kids in school (the other was my sister).
Eventually, I did start banging on the piano, making what I thought was “music”. But it would be many years before I even considered learning an instrument.
And when I finally started learning to play guitar, I would soon discover how challenging it could be to write “great music”, which was a subjective concept to begin with.
My band was about to take the stage. Show the audience what real music was all about. None of that boring hymnal, 7-11 worship music.
But our singer was missing. We had no idea where he was.
By the time he had shown up, it was a little too late. The talent show was about to wrap up. Apparently, he had fallen asleep and couldn’t get up. He said he suddenly started feeling sleepy for no reason.
Before I knew it, my drummer and signer – who never got along all that well – started going at it.
“This was our chance! You blew it!” Screamed the drummer, pushing the singer.
“I couldn’t help it! I didn’t mean to fall asleep!” Screamed the singer, pushing back.
That was the end of that band.
There was something vaguely familiar about this moment. Tragic loss. For some reason, it felt like the time my dad had died. In ensuing years, every hardship and challenge would begin to stack on each other, making me feel like it was the end of the world any time something went wrong. I wouldn’t even catch on to that pattern until years later though.
The singer and I went on a little hike and talked it over. He didn’t seem to have any regrets. I was still in tragic loss mode, knowing the band would never play together again.
But this is what being in a band was like in my 20s. Rarely if ever did it all come together without effort, and most of the time, it didn’t come together. Bands didn’t last for longer than 18 months, and if they did, it was a miracle.
This was my destiny, wasn’t it? Had I made a mistake? How come everyone around me kept quitting on themselves?
Finally fed up with trying to convince others to believe in the dream, I went solo.
I wowed 200 Japanese students and their teachers with my own rendition of a CHAGE&ASKA song. And I had to do it all in a large church without a microphone.
To this day, that may have been the largest audience I’ve ever played to.
The moment passed quickly, but I felt like I had fulfilled on something I had set out to do a long time ago. I had created another connection to the culture I was raised in. And I sang a song for them in their native tongue.
All I did was play one song. I didn’t sell a lot of CDs or merch, nor did I have a lot to sell. But I did something many would consider challenging.
I’m still in touch with my grade six teacher, and only a few years ago, he referred to me as the “bridge between Canada and Japan.” Probably without ever knowing about the one time I performed for 200 Japanese kids.
In his own words, there probably aren’t too many Canadians out there who can speak perfect Japanese. I only know one – my sister.
I’ve gotten to do some cool things in the world of music.
I’ve been interviewed for radio shows. I’ve played at festivals. I’ve been on TV a couple times and played guitar for a friend’s CD release and live DVD.
None of this stuff ever happened when I wanted it so badly to happen. It basically came together when I was no longer expecting it or had any interest in it happening.
I can only conclude one thing from all this, that holding your dream in a chokehold bottlenecks the flow of opportunity.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition or setting big goals. But you need to let everything unfold as it will. There are only so many things you can control, and results isn’t one of them.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
The Music Entrepreneur Code is my latest best-selling book, and it’s available here as well as on Amazon.