The Importance of Experimentation in Your Music Career

The Importance of Experimentation in Your Music Career

I’ve conducted many experiments in my adult life since learning from personal development blogger Steve Pavlina’s example. His blog is filled to the brim with all kinds of experiments – manifesting $1 million dollars, raw food diet, juice fasting, and more.

I think my first experiment was learning mandolin for 30 days. I’ve since done all kinds of things, whether it’s learning Joomla, walking 8,000 steps per day, writing 365 songs in a year, or otherwise.

The most significant experiment I recently completed was publishing daily for a full year. In a way, I’m still on that journey. It’s just that it’s taken a different form.

And you can bet that the results of these experiments factor into how I approach my work and life. I have actionable data and insights I can learn from to better my future endeavors.

You need to leave some time in you life for experimentation – in music, in business, and even in your personal life.

Ever notice how time seems to fly when you’re doing the same things day in day out without much change?

But how it seems to slow down when you’re constantly exposed to new things? And how much more exciting that experience is?

I’ve been living in Abbotsford, BC now for two years, and I love it here. Long-term, I could see myself moving to a nearby city, mind you (Abbotsford is fine, it’s just a little far from the action for my tastes – Langley or Coquitlam would be more to my liking).

I’ve explored quite a bit, but there is still a lot that’s new and novel about the area I’m living in. And it feels good.

My adventures have been a far cry from traveling the world, which is what I originally had in mind, but life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

Establishing a framework for experimentation (novelty), can’t hurt. How much time will you spend trying something new? What rules will you put into place? What actions will you take?

Dedicating about 20% of your time to the new is a good place to start. You just never know what you might discover in the process.

What do You Publish?

What do You Publish?

So, I could be a smartass and say, “you have but to check the archives, scan the headlines, read a few posts, and come to your own conclusions.”

But when this question was posed to me today, I thought it might be worth addressing in a blog post.

After all, if you’re going to publish daily, as I’ve been (since July 28, 2020), you’d better have something to talk about. Ideas aren’t that hard to generate, but blog posts don’t come out of thin air, as it turns out. They take time and effort to produce. And I have friends who say writing is one of the most grueling things you could take on.

I’ve Been at This a While

Now, it should be noted at the outset that creating content isn’t anything new for me. I’ve been blogging since about 2007 and creating content for the web since 1997.

I first started blogging in a professional capacity in 2011, and since then I’ve taken on a myriad of freelance writing, ghostwriting, copywriting, and “you name it I’ve probably done it” writing assignments.

But then, last year, I was presented with the challenge of publishing daily for a full year, and I said to myself, “why not?” I was excited about the possibility and was eager to get started.

Origin Story

I’d been doing a bit of publishing on Medium prior to beginning this 365-day experiment, but the marketing course I was taking at the time suggested publishing daily on Medium, so I went with that.

I was also instructed to begin by sharing my origin story, so I ended up creating a couple:

It felt a little awkward. I’d written a ton of how-to guides and informational posts to that point, but I’d never written anything that had followed the hero’s journey so closely. It was a great learning experience though.

Ongoing Experimentation

I spent the next couple of months playing around with the hero’s journey and trying my hand at the type of posts I thought would appeal to a Medium audience, like Advice I would pass onto my 20-year-old self.

After spending years writing in a professional capacity, it was an odd feeling – like I was discovering my voice all over again, and in a new way.

Most of the writing I’d done up to that point had the music business as the central focus. I’d made some detours into personal development, sure, but overwhelmingly, I dedicated most of my energy to the music industry.

I continued to experiment, sometimes returning to the core topics I understood well, sometimes branching out with posts like How to 4x your Medium traffic in 80 days or less.

I even tried my hand at blogging a book manuscript. I’d had some success with it in the past, with The Essential Guide to Creative Entrepreneurship, so why not?

It didn’t come together as expected, and it felt a little forced, so ultimately, I chose not to compile those posts and turn them into a book. But they continue to live on as blog posts.

A Brief Detour

In November 2020, I went on a two-week break.

During that time, I made the deliberate decision to write on something I’d never written on before – life transitions. I also had the sense that it would become a rather critical topic in the coming months and years though

Once I got back from vacation, I started going to school on Medium again, and that’s when I finally settled on a bit of a formula for my publishing efforts. It just so happens that it’s on my about page as well, though I’ve deviated from it at times:

Daily blog

The Central Theme

So, the central theme of my publishing efforts, since about December, has been inspiring creatives and creators.

And I’ve primarily been publishing on the topics of entrepreneurship, self-improvement, productivity, creativity, and inspiration, under the main umbrella theme.

That publishing pattern has basically held for the better part of seven months.

I’ve covered a ton of topics, to be sure, be it content marketing, books, burnout, or otherwise.

The focus has shifted slightly to documenting my journey, but that has mostly just been an extension of an established workflow.

Ultimately, it has all stemmed from a desire to be a source of inspiration for creatives and creators.

Final Thoughts

One of my mentors shared with me that my recent publishing activity has resembled sharing knowledge and wisdom as opposed to marketing and peddling infoproducts. Which is probably true.

It’s not that I don’t have things to sell. It’s just that I’ve always put relationship, connection, community, and exchange at the forefront.

But to an extent, I think this has been a journey of  reaching and hunting for things, experimenting with different approaches and ideas to see if there might be another way of achieving my overarching goals.

I think the conclusion I’m coming to is that I wasn’t off base prior to beginning this journey. Maybe bored or frustrated with the process at times, but well within the ballpark of what I’m meant to do in this world.

I’ll have more thoughts on this when this experiment comes to a close but suffice it to say it has been a journey of discovery for me, too, and I want to thank you for coming along for the ride.

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The Value of 365-Day Experiments

The Value of 365-Day Experiments

Online personal development guru Steve Pavlina is famous for having conducted a variety of 30-day experiments, be it learning the guitar, intermittent fasting, or sustaining a raw diet. To this day, he still engages in these types of experiments and blogs about them.

I discovered Pavlina’s work in 2007, and soon began the process of starting my own 30-day experiments – things like learning the mandolin or Joomla – and blogging about the experience.

Earlier that same year, though, I had already started what I called Project 365, and my aim was to write a song, every single day, for a full year.

Although I hadn’t given much thought to it until recently, since then, I’ve engaged in several 365-day experiments, each of which have brought untold blessings into my life.

These challenges are incredibly helpful in developing discipline and making massive progress in a chosen area.

But I’ll talk more about the benefits as we go. I’d like to start by sharing with you an overview of the experiments I’ve completed, and the results derived from each.

365-Day Experiments I’ve Completed

Here are the 365-day experiments I’ve completed so far:

  • 2007: Wrote 365 songs in a year (and succeeded)
  • 2008: Practiced guitar for three hours per day (and failed)
  • 2009: Practiced guitar for three hours per day (and succeeded)
  • 2015: Read 52 books in a year (and succeeded)
  • 2016: Read 52 books in a year (and succeeded a second time)
  • 2020 – 2021: Published daily for a full year (in progress)

Now for some of the results these experiments produced:

  • In 2007, I ended up writing two fan favorite originals: “Wonderfully Dysfunctional” and “Too Late.”
  • In 2008, after a brief stint as a solo artist, I joined a band again, and it went onto become one of the most successful acts I’ve been a part of to date.
  • In 2015, I wrote a book review for Dr. Joseph Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, and to this day, it’s my highest trafficked blog post by a huge margin.
  • It remains to be seen exactly all that will come out of publishing daily, but so far, I’ve gained about 1,100 Medium followers. I’ve also been invited to write for several new publications, started earning money writing on News Break, landed a five-figure ghostwriting contract, and more.

Fascinatingly and coincidentally, Pavlina also published daily in 2020, and his post on the topic is insightful.

Why Start a 365-Day Challenge?

A full year of dedicated hard work might not transform a flabby body into a ripped and cut one. It might not turn a mediocre guitarist into a phenomenal instrumentalist, or convert a lazy, broke entrepreneur into a productive, high income earner.

But you can leapfrog in a chosen area if you’re committed to the task. And whatever progress you make can act as a springboard onto greater progress and improvement.

I certainly don’t think I would be half the guitarist I am today without the effort I put into my instrument in the early days, especially in 2008 and 2009. Trying to figure out how to fit three hours of practice into my day now would be like trying to navigate uncharted waters without a compass (these days, 30 minutes per day is more than enough for ongoing maintenance and improvement).

Similarly, I wouldn’t have momentum in my book reading discipline if I hadn’t chosen to adopt the CEO habit of reading 52 books per year in 2015 and 2016. And that would not have come about without the core disciplines I picked up in network marketing from 2011 to 2015.

So, the best way to think about a 365-day challenge is as foundation-setting. Working on a specific discipline or area of life where you want to create expanded results. You can’t expect to make quantum leaps, but you can create momentum as you never have before.

Despite the benefits, a 365-day experiment will prove a challenge if:

  • You’ve never done it before
  • You’ve never kept a discipline for longer than a month or two
  • You aren’t self-motivated
  • You aren’t clear on your motivation for starting an experiment
  • You overestimate what you can accomplish in a year
  • You set unrealistic expectations
  • You already feel overwhelmed with various commitments

These aren’t reasons not to take on the challenge. If anything, they might be good reasons to take it on. But you can’t assume or take success for granted. You will need to orient your life around the experiment and make it a priority, or there’s a good chance you’ll lose momentum and fail.

Benefits of Engaging in a Yearlong Experiment

The benefits you can gain from engaging in a yearlong experiment are many and varied and will depend a lot on the type of challenge you take on.

But in my experience, here are some of the greatest benefits you can expect to glean from a 365-day challenge:

You Can Create Breakthroughs in Your Life

Want to get more people listening to your music? Instead of relying on fancy tactics and whiz-bang funnels, what if you committed to the hard work of promoting your music daily for a full year? What difference would that make in your career? Could you create a breakthrough result?

Whether you want to get in better shape, improve as a blogger, or grow your YouTube channel, if you were fully present and dedicated to the cause for a full year, I can almost promise you that you could have a breakthrough.

Just look at some of the results I was able to create – writing some great music, publishing my most read blog post, landing a five-figure ghostwriting contract, and more.

You Can Build Confidence & Belief in Yourself

When you start a 365-day challenge, it will begin to dominate your thoughts, behavior, and conversations. Your family and friends will start asking you, “how’s that 365-day thing going?”

If, at the end of the experiment, you can say with pride, “I completed the experiment and fulfilled on all the deliverables,” it will build massive confidence and belief in yourself.

So, you start thinking to yourself, “if I could stick with a single discipline for a full year, what more could I accomplish?” And what’s waiting on the other side of that question might be well beyond your wildest imagination.

You Can Have Your Best Year Ever

Looking back, I can see that some of the best years of my life also overlap with years I was engaged in 365-day experiments. This might be obvious from some of the results I shared earlier.

One must still ask “at what cost?” Especially given that the best part of your day is probably going to be going towards fulfilling on the promises you’ve made to yourself. This is creative energy that could be dedicated to other areas of life you deem important (more on this later).

The point being – you’ve got to ensure you’re spending time on something that matters to you, or it may seem as though valuable time is being eroded away.

What Specific Challenges Can I Expect to Face During a Yearlong Experiment?

Naturally, 365-day challenges aren’t all unicorns farting rainbows. You will have your ups and downs, and if you’re engaged in creative work, you will have your good days and bad days.

Take my Project 365 experiment example from earlier. Out of 365 songs, only two were even worth committing to memory and repeating in front of an audience. That’s kind of crazy.

Here are some of the challenges I’ve encountered during yearlong experiments:

You Will Want to Compromise

You’ll need to find your footing with your challenges, so compromising isn’t necessarily good or bad. But you must accept that challenges may not go exactly as imagined or planned, which means that you’ll need to let go of any sense of perfectionism you might have around completing your challenge.

When I engaged in Project 365, even though I finished the experiment early, I ended up having to bulk write songs after longer stretches of not writing anything.

The first time I read 52 books in a year, I had to finish the year with several shorter books, some of which I’d already read in a previous year.

While publishing daily, not all my posts have been of the utmost quality.

And so on.

Again, compromise isn’t necessarily bad. But your experiment probably won’t progress exactly as you expect it to.

You’ll Need to Orient Your Life Around the Challenge

I alluded to this earlier, but as the days pass, you’ll find that you become consumed by the challenge. Even if the experiment only requires an hour or so out of your day, you may find that engaging in the activity takes everything you’ve got, becomes less pleasurable, and even turns into a source of concern or stress (especially if you’re trying to balance it with other commitments like work).

I’m nearing the completion of my daily publishing experiment, and for the most part, it has been a rewarding, fulfilling experience. I would be lying if I said there weren’t days I didn’t feel like writing or publishing anything though.

You Will Need to Sacrifice

If you make your challenge a priority, you will need to sacrifice. While you’re busy obsessing over one thing, you’ll find yourself unable to tend to others. Inevitably, you will end up having to sacrifice lesser priorities to keep up with the challenge.

Publishing daily has been great. But if I were to say that publishing daily, on average, took an hour, that’s 365 hours I could have spent doing something else (writing a book, working on music, developing a product, building a membership, pursuing other writing contracts, etc.). Looking at it that way can be sobering.

When you say “yes” to one thing, you are always saying “no” to something else.

When you say “yes” to one thing, you are always saying “no” to something else. Click To Tweet

I will not look back on publishing daily in regret. But as with Pavlina, I have no intention of repeating that experience. I would like to take those creative energies and channel them elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

If any aspect of your creative career seems stagnant, a 365-day experiment can reinvigorate your passion and produce massive results in an area that matters to you.

But we can’t forget that it’s going to take discipline and work. You may need to carry out tasks on days when you don’t feel like doing anything. And even if you’re working on something you love and care about, some days it will just feel like work.

A 365-day experiment is a tool. And like any other tool, it’s meant to be applied in specific situations. It’s a hammer, if you will, and hammers are best used for pounding nails – not for sawing wood or tightening screws.

There are times to take on a challenge, and there are times to remain steady and consistent, doing exactly what you’re already doing.

Is it time for you to take on a new challenge? What area of your career or life would you work on? Are you committed to following through on your goals? What are you willing to sacrifice to get to your chosen destination? Do you know anyone that can keep you accountable? Would they be willing or interested in joining you in their own 365-day journey? What’s one thing you will take away from this post?

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As the Spirit Moves You

As the Spirit Moves You

In general, you are more worried about doing things wrong than doing things right.

So, automatically, anything that’s not “right” suddenly becomes “wrong.”

With that kind of hard demarcation, it’s no wonder we’re so hard on ourselves. We rarely if ever give ourselves the opportunity to try new things!

We rarely if ever give ourselves the opportunity to try new things! Click To Tweet

But there can be great joy in experimentation. It can sometimes go against better judgment, but it has a way of producing breakthroughs for that very reason!

When we’re trying to figure out how to make progress in our projects, we tend to make small, incremental changes and rarely allow ourselves to make wild concoctions out of new ingredients.

This morning, instead of starting this blog post (because I didn’t even know what I was going to be writing about yet), I read an email. And then I felt compelled to make Instagram posts.

I have not been overly committed to growing my Instagram following lately, but I was beginning to see some fresh possibilities.

Instead of waiting around, I got into action. I was excited, and to my surprise, I was able to create and schedule 24 posts in under an hour. It was fast and easy.

Now, if I had doubted any part of this…

If I had thought to myself “I have better things to do…”

If I had allowed myself to become too regimented in my thinking and my routine

I would not have given myself the space to experiment. And that may have closed off any connection I had to spirit.

There are no promises, of course. I may not see my Instagram following grow as result of the actions I’ve taken.

But I had an auspicious feeling. And to not act on that feeling would be to doubt myself. And if I doubted myself, it would gradually erode my self-confidence. If my confidence were low, I would not take chances.

How many things are you not trying because you doubt yourself?

Maybe your intuition is trying to get your attention. Maybe the guidance system you’ve been looking for cannot be found externally. Just maybe, it was inside you all along.

You know what to do. But like a clogged drain, there’s debris that needs to be cleared out before you can tune into your intuition and hear clearly.

Pay attention to spirit. And act as the spirit moves you.

You may be prompted to act in ways you’d never thought of before. But that has a way of producing surprising breakthroughs.

Pay what you want for the first issue of my digital magazine, The Renegade Musician.

The Renegade Musician

This is My Brand

This is My Brand

Yesterday, I asked my Facebook friends what words came to mind when they thought of me, my music, or anything else I do.

Apparently, some were more fascinated by the picture I had posted and forgot to follow instructions.

But I loaded the words into a word cloud generator, and this is what I ended up with:

David Andrew Wiebe word cloud

I threw a few band or artist names in there (those people have told me I sound like) to keep things interesting.

So, what is my brand?

I think if I were to pull out a few words myself, they would be:

  • Steady
  • Groovy
  • Catchy
  • Genuine

It still leaves a lot of room for specificity, but then again, I’ve always been a little “all over the map” with my creativity.

Want to weigh in with your own thoughts or add few words to the list to make things more exciting? Want to help me define my brand more narrowly?

I’ve embedded the Facebook post for you here:

Update:

I put together a new word cloud after a few more comments came in.

I feel this is a closer representation of my brand:

David Andrew Wiebe brand word cloud