“In this world of mine, we must earn our chance to shine.. do what we think is best, through our courage we will pass the test… Maintain… I know what it is and I got to Maintain…” (DJ Krust featuring Morgan. Full Cycle Records)
Not only are these the lyrics to the first Drum n Bass track that truly changed my life musically, (but that’s another story); But these lyrics have always remained in my mind because they speak of having the courage to do what we think is best for us and our lives even it sometimes means going against the norm. And that being able to maintain that focus and courage, while testing – can lead to great opportunities where you can truly shine.
From a young age I have always had a gutsy attitude. Mainly I think because my parents raised us to be strong and never give up. At the same time they were and always have been very affectionate, showing lots of love, compassion and support. Growing up as I was never ‘the pretty one’ or ‘the super smart one’ in social or school situations – I learned that my strength and courage lay in other areas. My wit, my way with words and my ability to stand up for myself (and often others), even if on the inside I was hurting, or it was a difficult situation to be in.
This blog is therefore about courage, and also – opportunity.
Many times when I am doing inspirational speaking at various schools and seminars, I talk about learning to spot an opportunity, and having the courage to take it. I have found through my own experiences and through speaking with others – that there is what I call a ‘yeah – nah’ attitude that permeates our culture. While I believe that humility is a very important trait to hold, sometimes being too humble can mean that we miss taking an opportunity – because we don’t want to appear too ambitious, or appear as if we were wanting something too much.
There is also the added element of fear. The fear of looking stupid if we put ourselves forward, the fear that we may fail and be hurt/humiliated/ridiculed in the process.
There have been several key points in my life where I have had ‘Yeah/Nah’ moments. Moments where I nearly didn’t take an opportunity because of the above. But at the same time, I recognise within myself that even though I may have struggled internally for a few seconds, I almost always chose the ‘Yeah’ and went for it. Why is this? I have decided it is because I realised very early on that having the courage to say yes to things can open doors to amazing places and people, and that failure or fear of ridicule is a small price to pay for this. And also I never want to look back and regret not having at least given something a go. Quite simply – the positive outweighs the negative.
Now I understand for some people this is not an easy given. We live in a society where we are fed images and ideals that tell us to reach for the stars and be the best we can be – yet at the same time don’t tell us that sometimes reaching for the stars can involve falling on your face. Hard. What it is important though is that there are always more stars. The sky is full of them – life, is full of opportunities. Its weather or not you have the courage to take the opportunity, and the risks that go along with it.
It is like falling in love. Many of us are afraid of giving ourselves over fully to someone in case they break our heart, leave us, cheat on us, or god forbid die. But at the same time – if you don’t give yourself over fully you are missing the chance to experience love at its most amazing, soul changing level.
However, another important factor that I bring up when I speak about opportunity is learning to spot a ‘good’ opportunity, as opposed to a ‘bad’ one.
We have to remember that not everything that appears amazing and wonderful always is. It is wise to tread with some trepidation.. you wouldn’t cross a rickety old bridge if there was a sign saying not to, but what if there is no sign? What do you need to look for?
I always think the most important thing to focus on are these:
1.Is this opportunity good for my health?
And by that I mean both that of your body and your mind. There have been instances in the past where I have agreed to do something because I thought it would be good for my brand, such as playing a lot of shows with terrible travel connections in between. I ended up incredibly tired, and when I am over tired I am susceptible to anxiety. Not only this but my vocals suffer.
I didn’t know that back then of course, it was only after going through the experience that I realised the correlation between lack of sleep and anxiety. I didn’t want to turn down those shows because I wanted the exposure, the money, the experience. And while initially you may be able to handle this kind of slog and have the energy – eventually, even if it takes a few years – it wears you down.
Now days I very rarely will allow travel arrangements to be made that mean I lose a lot of sleep. I express myself very clearly to the promoter or whoever is booking me, that if I am over tired my voice will suffer, not to mention my mental state. The same goes for my performance time. I refuse to start a set after 1 am and quite frankly it’s pretty shitty if a promoter expect this of a vocalist anyway. We are not robots.
If you do decide to take an opportunity that means your health could be at risk, you need to prepare yourself for this then. Try and sleep when you can. Surround yourself with positive people who help maintain your energy. Eat well and don’t get caught up in the rock n roll vibe of going out all the time as fun as it may be. Head home early, get some quiet time, take your vitamins, do your yoga – whatever it is that helps you stayed rested.
2. Is this opportunity good for my brand?
Weather or not you want to be referred to as a brand, the minute you put something out for public consumption – music, art or literature or whatever, You are marketing yourself in a certain way and therefore becoming a brand. With the advent of social media the need to stylise our brand and curate our output is even greater.
Sometimes I have taken a gig just because I needed the money, knowing that the gig probably wasn’t going to be my vibe. And lo and behold I was right. I’ve played some shows where the whole time internally I was hating it because they weren’t my crowd, and the venue was not my kind of joint. I’m not saying that there won’t be times in your life where you think – fuck it, I just need some cash though! And that you shouldn’t do it. I don’t advise starving for the sake of art! It’s just that there has to come a point where you realise that maybe doing something for the money isn’t that beneficial to you and how you want to be perceived in the long term.
A few months back I was asked if I would like to perform at a horse racing event. The money was definitely good and while I probably could have done with it – ethically I couldn’t accept the gig because I am really not into horse racing, the way the horses are treated or the hype behind it. Plus I knew the kind of people attending said event would probably not connect to my music and my vibe. So I turned it down and I felt good about that.
If you are unsure about whether or not something is good for your brand, ask others in the industry, or people whose opinions you trust. At the end of the day though only you can determine whether or not something is good by the way it make you feel.
Lastly – Could this opportunity lead to other long term benefits?
The same way my Dad taught me to ‘look through the traffic to see what’s ahead’ while driving, I often talk about doing the same with an opportunity. While something may not make you any money, or give you instant gratification in that moment – could this opportunity lead to something else in the future that does? Are you associating with people that may be able to open doors to other avenues? While there have been some artists that I have worked with or done things for in the past who haven’t exactly been forthcoming in returning any favours when I needed them, there are others who have, and wholeheartedly too – leading to wonderful experiences that I wouldn’t otherwise have had.
Look at the opportunity in that moment and try to figure out what it is you are going to get out of it – not only then and there – but possibly in the future. This may mean playing a gig for free, or for charity, or helping someone with something that requires your skill and knowledge. It doesn’t have to be an opportunity where you reap physical or monetary rewards. Some of the best things you will gain are often those that just enrich your heart and soul, or expand your mind and ways of thinking.
Part of having the courage I talked about earlier is being able to say no to certain things and certain people as well – and not worry about people will think of you. Saying no isn’t a sign of weakness. To me it shows that you are clear and focused about who you are and what you want. The other part of it is that sometimes an opportunity you think is great may go absolutely nowhere. That’s okay too! Sometimes it’s just about the experience. 🙂