English · This & That

Confession #3: Perfectionism Is For Underachievers

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Perfectionism is a funny word. You’d expect it to be black and white, hard and fast – it’s either perfect or it’s not, right? But the concept is so subjective it’s really become a gray area.

Okay, let’s take a step back here. First, before starting anything I think it’s important to identify what you’re trying to do and what’s important to you. If you’re making a song/album, is the public perception of you and your music important to you, or is your own personal perception of the song more important? Which brings me to the ultimate question – what will bring you the most happiness?

Seriously ask yourself that question. For me, it’s the enjoyment on other people’s faces when they hear the track for the first time. That uninhibited joy, the pure excitement. Face beaming kind of stuff! :)

Sure, I want to be happy with a track, but not to the point that it costs me the above goal. If, in my aim to make the perfect track (from my point of view) I am unable to complete and distribute 2 or 3 other good songs that people would enjoy, I have effectively lost.

The funny thing is, when those same people tell me what a great song it is, I believe it too. Not because I get brainwashed into thinking so, but because it’s simply the truth. If you are constantly looking at things from your perspective you are only getting a portion of the truth. As much as you thinkyou know better, it is actually your perspective that is the least objective and the least true.

Think about it. You are your own worst enemy. You constantly criticise your own work where others don’t. Now switch roles – think of a time when you had to give feedback on another friend’s song, art, design, cooking, or whatever. For this exercise, let’s think of a close friend, i.e. someone where you wouldn’t feel the need to “sugar-coat” things. Did you genuinely like the song, art, design or cooking? Did you speak the truth? If that person is a perfectionist more often than not they “considered” your opinion but did their own thing anyway – maybe they continued re-working the song or maybe they simply left it as is but looked upon this creation with less-than-satisfied eyes and failed to do anything with it. Sound like you sometimes? Me too.

This was a biig wake-up call for me and I am by no means free of this sin yet. I have spent many days/months/years either re-working something that was already good to start with and never releasing the song at all because it just wasn’t perfect in my eyes. Well guess what, I simply wasted all that time where I could’ve gained some exposure with the song that I had whilst having the time to continue to work on another couple good songs.

What’s more, if it’s a good product people will speak the truth. We all need affirmation. Affirmation breeds positivity, keeps us motivated and keeps us moving forward. (for my article on “How to stay motivated” click here).

On the contrary, I could work on a song until its “perfect” in my books, but I may have destroyed the very thing that actually made the song perfect to everyone else (Remember music is not all about the instruments and you can overwork it).

So in the best case, perfectionism will delay the finalisation and release of your artwork, delay your exposure and delay the enjoyment on receiving positive feedback. It will also drive you mad!

In the absolute worst case, you will end up over-working something that was already perfect, not get the affirmation you so eagerly thirst for and end up defeated and unmotivated.

Perfectionism is not efficient! Strive for excellence, not perfectionism. And if your friends tell you its good, its good. Cash that cheque and move on!

Sean David is a self-established music entrepreneur, singer/songwriter and journalist.  

English · Tips

Confession #2: How To Stay Motivated

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It’s been said over and over and over again – Plan, plan, plan!  Planning is key for anything you want to achieve in life.  This is so, so true and although we know it’s true, we keep neglecting to do it! (myself included!)

I want to put a new spin on the planning concept though, because I think there are more benefits to be had than the obvious ones…

We all know that motivation starts with the vision.  Your motivation is at its peak and it gets the ball rolling.  “Yes, let’s do this!”  The absolute last thing you want to do is plan at this stage—  “I just want to get stuck in man! Time is ticking!”

But planning is THE key to maintaining that motivation throughout the project period.

Let me illustrate by way of example.  I have had my own home recording studio for a number of years now, and the problem I constantly fight, is the urge to want to get stuck into recording a song idea without first clearly laying out the song structure.

It’s so easy these days to make a track from nothing.  With the advent of MIDI, laying down a complex piano piece, synth or cool beat has never been easier.  But more likely than not, if you dived straight in, without concern for the overall structure and feel of the song you’re trying to create, you’re simply not gonna be happy with the final product.  This is because inevitably you get carried away with this cool riff here and that cool riff there that you eventually lose sight of the song.

Bear in mind, this is after hours and hours of work.  When you have spent the greater part of a weekend on a song and aren’t happy with the outcome this can only lead to demotivation.  Suddenly your dream of making a kick-ass song that got you so fired up in the beginning is now lost and you wallow in your sorrows for the next few days.

Guess what?  You’ve just wasted the greater part of a week sulking and not being productive.  Maybe you even re-visited your track with more time spent and more demotivating results.  This time could’ve been spentproductively in planning.

Planning of course will have proved fruitful in the tracking stage – if you know the song structure, you know which instruments to use and where to place them to create the feel you’re going for.  This hands-down beats trying every instrument in the book and every placement under the sun.  Better still, after the week or so spent planning and tracking, you now have a completed song that you’re proud of.  But that’s not the best part.

The best part comes as a result of effective planning, and as a result of a finished product you can be proud of:  continued motivation!  That same motivation you had at the start of the project you now have again because, well, you created something awesome!  You took the tools that you had, you thought about it proper and you applied it to make something great.  If anything its more motivating than the start! Instead of being a pipe dream, making a great song is now a reality and you now know you possess the power needed to do it again.

The same applies to any industry.  If you’re a painter you don’t just try every single colour in your palette and paint every single part of the canvass hoping for the best?  If you do, you’re going to make a complete mess.  Same goes for the business executive with a new initiative.  You don’t simply dive in because chances are, you’re not going to work effectively.  Mistakes will be made requiring you to put more time and money into the project than you really should have, simply because you didn’t plan properly.  A loss of time and/or money with no/sub-par results leads to… demotivation and even self-doubt!

Motivation is the driving force behind any project we set our minds to.  It’s what gets us up in the morning when it’s cold and dark outside. It’s what keeps us working whilst others are out and about partying or watching series.  It’s what makes us save and invest rather than go away on that summer holiday.  But fail to plan and you will waste time and money on an outcome that is less than desirable.  And guess what?  You’re gonna wishyou were in bed, out and about or on that summer vacation.  Because then at least you would’ve enjoyed yourself.

The lack of planning spells death to motivation and ultimately death to your project, goals, dreams and careers.

Keep the fires of motivation burning.  Never stop planning.

Sean David is a self-established music entrepreneur, singer/songwriter and journalist.