This is part two of my two part series looking at decision making for musicians. Choosing to do the right things is all important in music. You can spend years grinding doing the wrong tasks and it won’t help you at all. Spend a few months doing the right things however, and you will see good results.
If you haven’t read part one yet, you can read it here: www.musicindustryhowto.com/smart-decisions-what-musicians-need-to-know-part-1. Once you’re done, let’s move on.
4. Prioritizing The Tasks You Do As A Musician
I feel it, do you feel it too? The amount of information we receive daily increases exponentially. I would rather not mention numbers, since they change all the time. What doesn’t change, nevertheless, is the need for filtering and prioritizing. Let’s get a few ideas on how we can manage such decisions:
- Priority setting is all about filtering what you got. After clarifying my vision and intentions, my first activity layer (and immediate course of action) would be: decisions and actions that directly contribute to both my vision and intentions. This ensures you feel happiness every day, progress towards the materialization of your dream and contribute to the balance of the universe. Secondly: decisions related to tasks that bring me closer to the long-term goals. There are activities that have to be done daily, in order to stay in operation and achieve goals. Actually, if done correctly, this should not even be called ‘decision-making’, since it should be done in a frictionless and automatic fashion without any resistance (that is to say, habits). Finally, decisions related to ‘spicing up life’: every decision should be a fun undertaking that doesn’t cause stress. Most of our daily decisions don’t impact the final outcome as much as we might think they do, since life drains mistakes like a sponge and uses them to spice up. I prefer to make a random decision just to change the route of things and diverse from the default. Life is a game and an exploration; we explore it further through decisions.
- The notion of ‘urgency’ is often subjective and depends on various conditions around us. Usually we feel urgency because of bad planning on our side. Just to test this argument out, next time you’re about to do something because it’s ‘urgent’, think of the following questions: ‘Is it urgent because someone else said so or because I personally rated it as urgent?’ Be skeptical when people label ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities, most of the times they’re not (but it’s a cool marketing trick to get you do something). ‘If I don’t do it, will it affect my immediate priorities? Can I avoid doing it at all?’ If urgency could be avoided, avoid it. ‘Had I planned my actions properly, would it still have been urgent? If I had plenty of time, would I still do things the same way?’ If yes, go for it. If not, let the opportunity go this time; it’s more than sure that you’ll perform poorly and the opportunity, despite the common belief, will re-appear soon. Take a step back and see what you can learn instead, but next time nail it. You should think of the aforementioned advice as rules of thumb, but not as determinants of your final decision. Look for a lesson every time you do something because of urgency. Most of the time things are not really that urgent.
Think: if you had to save your loved ones from a fire, it would have been your priority no matter what. Having a clearly stated intention and strong vision of the outcome makes priority-setting that easy.
5. Working With Other Humans
Think of doing everything without other people involved. There is not much we can do. We should be conscious about how we approach decisions involving humans. Thinking of human staff, collaborators, contractors or volunteers as ‘assets’ is the wrong start. Think of the following:
- Humans and nature are part of the divine bit of our decision-making process. It should be already clear that each human is to be loved, respected and unharmed during each decision we make, even if that compromises the final outcome. Without this notion as a starting point (intention), the observable outcome will be of diseased nature (for you, the others and the universe).
- Take into regard that other people are not flawless and most of the times they don’t make the best decisions possible. This should not keep you away from making your decisions on your own good merit. Showing by example was always the best way to teach.
- When you work with people on a professional level, make sure you judge them according to the work they produce, not their character. If you can do that switch, you can have a balanced professional (human-made) and human life (divine). It is more difficult to switch when working with friends and loved ones. If you can’t switch, choose not to work with them at all; it will work against you (both personally and professionally).
- The optimal way of working in a group (band, project etc.) is when all decisions are made organically, as if it’s one organism. This is why most corporations die slowly when they grow bigger; their decisions are not made in an organic way and one department’s decisions work against another department’s health. Then the situation becomes cancerous and, eventually, the organization dies. Make sure you keep that organic structure in everything you do. Work and learn like a healthy child that becomes a mature adult.
Think: work needs to get done, in order for the vision to be fulfilled. Humans and nature need respect and love. Decisions should not bring conflict between those two. In short, personal and professional life should be separate.
Stress, anxiety, bad manners, rush, and cloudy brain are all an aftermath of wrong decision management. I know you think it’s impossible to avoid them completely. Next time you feel one of these sentiments, do consider the following; they might help.
- Most problems come because of our own faults – we let the ego side take over. As mentioned before, train your human-made side and don’t let it dominate your divine side. The first step is to acknowledge that it’s your fault entirely. Failing to do so is creating a portfolio of excuses and delegating the blame to others.
- The intention is the most important brick of every decision. Intentions of positive nature help you be calm and reassured that everything is happening for a good reason. On the contrary, decisions based on insecurity, fear, and egoistic intentions are most likely to fail in the long-term: they bring accumulative unpleasant feelings along the way.
- Taking things personally is our tendency to react in order to protect our ego from others ‘threatening’ us. People behave in reflection of their own thoughts (led by insecurities or inner beauty). When insecure, they tend to ‘attack’ others in order to get rid of that feeling by passing it on. Don’t take it personally; they would do that with everyone. Stay calm and talk with them as a human to human. Ego gets fed with chain reactions and soothes when someone breaks the chain. Next time you argue with a bad venue owner, think about it and don’t take things personally: they have their own insecurities to solve.
Think: when behaving poorly (and you acknowledge it), ask yourself – Do I want this to happen again? (No) – What can I make better next time? (Have more divine than human-made intentions)
Each new vision we have is an imminent creation, an exciting birth soon to be celebrated. Visions are always built upon or based on existing creations (there’s no parthenogenesis), but their outcome is never identical, because of the complex decision system they’re comprised of. Here are some clues on how to make sure you stick to your vision:
- Listen to people’s advice and keep the information in the back of your head. Advice and help should be welcome, they mostly come with the intention to help, but they are also diverse and nuanced, thus they can only have a positive impact when they manifest on the right timing and way. A good piece of advice on the wrong timing can change the route of the vision completely. Take your time and evaluate.
- Going from point A (intention) to point B (vision) is not a straight line. It’s beautiful to diversify your route towards the vision, lean right or left (or even backwards), as it spices up your life and makes for an interesting story. Bearing in mind that decisions are a tool to experience life, diversity of decisions means diversity in life. Have an interesting life, but never lose touch with the vision. It’s like driving towards a mountain – you never drive straight and sometimes you even makes stops, but every minute brings you closer to the mountain, which you can see all along the way.
- Visualize the vision and make it real in your mind. Just like saving your loved ones form the fire, you cannot imagine them other but alive next to you. This is how vivid your vision should be.If you cannot visualize the outcome or feel difficulties doing it, it’s probably because you haven’t experienced it before. Find a way to come close to the outcome, before you make it a realistic goal. Hanging out with people you admire, reading stories of people that had similar goals, trying things you’d like to own etc. are ways of doing it.
Think: whether others see your vision as ‘rather boring and usual’ or ‘a major music innovation’, only visions that get fulfilled matter. This makes every single effort of yours precious.
Remember, you can download this full guide as a PDF here.
My question for you: Would you argue that you’re satisfied with your decision-making abilities in your music career so far? And why? Looking forward to the discussion.