Am I too old to make it?

To answer your question, if you are twenty-six you have plenty of opportunity to make it. Then again you will always have opportunity to make it.

However, you will need to better define “make it”.

There are many questions you need to ask yourself.

Do you just want to play as your sole means of financial security?

Would you consider teaching? Maybe a part time job too?

The answers to those little questions make a big difference.

Are you willing to treat playing as a job?

It won’t be a hobby anymore. You will need to formalize what you do. You need to put aside certain hours every day for writing music, real practice, band practice, PR, calling people, arranging gigs, collecting past due money, negotiating contracts, writing checks for posters, buttons, shirts, arranging travel, booking hotel rooms, etc.

Are you ready to play when you don’t want to? Don’t feel well? Are tired? Burnt out?

It’s not glamorous. Is that what you mean by make it?

But wait there is more.

Are you talking about the music or the money? If you play great music that is loved by many, but can’t support yourself solely on the proceeds is that success or failure?

See the problem is defining the question. You’ll see this quandary often in business and science and ethics classes and well, everywhere. If you don’t know the question, you won’t know how to get to the answer. A business wants to grow and be profitable. Is acceptable growth 2% or 20%? Is $10,000 of profit the goal or $1,000,000? Is making it living in a small apartment and driving a used car or do you want a big house and a new car? See what I mean?

So let me help you define the question. Don’t call it making it.

Personally I’d call it four things.

  1. What do I love to do?
  2. What am I willing to do to do the thing I love to do?
  3. Where is the balance?
  4. Will I learn to recognize and appreciate what I have when I have it?

Once you know the answers to those four go and do some homework. Get a book from the library on managing a band so you can see what goes on. Talk to people in the business. Do some soul searching.

Then again, maybe you shouldn’t ask me because I have already made it.

I teach and work and play out. Sometimes I play in front of a hundred or so people. That’s a big crowd for me. Sometimes I play in front of ten, a small crowd. I enjoy both equally. I play around campfires, with strangers, with beginners and experts. I play for kids in school and the occasional church service. I met a homeless guy playing on a street corner near where I work. I asked if he minded if I join in. Whenever I find someone to share music with I know I’ve made it.

I enjoy teaching guitar. When I get a student past a hurdle or they master a new song, I know I’ve made it.

I also enjoy my work. My co-workers want to know where I’m playing and they show up and support me. When people show up like that you get all warm and fuzzy and you know you’ve made it.

I have a bunch of the most wonderful and amazing friends. You know I’ve only met them a dozen times, but I think of them as some of my oldest and dearest friends. I play guitar with them a couple of times every year, wherever they are come hell or high water. Playing with these friends is more important to me than playing in front of a stadium full of people. Yep, once again I made it.

I’m a perpetual beginner guitarist. I always will be no matter my level of technical proficiency. Whenever I learn something new I know I’ve made it.

Just about anywhere in the world I could email someone and tell them I’m bringing my guitar and I’d not only have a friend to jam with, but probably a place to stay too. Uh-huh, I made it.

I’ve had a song written about me. I’ve got a musical nickname. I’ve got my picture hanging in a basement in Chicago. I’ve made it baby.

You’ve probably guessed that for me the most important question is the fourth one. Once you’ve got that one you really have made it.

And finally, just in case I got you down, remember this quote (by Dr. Wayne Dyer) from a past newsletter:

There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only a scarcity of resolve to make it happen.