Caring for your core.

I’m posting some early chapters of Audience Supported for members…

It doesn’t matter if you follow every other step in this book to the letter, and it doesn’t matter if you benefit from the best coaching and mentoring you can find if you don’t take care of your core.

That doesn’t mean you need to become a yogi master or unlock the mysteries of life—though if you do, please tell the rest of us. It means that you have to make sure you’re caring for both your physical and mental well-being. It means ensuring that you’re not “leaking” physically, spiritually, financially, or emotionally.

  • Physically: Are you fit enough to sustain yourself on tour? You don’t have to join a Crossfit box tomorrow or prepare for a run on American Ninja Warrior. However, I’ve known some musicians who have had to give up touring (and a lucrative stream of income) because they can’t wake up on time, can’t climb stairs without getting winded, or can’t shake an addiction (whether that’s food, sex, alcohol, or drugs). If you’re physically impaired, this also means understanding how to leverage both technology and personal support to perform, write, and record your music.
  • Spiritually: I won’t tell you what to believe, or even whether to believe in something. However, the vast majority of successful musicians I’ve known have channeled their faith (or strongly-held atheism) into compelling work. Music and religious expression have been intertwined for millennia, and a career in music will test whatever personal belief structure you install in your own life.
  • Financially: Lose the obsession with “starving artists” and recognize that we need money not just to live, but to thrive. It’s okay to charge for stuff. Even more important, watch the actions of artists who have successfully built audiences that support them financially. They don’t have to justify how they spend their money, but they do have to ensure that they’re living within their means and building a solid financial foundation that includes both an emergency savings fund and a retirement plan.
  • Emotionally: Americans have an especially skewed view of what it means to be emotionally whole, fueled even more by social media networks that have captured our attention over the past ten years. We’re obsessed with showing off our “perfect lives” and we often tell ourselves that needing to talk about our fears and emotions suggests that we’re “broken” or that we need to be “fixed” in some way. I’m using air quotes here, because I’ve learned that monitoring and talking about your emotional state with professionals is the best way to keep yourself in balance, so you can uncloud your mind and focus energy on your relationships and on your work. We think nothing about taking a car in for an oil change every 3,000 miles, yet we get worked up over spending $40 on a 45 minute therapy session. If you don’t have access to affordable health care, you can seek guidance from Nuçi’s Space, a non-profit foundation in Athens, Georgia that helps match musicians to resources that can treat depression and prevent self-harm.

Don’t think that you have to “finish” working on yourself to become effective as an artist, either. In fact, we’re quite fortunate to work in a space that rewards us for sharing emotions, exploring relationships, and challenging our conceptions in a public forum. (Every time you see a high-profile Nashville couple announce they’re breaking up, you can expect at least two or more outstanding albums. It’s not that we want to see anyone get hurt, it’s that musicians enjoy more of an outlet than other people to work through grief and pain.)

Lest you think that I’m writing to you from a place of having mastered all four of these quadrants, I can assure you that I think very, very few people have figured more than one or two of these at any given time. Maybe Oprah’s got three going at once, and I’m pretty sure Deepak Chopra has been four-for-four for a while. Other than that, we’re all in the hunt together. That said, it’s only through building our awareness of how we’re growing in each of these areas that we can grow, improve, and reflect that journey in our work.