The difference between amateurs and professionals
There’s a difference between an amateur and a professional. I don’t talk about talent, skills or network. Rather about the very fundamental stuff.
An amateur is usually led by (emotional) motivation. Like that musician who builds his fanbase only when he feels so. He is extrinsically motivated – he wants to get things done… maybe.
Writing one small message to your fans every day? Nah, first I’m gonna watch Game of Thrones.
Reaching out to one blog or playlist every day? Nah, I’ll rather read about the news I don’t need.
Taking a moment the day before to outline the next day? Nah, I’m too tired to do anything.
You see, it’s always easier to do other stuff if it’s about motivation. But once you stop being led by your motivation, your life’s gonna change heavily.
A professional, on the other hand, is led by habits. Like that musician who reliably builds her fanbase with a clearly outlined yearly, monthly, and weekly schedule. She is intrinsically motivated – she gets things done… always.
Why building habits is most important for your life
I can’t stress this enough.
Building habits is important for every area of your life – relationships, personal, business, … Though, what habits to form is up to you. You are the one who knows who you want to be.
In the past three years, I’ve worked with all kinds of musicians. And those who were building habits to become the artist they want to be are still in the game. They progress at a steady level. On the opposite side, those who weren’t building habits are gone – probably forever.
I don’t blame them, as long as it was a conscious decision to say no to a music career. But if they complain about everything, I profoundly advise looking into a mirror to self-reflect and improve.
You are 100% responsible for your actions. Be better than those who point with fingers and always have an excuse.
The struggles of building a habit
Now, pay attention. A habit is the result of your discipline and willpower. Once you have shown enough discipline and willpower, a habit settles so deep in your subconscious mind that you don’t even think about to do or not to do it. You just do it.
One big issue I had with building my habits in the past was to keep at it. Not to give up after several weeks (or months). So I thought about how I could make building habits easier for me. What I found was a big eye-opener for me.
Instead of throwing myself into what I wanted to believe I was already capable of, I started simple. For example, since I’m sitting quite a lot while mixing recordings, I wanted to form a habit of taking a walk every day before work so that I can get into the studio with fresh ears and a clear mind. So I didn’t start with a 30-minute walk.
Start with a framework
The first thing I did was building a framework. For the first days or weeks, I put on my shoes, stepped outside, and breathed in a few times. Then I went back. It was only one or two minutes. My goal was to always enjoy the experience. Seeking discomfort by climbing the hill step by step. Because if I didn’t, I would’ve quit this new goal in no time.
It sounds silly, doesn’t it? Well, it helped me.
Now, I don’t even think about it. It was pouring this morning. I couldn’t care less. I just put on my jacket, shoes, and left the cozy warmth of my home for a walk. The result? I enjoyed the fresh air and silence to get ready for a great day.
Building a framework is essential. It starts with thinking about what you want to do and then breaking it down into a very simple and enjoyable first step. Such as step outside and write one sentence for a song if you’re a songwriter. Or go to the cave and write a word on a note if you plan to write a daily message to your fans.
5 tips on how to optimize your habit-building process
Since a stable habit is formed with your discipline and willpower, it gets tough once the initial motivation fades out. To help yourself overcome these struggles and not only want to but actually do the things you need to do, here are some tips.
First, you can prepare your environment for your habit-forming process. For example, if you want to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning to feel more energized, put it somewhere to find it right after you get out of bed. Or, if you want to write something every morning, have a pen and paper ready for some action.
Also, remove things that could hinder you. Hide the sweets (or don’t buy them at all) if you want to lose some weight. Put your laptop, smartphone and/or tablet in a closet so you don’t see them first thing in the morning and instead drink a glass of water and write a song.
Furthermore, you can combine a new habit with an existing habit. For example, when you drink a glass of water or cup of coffee, read one page of a book, or listen to five minutes of a podcast, or write a sentence into your lyrics journal.
And be flexible with your habits. I aim to always follow through with a habit no matter the circumstances. If I don’t have the time to go for a 30-minute walk, I just step outside for one, two or five minutes – depending on the time frame I have. When you just do them, you save valuable resources in your daily decision-making.
Many people struggle with building stable habits. Even though they show the discipline to do something for five months they quit. No habit yet. Such as the musicians who go ham on social media and then disappear. Slow and steady wins the race. But our society isn’t slow and steady. That’s why the fifth tip is to find and join a community of like-minded habit-builders. It can be regional or online.
You, the professional independent artist?
Whether or not you become the musician you want to be is up to you. You are 100% responsible for your actions. I don’t believe in luck but rather in opportunities. Give value, grow character, and seek discomfort. Then you will be at a stage where most people dropped out already.
Don’t be one of them.
Continue becoming the independent musician you want to be today. No matter where you are now.
Here’s a simple outline of steps to get your habit-building process rolling:
- Determine what’s the most important habit to form right now
- Break it down into the smallest frame possible
- Launch the framework and keep it enjoyable
- Join a community that’s also building your habit (or something similar)
- Be disciplined to build a habit and become a professional independent music artist
Let me know how it goes and where you struggle most with!