When I am giving career advice to high school and college students, I always tell them this:
“If there is a plan B, you might as well make that plan A. In order to build a successful career, you have to be 100% committed to making it succeed. If you keep a plan B around, you will most likely run to it the first time you run into a problem. Commitment to your goal will help push through that problem and bring you a step closer to the career of your dreams.”
This is really true of any career, not just one in the arts. There are no careers without problems and difficulties along the way. How committed you are to your goals will determine if you run away from them or if you creatively deal with them. If you run away from plan B at the first sign of trouble, what is going to stop you from running to plan C later? Building a successful career is never easy, and it is going to require you to play the long game. Commitment is what will carry you through.
Finding true success in any field will also require risk, some small and some great. It is not natural for us to assume risk. The vast majority of people would much rather play it safe, but safe will never bring you the success you desire. I believe that this is one of the major missing ingredients for musicians who are wanting more from their careers. They may be just one risk away from taking their career to the next level, but they will continue to play it safe and all the while complain about where they are. They lack the commitment necessary to step out on the water to see what is on the other side.
I have never had a plan B. Now, I’m not saying that if for some reason I could not longer support my family as a classical musician that I would just let them starve. Of course not! I will certainly do whatever is necessary to provide for my family, but I am wholly committed to doing that through my career in music. If the days comes when that is not possible, whether for a season or permanently, then I will deal with it then. Carrying around a plan B or a “what if” will not help me get through a snag in my career. They won’t help me when I have to decide whether or not to take a risk on a new opportunity. Only committment to my goals and dreams will get me through.
If you are dreaming about a career, just starting out in your career, or just not happy with where you are in your career, let me challenge you to up your commitment. Get rid of your plans B-Z and your “what ifs.” It will change how you the challenges and risks that life will throw your way, and it will greatly increase your chances of attaining that career that you dream of at night.