“Self-love? What a silly idea.”
For years, I would not hear of it. I thought nothing could be more arbitrary or ambiguous than self-love.
How do you know when you’re loving yourself? Does working out or meditating or sleeping fill up your love-o-meter? How absurd. It’s intangible.
I thought it even crazier that people would put insane conditions on their self-love. “Accomplish A, B, and C and you will love yourself more.”
I’m still not coming around on that. I’m sorry. You can love yourself no matter the situation, no matter how much or how little you’ve accomplished, no matter how much or how little money is in your bank account. I’m not budging there.
What I am starting to see about self-love is that you can’t give away what you don’t have. If you want to love someone else, you’ve got to love yourself first.
If you attract someone out of desperation, or self-loathing, or depression, then that’s the foundation you set for the relationship too. Not exactly building your house on solid ground.
If you attract someone from a space of love and giving, that’s the foundation you set for the relationship too. Now that’s a game changer.
We can all overcome great obstacles. We’re more capable than we often give ourselves credit for.
I’ve survived a major earthquake, the death of my father (when I was 13), my cousin committing suicide at 18, persistent migraines, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, being sued by creditors, filing for consumer proposal, and much more.
Life is difficult. But I stand before you a happy, healthy man.
Paradigm shifts aren’t easy, either. I know well the pains and ills of cognitive dissonance. I spent a summer in bed depressed, because I lost the girl, my business, and my faith, too.
But you can overcome it, and you will be better off for it.
What should you do to overcome limiting beliefs? Whatever it takes!
There are several factors that matter a great deal in making an income from music. A firm grasp of these will take you to heights never anticipated.
The Vehicle Matters
People say passive income doesn’t exist. Or if it does exist, it’s the result of hard work – there’s no ”sitting and waiting around” for money.
The second sentiment is correct. I’ve received substantial consecutive checks from the Amazon Associates and Amazon KDP programs. Mailbox money sure is sweet! It’s not always consistent or reliable, but to this day I am still rewarded for works completed months and years ago. And I’m only getting better at capitalizing on my content.
Intellectual property isn’t where the real income is, but that’s another topic for another time.
Either way, it illustrates the point well, that your chosen vehicle matters. One email campaign is one email campaign. But there’s a huge discrepancy between sending your fans to Spotify to listen to your music versus sending them to a $12.95 free plus shipping offer. Same amount of work, very different results.
Visual Capitalist says it takes roughly 229 streams just to make a dollar on Spotify. If your email list is 300 subscribers large, you’d need almost all of them to listen to your track once on Spotify just to make a dollar. You automatically make more if just one of your 300 subscribers takes you up on your $12.95 free plus shipping offer. And conventional wisdom says every email subscriber is worth $1 per month, so if you excel at relationship building and making offers to your fans, your email list of 300 is worth at least $300 per month.
It’s simple math, but it’s astounding how we all get caught up in the hype of streaming instead of applying a bit of simple logic to the problem. Accurate thinking is boring, but it’s the dividing line between the shrewd and the average.
Many artists are under the impression that if they (artists) build it, they (audiences) will come.
It’s a nice catchphrase, but it would be more accurate to say:
“If you build it, and promote it, they will come.”
Marketing, for better or for worse, is another paradigm shift that can take some time. It took the better part of five years for one of my best friends to accept that heading up marketing initiatives was an essential and fun part of growing her business.
I’ve sold hundreds of copies of The New Music Industry. I’ve helped crowdfund $15,000 for a jazz album. I also helped sell 188 tickets for a recent 200-seater artistic community event.
How was any of this achieved? Through marketing.
There’s the occasional artist or creator or blogger or podcaster that finds success without spending a dime on advertising, but they are the exception and not the rule. Or marketing was so baked into their project, they made it seem effortless.
The truth is most if not all your favorite “independent” artists that exploded in popularity had support from a label in some capacity.
Without the right vehicle, though, it’s quite likely you will get frustrated with marketing. Because you will spend untold hours promoting something that may never have the potential to reward you at your desired level.
Marketing, however, holds the key to the income you want to generate as an artist.
I’ve had good years and bad years as a session musician. But I’ve earned as much as $800 per gig, in a time when even some world renown session guitarists were having trouble charging more than $120 for an hour of their time.
How did this happen? I can tell you right now it didn’t happen because of how amazing I am. Sure, I’ve received my share of praise as a guitarist, but there are plenty of YouTube musicians that blow me clear out of the water in terms of virtuosity and speed. The bar is higher than it’s ever been.
Most opportunities, really the best opportunities, for me, have come through relationship. Some relationships have been worth thousands if not 10s of thousands of dollars to me.
I’m not blinded by dollar signs in building relationships. I’m genuine and authentic. I’m a good friend. I tend not to expect much in return. I’m private, so I don’t reveal everything about myself, but at this point that’s more of a personal idiosyncrasy than a strategy.
I have never been the boldest, handsomest, most popular, or even most charismatic.
I simply smiled, extended my hand, and if I was lucky, made a friend. I repeated the process of meeting one to five people every day for four to five years straight.
If you’re finding that making money in music is hard, it could very well be because you haven’t found the right people to hang around with yet. That’s fine, and it’s not your fault, but you should not delay in beginning your search.
Life is all about finding meaning, isn’t it?
We know that money doesn’t make us happy…
Relationships are fun for a while, but they almost always come with challenges…
And you can spend all your time pursuing dopamine rushes (i.e., traveling), but even that will cease to produce the same results after a while.
So, life must be about meaning.
Here’s what I’ve realized for myself. You can take it with a grain of salt if you wish.
Human beings are meaning making machines already. We make a meaning out of everything. It happens automatically, without any help or support on our part.
So, my question is, why would you want to add so much meaning to a mind that’s already swimming with it?
The delivery guy was late, so you assume he got lost or there was just too much traffic.
Your friend’s phone hangs up mid-sentence, so you assume their device’s battery died.
Your significant other leaves home before you wake up, and you assume they’re mad at you.
Oftentimes without so much as confirming or completing any of it.
And by “completing” I mean things that bug you. Things that run you and your behavior, sometimes without you even knowing. Things that change the way you communicate with others, because of the assumptions you’ve made about them.
These are things you can complete. And we should all be in the habit of completing them. Otherwise, they tend to live with us indefinitely.
That’s a constrained life. It’s a life built on beliefs (past based) rather than faith (future based).
Imagine harboring resentment for your significant other for months and years because of something they did or didn’t do, and the way you interpreted it.
You probably don’t even need to imagine it because you’ve had that experience.
Where did that come from?
It came from the meaning you made of a conversation had or not had, actions taken or not taken, assumption made or not made.
So, why pursue meaning? What exactly are you looking for?
High-performing human beings are those who set aside meaning. They come from nothing, so that they can be present to others and their communication. Instead of listening from “so and so is always this way,” or “people stay the same,” they hear what’s being said.
And this is a different kind of hearing. Not just hearing what’s being said but also hearing what’s not being said that’s important to the person saying it. You can’t listen to others that way with a head full of meaning. It’s just not going to happen.
Once you give up meaning, you can stop spending so much time communicating from the head and begin communicating from the heart. You can be present, not just to others, but also to life.
The other day, I was standing in front of a friend’s house, waiting for her to come out. I had a freaky experience, because for once, I was present to life.
I could hear the ferry off in the distance. Construction happening in another direction. Cars moving about the neighborhood. Birds singing in the trees. The vibrant colors of the grass. I could sense it all, even though it was not all within the scope of my vision.
Imagine being so present to what others are saying that you don’t just hear the words being said – you hear what their motivations, convictions, and goals are in life. You can listen from what’s important to them.
You can pursue meaning if you wish. But I have found it to be empty because it leaves you unable to create anything new. You end up basing everything off something you already know. So, you keep creating within the realm of what’s familiar, while becoming further constrained to the meaning you add to it. Your world gets smaller and smaller because of all that meaning.
You end up listening to others to judge them, not to hear them from a new space. And that’s in your own listening. It’s not your friend’s fault that you’re hearing them as you’ve always heard them, despite the transformation they’ve gone through. It’s because of how you’re listening to them. You’re not present.
Again, this is one man’s opinion. But high performers are generally those that drop what they think they know, and instead listen from nothing.
For more inspiration, be sure to sign up for my email list.
In that moment, I had felt something I had never felt before.
Love? Yes. But it was so much more than that.
It was the first time I thought to myself, “I want to be married.”
Such a thought had never occurred to me before, and, I had never expected it to surface from my heart.
This is Life Transitions. Welcome to day five.
Life Transitions Progression
If you need to be brought up to speed, here are the quick links to each story in the series:
Life Transitions, Day 1 (Introduction)
Life Transitions, Day 2: Resistance
Life Transitions, Day 3: Jobs & Careers
Life Transitions, Day 4: Location
The world of relationships is not a race.
Many people feel a sense of pride or shame about the number of “conquests” they have or haven’t had. Others feel proud to have:
- Stayed single their whole life
- Stayed in one relationship their whole life
- Kept jumping from one relationship to another their whole life.
So, it’s important to understand that how we feel about relationships is how we feel about them. Our beliefs are our own, and they’re unlikely to be unanimously supported by our friends, family, peers, or otherwise.
Transitions in relationships can be traumatic, and we often underplay how significant they are for the sake of outward appearances.
American Psychological Association says 40 to 50% of marriages end in divorce. So, the sad cliché of “you’ve got about a 50/50 chance of making it” holds some water.
All relationships are for a season or a reason, and while it can be hard to accept the impermanence of some relationships, it is healthy to do so, just as it’s healthy to accept that change is the only constant we can rely on in life.
Peering into the Mirror of Relationships
You attract what you are. At first glance, this sounds like a woo-woo, Law of Attraction, “things will happen because you want them to happen” statement. But it isn’t.
As applied to relationships, we are always peering into a mirror. Seeing ourselves reflected in the ones we love as well as the ones we hate (which are often one and the same).
If there’s something we dislike in another, it’s because we dislike that quality (or “fault”) in ourselves.
If there’s something we like in another, it’s because we also possess that quality (though it can easily go unrecognized).
We live in a world of contrast, and while it may seem backwards, the people who do best in relationships tend to be those who love themselves fully. Those who first loved being single before committing to more.
Those who didn’t love being single, and were always in search of the next relationship, often ended up addicted to their partner because they were trying to fill a void, they felt couldn’t fill themselves.
The truth is this type of “void” is easily healed through meditation and the acknowledgement of past pain. It may take days, weeks, or even months. But considering how long one has held such torment (usually from childhood), it’s a drop in the bucket.
When people say, “there’s a lesson in every relationship”, this is true. But this statement is often said with a sense of resentment, when it should be said with a sense of wonderment (isn’t it amazing that we get to experience so many things in this curious world of ours?).
The deeper you dig into spiritual and religious texts, the more you discover that mirrors are a running theme. Because what we see on the outside always reflects what’s going on inside.
How to Handle Relational Transitions
We all approach relationships differently.
I identify with Phoebe Buffay from Friends. A quirky, spiritual lady who likes to play guitar. None of her relationships lasted longer than three months.
I’m a quirky, spiritual guy who loves to play guitar. And most of my relationships haven’t lasted more than three months.
The reason I bring that up, is so you understand I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about relationships. But I do know what has worked for me, and in my deep dives (hundreds of books, countless articles, podcasts, and videos) as well as my experiences, I’ve come across wisdom from the ages.
Here are some tips on how to handle relational transitions:
- Give yourself permission. Feel how you feel. Don’t try to change it. Don’t try to fix it. Acknowledge it. Love it. Sit with it. Cry it out if you need to. Give yourself permission to mourn fully – otherwise, you will store the pain somewhere in your body, and it will come up again at the least opportune moment. You will carry it into future relationships, where it may not have any business being.
- Express yourself. Journal. Draw. Paint. Write a song. Express yourself creatively. Allow things to come through you. Although this is not a time to force creativity out of yourself, some of the most beautiful works of the ages were borne out of heartache.
- Accept. As I shared earlier in the series, one transition can easily lead into another. Breaking up, for example, might mean moving. And two major changes one after another can feel like total chaos. Accept yourself. Accept that it may take time to heal. But as much as possible, be present with yourself. Your pain will not last forever.
Relationships, Final Thoughts
When a relationship falls apart, the temptation will always be to run to other addictions – shopping, eating, drinking, partying, social media, and so on.
Don’t judge yourself for turning to any of these vices. At the same time, if you can, recognize the inner child that’s screaming out at you, begging for your attention.
Sit with it. Be with it. Acknowledge it. Love it. You don’t need to change, fix, or survive any of it. Things only surface to be released. Whenever you feel heartache, you are staring down an opportunity to surrender what arises.
What are your thoughts on relationships? How have you handled relational transitions?
I look forward to sharing more about life transitions, and if you have any questions that need answering, don’t hesitate to let me know.
Leave a comment below.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
Get your copy of The Music Entrepreneur Code.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be publishing on the topic of life transitions.
This topic is already gaining some momentum, and in the coming months and years, I predict that it’s only going to grow in relevance.
Not just because of the pandemic, but also because of changes in age, relationships, living conditions, careers, and other areas.
In the area of careers, many people have already lost their job. Many more will lose their jobs because of technological advancements, artificial intelligence, machines, and so on.
Musicians have had to put gigging mostly on hold for the duration of the pandemic and ensuing lock-downs.
We’ve all been affected in one way or another, and many of us are already in the process of rethinking our work.
So, the question is…
How do we navigate the coming changes powerfully?
In this edition of Life Transitions, I would like to share some of the biggest life transitions I’ve gone through.
Some of the Biggest Life Transitions I’ve Gone Through
If I shared every transition I’ve gone through, we’d be here all day. So, I handpicked 11 examples.
I may even elaborate on some of these transitions in future editions of Life Transitions.
- I was born in Canada. But when I was five, my family moved to Japan. I’m not sure if culture shock is something that registered with a five-year-old, but I do know it was sad and scary for me.
- Several years later, in Japan, we survived the Great Hanshin earthquake.
- When I was 13, my dad got into a motorcycle accident. He was in a coma for 10 days before he passed.
- Shortly after, we ended up moving back to Canada, and for me, this was a bigger transition than moving from Canada to Japan. I had to get acclimated to the culture and language in a hurry, and with a diminishing sense of self because of my father’s death.
- When I was 15, I learned the thrill of performance for the first time. My friend and I went and performed a rap at a youth camp talent show. It felt exhilarating.
- Because of that, I ended up picking up the guitar at 17 and became a musician.
- After getting my college certificate, I started teaching guitar and bought a home. I moved in with my best friend and business partner. We set up a home office, studio, and rehearsal space in the coming months.
- In 2008, I had an anxiety attack, which had a lot to do with ongoing migraine headaches and a total lack of sleep. I spent the next four to five months recovering.
- In 2012, I invested roughly $60,000 into a business I thought would make me a millionaire. The business ended up tanking by the end of 2015. No one was willing to put any more money into it.
- I ended up selling my house in 2012, and from that point on, I moved from basement to basement in Calgary.
- Last year, I created location independence for myself and became a digital nomad.
What Are Some of the Biggest Life Transitions You’ve Gone Through?
What are some things you’ve gone through? How have you been coping with change? Have you been able to deal with it powerfully?
You’re welcome to leave a comment with your thoughts below.
I look forward to sharing more about Life Transitions, and if there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover, you’re welcome to leave a comment as well.
If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
Get your copy of The Music Entrepreneur Code.