When I tell people I’m going to school for music, they often assume I want be a rock star, or at the very least a full-time musician. For a lot of students that’s the case and that’s fine, but it’s not what I want. In his book, How to Make It in the New Music Business, Ari Herstand writes, “It all depends on what your idea of success is. And no one can define what success is but you. Remember that.” (Herstand 29).
Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, puts it like this: “We all grade ourselves by different measures.” For some people, success is making a lot of money. For others, it’s about changing lives. According to Sivers, “It’s important to know in advance, to make sure you’re staying focused on what’s honestly important to you, instead of doing what others think you should” (Sivers 37).
For me, success is finding work I value and consider meaningful, making a positive impact in my community, and raising a family. I feel strongly that creativity is for everyone, and I want to do my best to encourage it in the people around me. I’m still deciding what I want to do with my life, but these are my guidelines.
When I’m looking at a long-term career, there are some jobs I simply would not take. They may be great, well-paid, amazing experiences, but if they don’t align with my goals, I’m out. If my ultimate goal is to have a family, I don’t want a job where I’m constantly away from them. If I want work that’s meaningful, I’m not going to take a job just because it pays well. For other people, it might fit perfectly, but it all depends on what they value.
Rockstar, hobbyist, what-have-you, it doesn’t matter to me, as long as you’re honest about it. Speaking for myself, I want to create work seriously, whether or not it’s a source of income. But however you define success, it’s important to follow your values and not someone else’s. What’s most important to you?
HERSTAND, ARI. HOW TO MAKE IT IN THE NEW MUSIC BUSINESS: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following… and Making a Living as a Musician. LIVERIGHT PUBLISHING CORP, 2019.
Sivers, Derek. Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur. Portfolio Penguin, 2015.