Perseverance: the Key to the Doors of Success -- Part 2
By Mary Dawson - 03/10/2006 - 01:23 AM EST
It’s the “skeleton key” that opens many doors to the halls of success, but it is the one thing that right-brained, artistic types often find nearly impossible to acquire. It is the quality of perseverance. It springs from determination and discipline and it is usually the thing that tips the fragile balance between obscurity and celebrity. As Thomas Edison once said:
Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
In my last article we examined the door marked Excellence, which must be opened and entered before we can achieve any real or lasting recognition in music. No matter how much “natural talent” an individual may have been born with, it will usually not be enough to carry him/her to the top of the music industry. Talent must be developed into skill that can stand on its own beside the best in the business, and this doesn’t happen overnight. Songwriters or musicians who think that they can slide by on natural talent alone will almost certainly find themselves disappointed in their musical journey.
But even if you discipline yourself and hone your talent to a level of national distinction, there is yet another door that must be opened before you can enter the world of success in music. That door is called Credibility.
Credibility simply means believability – reliability. For the songwriter, it poses the question:
Can you consistently deliver great songs and/or performances?
Of course, the key word here is consistently. There are many who may achieve success – even national success -- but it’s like a comet – it soars…it’s brilliant….it wows everyone….and then it’s over! In music lingo we call them “one-hit wonders” and their only gig these days is on VH1’s segment, Where Are They Now?
Credibility is not something that can be created overnight – any more than trust itself can be created overnight. The very nature of the concept is that it takes place over time – that it is dependable. Artists like James Taylor and Sting have built their credibility over decades in the business. Now, all they have to do is announce that they have a new recording coming out and consumers will flock to their retailers to buy it even before hearing it. Why? Because Sting and James Taylor have a track record of excellence. You can depend on artists of their calibre to consistently produce great songs. That’s credibility.
Where does credibility start? Personally, I think it starts with a genuine love affair with music. If you love music and you love writing songs, you will have to write – and you will get better at it – whether anyone knows about you and your songs or not. You will not be able to stop writing – even when you get rejected and discouraged. You will keep learning and exploring new aspects of the craft – day after day, year after year. Every song you create will have your heart in the words and your soul in the music. Every song will be the “best one I’ve written so far!”
Credibility also involves “blooming where you’re planted.” Because of your love for music and writing, you will have to find a way to express your songs to other people – even if you don’t have the connections or the bankroll to make frequent trips to LA, New York or Nashville. You will be compelled to become knowledgeable about your own local music community. You will find your way to open mic nights, songwriters’ meetings, recording sessions and performances. You will meet other songwriters in your area and perhaps co-write some songs together. You will find singers who are looking for original material and you will make your songs available to them. With every exposure….with every person you meet….you will be creating an image of dependability and respect as a craftsman. You won’t have to convince others of your talent because they will be able to hear it in your songs. As months and years pass your reputation will begin to spread like ripples on a stream to audiences and opportunities that you could never imagine today.
And finally, credibility is inevitably connected to personal character and integrity. Just as in other professions, musicians and songwriters who develop a lifestyle of trustworthiness, generosity, humility, honesty and fairness will be the ones others respect and want to work with. Those, on the other hand, who are self-absorbed and pursuing the “joyride” of fame, fortune and excesses will soon earn a reputation for unreliability and downright flakiness. I don’t have to name names….you know who they are….those artists who consistently show up late for interviews or gigs, appear to be high or drunk, spend money excessively, are arrested frequently and are vulgar in speech and action. Tell me: If you were the booking agent for an expensive venue, which kind of artist would you want to book?
There are so many things in the music business that are out of our control. We may not have a big music budget or the luxury of pursuing music full time. We may not live near a major music city or have “inside connections” in the industry. We may not have a GQ or covergirl appearance or be the “right age” for a blockbuster career in entertainment. But we do have control over the level of excellence we strive for in our craft and the image of credibility that we are building. These qualities are developed every day in direct proportion to our perseverance. Life is not so much one long race or journey, but rather the sum total of the daily races we run. One way or the other we are creating our history. If we do not persevere in the time-tested qualities that have produced the “greats” in music, we will – by default -- create a history that results in yet another “wannabe” who never made it. The choice is ultimately ours.
I don’t know much about Calvin Coolidge as a president but I sure agree with this statement of his about perseverance:
Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent.
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