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Focus on the Process, Not on the Prize

"It doesn't make sense to continue wanting something if you're not willing to do what it takes to get it. If you don't want to live the lifestyle, then release yourself from the desire. To crave the result but not the process, is to guarantee disappointment." - James Clear

People interested in making music are typically drawn in by a particular musical end result: performing live in front of an audience, jamming with friends or family, or maybe releasing original music. While having a clear goal in mind is helpful, the outcomes themselves only make up a tiny portion of the life of a musician. The vast majority of time will be spent doing the work needed to get there.

It’s natural to see someone having fun on stage, completely in the flow, or to be moved by a song you hear, and say “I want to do that too!” But it’s important to realize, anytime you see a musician doing something at a high level, what you’re seeing is the byproduct of a lot of work. Since we rarely get to see a musician’s process, it can be easy to overlook how critical this part of the equation is.

Honing our specific musical craft takes up the bulk of our time and mental energy as musicians and artists. We have to consistently engage with the work over time before we can experience the fun of performing well for others, or the thrill of bringing a song to life. This is a natural part of becoming a musician in any capacity: it requires practice, focus, and patience, generally over a long period of time.

We need to cultivate a mindset where the process itself becomes the main source of satisfaction, rather than the outcome it might yield. While you will certainly still want to have the experiences you were initially inspired by, they don’t occur frequently enough to be sustainable in the long run. There is likely going to be a large gap between when you start working on something and when you reap the rewards. If you aren’t enjoying this journey, it’s unlikely you will stick it out until you reach your destination.

Any reason to want to get into music is a great one. But it’s important to understand what it takes to get there—and to be honest with yourself about how willing you are to do the work required. You will need to be content working consistently over a period of time before being able to perform or create at the level you want. Or as Ryan Holiday puts it in his book The Obstacle is the Way, you will have to “Focus on the process, and not on the prize.”


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