Pursuing a Dream: 3 Lessons from a Part-Time Musician

By: Anna Wagenhauser
Pursuing a Dream: 3 Lessons from a Part-Time Musician

Growing up, my parents told me: “Do what you love, and the money will follow.”

I think they were surprised, however, when my identical twin, Chloe, and I decided to take their advice and pursue music careers. In June 2017, we formed the soft-rock band Chloe & the Steel Strings, and our lives have never been the same.

In less than a year, we have added three more members to the band, recorded and released our self-titled debut album (as well as a new single on October 1, 2018), and have performed a few hundred shows. Reflecting on the past year, I am still amazed at how far we’ve come both personally and professionally because of this band.

There are still people who doubt Chloe and I regarding our ability to be successful with our music, and I understand why. The industry is rocky, there’s a lot of competition, and there are no guarantees of success. However, these hurdles are ones that everyone faces, no matter the career. I’ve found that many of the skills and lessons I’ve learned from the band also apply to my other goals.

Here are three small pieces of advice that I’ve learned during this process for anyone who is pursuing a dream:

1) Have a plan.

This is something we learned early on: you can’t record music and then drop a link online the next day, hoping that people will listen.

Releasing music is all about strategy and planning. Most of these plans are 3-4 months in length when you must start planting the seed to ensure that people are anticipating your release.

The same planning strategy goes for everything we do. When booking shows for 2018 in January, we realized that many venues had already booked out their weekend openings a few months before – in October and November of the previous year.

While this information was a surprise to us, it solidified the fact that if we want to reach our long-term goals, we must have a long-term plan. Since then, we have created a five-year plan for both the band and for our own personal goals.

2) Work to pursue your goals every day.

The difference between reaching a goal and failing to reach a goal often comes down to the simple, yet painful truth that your success is based on the amount of time you commit.

I’ve heard many young people talk about their dreams and plans for 10 years down the road, but on a day-to-day basis, those people aren’t doing anything to reach their long-term goal.

With our music, Chloe and I try to spend at least 30 minutes per day on making progress for the band. Whether that be emailing venues, planning social media posts, or practicing for shows, there are many small ways that we work every day to reach long-term success.

3) Don’t compare yourself to others.

There is unavoidable competition in almost any life path, and with that comes self-doubt and comparison. Comparison can go both directions: you can compare yourself to someone who is doing better than you, or you can compare yourself to someone who is doing worse. Both modes of comparison are harmful because they move your focus from the path that you’re on, to one that someone else is on.

We’ve realized that every artist and musician is on his or her own path, and that we’re the only people we can be. While we have learned a lot from the companionship and leadership of older, more established bands, we try to avoid comparing our success to theirs, since we’re not on the same path.

I hope our story inspires you to continue pursuing your own goals in an intentional way!  

*Note: A modified version of this article was originally posted on the Chloe & the Steel Strings blog on October 1, 2018.

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