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You’ve been dreaming of starting something new for years, but you don’t have the equipment, the money, the time or the knowledge. What do you do? You start with what you have, right here and right now. Starting out on a new quest can be challenging, especially when you have a full-time job, kids, mortgage, the whole package. But if this is really what you want, all that doesn’t matter. You have to put in the work. Wake up an hour earlier every day. Stop watching the news. Read in your breaks and stop everything that isn’t meaningful or adding to the process.
This is the moment to get some time-consuming habits out the door so you can work on your new adventure. I doubt you’ll say you wish you had watched more TV or spent more time at work when you are on your deathbed. So focus on what you’re passionate about and pursue it. If you’re not starting, ask yourself why. Why is always a good question. Perhaps your why isn’t really good and you shouldn’t start at all. Maybe the why hits home more deeply and inspires you, even more, to get going. Did you get all that out of the way? Good. Now start.
Before you even get started all the reasons why you shouldn’t and can’t do it will come knocking on your door. Ignore it. Start. It will probably suck and that’s perfectly fine. The most important thing is, start. So what you don’t have the equipment or the experience. Just start and fail like you have never failed before. Own that shit. Own it and be proud. You’ve got the hard part out of the way. Once you’ve started you’ll notice that it all works out. Start today and you will be happy with yourself in a year.
Don’t start today and you’ll look back next year wishing you had started. Don’t wait for the perfect day to show up. It doesn’t exist. Just start today. Just pick up whatever you got and get started. Not tomorrow, not next week, not before you finish this post (ok, maybe finish this first), NOW!
Fail, again and again
When you just start out with something new and you suck you’re perfectly fine with it and you will probably have a good time as well. This is the moment to discover, to be playful and spontaneous. Enjoy it to the fullest. This is only momentarily. You’ll suck a little less with every attempt and one day (in some cases never, but that’s another story) you’ll hit a threshold, and you won’t suck anymore, you’ll be decent.
Now stuff becomes interesting, the goal isn’t to suck less anymore, but to be better with every new project. Get 1% better every day and the compound result of this after years will be huge. But shouldn’t you wait until you have the quality equipment, proper tools make up for half of the work right? Yes, they do, but there’s one thing money can’t buy and that no one can take away from you and that is experience. And the cool thing about getting experienced is you get very creative if you don’t have the right tools.
Getting your drivers license in an automatic and driving an automatic is great, but when the moment comes when you have to drive a stick, you’re in trouble. Buy an old, cheap car and really drive it, get out of the comfort zone, really learn what the car can do. You will end up with a broken car and maybe even a couple of tickets, but you will be a better driver. And that is a skill you will benefit from the rest of your life.
When I started producing music I didn’t have a single thing. I borrowed an old desktop computer with hardly enough memory on it to run Word, picked up an old amplifier from the attic and managed to get my hands on an outdated version of Cubase. I had eight different speakers set up, which didn’t make any sense at all. I didn’t have a midi keyboard so I just used the keyboard of my computer to play the instruments. It was a freakshow, but I was excited and on fire! ‘I’m making music, and I have the time of my life!’
Do it for the right reasons
This comes back to the Why question again. Let’s stick with the music producer example. If you want to make a music producer and spent all your time and money on a website, logo, marketing campaign, a biography and haven’t written a single note, are you sure you really want to be a producer? Maybe you just want to be famous? If so, there are easier ways to get there. If you are not in making music because you love making music you’re in for quite a disappointment.
Producing music is a lonely, often times frustrating job. It’s you, your computer screen and some toys and that’s it. If you like company I suggest you get a cat because you’ll be lonely most of the time. Release a good selling record and you’ll hit the charts for two weeks and fade all the way out for the next six months. Back in the lab with your cat and your toys. Dig deep and find out what you really want to do. Ask yourself: If I never get anything out of making music would I still be doing it? If the answer is yes, the reward is priceless.
When you’re in the making music zone it can sometimes be a bit hard to tell if you’re still heading in the right direction. You think you’re on fire but it’s probably better to run for the emergency exit because the project isn’t going anywhere. Getting feedback is a great way to check if you are still on track. The problem with feedback is most of it is bad. 99% of people like to give advice on things they don’t have a clue about. Stay away from these people.
Other people belittle your ambitious dream and tell you that you can never become a producer. Kick those people in the balls and get them out of your life. Really. They are worthless and secretly admire you for doing you, but are too scared to pursue there own dreams so they just take you down. Kick them in the balls and enjoy it while you’re at it.
So what is good feedback and where can you get it? First, you’ve got to pull all the weeds out and get them out for good. The naysayers; out the door, the die-hard Tiesto fans that can only say, “I like Tiesto’s records better man, you should make his music”, out the door, the people that say “Hey man your track is boring”, when it isn’t even done yet, out the door. So who is left? Somebody who values your quest of becoming a producer and who understands the process you are going through.
Somebody who can look at it objectively and who can hear the progress or regress whether he likes the music you are making or not. No need to ask ten people if they like it, just get one or two guys who give actual proper feedback and stick with it. When you gather too much feedback your own focus fades out and you get confused. This is a horrible place to be. Don’t be surprised if you end up deleting the whole project because you want to please those ten people. The quickest way to get unhappy and depressed is to try to please everyone.
Opinions from small-minded people kill your creativity in a second. When you want to know about a T-bone steak you ask the butcher, not the cleaner. Getting feedback can be bitter. You have to be a grounded mofo to stand strong when someone tells you the project you’ve put your heart and soul in sucks. You’ll get mad and tell yourself this person doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The only thing to do is; walk it off and sleep on it for a night. Calm down and check again. You’ll probably find that the feedback is legit. Congratulations, you just found somebody who is great at giving feedback.
Getting started is often the hardest part of the quest. Once you’re going you’re on your way. The hardest part of the exercise is going to the gym. Once you are there it’s all good. The hardest part of getting out of bed is, getting out of the damn bed. It’s a five seconds action that wins you half an hour if you are a snoozer. When I start a new record I always start with one single kick. This kick will be replaced later on in the process, but it got me started. I don’t have a clue where the record is going and that’s fine.
I can spend six hours building a complete track or a week. I have no idea and I don’t even care if it takes me six hours or a week, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Michael Jordan said it best: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”