1. Asks LOTS of questions.
If there is one thing that has directly benefited me more than anything else this past year, it has been my fearlessness in asking lots of questions. No question is too dumb to ask. In this day and age, you can get in touch with virtually anyone if you know where to look. Find people that inspire you and reach out them for guidance. I do this ALL THE TIME, and it has led me to some really great relationships with people I would've never dreamed of meeting. In the last year alone, I have met business executives, world famous conductors, non-profit CEOs, legendary performers, and so many more interesting people that have offered me some kind of advice or guidance. I have actually stayed in touch with many of these people and now consider them to be mentors that I can reach out to for guidance. Not only can these mentors offer guidance to me, but they also act as a connection for me to reach out to infinitely more people that would have never been in my circles otherwise. Emerson said it best here:
“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”
Truer words have never been spoken about learning from others. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
My recommendations for learning how to connect are: Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, and How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.
2. Put yourself out there.
It is can be extremely difficult to take risks. If you never audition, apply, or try anything, you'll never get turned down. However, unless you're actively putting yourself out there, you will never actually be doing anything. If I hadn't been actively trying to create my own opportunities this year, it would've been a very sad year of horn playing for me. Constantly putting myself out there and always looking for the next opportunity to learn has really served me well.
Seth Godin refers to this as "shipping", and I think it's something that everyone should get used to doing. I generated well over half of my performing income this year from things that I created myself. It only takes a little bit of legwork to get started and I can promise from my own experiences that it's incredibly rewarding work. Getting in the habit of being proactive (and staying proactive!) is one of the key distinctions between people that people that make waves and the others that just bob in the pool.
3. Pursue other interests.
Not only does this keep me sane, but I have actually learned more about how to create a career as a musician from reading books on totally different topics than in four years of music school. (It's cheaper too.) For me, reading has been a great outlet and has introduced me some people and ideas that have changed my entire perspective on careers and life. Find what excites you and invest yourself in it. Like I said, the most obvious benefit is that it keeps you sane, but it also develops entire new skills that you can bring to your career as a creative. Having something unique to offer is so important in the crowded world we live in.
Personally, the interest I pursued this year was business and entrepreneurship. I can't even begin to describe the benefits my freelancing career alone has seen from me looking at the music business from a totally different perspective. Not only has it helped me be more effective in my efforts, but it has even helped give me clarity as to what direction my professional life is headed. Perhaps it can do the same for you too.
Anyways, so that's my top three list for the year. I could blabber for days about this stuff, but I will spare you all from that. I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this and even what you hope to accomplish in the coming year.
Peace out, folks.