Lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking around the notion of short- and long-term planning. Is setting down goals necessary? Is doing these kinds of plans a waste of time, and simply make-work projects? I think that no single answer is going to work for every individual out there, and that the actual answer may lie in having several plans at work at the same time, or at least alternating. Here’s what I have come up with for myself.
I have many short-term plans and one flexible long-term plan going simultaneously. Working this way fits my personality-type best. I need open-ended goals that give me freedom to flex, adapt, re-consider, and change on the fly. I need too much freedom in my day-to-day business strategy to be successful with a locked-in program. Also I know that nothing works on any sort of predictable timetable where there are outside influences and humans involved. Dang those humans, anyway!
LONG-TERM LIFE-GOAL: I made a decision that involves a long-term event: I decided I that I no longer desired to do what I was doing (teaching art and spirituality at a graduate school, and working as Curator of Current Art at a museum), and I wanted to devote the majority of my time, actually the rest of my life, to songwriting and being a performing musician. My first short-term goal was that I gave myself three years to begin this long-term life-goal.
So, my long-term goal, is that I want to be making the majority of my income from songwriting and performing, and at some point attain some level of national recognition. I would not mind becoming a super star earning multi-millions a year, but I understand the near-impossibility of such a thing, and so I have given myself permission to end up with much less attained as a measure of success. I will dream of one while I am working my ass of at attaining the other.
I believe that this is the most important aspect of success: naming and claiming the goal. If you can’t do this, the rest will not get accomplished. It does take courage to do this. Once you have proclaimed your goal, you become vulnerable to outside criticisms by folks who are too gutless to name and claim their own goals, and are just plain jealous of you because you obviously have more courage than they. This is experience speaking.
As I was working on my first short-term goal, I set some others: 1) Acquire the equipment I need to perform and to get my songs out; 2) Learn to use the equipment; 3) Learn more about both songwriting and music; 4) Gain experience singing to large groups as a single act. 5) Put a band together; And 6) start getting my name out to people who can make a difference for my career.
Each one of these short-term goals, can themselves be broken down into smaller more manageable portions. So, for instance, I did not purchase every piece of equipment at once, but as I had the money and saw the need. I am still learning my equipment, always learning more about my songwriting craft and music theory. I am not sure I will ever fully learn all the performance-craft, but I will keep on learning. And Bands! WOW! I think I am on my 30th or so lead guitar player for 45-90, my 5th or so actual band (having fired two outright on on the spot), and at this point have made the decision that NO DRUMMERS NEED APPLY!
As far as getting my name out to people who can make a difference for my career, it is a question of who are those people? I put them into two classes: 1) Fans; and 2) Music Industry Professional Yahoos (MIPYs), and as to importance I believe they are almost equal, but not quite. I believe that fans are my most important commodity. Fans make it all possible, and fans should be raised to the status of sainthood for any performer. There is no success at all if there are no fans–there is no income. a MIPY can make a musicians life wonderful or horrible, easy or hard, but it takes fans to clinch any deal in the industry–THE FANS ARE THE INDUSTRY! This is one of the reasons why the Indie Music Scene has taken off like it has–the old guard became more about itself, the MIPYs, than about the industry. Enough of the rant.
With all of this has come the need to be able to talk about myself articulately. It is not enough to have goals, but, for the sake of promotion, it is necessary to have a conversation about them, and to be able to express them with flair. Fans want to hear the music–that’s why they’re fans, but at some point they are going to ask some questions about who they’re fanning. Answers should be forthcoming. Years ago when I was beginning a career as a fine-art photographer, I called a newspaper and asked if they would send a reviewer out to look at my exhibition, and was asked, “Who are you that I would do that and why the hell would anyone be interested?” I had no answer for that, but said, “I don’t have an answer for you today, but let me call you tomorrow.” He agreed, and I had the answer the next day, and a reviewer went out and reviewed. I was not caught that flat-footed again.
Let me conclude, that for me, short- and long-term planing is a must, but must be flexible and open-ended and have built in escapes that allow for uncalled for events and thinking on ones feet or mid-riff. There are no rules to setting goals that fit all, because we are all such different people, but we need to have them and be able to proclaim and articulate them to achieve them. How might all this work for you? I’d like to hear. I’ve written enough on this, but on some other occasion I’ll write more. I always do.