Updated: Aug 15, 2018
If any of you are familiar with Seth Godin, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I mention “The Dip.” This is something he wrote about in one of his many best selling books. It refers to the part of a job or plan that becomes so hard that most people quit. It requires the maximum amount of effort in order to get out of it and start seeing real progress. He says it’s important to analyze a project before you start to know where the dip is so you can plan for it and it’s best to not even start if you know you’ll quit anyways when it becomes too tough. Basically, don’t waste your time unless you know you’re going to follow through.
With this in mind, I understand why so many musicians only play part time or take on a normal job when they hit a certain age. These are artistic people who haven’t gone out and read a lot of books on how to run a business - because really, a lot of people will tell you, when you start treating music like a business it loses something. As teens, we’re also told by most adults that we should have a back up plan in case following our dreams doesn’t work out. So go to school, get a degree that you have no intention of actually using and then you can pursue what’s really important to you. How are you supposed to get through “the dip” if you’ve built a plan to actually allow you to easily step out of it when it becomes hard? Most people try to plan for positive things, not plan to give up and do this other thing. Why does everyone tell you to have a back up plan??? This is insane!!! I guess all our parents must think we’re going to fail. This is insane too!!! Of course our parents don’t want us to fail, but they really don’t realize what they’re saying then in making sure we have a “back up plan”. You’re never too old to go back to school or to pick up new skills if you want to, but if you talk yourself out of your dream, well then you’re done.
If I had any advice for young people it would be to skip going to university or college. YOU DON’T NEED A BACK UP PLAN! I believe it was Burton Cummings on the Junos, years ago now, that said Plan B was always just more Plan A. In Steven Tyler’s book he said the reason they had to become one of the biggest bands in the world is because there was absolutely nothing else. They had no skills. All they knew how to do was make music and put on a show... and who’s to say that’s not a skill? Can you do it? Must be a skill if only certain people really know how to do it. If your child was going to school to be a doctor, you wouldn’t say you need a back up plan. I know it’s different, but only slightly. A lot of kids are going to school and coming out with degrees, but then can’t find a job anyways. Wouldn’t you have a better shot at actually succeeding if you took your future into your own hands and worked and worked and worked and worked... until you actually did something. And of course there’s no turning back. You have nothing to fall back on so I guess you have to stick to your guns and work and work and work until it actually starts happening for you. You have to meet the right people and put every ounce of your being into it because there is no safety net.
To some people what I’m saying is terrifying. But to others, it’s motivation. If you’re just starting, know it will get extremely hard. Maybe you just can’t find a drummer so you have to reschedule all your shows to a few months down the road. Not the worst thing that could happen. There will always be challenges, but if you really want something and have nowhere else to go, you can bet you will struggle down that road and come out the other end. There’s so few musicians who actually become very rich or famous by playing, but that’s because no one educates any of them about anything I’m saying. There are few who get past it just by sheer determination. There is no luck. No one is waiting to discover you. You have to work and when it gets hard you have to work harder and that’s all there is. There are no guarantees in life, but if you start out knowing you are not willing to put in what it takes to get out of a huge rut, then I guarantee you will not make it. If your plan to try it out for a while until it gets tough and then you will go use your degree and get a “real job” because that’s what you’ve been told you should do, then I guarantee you will not make it.
Rob and I have been asked if we would speak at a school during the day, followed by a concert at night. This was a package designed by an agent we worked with for a bit, and I think I was smart to turn it down. I would love to have said all this to young people, but I don’t think the world is ready to hear it. It’s a shame, but these ideas are not acceptable by most. Maybe we can change it one day. I’ll be the first “rockstar” to say stay out of school kids, it’s useless. Take your high school degree and hit the road and don’t look back. Work meaningless jobs that make you want to play more because you hate them so much! That’s the only way to stay focused on what really matters to you.