This issue isn’t as simple as you may think. There are too many people out there who spend years working on something only to discover too late that it’s not what they really love. That’s a dangerous situation to be in because time is one thing you can’t recoup in life.
I know too many music types who’ve given up midway through their journey for various reasons. Sometimes it’s out of their own control. But many times it just comes down to loss of motivation. Now, even that can be further broken down. There are many reasons to lose motivation for something. Some people can’t find ways to make enough money through music so they give up on it. Others just don’t feel that their creative work is being appreciated.
But music isn’t one monolithic thing. There are so many creative things that can be done within the realm of music that a person who’s passionate enough about music can find a way to make a living given enough time and effort.
I thought about all this because I was having a rare conversation last night with a friend of mine who told me that she felt she didn’t have a purpose to her life. She wanted goals. I asked her what she feels passionate about. She said she didn’t know. I said how could you not know. She said she just didn’t.
It was a bit hard for me to understand her mindset because I’ve always had strong passions and acted on them. I love to write, for example. I also love music, I love the Web and I love business. The intersection of all this is this little startup company called MADE. It’s the ideas we write about and the Web apps we’re developing (you’ll be hearing about our up and coming web-based platform that’ll let you manage your music career soon…). But it occurred to me that a lot of people, like my friend, don’t have these passions because they don’t spend enough time reflecting on who they really are.
If you don’t understand yourself, then it’s nearly impossible to know where you want to go. And I would argue that your 20s is the time to figure all that out. I would also say that if by 30 you haven’t discovered your passions, it becomes awfully hard to do so.
Lots of these indie music artists I know who’ve given up did so because they discovered that they weren’t who they thought they were. They thought they loved music, but they really didn’t.
So how do you know if you really love something? How do you know if you have the passion required to focus on something for years and make a dream come true? These are very important questions because nothing less than your time is at stake.
I’d say there’s two things you need to look at. First, the end product of what you do has to give you a sense of pride. You don’t have to love the process of doing something to love the end result. Writing words on paper is stressful to me. It’s not what I would call fun. But I love a completed article. The end product. I feel proud about the product. I feel proud about helping readers through my ideas. I’m passionate about that. Do you feel like that when you make music? Are you proud to make your fans happy? It should always be about that, not you.
The second point, which I’ve found to be true, is that to really be passionate about something, it helps if you hate something else. You need enemies because they keep you emotionally motivated and focused. I hate big soulless, faceless companies like Microsoft and Macy’s, for example. They represent the old to me. Their prone to treating customers badly because a customer is just a walking wallet to them. I love Google. I love the Web because it is the antithesis of the Microsofts of the world. I also love it because its transparency forces businesses to be honest and not treat people like scum. Hating old fashioned big corporations (especially grubby major record labels) keeps me passionate about the Web. Enemies keep you focused. What are your enemies?