Pandora's Box

Fear of Success in a Competitive Music Industry

Fear of success

On the outset, a phrase like “fear of success” seems ridiculous. Other may think the title of this article is simply “click-bait”.

While I do my best to optimize the title of blog posts, there are some very uncomfortable truths in this fear that plagues many musician.

Striving for normalcy

The harsh reality for many musicians is that success can come with serious challenges.

Many “successful” musicians perform 200+ concerts per year. This can be great financially. It may also help build notoriety. However, touring musicians often struggle with personal relationships.

Missing special days (anniversaries, birthdays, your kids sports games, etc.) can cause you to be emotional distant from your family.

So for good reason, a lot musicians have a degree of fear when it comes to attaining success.

Avoiding the pain of disappointing loved ones becomes the objective for many of us. This often comes in the form of avoiding close relationships altogether.

Even worse are those of us who develop close relationships and have families, but remain emotionally disconnected from those who care about us most.

Unfortunately, this usually leads to even greater problems such as divorce and possibly where children are involved, estrangement.

Fear of fame

Becoming famous is rare. However, varying degrees of fame will occur for the most successful musicians.

You may have heard the stories about famous people who cannot enjoy dinner at a restaurant. They are constantly bombarded with people asking for photos and autographs.

I am not famous, so I can only imagine what fame must really be like. However, I am sure that it comes with its challenges.

A lot of musicians understand this as well.

Personally, I have no desire to be famous or well-known. In fact, I enjoy working behind the scenes. However, I do not think I fear fame per sè.

One obvious thing about fame is that your successes and failures are often public. Needless to say, you’ll to develop thick skin.

Giving your all, all the time

Extraordinarily successful musicians are have a few common traits. However, the most common trait is that they commit to give everything when they do their craft.

They aren’t competing with anyone in the room. In fact, they’re often not concerned about anyone else in the world.

Their biggest motivator is that thing that hasn’t happened yet, but exists in their head. This is what motivates them to work extremely hard. What they’re striving to achieve simply doesn’t exist yet.

A lot professional musicians have had stints of this throughout their life. However, only a very small percentage of us continue this pursuit year after year.

Constantly raise the bar

Have you ever thought to yourself, “what’s next?

This can happen when you have reached significant goals in your life.

At this point, you can make one of two decisions:

1. Continue to raise the bar on your craft

2. Pour your energy into something else.

There is nothing wrong with either of these paths. However, it is important to realize that those who continually raise bar in one area tend to rise to higher levels of success.

This comes with a caveat…

A lot of musicians I know, learn about a lot of income generating activities such as real estate investing, stocks, bonds, ETFs, etc.

This is not a bad idea either because it can help you utilize financial capital for greater artistic endeavors.

Obviously, you must consider the amount of time and risk involved with these things.

Fear of success and imposter syndrome

Impostor syndrome care appear when you believe that you are not deserving of the success that you’ve experienced.

You may tell yourself that you got lucky. Or maybe “they made a mistake when they called me”.

One reason that a lot of people have a fear of success is that they think that they will really be found out to be a fraud.

They will have end up with the opportunity that is just too big for them. They’ll crash and burn.

Instead of worrying about going up in flames, turn your focus on things that you can do today to be prepared.

Have you thought to yourself how you would prepare for a feature on a big stage such as Carnegie Hall or on live TV with millions of people watching?

How would you prepare for that moment? What would your daily regime look like in the months, weeks, and days beforehand?

What’s stopping you from that type of intense focus now?

Impostor syndrome can cripple your ability to produce great work. Instead you’ll be focusing on quieting the voices in your head who are tell you how undeserving you are.

Embracing the possibility of massive success

In life, having mentors is always a huge help. This is especially true in the elusive music industry.

Trying to navigate the music industry by yourself can be downright reckless. There are so many things that can take you in the wrong direction.

Instead of running away from audacious goals, embrace the idea that to achieve extraordinary things you need a hint of craziness.

When Ludwig van Beethoven composed his 5th Symphony, he was audacious and created something completely revolutionary. He embraced the possibility of massive failure and massive success because his greatest concern was neither; it was ART.

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