Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why a 9-5 job is like an addiction

So it's been a while since I posted and to be honest it's been a little while since I composed an original, though I have still been honing my craft in mixing and tweaking the stuff I've already recorded and implementing some new sampler instruments that I've purchased.

This post isn't going to really be about that though, I want for it to be about food addiction.  Ok, not really but I'm simultaneously trying to avoid foods that I know have been adding pounds.  They were very comforting and nourishing during my wife's pregnancy and our son's first year of sleepless screaming adorable life, but now they are causing me unwanted side effects.

In my research on the music business I see a lot of successful artists have been devoting their entire lives to developing their music, their fan following, their brand, their compositions.  It's all about music for them 24/7.  I looked at my own life and saw that at least 75% of my waking hours are devoted to my job.  In a lot of ways the job is like the junkfood, or caffiene, or whatever it takes to get you through the day.   It's necessary and habit-forming, but in a way it's also damaging.

If you told me today with a gun to my head to quit my job and compose music full time I honestly would have to think about it first.  Not because I don't like writing music or I think I couldn't do it.  But because I have a responsibility to make money to provide for my family and I greatly dislike the idea of not knowing how or where I'm going to make it next.  A salary job provides security, security keeps my wife from being frantic and stressed which in turn makes my life easier and helps us both give our little toddler the attention he needs.

But that security also equates to stagnation if you accept it.  For the first year of my son's life I chugged along working day-to-day without giving any thought to what would come next or how I would fulfill my uncontrollable urges to create.  After I finally had some time (and sleep) to think about it, it became clear I'd need to make a change.  I read story after story of people who quit cold and couldn't sustain themselves so I knew that wasn't ideal.  I have skills (albeit ones that need to improve) but no network and networking in this business is everything.  Today I started thinking: what would it take to kick this 9-5 habit.

When rehabilitating from drugs or food or cigarettes it's helpful to provide a replacement.  The real problem with my 9-5 job, the real source of my addiction, isn't the job itself but the complacency and dependence on it.  If I wanted to break free of that, I'd need to replace complacency with productivity.  So every time I came home I'd force myself to sit at the keyboard and at least practice, record that practice and play it back.  I'd force myself to pick up the guitar and noodle or keep sharp with my scales, take the violin out and go over bow strokes.  On my commutes instead of listening to just my favorite music, I studied it, added music that inspired me and that had elements I wanted to emulate.

Building those skills further I began adding something else: the business.  Musicians and composers cannot ignore this any more and while I don't have time or energy to go into it here I recommend you all check out Tommy Darker's site for more information of "Musicpreneurship", a term he coined for the new renaissance wave of musicians kicking ass in a business even major studios can't seem to hack anymore.  I started not only listening to music on my commute but to podcasts.  Doing some cursory music courses, downloading and learning to use accounting software and some extensive research on how to set up a business legally.

These steps all do 3 things to me:
1. They sometimes make me feel uncomfortable and sometimes downright stupid
2. They sometimes cause me physical exhaustion and erode my will power tremendously
3. They give me concrete goals to strive towards

They also all make me a better, more marketable, music professional.  Taking a look at the food analogy, I've been subbing healthy alternatives like fruit and veggies for chips and salsa.  I've also been exercising.

This lifestyle makes me feel:
1. Uncomfortable and sometimes downright stupid

Truely it does.  Every time I have to order a salad at a fast food place with guy friends I feel like a wimp.  Every time I get exhausted after running at a pace that would lose to tortise and hare alike I feel like an idiot for putting off exercise and regular routine until it was far too late and I'd put on more pounds than I could easily carry.

2. It makes me feel physical exhaustion and erodes my will power tremendously

Anyone who has worked out to the max knows what I'm talking about.  You run or lift or do calisthenics or yoga and you do it to your 100%.  The next day (or in my case for the next week) you're going to find it harder and harder to get up and do it all again.  Especially when the rewards only show up in the long term.  Same with food, you skip out on the french fries and the next day all you want is that egg mcmuffin to start your day instead of the yogurt you know won't quite hit the bottom.

3. It gives me concrete goals to strive towards and makes me a better person.

I've laid out my own groundwork and I've asked for the suffering.  I must endure through it and push myself or I won't get the results.  This goes for kicking any habit, a very small fraction of success depends on method, the majority of it depends on the willpower to follow through.  I want to follow through and finish strong and the goals that I set are not performance based (that sets you up for failure) but action based.  I don't aim to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks... I aim to work out for x amount of time.  And I don't aim to compose a great symphony before next week; I aim to never let a day go by without touching my instruments, and I aim to never let my 9-5 job be an excuse to stop learning or producing.

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