For my first full-time job, I was an advertising salesperson. I wasn’t great at the job, because I politely took “no” for an answer, thinking it was the respectful thing to do. Any successful salesperson will tell you that’s not how they operate. Rather, they have a complex dance of schmoozing and camaraderie before they close a deal.
If I’m being true to who I am, I can say that sales was never my calling. However, the business of sales comes naturally to some people, and those are the ones who are very good at it. Music, on the other hand, always came naturally to me. It feels like who I am at my core, and that’s how I know it’s right for me.
If you’re reading this column, then music is probably your calling, or one of your many callings. In my previous article, “Get Good (or Be Good),” I explained that to be genuinely successful in music, you should do it for no other reason than you love to make music (not for money, fame, appearance, etc.). And if you love it, then it’s your calling. It’s that simple!
OK, now we’ve established that you were born to make music because you love to make music. Now, let’s fine-tune that. There are many different paths in music you could choose to focus on, and so self-reflection and self-discovery are everything in going with who YOU really are.
What’s your calling? Here are a few questions to zero in on what’s right for YOU:
• What do you truly enjoy doing?
• What aspect of that is your favorite part?
• What gets you so immersed you lose track of time while you do it?
• Does your love of that come from within, or from an outside influence?
Follow the joy
Going with who you really are – your truest, most authentic self – will always lead you down the path of the most happiness and fulfillment. How can you know what’s right for you? By noticing what you get lost in. Some call it “the zone,” and others call it a “state of flow.” Either way, the idea is this: When you’re doing that thing you enjoy, you get so lost in it that you can lose track of time. You feel more alive and energized by it. It’s a passion. THAT is your calling.
As far as music, this boils down to your figuring out what particular aspect within music resonates with the authentic you. For example, if you’re drawn to performing, and giving people a memorable live entertainment experience is what you truly love, then performing is a calling. If cooking up new creations in your DAW software makes you feel energized, then producing is a calling. If you love writing rhymes and spinning intriguing stories with your lyrical wordsmithing, then lyric writing is a calling. If you enjoy networking on the business side of the music industry, then that’s a calling, too, and a needed one.
Being true to who you are and what you love guides you to your unique path with the highest chances of success for you in music, or in anything.
Brave the challenges
Discovering and nurturing your authentic self sounds easier than it is. Often, we’ve been pulled away from the real us. Well-meaning friends, family and even experienced advisors will try and direct us on a path that they think is best for us. But the truth of the matter is that no one outside yourself – absolutely no one – can know or feel your personal path. It comes from within. It can be no other way.
And to be bold enough to go in a different direction than the people around you are trying to pull you is not easy. It can be a huge struggle – the natural inclination to please these people, and your thinking you “should” listen to those with more experience, or who love you and want the best for you.
Feel your way
The truth is that if you learn to listen to your own intuition and your own inner self (it takes practice), you’ll just KNOW what feels right. You can tell by what makes you feel good, and what you truly desire.
The best example I can give is of my own path and my own calling. I was raised in a traditional, Catholic, conservative Midwestern family. There are a bunch of accountants in my family, a couple engineers, and a few in health care. Even though no one tried to stop me from a creative career, I grew up with a strong unspoken assumption that to be “sensible” was best, and aspirations of grandiosity or public recognition were for other people.
Now, people tell me that they love my voice, and they assume I sang all my life. But I didn’t even sing a note until I was almost 30 years old. I was a late bloomer in music because, basically, it took me several years to come to terms with who I really am (my natural abilities and passions) and develop the courage to pursue them. It wasn’t easy. I had no role models, no industry contacts, no advice from industry insiders.
Then, when I started pursuing music, I felt a certain pressure to follow the musicians around me. To them, it was about musicianship and live performance. But me, I wanted to create. When I wrote a song, it wasn’t about the particular riff or arrangement I was playing on an instrument. It was about the song itself. My goal was to write songs that were solid enough that they could be recorded or performed in any genre, with any instrumentation, and still be good songs, and the music could even work well as instrumental elevator music. I was interested in the song in its pure form – lyrics, melody and chords. Everything else is just arrangement.
Long story short, I did my own thing. I did what felt right for me, which was different than the musicians I knew or admired. I did a lot of research and built on my strengths. I wrote and recorded original songs the way I wanted them to be (not following or imitating anyone) and I put them out there wherever I could. Before I knew it, I had sold the master rights to one of my first songs to a major LA television company, and had a handful of TV show background music placements.
If I had simply followed in the footsteps of the most successful people I knew, or even followed the tried and true Nashville models, I wouldn’t have achieved what I did. Instead, I trusted myself – I read a lot, studied, worked hard, and forged my own path without a blueprint. And that’s what you have to do out of respect for your own self. Too many people don’t trust themselves, but they should. You know what feels right for you. Give yourself credit!
Embrace your true self, bravely
I cannot emphasize enough the aspects of self-reflection and courage. Discovering your authentic self – what really makes you tick, what makes your heart sing – is the key. But if I’m just holding a key in my hand, the door isn’t open yet, right? So, the action of putting the key in and turning it to open the door is needed. That’s courage. To know and accept who you are in your heart of hearts is the key, and the bravery to pursue your passion and stick with it is the action that will pry that door open for you.
Blindly following others or someone’s formula is just spinning your wheels. Clearly, what they’re saying was right for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. Only your soul knows what’s right for you. And music is from the soul – it is otherworldly, when it’s truly great.
In music, and in life, listening to your authentic self and identifying your true calling is what will give you wings. And if you’re brave and strong and keep following that calling, you will fly. And it will feel absolutely wonderful.
Bio: Singer-songwriter Angela Predhomme’s music has been heard by millions through television, film, radio and streaming. Her soulful songs have been featured in the popular Hallmark movie “Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane,” Lifetime’s hit show “Dance Moms,” commercials for ING Bank and Fiat, and more.
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2PMpZwT