Musicians are constantly bombarded with advice. Granted, a lot of advice isn’t that helpful, but some could completely change the trajectory of a musician’s career.
So why do we suck so much at listening to good advice from others? I have 10 reasons I think keeps us from integrating great advice into our careers:
1. We’re emotionally motivated beings.
When things get heated, even the most logical people make decisions skewed by out of control emotions. This isn’t bad if we recognize it and embrace it as a factor, but it can wreak havoc when we let it control our decisions.
2. We’re prideful.
We believe that we’ve got it covered when we don’t, plain and simple. Pride has led to most of the terrible decisions ever made, and as musicians it’s easy to disregard great advice because we see ourselves as more accomplished than the person giving advice.
3. We think we’re unique.
It’s easy as musicians to have the feeling that everything we’re going through is unique to us, since there are so few people we know with the exact same career path.
While most people can’t exactly relate, getting “big picture” advice from people you trust always always helps add perspective. There's usually a way to adapt even the most general advice to help specific problems going on in our career.
4. We don’t really listen to the advice given.
Most of us are terrible listeners. We don’t pay attention to everything someone is saying, and we unconsciously twist things to make it say what we want.
When you listen to advice, rephrase what the person is saying to you back to them to make sure you understand, and don't be afraid to ask for clarification. No truly wise person will ever look down on you for saying you don't understand.
5. We can’t figure out who’s giving good advice.
It can be really confusing to figure out who is giving you great advice. One of the easiest ways to tell who’s advice is worth listening to is by seeing their longterm career success. Everyone has ups and downs, but if there’s a long pattern of problems professionally, it might be best to look elsewhere.
6. We can’t figure out how to implement what we hear.
It’s easy to hear advice, it’s hard to figure out how to use it. When I hear advice that is really great, I’ll often write it down and meditate on it for awhile. This helps me try to better understand what it means, and have it influence my actions.
7. We believe we don’t have a problem.
The problem with most musicians is that we don’t even know what the issues are that we’re struggling with in our career. We think we’re having a hard time landing a record deal, getting enough funds to finance our project, etc. We don't realize that these are usually just symptoms of much deeper issues we're avoiding.
Reflection and meditation on both our career and how we think and feel about our job is really, really useful in helping us to see where we can realistically grow.
8. We think the best way to learn something is by doing it ourselves.
While this might be true for most activities, it’s dumb to try and learn everything by personal experience (think meth use, shooting yourself with a hand gun, etc). Listening to others that have been doing what you want to do is invaluable for avoiding time wasters and expensive detours.
9. We think we’ve tried what they’re suggesting before, and it didn’t work.
We all think that if it didn’t work for me at some point in the past, it doesn’t work. We completely ignore how hard we worked at it, for how long, market conditions, and a million other contingencies that might have contributed to failure. Don’t write something off just because it seems like going backward.
10. We’re afraid what would happen if we were really successful.
Deep down most of us don’t want to be successful for a variety of reasons. We often know, at some level, that what we’re doing in the moment won’t work if we became truly successful. We wouldn’t be able to emotionally handle the pressure, we don’t have the legwork done yet to thrive at a higher level, etc. So we ignore good advice that we know (at least subconsciously) would help us achieve our dreams.
There’s zero shame in admitting that you’re not ready for what you say you want your goal to be. If this is you, I would strongly recommend getting a pro coach to help. They can help you create a plan that can build a successful routine into your career.
While I’m not a personal music coach, I strongly recommend you reach out to my friend Steve Grossman (NOTE: I don't get paid or kickbacks for recommending him- he's just that good) His rates are really reasonable, he offers online mentorship plans, and he’s the best person I’ve ever met at helping artists develop a plan to be ready to be successful. Visit his site here.