At 19 I dropped out of college to go live in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, arguably the most fashionable neighborhood of the most fashionable city in the world in order to work on my dreams of being a music journalist and promoter. Here I am sitting on my couch, maybe everything isn’t perfect – but I still get to talk to high powered music executives all day and party with rock stars all night and I don’t need a “Real job” to support it all. One question I get asked all the time is “How did you manage to do this at such a young age?” Here are seven keys I used to unlock this kickass lifestyle!
1. You Don’t Need A Plan From The Start
When I started blogging at 14 I didn’t really have a grand vision. I knew I liked hard rock and heavy metal and was all about 80s pop. I wasn’t sure what I could ever do with that. All I knew was that it was fun to write about it on weekends. As it grew I realized that one of the best strategies in life is to throw ideas against a wall and see what sticks. This is a lesson I still use today, I regularly attend concerts or industry events with no real goal in mind beyond “meet X individual” or just “hang out with Y band and see what happens” and on a surprisingly regular basis, things turn out well.
The thing is – people like people who are, (in the words of that Bud Light commercial:) “Up for whatever happens”. If someone invites you to an after party at 2 in the morning you have to go – not just because you’ll probably have a good time and get to do cocaine with a bunch of hookers, but also because of the connections you’ll have a chance to make. If you’re willing to just go out and play it by ear mighty forces will come to your aid unexpectedly – and it will be glorious.
2. Be Ready To Improvise
Building on that previous point is the notion that you have to know how to improvise. This goes far beyond being “up for whatever;” it means that you also have to know when to use caution when deciding a new course of action. Being able to improvise has gotten me through many a sticky situation – it helps you find your way into exciting new situations that can advance your career and give you a great story for your grandkids.
The point being – improvisation is an incredibly valuable tool and not one that is easily learned. But when you learn to apply it and use it on a regular basis then you can rest easy with the confidence that no matter what you should be able to handle the struggles of day to day life in whatever dream you want to live. No one said this would be easy, and a key aspect that many of my mentors have emphasized to me is that you need to be flexible and ready to take life as it comes if you want to get anywhere.
3. Habits Lead To Results
Now this next point is obviously far removed from improvisation but is just as important. I’ve mentioned in other articles on here that you need to place discipline over motivation, but perhaps even greater than that – you need to form habits. This is key for several reasons. First of all – it allows you to do something every day that you know that will help build towards your dream. For example, if you want to be a guitarist this might mean practicing two hours a day no matter what, if you want to be a runner then it means you go running five times a week. What I’m trying to say is I know from experience that if you do anything long enough and with enough dedication eventually you will become good at it!
Furthermore – when other people see your habits they will be impressed with your work ethic and want to work with you. People are drawn to individuals who they see can regularly produce results – and if you prove that you can produce results (or better yet, multiple results!) every day then the more potential partners you will find. No one wants to work with someone who hasn’t proved themselves to be reliable – it is those individuals who have proved their dedication that end up getting the most offers and taking their work to brave new worlds.
4. Prove You Want It Most
Building on the idea of habits leading to results is the notion that you have to prove that you want it most. In all honesty – most people don’t know how to build habits like this and being able to makes it easier to prove you want something the most. Kanye West once spent an entire summer locked up in his apartment making beats because he wanted to succeed so badly. Hunter S Thompson would type up entire novels from his favorite authors to become a better writer. Obama would wake up at 4 in the morning to learn English. It may not seem like it at the time, but these things pay off.
The fact of the matter is that with concrete proof that you want something more than anyone else things will start to fall into place for you. There’s a difference between saying “I really want to live the rock and roll lifestyle” and “Here’s 4,000 posts I’ve made about rock and roll”. My entire vetting process for potential employees basically relies on them coming out and showing me not credentials, but rather concrete evidence of the work they’ve done. This is perhaps the hardest of these keys to pull off but it is also one of the most valuable.
5. Remember To Be Nice To EVERYONE
I don’t think that anyone wants to be thought of as an asshole by the masses. There’s an easy way to remedy this – be kind and respectful to everyone. This doesn’t mean being weak – you should be able to set limits – but it does mean that you should always be willing to help people and guide them forward. It means that you shouldn’t call people out on social media and it means that you should be very cautious before putting out any sort of controversial opinion into the public sphere.
Am I saying you have to be politically correct? No. I literally talked about doing cocaine with hookers earlier in this article – clearly that’s not a priority. What I’m saying is that resorting to ad hominems and poorly thought out opinions is the place of the Republican party (You saw the last debate – I’m not being partisan) it’s not for someone who is trying to live their dream. So be encouraging – give advice to people getting started and try to find mentors who also ascribe to this philosophy.
6. Enjoy The Ride
This is one of the most important parts and something I used to forget. At times you may feel like you’ve hit a brick wall and you’re not going to get any bigger. But always remember to take a look around and realize “Huh, I’ve been able to do a lot to achieve my dreams” There are plateaus in everything you do, that’s how life works. The trick is to embrace those plateaus as quiet times in between the madness that so often defines day to day life. If you’re not enjoying the ride why bother? As Lemmy Kilmister of the legendary band Motorhead once said “The chase is better than the catch!”
And I know as well as anyone that desire to succeed can be crippling. You reach those moments where you feel like everyone is against you and won’t let you reach the next level and you start to suffer. But here’s the thing – if you keep going people will respect you. If they see that even in a tight spot you kept your cool and decided to plow forward and not give up and did so with a smile on your face then they will know that you’re the real deal. In a world where you’ve to to fake it until you make it you might as well enjoy the madness.
7. When You Get To The Top Of The Mountain – Keep Climbing
One of the most important books in my life is Timber Hawkeye’s Buddhist Boot Camp. One of the books key ideas is: “When you get to the top of the mountain – keep climbing.” I’m not being facetious when I say this is perhaps the greatest of all these keys. In my rise to living my dream every time that I thought I had reached the peak I decided to keep going, and things ended up even better than I possibly could have imagined. As far as I can tell, short of marrying Pat Benatar, there is no actual upper limit to what can be done in this world and you need to take full advantage of that as you push your way forward.
To tie into this, Jack Kerouac, in his book The Dharma Bums writes, “You can’t fall off a mountain” And this is the final message I want to leave you guys with. No matter what you do – as long as you maintain your honor and integrity it’s pretty hard to screw up badly enough that you get sent back to square one. Always keep pushing and know that with these keys you might just be able to do something great!
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via flickr.com