Many of us carry an inner philosophy of ‘goal based thinking’. I know I do and like many learned behaviours it probably stems from childhood. Much of our indoctrination in early life and at school is to strive and achieve. Goal based thinking is being overly obsessed with the result of your endeavours and the expectation of achieving it. Needless to say if all you can see is the end goal, you’ll never learn to appreciate the journey and your world will become pointless if the end goal is never reached.
As a child I used to make the odd Airfix model or two. From the moment I took the plastic parts out of the box, I was in a race to produce a model that looked exactly like the picture on the box. All I could see was the image of my gleaming creation, complete in its Humbrol’d livery and carefully applied waterslide transfers…But it never quite ended up like I envisioned. I’d get glue on the windows of the cockpit or I’d snap the undercarriage of the aircraft before I’d fixed it in place. Then I might lose a few of the smallest pieces, spend a fruitless few minutes trying to find them and give up soon after in a heap of frustration.. The few models that I did finally get to fruition basically gathered dust on a shelf until wheels or wings got broken and they were discarded…
The journey to my goal was not at all enjoyable and if the goal was ever reached, it wasn’t valued.
An alternative approach to goal based thinking is ‘value based thinking’ where you consider the journey as part of the experience of reaching your goal.
In my Airfix model example I should have spent more time preparing my tools, mating the parts correctly, enjoying the progression of the build over a much longer time period. Once it was completed I’d have looked upon the finished model with pride, and felt good about the journey it took to create it. I’d have also valued the finished product more and taken more steps to protect it for the long term like putting it in a presentation case.
Although a complete failure at Airfix models, I’ve had more success applying this mindset to my music. Just as with the Airfix model, I rushed my first attempts and made terrible mistakes that couldn’t be fixed without starting again. I eventually learned to take more care, and thoroughly study the tools and the engineering and craft of producing music. This provided a much deeper sense of achievement and enjoyment from making a new record.
But I have to be really honest, once an album is released, it’s creatively, a dead end for me. There is no joy creatively for me from that point on unless I’m going to make a video or some other artistic offshoot. Once the album is finished I then have to switch from an artistic perspective to a marketing and business one in order to give it the best chance of being a success…and this can be a painful process. For many artists it’s so painful that they neglect to give it any attention at all and their newly created masterpiece fails to find an audience.
Whilst it’s always gratifying to see people’s responses to the music, mentally I’ve moved on to the next creation, the next journey.
In an ideal world I’d like to completely bail out of the process at this stage and hand everything over to someone in the PR arena. I’d argue that musicians are the worst people to promote and sell the record. You need to be dreadfully thick skinned to take the rejection of a cynical and disinterested press and utterly persistent to the point of annoyance in doggedly getting the attention it needs.
But hiring good PR professionals takes a great deal of money and there is no guarantee any of that investment will pay dividends. I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last few releases and even more from running my tiny label Gravity Dream Music. I have an endless capacity for details in pursuit of what I personally consider to be the goal, even if that goal is actually far removed from anything that the audience will ever recognise. This is a dangerous path for any commercial venture because it means all your time and money will be eaten up in tiny details that your audience might not ever see. But equally it’s your unique superpower. When you spend a huge amount of time perfecting these tiny details, the overall impression of the finished product to someone else is that you’ve made something impossible or magical.