How to Succeed

There are a ton of resources these days about how to succeed. There are as many articles and books on the subject it seems, as there are people. So why another article on how to succeed? How is this going to be different than any other article?

This is different because it deals with the most basic rule about succeeding. Every other rule and guideline is just a point based on this. Every other reason is an offshoot of this basic principle. It’s nothing new and has been said numerous times and a variety of ways. It needs to be mentioned again here though for all of you musicians out there. Mostly because I feel that musicians and artists are more familiar with this rule than most people out there yet don’t apply it to the other areas of their life. Most of all, they rarely apply it to their career.

The 99%

So here it is: the basic rule is this: most of success is simply showing up. Or in my own words, most of success is simply making the effort in the first place. We can talk about motivation, specifics about succeeding within your occupation, discipline, willpower, hard work, using your intuition, never giving up etc. but it really all comes down to this. Einstein said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. It’s all about making the effort. This is both in terms of the physical effort involved but also the mental and emotional effort too. If you decide that you want to do something and you make the effort, you will succeed. Guaranteed, you will succeed every time. Now there are a lot of points here that need to be clarified so let’s begin.

Definition, My Definition

First of all, what’s our definition of success? The problem with success is that everybody has a different definition of what it means to be successful. It may mean a million dollars to one person and simple piece of mind to another. Our definition of success here is going to be very basic because we are really dealing with the subject at a very basic level. All that is written here will have to be transformed into your own experiences and thoughts. The other thing about success is that it rarely turns out to be like we imagined it in the first place. If it doesn’t turn out like we imagined or there is more to it than we thought, we sometimes dismiss it as a failure. Many artists dream of being on stage and performing in front of a huge audience of adoring fans. Yet a lot of artists get so involved with all of the ‘darker’ aspects of the music industry or think about all of the trouble that they’ve been through. Unfortunately, by the time they get there, that they seldom enjoy the experience. Another aspect of the music industry is the fact that even with a lot of success, there are still a lot of everyday issues to deal with that people rarely take stock of when ‘dreaming of the big time’. So in short, we are going to define success in it’s most basic form and that is to achieve what you set out to achieve. That means having a specific goal and plan of attack. You need these first. If you don’t have a goal and a plan of attack you simply won’t be successful because you have no definition of success. Being happy is not a goal, it’s the result of achieving a goal."I want to be successful" is not a goal, it’s a general statement. It’s like saying, I want food. There is no defining target.

Once you’ve set a specific target, then even without making any plans, you have a definition of success because it’s inherent in the goal. If your goal was to become the next Mr. Universe, your definition of success would simply be that. You have to be specific about your goal and have it be something that is measurable. If you have that, then you have your definition of success. So our definition of success would be to accomplish want your target is. To be successful in attaining that goal, all you have to do one thing, make the effort. It’s as simple as that.

More Hard Work

Well, what does making the effort really mean? This is where you lose most participants because making the effort can be a long and tedious affair. It doesn’t have to be but it usually is. At least at first glance it is. It usually takes a concentrated effort over a period of time before you see any results. Most goals that we have take some time to accomplish, that’s why they’re goals to begin with. Doing your laundry isn’t a goal, it’s a task. Goals, take time and effort and that’s what we’re talking about here. Don’t get me wrong though, it doesn’t have to be unpleasant but, effort is always needed. There may be a learning curve involved, which takes time and energy. There are the resources both mental and physical that it may take to get there. And, there is just life, which throws another set of variables into the mix that we just have to deal with.

Pay Attention

First of all, let's be clear about this. Making the effort isn’t going full tilt everyday until you’re exhausted and have nothing left. It may be doing nothing for a time. Making the effort simply means putting your full attention into the goal and working through it until you have succeeded. Sometimes this may mean that you have to step back a bit and take it from a different angle. It may mean working your butt off for a while. It mostly means to simply pay attention.

Work for Work’s Sake

If you think about it, you may have had some of your greatest successes so far because of this and not even realize it. You may be a talented cook, or know a lot about astronomy simply because you made the effort. Some people may say that you have a natural gift or that you’re smarter in this area than most people. If you think about it, how much of that knowledge and success in that area comes from the fact that you simply cared and made the effort in the first place? How many times have you had a good thing happen simply because you showed up? How many times have you heard people say in the music industry to just try and get your foot in the door? This is simply just making the effort. Once you’ve made the effort and got yourself in there, what are the chances that something great could come up and you were right there to take advantage of the situation? Making the effort means finding the best way to get where you want to go. You may be working hard but not succeeding not because of being lazy; you’re simply need to make some adjustments. What adjustments? Well that’s all about making the effort. Making the effort isn’t simply forging ahead. It’s about thinking about what you want to do and the best way to get there. There is nothing admirable about working your ass off for nothing. Don’t be the martyr. Making the effort means finding the best way, not doing the most work.


Making the effort is taking every opportunity to learn more and get better at your goal. It’s thinking about it and doing something about it everyday. Musicians more than anyone know about the value of doing something everyday. It’s simply the best way to accomplish anything that takes a considerable effort. When I’m teaching I tell my students that you can get your fingers to do anything if you do it slow enough. If you can do it once slowly, you can do it again a little bit quicker.


Making the effort is persistence. This is perhaps one of the most important principles of success. Things aren’t going to go as planned. Things will take longer or take more effort than anticipated. Persistence is the one thing that will set apart the winners from the losers. Every great athlete has overcome hardships and loses. It’s simply part of the process. Some people have more hardships, some have less. It doesn’t matter, they’re always there. It’s simply a matter of trying to make something happen in a world where there an infinite number of things that could go wrong or stand in your way. Making the effort is simply getting up everyday and doing what it takes to get you closer to your goals. There are going to be days where it just doesn’t seem to be working. There are days when it seems everything is going wrong. You simply have to make the effort to stay focused on your goal and get things done in spite of everything else. You never know, one plan gone wrong could result in new doors opening up. If you have decided to hang in there and simply stay the course, you’ll be there for whatever comes your way.


I’ve talked about ‘making the effort’ in terms of energy and practice but really the most important facet of this principle if the idea of attention. If you focus your attention on what you want to accomplish and make the effort everyday to keep your attention on that goal, you will succeed. There is the law of attraction and ideas like ‘The Secret’ that expands on this basic premise. The basic idea is that when you focus on something not only will you be more effective in creating that reality but other forces will come into play simply from your intention. This may be a little too esoteric for most of you out there but you will find that when you are out there getting things done, you may find things happening that coincide with your goals and help you along. Anybody who’s had some success with a CD release or putting on a great show will know what I’m talking about. Simply making the effort may be all that’s needed.

Showing Up

I read in one of my favorite blogs recently where a upcoming musician asked an industry veteran what he should do with his new band to help them ‘make it’. The veteran’s response: everything. He simply stated to make the same investment in time and effort in your marketing and PR as you did with your music in the first place. He also went on to say to make sure to make the music good in the first place. He said to work on everything you can as well as you can. While I’m sure this wasn’t the answer the musician was looking for, it was the best answer for the question that I’ve ever heard. This statement is the same thing that we’re saying here. Just show up and make the effort.

Staying the Route

The reason for including a definition of success to start off this post is simply to clarify what it means to be successful and how to gauge that. Some people decide that they’re going to be the next 50 Cent, or Avril Lavigne or Frank Sinatra or whoever. To define your success according to somebody else’s life is a bad idea. What ever you decide to do, the results are going to be different than everybody else’s. Define your success and your goals in specific terms that you can indentify with. Success in the music industry is incredibly varied; there are as many ways to the top as there are people. With the volatile state of the industry these days, we’re not even sure where the top is anymore. If you decide that you are going to do something, you’ve got to set aside time to figure out what it is you want to do and have outlined plan to get there. Then get started. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure how you’re going to get there. Even if the plans you make are completely wrong and send you off in the completely wrong direction, you still will be successful. Simply showing up and making the effort day in day out, you will accomplish what you set out to do. The plan may change and your goal may change, but you will be successful. If you show up everyday and make the effort, it will become clear what it is you’re supposed to be doing and how to go about doing it. Keep in mind that these trips usually take a lot longer than any of us ever anticipate. So once your one your way, make sure to take time along the way to assess where you are and where you’re going. And finally, since the journey can be long and arduous, make sure that you take time out along the way to enjoy the process and the day. There are always going to be some hiccups along the way. Even when you’re struggling and everything is going wrong, you can still be content in the fact that you are following your own mission and living your life according to your rules.

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