What I've learned from the Musician's Mastermind

I started the Musician’s Mastermind last fall as an answer to some of my personal struggles as a freelance musician. I desired accountability for my personal projects, I really wanted someone to brainstorm with on a regular basis, and I wished for the community that one gets in many workplaces. I also have been drawn to inner growth/self help for a long time, so what started out as an accountability group became an experiment in sharing some inner work tools. Now that I am embarking on my second year of leading the Masterminds, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned, what is most useful, and what needs to fall by the wayside. Over three rounds of the Mastermind I have learned:

  1. You are not alone. Whatever your struggles may be in the music world, chances are you know several other people, probably many others who are struggling with the same things. We know this in our heads, but it is so affirming to be in a group of supportive musicians and get the immediate feedback that, yep, we've all had the same self-doubt, indecision, financial struggles, etc. And celebrating successes is that much more sweet with a community of support!
  2. Accountability helps. I heard over and over that simply having an email with a reminder of goals kept participants on track towards their goals and projects.
  3. Get specific. When making permanent changes, take one small step at a time and get specific. It’s not enough to say I’m hoping to increase my practice time this week. Instead, look at your calendar and plan out when it is going to happen. Then tell someone about it and check in with them on your progress.
  4. Doing the work can feel messy, tiring, exciting, right, scary. Any and all of the above. In fact, there is a kind of scary/excitement that can go along with doing work that is most meaningful to you. Scary because you care about it so much. And exciting because you care about it so much!
  5. I have to take my own medicine. They say you teach what you need to know. Enough said.
  6. There are very few ‘right’ answers. A corollary: there are very few ‘right’ paths in the music world. Many of us have received the message that some career paths are better than others (full time orchestra job, singing leading roles in A houses, teaching at a university), yet are these jobs that would make you happy?
  7. What feels like paralysis and inaction might be useful. Maybe you are in a transition. During this time you might try on several different projects or jobs and see what fits. Or you may need space and time to mull options. Perhaps you are actually ‘marinating’ instead of being stuck.
  8. On the other hand, don’t let perfection get in the way of taking the next step. Sometimes we think we need to have everything ready to go before we launch our next project. "Before opening a teaching studio, I must have a website. Before I can get a website I need new headshots. Before I can get new headshots I need to lose 20 pounds." What? You need to lose 20 pounds before starting to teach some lessons? Instead, what is the next simple step you can take towards your goal?
  9. Sometimes risks involve failure. We all know this, but it’s scary to dive in when we know that failure is a real possibility. Brene Brown, a researcher on shame, vulnerability, and whole-hearted living, says that “If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability. When we commit to showing up and risking falling, we are actually committing to falling. Daring is not saying ‘I’m willing to risk failure.’ Daring is saying ‘I know I will eventually fail and I’m still all in.’ Fortune may favor the bold, but so does failure."

The cool thing is that you can apply many of these lessons on your own, for free. Find an accountability partner, and get specific with your goals. Have regular check-ins with your partner and keep each other motivated. Or check out the Musician's Mastermindto see if it would be a good fit for you! Starts Monday, September 28th!