Follow Your Bliss: You Don’t Need Anyone’s Approval.

bob ross happy trees

Follow your bliss. You don’t need anyone’s approval to do it.

I really wish I could go back and tell my 18-year-old self that.  See, it took me a little while to get it. We’re used to seeking approval from others when we’re kids. And when we get into the “real world” we continue to do it.

I was talking with one of my good friends the other day about a mental shift that has to occur before you can start your own business. This applies to the creative arts as much as it applies to business. She and I both have businesses  where we’re treated as experts in our niche. We’ve learned a lot about our areas of expertise and because of that, we’re able to help people. And they pay us for that help.

But it required a huge shift in how we think about ourselves and what we’re “allowed” to do.

battlestar galactica, who put you in charge gifOther People are experts. Other People decide who is “good enough” to get the job. Other People measure us against their criteria and check little boxes. We stand by, twisting our hands together, hoping we pass muster.

But those Other People? They’re actually just the middlemen between you and the person who wants to pay for the skills you have to offer and the work you do.

The people who decide if you’re good enough are really the clients, the customers, the readers, the music lovers, the art lovers, and other businesses who need whatever it is you do…

You can cut the middleman out. That’s what happens when you set up shop for yourself: when you become a freelancer, open your own accounting firm, publish your book, or decide to produce your own album.

The big revelation? You can do what the middlemen do.  And you don’t need anyone’s permission. There’s nothing special about the people who decide to become experts or start their own business. The people hiring you now do not have some special power that gives them the ability to decide who is good enough. They just think they do. Doesn’t make it true.

The Labyrinth Gif

A few caveats:

  • You may not want to cut out the middlemen. Maybe you just want to show up at work from 9 to 5, go home, watch your favorite shows at night, and tailgate on the weekends. That’s perfectly fine.  But this post probably isn’t for you.
  • Don’t cut the middlemen out as a novice. Working with people who are ahead of you in your craft is a great way to get better.  But don’t assume it’s necessary just because others tell you it is. (See my post Don’t Pay Your Dues for more on that.)

What I wish I could go back and tell my 18-year-old self…

I quit college to pursue a music career. I worked to fund my demo, had pictures taken, performed in my city, and combed different sites to try to find opportunities elsewhere in the country.

I wrote songs. I wanted to blend my pop / R&B vocals with music that had a rock / downtempo electronica feel.  I didn’t know of any artists who had done that at the time.  I lived near Portland, Oregon, and couldn’t find musicians who were doing the kind of music I wanted to do. I sang hooks for a few rappers and worked with a producer who made beautiful music, but the music we made wasn’t close to what I wanted to do.

The music industry hadn’t imploded yet and home recording studios were good, but not as good as they are now. So I felt like my only option was to find a label to sign and work with me.

thats the plan 1

thats the plan 2

So I flew down to LA to audition for a girl group. They auditioned thousands of girls and they chose me to be the third member.  I sang their songs, danced their choreographed dances, and worked under pressure to look like how they wanted me to look.  To say I was miserable is an understatement.

Sing Your Own Damn Song

It’s painful to be asked to be something you’re not…to sing someone else’s song when you’ve been put here to sing your own.

If I could tell my 18-year-old self anything, it would be to find like-minded creative people and record my own damn album. Seriously. I could have five albums I love out by now and I’d have tons of experience under my belt.

Game of Thrones gif, self-denialAfter I left the girl group, I stopped singing for six years. There was a hole inside me, but I pretended it wasn’t there. I didn’t follow my bliss, because I believed I needed someone else to tell me I was good enough, to hand me money and validation and tell me to go record music.

While I was writing Book 1 of Legacy Code: SunPath (which will come out after I finish Legacy Code), I wrote a song. I liked it enough that I went searching for an instrumental to go with it. I didn’t find one I could use, but I did reach out to Freya, a local electronica producer here in Florida. We really hit it off and she was as excited for my series as I was. I cried on my way home from meeting with her. I didn’t realize how much it was hurting me to not be singing.

This is the first song we did together. Freya and I see it as a way to tell the story of Legacy Code with music. One of my characters, Zephyr, writes the song in the book. It’s everything I hoped it would be. 😉

(SoundCloud link, if you can’t see the player above.)

Follow Your Bliss

happy little trees, bob ross gif

Happy Little Trees.

You don’t need other people to give you permission to do the things that make you happy. You don’t need other people to give you permission to do what you do best. You can connect with the people who want to pay for your work.

Yeah, you’ll feel terrified at times (okay, a lot) and you’ll have to decide if you’re good enough to succeed. There will probably be a battle with fear and self-doubt too. But you owe it to yourself to try.

It makes me really happy when someone says I’ve helped them in my other business. That would never happen if I’d continued to write for other companies.  And I appreciate every person who enjoys my music and writing. Lots of people won’t need or want my help and plenty of people won’t like my music or connect with my stories. And that’s fine. We’re not meant for each other.

I’m following my bliss for myself and for the people who want what I have to offer during my time here.  I hope you follow your bliss too.

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