“Goal” is such a ridiculous word. It’s a word that, once you put it in place, you automatically create its inverse: the possibility of failing to achieve it. The prospect of failure can be so scary that it becomes impossible to take action towards achieving your goal, and thus, the downwards cycle of mediocrity and spinning the wheels begins!
Let’s cut the crap right now.
The true purpose of having a goal
It’s not about the goal, it’s about the work you do in its honor. I had a goal to win a Grammy in my twenties, and when I turned thirty, it was like I couldn’t breathe I was so disappointed in myself. One of my problems was that I didn’t have interim goals. For me, it was Grammy or nothing. With no smaller goals purposefully set, I couldn’t acknowledge myself for all that I had achieved in the music industry in my twenties. All I saw was that one big failure. What I now know is that I was not a failure. I was the opposite. I was in action, living the life of someone whose goal is to win a Grammy.
Cut yourself some slack. It’s hard to determine exactly how long it will take to achieve something. The goals you create are your game. You can change the rules, as long as you are still in the game.
I had to look at what I really wanted in my life to more specifically define my purpose, not just my goals. This crystal-clear purpose is now what I call my “Statement,” and is much more than just a single goal. It’s a concise sentence that clearly expresses my purpose in life and my career.
Note: we are talking “big picture” here. It is a goal of mine to win a Grammy for songwriting and an Oscar for film-scoring. It is a goal of mine to make $300,000 in one year from music placements alone. These goals are specific aspirations to work toward. They can also be called ambitions, intentions, and targets. But they do not tell you what I am really up to in my life, and they alone do not give me fulfillment like a clear purpose can. Hence, the need to define my “Statement.”
1. Define your purpose, aka your “Statement.”
Your “Statement” is the one sentence that will let anyone know your overall purpose both in life and the music biz. This purpose will inspire you in all of your pursuits. You can call it your ultimate goal, but it’s bigger and more useful than that, and it’s something that you can be today, not something that you are waiting to obtain.
My Statement is: “I am out to make a living and inspire the world through creating music and sharing my process.
Everything I do is in line with my Statement. This article is in line with it. Performing live, recording a new record, and composing music for a beautiful documentary or a funny video is in line with this Statement. On the other hand, when I received an offer a few months ago to compose music for a violent video game for very little money, I turned it down. It was not in agreement with my Statement. As forks in my road appear, revisiting my Statement helps me take the right path.
To figure out your Statement, look at your goals and see what the common denominators are. Ask yourself why you have those goals. What’s the goal behind the goal? Is your goal to make money? Why? So you can travel? So you can express yourself with music more easily?
The actions you take will vary greatly depending on the true goal you’re working towards. Once you’ve looked at your goals, write one sentence that answers the question “What are you all about?” Write three different options. Tweak them so they become one clear sentence. If it inspires you and is something you can tell anyone and they’ll understand you immediately, then you’ve got your “Statement.”
Congrats! You will be amazed how opportunities and results will start showing up JUST because you got clear about what you are up to (and declared it to the universe)!
2. Assess what you’ve got going on, and what you’d like to have going on.
List any and all goals that you have for yourself, your life, and your music career. Then list any resources you already have (people, accomplishments, tangible things, and skills). Now list what’s missing. You may even want to enlist the opinions of family, friends or fans to help fill in any gaps you may not be clued in to. (In my e-course, this is the part where you’d be asked to fill in the “Blind Spot Survey.”) You’d be surprised what you have going for you already!
Believe it or not, the next step is to let go of all these goals and remain unattached to them. This means that while you would be super psyched to win a Grammy for “Best New Artist,” you understand that achieving this goal will not define you, and your career can be fulfilling even if you do not achieve this goal. The ultimate goal is to be living the way you want to live, indefinitely, not just until a goal is reached.
3. Figure out your main strength, aka your “Entrée.”
Do you have a day job? Are you trying to make money by performing live, by licensing your songs, or by selling merchandise such as CDs and t-shirts? Do you have other sources of income? Do you have other passions?
If you were a restaurant menu, all of these ways of making money would be the different “courses.” As an indie artist, spreading yourself too thin will not get the results you want (and you’ll probably resemble a chicken with its head cut off). Thus, it’s time to figure out your Entrée, the main focus of your career. While you may love to work and even thrive in other areas of the music industry, you should focus your skills, energy, and next actions on your Entrée.
I realized that I had four courses on my menu: Performing live, licensing my recorded music, film/commercial composing, and speaking/teaching. Until I was able to define my Entrée, I was stuck on where to move forward. So I didn’t move at all.
I uncovered that, for me, if I expanded in the licensing area, the other three areas would also, automatically, expand. This, indeed, was my Entrée! [Insert loud cheer, sigh of relief, weight rolling off shoulders, etc.]
What was next for me was to finish my third record so I could license it. The result of figuring out my Entrée gave me clarity, focus, and motivation.
To figure out your Entrée, list all the things you do and skills you have (make records, perform live, co-write with others, etc.) and then ask yourself this: Which one thing that you do, if it took off, would help all the others succeed and expand? This is your Entrée.
Now look at those other items. You know, the ones that didn’t make the Entrée cut. Those gigs, projects, ideas, processes – if in line with your Statement – are still important for your career and who you are. They are just not the main focus at this point. They remain on your menu. Keep this list handy so that when you get stopped or challenged while working on your Entrée, you can remind yourself there are other areas in your career where you can take action.
4. Take action! And put your plan into reality (aka a calendar).
Write down the results you’d like to see in one year, 6 months, 3 months and 1 month regarding your Entree. (For example, in 1 year, you will have sold 1,000 CDs at live shows, in 6 months, 500 CDs, etc.). In a calendar, write down actions you can take to have these results happen. And then DO THEM like your life depends on it!
A little note on the results you’ve laid out for yourself: they are mini goals, benchmarks and targets to reach. Do not be attached to them happening, just keep plugging away and reassessing every once in a while to make sure you are still inspired by what you are doing, and that you are committed to a career you love, no matter what the results.
And lastly, a little note on being overwhelmed: “Overwhelm” is due to two things: working alone and being stagnant. The cures for overwhelm are to ASK FOR HELP and to GET INTO ACTION.
(This post is an excerpt from the e-course, In The Key Of Success: The Five Week Jump-Start Strategy. Click to get the rest of the course to jump start your career today!)
Cheryl B. Engelhardt is a classically trained composer and jingle writer for several national TV ads, with more than ten years experience working in the music industry. She’s given lectures for hundreds of independent musicians at SXSW, Sundance Film Festival, Cornell University and other national conferences and institutions. More words of wisdom can found at her website, CBEMusic.com