How Music Entrepreneurs Stay Positive: 4 Mindset Strategies to Help Through Tough Times


positive-mindsetMy coaching groups at Yale are going strong! Students appreciate having a confidential forum where they can share successes and challenges with a trusted group of peers and learn new strategies for creating sustainable careers.

With the semester winding down in a few weeks, our students, especially those who are graduating, are finding it a challenge to keep their spirits up in the face of their many commitments. Last week, we examined what it takes to stay positive when the going gets tough. It starts with adopting a growth mindset whereby talent and intelligence are merely the starting points of your success and that true success comes from hard work, perseverance, experimentation and the willingness to learn from one’s challenges and mistakes.

With that mindset, you can then retool your thinking to help you stay positive in challenging times using these four strategies:

1. Stay in the present and let go of the results
2. Practice success through small victories
3. Remember why you love music
4. Mindfully take a break
1. Stay in the present and let go of the results
The music career involves a lot of uncertainty. There is no easy or clear path to success and many opportunities involve auditions and for a limited number of spots. No one wins them all and musicians thus experience and need to learn how to manage rejection. With graduation looming, many students are worrying about what they will be doing in the future since there is no assurance of winning a coveted spot.

How do music entrepreneurs manage this worry?

One great strategy is to adopt the mindset of staying in the present and letting go of the results.  In a recent competition, one of our students framed her goal as having a good time, rather than having to win. With this mindset, she was able to tune out the negative naysayers and the anxious fellow competitors by focusing on her own performance in the moment. Result? She felt great about her performance and won!

Another student reported that he composes best when he stops worrying about generating the best, most original work and spontaneously allows himself to play with ideas and have fun. The result? A much bigger output of work and many more imaginative, satisfying and good pieces of music!

Underlying this mindset is the ability to let go of expectations and to liberate yourself from negative self-judgment. This makes it easier to take on challenges and present yourself at your best.

2. Practice success through small victories
What if it is hard for you to let go of the end result?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of defining success as a competition win—and nothing short of a win. If you are someone who is motivated by results, redefine success into smaller chunks.

  • I advanced!
  • I played better this time!
  • I was more prepared than last time!
  • I wrote a whole piece today!

By practicing success through small victories, you learn what it takes for you to be successful. This makes it easier to build on the smaller successes as you work your way up to larger accomplishments.

3. Remember why you love music
The constant pressure to perform, compete, rehearse, practice, study, improve and generate work takes it toll on today’s musicians. It is easy to caught up in the day-to-day stress and forget why you decided to become a musician. So take a step back and remember why you chose music in the first place: because you love making music, you love the passion and the creativity and camaraderie of working with others to create joy for yourself and others.

So keep the joy alive! Remind yourself of the choice you made. Laugh and inject humor even in stressful situations. As one of our students so aptly commented, “When the goal is self-expression, you always succeed.”

4. Mindfully take a break
All students agreed that it was essential to take breaks when under pressure. Yes, even when your recital is coming up, you have a gig, your final papers or thesis drafts are due, you need to unwind. So take a walk, see a friend, cook a meal, go out for coffee—and do so mindfully. Even if it is a 30-minute coffee date, keep your mind on your break and don’t worry about the rest of your to-do list. It’s like hitting the reset button! Because if you are worrying about your work, what’s the point of taking a break?

So the next time you find yourself overwhelmed and worried about how to manage yourself under pressure, use your growth mindset and turn around your thinking by trying one of these strategies.  You will be surprised at how much less stress you experience and how much more receptive you will be to cultivating success!