Let’s face it! The internet is full of articles, videos and tutorials about how to become successful and rich, how to start your career or how hard you have to train, focus, exercise, push and believe in yourself to make it happen! … but how many are there to achieve the most important thing in life: to be happy with what you do!?
… and by saying happy, I am not talking about that “Ohhhh, I am sooo happy and feel soooo awesome and everything is totally cooooool right now (and I am probably best when it comes to surpress all that annoying and painful shit happening in my life, but I don’t want anyone to see it, because then noone loves me anymore (boohoohoo))”-happy … no, … I am talking about that “it is totally okay to fail, stumble, cry, feel like shit, being in self-doubt and having bad stuff going on in my life, but at the end of the day, I am truly happy and appreciate loving what I do/doing what I love”-happy!
Now, as with every other advice too, there isn’t some kind of universal formula which just makes it happen and it should be obvious that you have to work on that for yourself … and to start with that let’s just break down what it actually means to really be happy!
Most of the time we are not happy when something negative in our life has happened, when we do not have enough money, when there are bills to pay, our condition, threatening deadlines or simply all kinds of problems with people and so on … however, the problem is not that all these things happen, because, due to life, things happen all the time! … the thing is how to deal with all this!
Happiness is already there
this is by far the most important point to realize and the hardest one to achieve! Happiness is already inside you and to be honest I really don’t have any clue on how to trigger or activate this state for you. I wish I could but I am convinced that this is exactly the point: You have to figure it out for yourself to make it happen otherwise it wouldn’t work and last! If I would have to find a comparison, it is probably similar to start learning how to ride a bike or to improvise on a jazz piece. You learn all these scales, riffs, melodies, voicings and study all those methods and solos from famous other musicians, … until that point that you simply suddenly forget about all this, go out and just do it! So, let’s now focus on some more points which may eventually lead to triggering this state of mind coming a bit closer!
Is that deadline really a deadline?
“Excuse me, but I don’t have time, I have this deadline and I need to finish that track!” … really? Do you? I mean, let’s set this right, there surely are just those plain and brutal deadlines. That nasty precise line in your calendar on when you have to deliver a specific amount of music! No need to discuss these, but how many times we talk about those other deadlines which we simply accept, never question and which keep continuing sending us to working hell? I know the situation too well and experienced it many times. Two or more projects suddenly clash into each other and every client wants theirs to be finished yesterday (at least this is what you assume), but since we are just human eventually the one or other problem comes along: We may start to worry, we eventually start to panic, we start feeling desperate and helpless and even if we just sat down and say: “Come one, little whiner … let’s get this done and then off to the next one” it wouldn’t make any difference because one or more projects wouldn’t be finished!
At this point I simply started to call the clients one by one and asked them little questions about the music or discuss some things with them. At some point I would have simply asked about the deadline and if anything has changed or if eventually there would be some little more time … and at some point almost always at least one of the following situations – besides “no, that is really the deadline” – happened:
“Oh right, well if you need like two or three more days, that is not really a problem. The deadline was just more of an internal one for the company and we are still good to go for two weeks, but we should make sure to have the music in time so we can discuss possible edits and reworks!”
“Good you remind me of this, person X is on vacation and he probably forgot to let you know. He will be back in around two weeks and noone really has time to get his stuff done, so you are still good to go.”
Problem solved! The thing is, how many times we simply took those important deadlines so fucking serious because we are soooo damn important composers and the world needs us so so bad?! 😉 We all have to admit, sometimes we talk and blah about important projects and their deadlines so often, we automatically start taking them as serious as if they are carved in stone! Just to set this right again, I am not talking about getting lazy or sloppy about those serious deadlines, but very often many times, things don’t seem to be that tight as they appear!
About not giving a shit
I think I addressed this problem quite a few times in older posts I have written but I can’t mention this often enough! First of all, if there is someone taking the time to constructively criticize your work, be thankful, accept it, think about what that person said and make good use of it!!! … but simply don’t give a shit what other composers (mostly in a negative way) think about your music! I mean seriously, don’t give a shit about it, because you are not composing for other composers! You compose music for projects, listeners and most important because you love what you do! Noone has the right to bring you down because they do not like your music! Period!
No matter how funny this may sound, but I can’t even count how many people clearly expressed what they think about my music or me as a composer! If I wouldn’t have a good portion of self confidence I would’ve sold everything by now … yet, I see so many musicians and composers expressing their disappointments from people’s comments across the web! Seriously, we all need venting from time to time, but life can be so much more valuable when you simply start not giving a shit about it!
Worrying about finances
In my opinion this is the biggest issue which prevents us from being happy. We all heard these things, that money doesn’t make you happy and it is obviously true, money just soothes your muse and enables you to focus on other things than bills! … but let’s break this one down for a moment: bills!
The bill itself is a piece of paper which mostly comes in an envelope sitting inside your mailbox until you take it out! You open it and … at this point mostly focussing or working on something becomes almost impossible! How many times did we worry about that high bill to be paid or even got sick alone from the fear of thinking to not being able to keep up our existence as a composer? Of course not because of one bill, but because we constantly worry about finances and there seems to be an endless amount of bill wanting to be paid!
I clearly remember this moment when I had this huge additional payment to make for the tax office! Amount xxx … to be paid in two weeks (insert drama music)! I was really desperate at this point until I started to really think about it and break it down. “First of all, this piece of paper can’t make you sick! It simply can’t because it is just a piece of paper! The only thing being able to make you worrying about this is myself!” It is not even the fault of the tax office or the mailman if you can’t enjoy the day anymore or even being able to eat or sleep … or worse! It is just YOU! In my case I had two weeks of time to pay it! “Hmmm, that is around 14 days” I thought to myself … “In this time, a lot can happen! So you got this piece of paper and two weeks of time. Chill for now … at least a bit!”. On the next day I started doing the same than I did with the deadlines issue – communication! At first I started to call the tax office, if there would be a chance to break down the payment into bits etc. and it also helped that I tried to stay as calm, friendly and relaxed as possible, because always remember, most of the time it is not the person’s fault you are talking to! Then I started calling clients, asking if there could be an advance payment for this project, reminding another for paying my invoice for that project and so on. Then a few days later a rush job came along and within those two weeks the problem almost solved itself! Of course this is just a mild example of what can happen when it comes to finances, but the situation itself doesn’t really change if you, at the same time, start eating yourself up! What also helped a lot was sitting down and really think about what happened and how I solved it! I see it as kind of a training for possible future events!
That daily stress
We all have experienced this in a way or another: Customers or working environments which are that demanding and stressful that you really start questioning what you are doing here! … and I really can’t stress enough (haha, good one!) that 80/20 ratio by management thinker Joseph M. Juran (heard about this the first time in Tim Ferris book “The Four Hour Workweek”). Basically if there is a customer which takes 80% of your time and energy and just generates 20% of your income, I am pretty sure you are better off with 80% more time and energy and 20% less money!
Another great way of dealing with stress is to convert it into positive stress. Try to not get into panic or worrying mode but just see it as a kind of game to challenge yourself!
Your body is your income
Let’s stay with your physical selves for a bit! Our body! We all know this quote which is roaming the internet: “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health … ” … and so on!
We all know it, we heard this one or something familiar probably a few hundred times so far … and all kinds of social media sites literally explode from all that wisdom floating through the net day by day. By now we should be really wise and intelligent when it comes to life itself, … yet we are here, slamming pizzas and burgers into ourselves as if there is no tomorrow, drinking shit that is so sweet, it would be considered healthy to chew on a full package of sugar cubes and devouring sweets, so nasty, even fungi (if it would even grow on it) would try to escape from it as fast as possible!
Now let’s do a scene change, taking a moment and look on what we really actually do day by day. Yes, we compose music for the most fascinating things. We write this magical sonic “something” which makes people laugh and cry! We seem to be wizards of sound and nobody really understands what we do. It is so awesome, … it is so awesome, it is actually “this is so awesome! If I would be a composer and should be doing what you do, I couldn’t even think of a melody”-awesome! We are supporting super heroes, mighty warriors and special forces throughout their daily work to save the world and the universe … but physically what do we really do? *record scratch* We basically sit with our lazy fat asses in front of a computer, staring into that square screen, eventually moving a wrist or two hands, enjoying our latest cool plugins, faders and knobs as if they were nipples on boobs while our spine feels like going back in evolution again … for hours! Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your dream job!
Combine all this with the fact that sitting is the worst position a human being can be into … and it should be obvious that you already make money for paying the doctor in order to continue to work … for paying the doctor in order to … and so on!
Now if you think that I am going to continue this post with things like: “Go vegan!” or “Sign up to that gym, will ya!?” you are totally wrong! I have the impression that with all that access to “knowledge” we worry more about what we eat than we spent time eating to be happy! Sure, bacon can cause cancer and so on, but did you ever ask yourself about all those studies and were those exact percentages come from? Furthermore, how do these studies come together? Please don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about well researched science on serious papers, I am talking about those fear mongering websites who bring up the weirdest studies about nutrition? Again, for sure bacon can cause cancer, but how many of those testing persons eventually had an x-ray the week before? How many had how much stress during the last days? What is the physical condition of everyone? Did the grandfathers or parents suffer from cancer on some of the persons? You can ask endless questions about how this has been done, … but you can be sure that this “bacon can cause cancer to at least 4,685% (made up number) is absolutely not valid at all! Technically it would need 100 or 1000 clones of that exact person, living and working and eating under the same conditions in order to come to an at least more or less valid claim! … If you are interested about this specific topic I put in a link which deals with exactly this problem!
So, under the bottomline, what I find way more important is to eat less fast food or ordered food, but to cook for yourself in a more or less healthy way! You always have to remember that the industry completely cooks different from how one would do at home! Oh yes, that time issue again … you don’t have time to cook, because you are too damn important? I am sorry, but I lived by this stupid excuse for years! Simply fuckin’ take it and be surprised that after a while your stuff tastes better than your favorite ordering service (which isn’t really art!) … and with “in a more or less healthy way” I didn’t mean cooking two kilos of steak accompanied by ten eggs! 😉
What I found more important is how much you move and the way you work!
A few years ago I started working on a motorized standing/seating desk and I hardly complain about my back anymore. Yes, it is not cheap, but in the end it is an investment for life and cheaper than probably many therapy lessons or even back surgery! Also it doesn’t hurt to buy a pair of running shoes or a bike and just head out for fresh air once in a while! If you can’t make it or don’t really like doing this order a kettlebell and do a few swings a day and a blackroll to massage your muscles and at least some time for a walk! It won’t hurt and there is simply not much which can compete with the feeling after a (mostly just at the end) cold shower after a 5km run!
Think about all this! In the end you want to make what you love for how long you can … you just got one body! Just one! Oh, … and just don’t let yourself blind by the concept that if you have more work to do, you have less time for sports! This is plain bullshit! I would even go that far and say, right that moment you have more work to do, even go for a longer walk or run! Only because you have thirty minutes more time by saving time and not going for a walk or a run anddoesn’t mean that you write more music! However, it should be plain obvious that you are able to write more music once your brain had a chance to reboot!
There is always someone better than you
This one is actually pretty easy but a huge factor in being happy! Always think about that there is someone better than you. This may sound negative at first, but if you really think about it, it should remind you, that even if you are at the top of all the great composers on this planet it always comes back to taste! Oh, you can write 10 mins of music in a day? You are able to name all notes of all possible scales if I just throw you a chord in just thirty seconds? You are able to play that composition of Bach on your piano just when you smell at the sheet paper note for note? You make five gazillion per record or movie? Congratz, your music can still suck! Let others be better and even if you think their written music really truly IS better … see it as inspiration, but love the fact that you can do what you love! Even if it isn’t your day job! Sit on your instrument or in front of your sequencer and enjoy that moment of writing something!
Yes, it does! … but as the saying goes, it is better than not trying! Always! Simply accept all these rejected tracks, your mistakes and the situations you didn’t make it as the composer for your desired project. It is totally cool to vent, talk or whine a little bit about it! Only because you are able to so, doesn’t mean that you are an unhappy person! You failed because you at least tried … and many don’t have the courage to even try!
So many composers strive to be be successful, known or even famous! Really ask yourself if being famous makes you more happy! For sure it must be nice to be famous for a lot of things, but just open some magazines and read about celebrities or rich people and their lifes and you instantly realize that it is not true! Yes, I am aware that succcessful can also just mean to be able to make a decent living from what you do, but in the end … that success we are talking about shouldn’t be your main goal to achieve but be a side effect of what’s happening when you are just happy and love what you do!
Finally, let me know your thoughts and thank you very much for reading!
May you have a happy day!