The secret to success, metaphysically speaking...

Many of you may relate to this as well, which is why I decided to post it.

As many here do, I want to turn my musical efforts into something real. Something that provides for me for the rest of my life. I want it to be my job, my love and my art at the same time. But I have found something seriously lacking these past couple of years, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it was.

So I asked. Some people may call it praying to God or Gods, contacting your power animal or spiritual guide, or just a higher form of the self that is present in times of need. Having this awareness, I am usually able to get any answer I need to my questions. Most of the time though, I don’t know what the question is.

This time I did and I got the answer I truly needed to make it all happen. It’s not anything arcane and tenuous. I’m long finished with the head in the clouds new age BS that never accomplishes anything. I’m looking for logical, real life answers.

The thing is, I really want to have the success in music. I see it, I have the ability, I now have the gear to at least get me on that road, so what was missing?

The reason I asked, was a lack of motivation. It seems just a daily grind to do music, write it, arrange it, go through all the technical details to make it sound as good as possible, etc… I have a strong will, so I can power through this process and keep working on projects, wrapping them up one at a time. But you can see that there is something wrong with this. To me it seems robotic and repetitive, and it takes much longer than I would normally like to complete these projects.

So, with that synopsis in mind, my question was. What am I missing? Why am I not immersed in music? Why is this not the Eden that I imagined?

The answer was simple.
Apparently I have it, but it is dormant and needs a trigger to wake up. So I have all the physical tools, the studio and the gear, the mental tools, the knowledge to write, record and arrange a good song, and the desire to keep grinding away at it. But desire is not enough for me apparently. I need to wake up this hunger.

So I’m asking you all… have you found a way to do this in yourselves? Have you turned your desire or inspiration into an insatiable need to accomplish something? If you did and were a success at it, I’m sure many of us are leaning on the edge of our seats hoping to find just “how” to awaken this beast?


Hi John,

Congratulations on launching a monster topic!
There are two ways to do this, both of which generate useful answers and further questions.

1: Precisely what you are doing, which is to elicit the process whereby others have done this, and to replicate the structure in yourself. It will work, but you will need to pay close attention to the ecology, since you’ll be getting the elements which make it work safely and effectively in Their lives with their specific history.

2: Turn the beam of inquiry on your own experience base and ask “When have I mobilised and fully realized this hunger within myself in ways which enabled me to achieve outcomes or to maintain processes I could not have achieved without it’s presence.” And additional question is “Where and when am I doing this in my present life in ways so natural and spontaneous, that I haven’t noticed them to mention yet, because they are so habitual and unconscious.” Elicit the behavioural and cognitive process and replicate the stucture in your target area. The closer the general content and skills of the source area is to the target area, the smoother the transference. The advantage of self-modelling is that the ecology step is already taken care of, because these source patterns of hunger and fulfilment are proven to be successful in you the way you already are.

All the best … and RESPECT.

Thanks Glyn, I do understand everything you are saying here. In regards to your first way. If someone else pipes up and I follow a routine similar, I’d have no problem interpreting those aspects of it that are not compatible to my personal patterns. I’m not looking for a pity party or anything :stuck_out_tongue: but for external support in regards to family and friends, I’ve had almost none. So I had to go it alone until I created my environment and circle of friends (much later) that supported it. What it boils down to, is that I know my key signatures well and will be able to differentiate them from the things that do not work for me.

All that said, your 2nd way looks like the ideal one for me (based on the explanation above). There are achievements I can grasp, along with the understanding of the process it took to get there. The only hardship (besides the journey itself to get myself where I need to be) is that those achievements are remote and unrelated in any way to music. (Any achievements in the music field for me have not been that special). So I’ll really have to look for those golden threads that tie it together. I know they are there though. :slight_smile:

I do have a few things going for me though. I’m never satisfied, and I never shoot for something reasonable. So I’ll be reviewing what I wrote, and studying what you wrote to start putting this puzzle together.

Thank you for your help, and you have my respect as well :slight_smile: I studied with a swami for a couple of years. His name was Swami Shankarananda (from Paramahansa Yogananda’s line). Pardon the segue, but this sounds like the advice he would give.

You´re lacking focus.
Get some real hard gigs or meditate harder.

I think most of us (including myself) often confuse success in music as an art form and success in selling music to as many people as possible. These two require different actions and skills since in the first case it’s art we are talking about while in the second case it’s a consumer product (final goods used by a consumer until disposal).

If your goal is achievements in art, then you should probably be looking for what seems most harmonious and aesthetic to you and develop your approach to composition or performance based on those findings. It may take a lifetime, but it may be very rewarding. However, money and appreciation isn’t a part of this reward by definition.

Selling one’s music. Here the market terms and concepts, such as production, consumption, competition, investment etc. come into play. What does selling one’s music involve? The same procedures selling vacuum cleaners does. Even if you as a successful musician don’t worry yourself with these concepts, your managers and producers certainly do and whether you want it or not it is going to influence your final product (see how production language has crept into our talk, as if we are standing in front of a factory conveyor, looking at shiny boxes floating by and thinking whether this shiny new design is going to beat that of the competitor).

Which of those is what you’d like to master?

Focus may be a big problem with me. But having a hunger to do this kind of music would be a pretty strong drive, and once I obtain that, I think it will naturally cover the focus part of it.
Getting gigs “where I’m playing out” is not an option for me I’m afraid. I submit to multimedia companies and the process of writing / mixing / mastering takes most of my time up.


Aren’t desire and hunger pretty much the same thing? After all, women are always saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But seriously, they’re both in the motivation camp.

So is that the problem or is it simply that it’s a lot of hard work and ‘takes much longer’ than you would like? Or that you want to be so motivated that you don’t notice how much work it is?

One way to make it easier might be to delegate or downsize. If, like me and I guess a lot of others here, you’re doing it all on your own then it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of work involved. Writer, player, engineer and producer are traditionally roles for half a dozen or more people who do it as their main job. Not one person who’s doing it all in his spare time. So perhaps look at which part of the process is most important to you and find collaborators to help with the rest.

New technology make everything seem possible but the downside is that we’re tempted to be much more ambitious. If you can’t delegate could you downsize your production? Maybe be less perfectionist. Most people listening outside this forum won’t notice. I’ve just gone back over a couple of songs and made simple acoustic arrangements which I like just as much. What’s more important to you - the song or the production?

Something I’ve worked on is the mental state with which I approach music - and everything I do for that matter. I became a disciple of Getting Things Done which is a system for clearing the mind of all other tasks in order to focus on the one in hand. It’s more prosaic and practical than magic and mystical but it is helping me get all my ruddy ducks in a row. The main thing is simply to get everything down on a list, but in terms of the next action rather than desired outcome. So instead of writing ‘tidy up garden’ you have to do some pre-processing to determine very next action to move this outcome closer, say ‘buy broom’. That way when you look at your list(s) you don’t throw up your hands and wonder where to start. It gives me the sense that everything’s in hand so I’m not distracted by all the other things I feel I ought to be doing while making music.

My first goal is to the achievement in art. The writing / arranging process is what I’m best with. (Mixing / mastering falls slightly behind that, but I am improving… I see this as a necessary for me to combine this in the whole “art” category. Thankfully, having a DAW and all the plugs make this process a little easier.)

With selling music, it is definitely not something I am very good with. But I am technologically advanced and know the internet well, so I can spread my presence around enough… even though it may take years to really start to build something from it. I am not so much into selling my songs (to the consumer) as I am to submitting them for various multimedia projects (TV, documentaries, Video games, etc…), and there are sites that can help me do that.

When it comes down to it, I think I’m feeling discouraged by the whole music “machine” in general. How the good artists are being pushed farther and farther back into the mist until they are not seen at all. So, getting encouraged I think will be a big part of it for me. At least it will help to get me closer to the answers I’m looking for.


Ok, so you guys are starting to get me to clear my head, and some ideas are coming through.

For me, desire is not enough. Hunger is much closer to a “need” where desire is more of a “want”. So that hunger is what I need to provide me with the real motivation and focus that I’m looking for.

Well, it’s a lot of hard work. So yeah, I need that motivation that drives me through it without the distraction of “thinking” how much work it is.

Delegate is an option, but downsizing isn’t I’m afraid. Not for… I would say the next year or so.

I have been doing this actually, and it has helped. In fact, I’m finding it more and more necessary to not just make a list, but make a specific list, and put things down in order like you say. In fact, I have a general tasks list and a music tasks list. But you know, buying that book might not be such a bad idea.

Thank you,

By gig, i meant some pressure, dead lines and no excuses.
The best motivation i can think of.

All successful people tell the same story. They met someone really BIG while crossing the road / in the laundromat / posting mail / on the metro. The story’s always the same.
I guess what it’s really saying is you have to be out there meeting people. The more the merrier. I doubt if there’s many on any forums who know much more than Jack to help you.
Big city gigs (London, N.Y etc)? Don’t bother. the "agents / managements / record companies never show.
Get out closer to home than you think but not that close. Where’s your next but one big city? Ideally 50 - 70 miles away. You’ll be surprised what’s in range.
If you’re already in a big city and got zilch then get out. Same range but go for the smaller territory.
Smaller places got more curiosity so you’ll likely wind up making some money on the way up if you do gigs in a band or are a DJ. If you make waves in smaller places the ripples have more chance of being noticed by bigger fish in bigger ponds. They can hear you better outside of the waterfall of the big cities.
You don’t have to have special focus. The most successful can be the least focussed and nobody ever really knows what success is or whether they’ll get it. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones thought they were going to go for three to six months tops.
YOU decide what success means to you and follow that star and not the others.

True enough. And I have been holed up for the past few months. The isolation might be getting to me as well. Getting back out and socializing is actually one of my priorities.

Actually, I live in one of those strange areas where success stories seem to come out of the woodwork. For instance, I was watching my drummer play a gig with his other band at the local club a couple months ago. A couple members of Crack the Sky happened to show up and ended up getting onstage and jamming with them.
(I live out in the country, but smack in the middle of Baltimore and Washington DC, so things do happen around here.)

I personally do need that focus. I need some sense of order because I know what my brain will do if I don’t have that. I need a methodology with some goal in mind to feel like I’m working towards something. Other people might be able to do it other ways, but I can’t.

Mid-life crises eh? I’m 45, so that may be a distinct possibility. I hadn’t thought of that before. It will be my 2nd one btw. :wink: I guess what it comes down to is that I don’t want to fail in what I see as the most important thing I could do for this world. I think I’m just drifting right now, and that can’t be good for my sanity. :unamused: But I know my first step at least. Get out and around more, and start getting in touch with people and making contacts.

…and thanks Shorty. I didn’t miss your post and I got the meaning this time around. That is the kind of stress I need, actually.

Looks like a struggle between ‘Art’ and ‘Commerce’

Only the lucky manage to combine the two. Great art is not always something that is commercially successful

As many here do, I want to turn my musical efforts into something real. Something that provides for me for the rest of my life. I want it to be my job, my love and my art at the same time.

Whether what your heart tells you is art is compatible with what is commercially successful is not something you can control I’m afraid. If you want your musical creativity to be commercially successful you may ( or may not ) need to ‘sell out’ in order to let music put food on the table.

‘Hunger’ - well if you are that hungry then you will ‘sell out’ without resistance. :slight_smile:

Personally I think the best music comes from doing it for arts sake. once you start making it with a view to replenishing your food stocks then it’s for the wrong reasons.

IMO this is the wrong time to be recording music for commercial reasons. The commercial aspect of the recorded art was the medium in which it was distributed, which required tangible investment and the Usury of the middle men. IOW mechanical means… Records, CDs, etc.

No need for that now. it’s all '1’s and '0’s of the download and that costs pretty much nothing.

The only thing left of tangible value is live performance. This can’t be downloaded. Gigs!!

Throughout out the history of music making most of it was a period of not getting paid much. The 70s, 80s and 90s were a big exception where mass physical means of distribution fuelled a value market where there was a lot of dosh and thus material excesses to be had from both artists and middle men.

Those days are over.

Make music for fun and enjoy the music for being music and not how much $$$ it can rake in. if you can go and perform it live and earn a bit of beer money then that’s cool of course.

My take on it. :slight_smile:

Hi all,

I don’t have time to read the entire thread but this is what my first thoughts on this are having read John’s first post.

John, it is all about alignment. Right now you are not in alignment with the joy of creating music for whatever reason. If you want to switch that, all you need to do, in a very detached expectation is some things like this:

3 things:

If you are not feeling it, do not work on music. Do something else that makes you feel good.

Instead of thinking:
I am not xxxxxxxxx with my music.
Think this:
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have some fun working on tunage”
Then let it go without clinging to it but continue every so often to say that to yourself to welcome the opportunity.


There is a rule:
The 17 second rule. Extremely helpful.

(This is a little foofy)

Hi Tom, thanks for your thoughts, especially as it keeps close to the subject matter for me.

Very true. I’ve already found some clues that can help me get back on the right track. First of all, I had a head cold that snuck up on me. Left me feeling disconnected and downbeat. So there’s no doubt as I normally have a positive outlook, that some of my posts were influenced by that. While it doesn’t solve the entire problem it does give me the first step. In other words I need to get my @ss healthy again. :slight_smile:

3 things:

If you are not feeling it, do not work on music. > Do something else > that makes you feel good.

I’ll try that. But usually I end up driving myself right back into the studio chair before I have a chance to let that cycle complete. It’s kind of like stopping your medication before the cold is completely gone, just because you’re feeling better.

Instead of thinking:
I am not xxxxxxxxx with my music.
Think this:
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have some fun working on tunage”
Then let it go without clinging to it but continue every so often to say that to yourself to welcome the opportunity.

This I can do. Most of this is about getting over this cold, and now that I’m fighting it my mood is already starting to turn around. It won’t be enough though… I can still feel that there is something missing, which I think your 3rd step will help with.


There is a rule:
The 17 second rule. Extremely helpful.

(This is a little foofy)

Doesn’t sound foofy to me at all. As strange as it may sound. I have had training in directed thought, and how it affects not only me internally, but the environment around me. My life has had a significant number of exotic influences and experiences, enough so that it changed the way I see the world. So when I feel myself slipping from my path, I’ll post something like this thread, where everyones input helps my get back on point. I’ll be using this 17 second rule to help me re-align my priorities, the things that matter and the way I handle them.

Associations made, even over the internet are not just circumstance. There is a reason behind them. Same with the answers I’ve gotten in this thread. Even if they don’t completely align to the initial “problem” that I had, they are integral to the solution. So I do appreciate everyones effort.


One might not expect this, but here in the USA, the competition amongst avant garde musicians and composers is IMMENSE… in some ways even more insane than the Pop business. Artists fight remorselessly over grant funding, concert bookings, and publishing opportunities. The irony is that 99.9% of the public VOMIT at the typical contemporary Classical composition and performance :laughing:

Also, the music unions here still wield enormous power. Here in Illinois it’s horrible, since we’re affiliated with the Chicago local. If they knew I was playing Jazz piano for less than scale, they’d fine me AND threaten to prosecute the place where I play – and I live 3 hours away from those fools. What sucks is from time to time ballet companies come thru here and they ALWAYS dance to a recording… I once ran into the road manager of one of these companies in a bar when they were in town and asked why, and he said the Chicago union rates for a full orchestra are so obscene nobody can afford it, so they use a tape… but in other places (exceptions: LA, NYC, and Las Vegas) they employ a full orchestra :smiling_imp:


Is your work space clean? One thing that helps me shake things is spending an hour or two cleaning things up, putting things away, dusting the gear, wiping down the monitors, rerouting cables for cleaner lines. I just did this last week in the control room because I was experiencing the same thing as you. It lead to a good productivity increase.

Watch driving yourself back into the chair if you aren’t feeling it. It can strengthen the disconnection sometimes if your noggin reacts to the situation like “see, I told you aren’t into it!”.

@ Tom,

Keeping my workspace / studio clean is not a problem for me. I don’t mind a little clutter, but I clean it regularly.

I’m keeping it light for the moment. I’m mixing down the band stuff, and spending just a couple hours a day on it. I’ve had to revert to looking for clients in my (day job) profession. (Web development)… so I’m not into any major tasks at the moment. The focused attention exercise that you provided is currently being used to clear my head first.

I have found that the agressive nature of my focus is at its best when I’m hungry. I’m using literal hunger at the moment as a resource because that is easiest to define. Once I understand what’s driving it, I can translate it (again, using the focused attention) to other projects including music. So it will help in more ways than one.


I most definitely disagree with this approach. There was a time when I used to wait 'til I was ‘inspired’ before I’d
sit down to write/record, and before I knew it, a decade had slipped by and I had very little to show for it.
Writers write. I think it’s important to ‘get to the page’ every day, even if sometimes it’s only for a short time.
Inspiration doesn’t always appear in a flash while you’re doing something else or doing nothing. Sometimes
it creeps in after you’ve gotten started ‘playing around’ aimlessly at your instrument.
The creative process is full of frustrations as well as joys - peaks and valleys - and if you simply ‘do something that makes you feel good’ because it’s easier than working through a tricky arrangement, that sounds like procrastination to me - and not a good prescription for success, no matter how you define it.
If you’re not ‘feeling it’, and thinking of waiting 'til tomorrow - tell yourself “why don’t I just do it for 10 or 15 minutes to tweak a few loose ends”. You’d be surprised at how 10 or 15 minutes can often turn into 2 or 3 hours
of quality work.
John, have you read ‘The Artists Way’ by Julia Cameron? I’d highly recommend it. It’s chock full of valuable suggestions and perspectives for a creative life.