Felix Olschewski

Composer. Musician. Author.

What is success? The definition of making it.

Success is relative.

And yet our society shares a generalized, very narrow and absolute definition of making it which usually only involves the dimensions of accumulated wealth, social class and fame. Thousands of famous and rich stars who just can not get their lives sorted out clearly show the fallacy of this thinking. Frequent divorces, unhappiness und drug addiction seem nothing worth striving for and are certainly not signs of true success. Most of those unlucky stars will agree. Not even from their own point of view have they achieved success.

A girl managing to keep her promise to run five miles every day has made it. An elderly woman who finally learns to speak a foreign language has made it. They both are truly successful. Only the individual can define success. Furthermore the individual must define success. If you do not know where exactly you want to go you will never know when you get there (but mind you, you can be happy without a specific goal).

To relate this to music: Many musicians dream of making it in the music industry. Which is a vague dream. It usually seems to involve getting some kind of record company to take advantage of you and taking your rights from you in exchange for a measly share of what they define as profit in the form of money, the value of which is fleeting and questionable.

If that is your definition of making it, you might want to reconsider. Think about the fate of people like Jaco Pastorius. Was he successful? He is famous, he is a bass legend. But was he sucessful? Did he make it?

It is vital for you as a musician to ask these questions, to ask where you actually want to go yourself. I spent years practicing the guitar in order to improve my technique to play faster. I never set this goal for myself. Improving technique is just ingrained in our instrumental training culture, particularly on the electric guitar. After six years of lessons I realized that I did not care at all about speed and technique. What fascinated me was composition. From that moment on I was no longer a guitarist but a musician who happened to play mainly the guitar and I picked up the piano again and started to play the drums and sang and wrote a lot more songs. That is where my success started.

Think about the millions of lightning fast guitarists who are unhappy and still have not made it even by their own definitions. Put that in perspective while looking at the many technically sloppy or slow guitarists who are considered successful and revered the world over like Keith Richards or BB King. They, in turn, might consider themselves unsuccessful.

Success, clearly, is not universally embodied by money, fame, involvement with the music industry or technical prowess. Instead it is multi-dimensional and individual. Success is subjective. You can and you will succeed precisely when you achieve your goal.

Thus, you can only be successful if you know what your goal is. In order to make it you need to define what that means to you.

Success starts in your head and ends there. Therefore I will write about finding your making it in my next post: Strategies for guaranteed success.

If you would like to follow me on this journey of making it subscribe to my free newsletter. I am going to write about how to achieve success next and even how not playing music can make you a better musician.

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