Independent Rockstar

Insight for Independent Musicians

Progress vs. Perfection

About 8 or 9 years ago I used to smoke two packs of Marlboro Red cigarettes a day. It was hard for me to imagine what it would really take to quit. I tried to kick the habit cold turkey a few times and it just made me want to crawl out of my skin. Then I heard about the patch and decided to give it a try.

I put it on one morning and made it until about 10PM before I ripped it off and started smoking. I just wasn’t prepared to kick the habit for good. Sure that may have been a defeat in one sense, but there’s always a choice when it comes to interpreting what things mean.

The fact that I don’t smoke today has a lot to do with how I chose to look at what happened that day. Was it a success or was it a failure? You could make a good case for either side. I decided that it was a success because I’d proven that I could go almost an entire day without a cigarette.

If I decided that that day was a failure than I wouldn’t have anything to build on. I would just be reinforcing the idea in my mind that I’d never be able to quit. By focusing on the positive I was able to convince myself that my experience would help me do better the next time.

Sure enough I was able to go well over 24 hours the next time. It probably took a good 6 or 7 tries over the course of about a year to quit for good. I was able to do it because the only thing I was looking at was my progress. I built on that until I achieved the outcome I wanted. I never beat myself up when I would fall off the wagon. Instead I let myself enjoy my cigarettes while mentally preparing to do even better the next time.

When you compare yourself to perfection or your ideal then you’ll always fall short. It’s demotivating and it will never make you happy. Getting somewhere worthwhile takes time and practice. If you have ambitions then chances are you can’t get from where you are to where you’d like to be in one step. You need to have the right mindset to stay on your path while you’re still short of your goal.

For example, maybe you’re a solo artist who usually ends up losing money at gigs because you have to pay your band and you aren’t bringing in enough money to cover your expenses. Between the gig and rehearsals you’re paying out $800 a show. At the last gig you pulled in $500 and ended up losing $300. At the next gig you bring in just over $600 and end up in the hole by just under $200. Are you going to consider that a success or another failure?

Chances are if you consider it a failure then you’ll lose motivation and have a cynical outlook for the future. If you focus on your progress then chances are you’ll be thinking about what you can do to build on it. You’d probably start to think that you’re getting pretty close to breaking even. You might vow to do a better job of letting people know about the CDs you have for sale in the back. You might decide to recruit a friend to help you sell some merch at the show. Maybe you put a little more effort into your promotion. Before you know it you’re actually making money at your gigs.

So what are you focusing on? Success or failure? I think this one’s kind of important. Might be worth thinking about…

Got any mental success strategies that work for you? Post them below and let us know!

About Scott James

Musician / Blogger / Web Designer / MBTI Nerd living in Hollywood, CA
Scott James